Link love

Dissecting a right wing manufactured controversy about Oberlin.

FAFSA is removing the break you used to get for having multiple children in college at the same time.


Police are suing Afroman for emotional distress over the music video below (that uses footage from when police broke into and searched his house and stole some of his money and traumatized his wife and kids).

Ask the grumpies: If not money, how to get your kids to care about college?

First Gen American asks:

Is there another way for college kids to have some skin in the game without going into loads of debt?

I mean, college is about their lives and their choices and their opportunities and outcomes.  It is 100% their skin in the game.  Even if you’re paying for it monetarily.

What they learn and the skills they receive are going to shape their lives and make them better able to have whatever future they envision for themselves.  The future is rapidly changing and not cutting off too many avenues (ex. being able to write, being able to understand our multi-cultured society, etc.) will help them adapt to or even shape the future world they will be living in.

Maybe encourage them to go on the applying to colleges subreddit?  It’s full of kids who care a lot about academics who are saying a lot of the same things that we told DC1 (you need extra curriculars!), which has given us a bit of a “you were right all along” glow.

[Editor’s note:  Wow!  This week really has been all about colleges!]

Number of babies born in the US by year from 1978-2020

I was playing around with birth number statistics.  (Note there’s a small change in 2006 about where the data came from– the numbers are really similar for the overlap between 1990 and 2006 but in general, the numbers from 2006+ are usually just a little bit lower than their counterparts from the other dataset, generally in the 1,000s place.  The numbers for 2005 in both datasets are very similar.)

Here’s what you get if you plot out raw numbers.  This doesn’t include immigration or mortality or anything like that.  Also no information about education or income or race or socioeconomic status.  Just raw numbers.

Many kids applying to elite colleges this year were born in or around 2004/5.

There will be some red-shirted and otherwise delayed kids who were born a year or two before then.  And, of course, the pandemic gap year kids (kids who deferred a year and then made the next accepted college class smaller at many elite schools, which caused kids who didn’t get in where they wanted to delay a year etc.) are still moving through.  And there’s kids who would never have applied to elite colleges before who are now encouraged to do so through QuestBridge (this is really great– work by Carolyn Hoxby and Susan Dynarski has been pushing for connecting these kids to elite schools and it’s fantastic that’s actually happening now).  And international students no longer have to prove that they are rich to attend US colleges like they did at the turn of the century.  So those are a few additional causes of competition for elite schools.

But still, the raw numbers are important.  (There’s something called the Easterlin Hypothesis that talks about the effects of cohort size on economic outcomes– this is part of that theoretical thread.)

And while the number of colleges has no doubt changed, what is defined as elite and how many schools are considered elite maybe hasn’t as much.

So… if your kids are applying to elite schools, is their college application experience going to be different than yours?  YES.  How much different?  Well.. what cohort did you apply to college with?  What cohort are your kids applying to college in?

A nice thing about this chart is the knowledge that if we hadn’t let DC1 skip a couple grades, there would be even more competition for slots.  Of course, zie would (probably) be more accomplished as well and wouldn’t be only 16, so that would help too.  DC2 has a bit more leeway as zie was born in the middle of kind of a flat fertility period, though zie may be facing more competition from red-shirted and gap year kids.

(Note that a lot of people making predictions about how hard it is to get into college are focusing on the *birth rate*, which will be dropping if what they say is correct.  The Birth Rate is calculated by dividing the number of live births in a year by the mid-year resident population.  The reason the birth number is going up but the birth rate is going down is because of the denominator, not the numerator.  Personally I think the numerator is more important to college admissions 17-18 years later.  Lots of other stuff goes into who is applying to college, as mentioned before the graph, but the mid-year resident population the year a kid was born probably isn’t a first order thing.)


