Stafford Loan Justice

Pew: Burdens of Student Debt

Here’s a study on undergrad student loan debt from Pew. The findings aren’t surprising:

About half (48%) of students who took out college loans say that paying them back has made it harder to make ends meet after they left school. A quarter say that making loan payments has made it harder to buy