  • As predicted, SLAC day (this year, Friday, March 17th, with a few stragglers Saturday morning) was a blood bath.
  • Still, to spoil a bit, DC1 ended the weekend with a couple more amazing possibilities.
  • In order.
  • Williams:  Reject
  • Bowdoin:  Waitlist
  • Haverford:  Waitlist
  • Swarthmore:  Reject
  • DC1 was feeling pretty down at this point.  Zie had fallen in love with Haverford during the supplemental essays.
  • Carleton:  Accept!!!!  Only 2K/year scholarship though.
  • Oberlin:  Accept!!!!  30K/year scholarship!!!!
  • Case Western:  Waitlist
  • So this complicates DC1’s decisions quite a bit.  Macalester, Oberlin, and Union would all be about 50K/year (plus or minus a few thousand and probably going up a couple thousand each year).  Carleton is almost full price– over 80K.  We told DC1 to ignore prices, but man, 120K is so much money.  (Still, we are going to ignore prices, and if DC1 chooses Carleton, then Carleton is where zie will go.)
  • DC1 had completely fallen in love with Macalester– the bagpipes, the blue plaid, the city, the food, etc. etc. etc.
  • But Carleton is consistently a top 10 SLAC (this year #6).
  • Carleton is also ranked as one of the best SLAC schools for computer science (but… so is Claremont McKenna and … they don’t really have much CS and HMC and Pomona are both cracking down on CMC students in their classes– I assume CMC will devote more resources to in-house CS and pair up with either HMC or Pomona for a joint major, but..)  (Really, either Pomona or HMC should restructure and CS should become a 5C major like math, but I digress.  And I understand why HMC might not want to do that.).
  • As Leah pointed out, Carleton is also Bon Appetit and has excellent food.
  • And Carleton is across the way from St. Olaf which is a wonderful place for music. (You can cross register, but the Carleton trimester only matches up with the St. Olaf semester one trimester per year and it delays you going home and defrosting during winter.)
  • But… also really hard to beat Oberlin for Music.
  • It’s crazy how much Oberlin has dropped in the rankings since I was in high school.  The right-wing media also seems to have chosen them as a whipping boy for manufactured anti-left outrage.  (They should pick on Reed who would probably get great joy out of the manufactured controversy and fight back!  Which is likely why they don’t.)
  • Oberlin has a cafeteria service I’ve never heard of:  Avi.  I haven’t figured out how they’re rated because of the aforementioned manufactured right-wing controversies about a Vietnamese International student complaining that the Bahn Mi was not actually Bahn Mi and shouldn’t be called such.  But unlikely to be at Bon Appetit level, hopefully sodexho level, but who knows.
  • Carleton offers a 20/week meal plan which is all the meals they offer plus some additional Carleton cash (which has some fancy name) that can be used at the cafes on campus.  Also they share their meal plan with St. Olaf.
  • There’s no Poke in Northfield, MN.
  • But it is 50 min away from a poke place in St. Paul.  I wonder if there are uber drivers in Northfield.  (Surely there are enterprising college students with cars?)
  • Carleton is on trimesters, which I find confusing.  They say it’s an intense 10 weeks and if you get sick, it’s especially difficult.  Only 3 classes per trimester (and unlike Union, they don’t recommend more, unless you’re taking a lab which adds about 1/3 of a class in terms of credit hours.)
  • DC1 is planning on exploring the CS options, the music options, how easy it will be to double major or minor (including how many credits are allowed from AP/college classes), etc. etc. etc.  Also what students say on places like Niche.
  • Apparently Union accepted DC1 early– their official date for releases was also SLAC week.  No wonder there were only 78 kids on their accepted students forums!
  • We are so relieved and elated though.  These acceptances are all WONDERFUL schools and we would be happy if DC1 chose any of them.  Even with the extra $120K in tuition (I tell myself it’s going to fund a low income kid like college-me was).  Such an abundance of options.
  • I did tear up at the Oberlin scholarship– I really was not expecting any money from them.  We don’t need it (it’s the difference of just using up the 529 or also cash flowing 30K/year, which we can do so long as we’re both working full time, and we have money in savings and stocks that we could still use in the event of a jobloss).
  • To forestall the question:  No, we will not be visiting any of these.  I have never found college visits to be helpful beyond what’s in the Fiske guide and just talking to people, and sometimes they are actively misleading.  (Caltech, I’m looking at you!)  More importantly, DC1 is taking Calc 3 at the university MWF and can’t miss any classes (and we didn’t have these acceptances in hand until after Spring Break).
  • Still waiting for Wesleyan (they decide on a different weekend than all the other prominent east coast SLACs) and Vanderbilt.  If zie gets into Vandy, I have no idea where to even go with that.  Still, it’s not my decision.

What would you choose if it were you (and your parents were wealthy) and why?  Union College (NY), Macalester College (MN), Carleton College (MN), or Oberlin College (OH).  Also what would you look into and what questions would you ask?

Link love

Busy week!

As predicted LAC day was a bloodbath. More on that later this week after DC1 gets today’s two decisions. We had consolation Chinese food last night (DC1: Williams decided to reject me an hour early. They just couldn’t wait.)

Ask the grumpies: What are your parents’ long term care/end of life plans?

First Gen American asks:

Do your parents have plans? Will you be helping with their care, why or why not?

#1:  My parents… they have a lot of money saved.  We probably won’t have to help them monetarily because likely their money will get them into a nice nursing home and Medicaid can take over when it runs out.  They’re both still living at home and seem active, though my father obviously has some kind of dementia and my mother is in denial about it.  When my grandma got Alzheimer’s my mom swore she would get herself into one of those communities where you live in an apartment on your own and are guaranteed to gradually transition to nursing care (my grandma was too far gone to get into the one in our town, so she ended up living with one of my mom’s younger brothers since after my sister went to college my parents had nobody able to lift my grandma anymore).  But unless my father dies first, I don’t think that’s going to happen.

My in-laws do not have plans.  My MIL definitely wants to be allowed to die if she ends up with dementia.  She’s got all sorts of “DNR” stuff signed.  She did not enjoy taking care of her mother and does not want to go through that herself or put her children through that.  We’re not sure about my FIL.  If they need help we will work together with DH’s siblings (probably us dealing with the money stuff and some set of them being boots on the ground since they live in the same state and we make more money) to figure out what needs to be done.  It’s likely they would move the debilitated family member to a care facility closer to them like my MIL moved her mother.

#2:  No, and possibly.  Parents are still in pretty good shape.  MIL may need help sooner and FIL passed away early and unexpectedly.



  • All the new projects I said yes to in September and October are suddenly actually starting.
  • DC1 told me the reason Coldplay is so compelling is because they never resolve their chords?  They just sort of fade out?
  • DH’s company is one of the ones that helped with the run on that bank that failed.  Thankfully they did get all the money (except the FDIC insured 250K, which really needs to be increased, given inflation) out in time.  But fixing that took all of Thursday + Friday for their lead management/HR/admin people, so they didn’t make a couple job offers they’d meant to.  So DH emailed someone a congratulatory email and got back a… but I haven’t gotten an offer yet?
  • Update:  looks like all deposits will be covered by the FDIC, not just those up to 250K, which is nice (and there wouldn’t have been a run and the bank wouldn’t have failed had depositors known that, but I digress).  They really do need to increase those limits though– it’s been 250K for as long as I can remember and there’s been a lot of inflation since then.
  • Apparently there is additional insurance banks can buy to protect assets larger than 250K.  Maybe that should be mandatory…
  • Waitlisted Grinnell.
  • Accepted to Union college (the one in NY) with a 30k/year scholarship.  That means zie can actually major in computer science instead of economics (hir only other acceptance was the state flagship but not for the school of engineering).  Union also has biomedical engineering and I think DC1 has enough credits and higher-level classes that zie could double major relatively easily.
  • Accepted to Macalester with a 23K/year scholarship!  I’m excited about this because Macalester is just a fantastic environment.  They’re even named the top college (or one of the top colleges) for LGBTQ+ students in the US on various lists.  (Among other things, they’re really good about all gender housing and bathrooms.)  DC1 considers hirself to currently be asexual (but may be demisexual or something else) and cisgender, so it’s not a direct issue for hir, but a place that is tops for marginalized people is generally a good place for everyone.
  • Macalester has lower tuition than Union so even though the scholarship is lower, it’s not actually that different in price.  Plus Macalester is upfront about likely going up 2K/year.
  • After the Union acceptance, which was the first one where DC1 could actually major in something zie wants to major in, it was like a huge ball of anxiety and stress that had been hanging over our heads just melted away.  After the Macalester acceptance, there was some actual elation.  I can definitely see DC1 being happy and cozy there.  Union I’m a little more worried about because it has a heavy frat presence and a heavy prep-school NY/NJ presence.  But a lot of people on the internet assure other worried people that there’s also a non-Greek nerd contingent that throws board-game and D&D parties instead of keggers.
  • Oddly, I’ve somehow gathered a lot of information on dining hall services quality over the years.  Sodexo is fine, but not great.  That’s what Union has.  There are a lot of complaints about the food from people who prefer healthier fare, but like, it’s still fine.  More of a focus on cheap comfort food (= deep fried), but not terrible.  Marriott and Bon Appetit are both actually pretty good, especially for things like salad bars and always having healthy items that taste fine.  Macalester has Bon Appetit and people generally like the food.
  • It’s weird, but my biggest worry is that skinny DC1 will just not eat if zie doesn’t like the food.  So I’m hoping for food to be good and available.  (Also will probably do shipments if DC1 doesn’t have an allergic roommate.)
  • My second biggest worry was having to find off-campus housing hirself as a teenager.  Since zie won’t be going to the flagship state school anymore, that’s not going to be a concern (they don’t even guarantee dorm housing for freshmen!).  I love elite private SLACs so much.  (UCSC apparently also does not have enough housing for freshmen, even though it’s an elite SLAC, but a public one.)
  • DC1 might still prefer Union over Macalester if zie wants to double major in engineering.  There really aren’t a whole lot of small liberal arts colleges that offer engineering and are more than say, 30% female (like with LGBTQ+ students, being good for female students generally also means they’re good for everybody).
  • Next weekend will be a bloodbath– all the remaining SLACs that DC1 applied to.  Then another week to hear from Vanderbilt.  (One of these schools is not like the others…)
  • Going through the college results reddit, a lot of people who got waitlisted or even rejected at Grinnell got into objectively better schools (one person even got into Harvard(!)).  They really must be looking for something different than a lot of these other schools are looking for, or they’re good at yield protection.
  • Macalester is sending DC1’s choice of warm socks or a puff-ball hat.  They are both adorable.  DC1 chose the socks after I promised that if zie decides to go to Macalester we would purchase hir a branded hat.  (We would have purchased the socks if zie had chosen the hat, but the reasoning is zie will wear the socks wherever zie ends up, but the hat only at cold colleges… which is all of them that are left except Vanderbilt.)
  • Word on the internet is that Grinnell’s dining hall had some massive problems last year,  I don’t know what company they use.  They did just fully unionize the dining hall workers including student workers though.

DC1 does taxes for the first time

If DC1 had been paid W2 income as a regular employer, there wouldn’t be any taxes because the government would have taken out Medicare and Social Security and apparently the limit for having to file taxes as a dependent is like $13K, give or take.  But zie was paid as a 1099 contractor, so zie did have to pay to make up for that.

Total tax amount turned out to be around 14% of income, so zie owed $326.

We decided it would be easier just to pay it ourselves than to figure out how to get hir to pay it given zie doesn’t have a checkbook.

Link love

Resources for LGBTQ+ prospective college students.

Don’t Say Gay bills.  Paired donation (I couldn’t find any LGBT donations for Missouri) for West Virginia Donors Choose. Let us know if you have a Missouri-specific donation in the comments!

More on whether masks work to prevent Covid (spoiler:  they do).

Excellent advice for vaccine deniers.

Ask the grumpies: Worry and the intangible nature of wealth

First Gen American asks:

Do you ever worry about the intangible nature of your richness? If the world really goes sideways, is having physical stuff of value (art, etc) another way to hedge your bets? I keep thinking back to the Jews who used their prized violins and things to get passage out of the country during the holocaust. That was in my moms lifetime so not that long ago.

Good lord yes, I worry very much.  In terms of alternate stores of wealth, no, not so much.

I think I’m worried that artwork etc. are too cumbersome to take with me, and jewelry is so bad at keeping its value.  Maybe there’s something to be said for having actual gold bullion, but that is heavy and so attractive to thieves.

I’m hoping that we’d be able to have liquid assets outside of just the US and we’d be able to get out if we needed to.  But it’s hard to say.  Right now it hasn’t been a priority (#Biden), other than keeping probably more money than we need in savings accounts and having assets scattered across several different financial institutions.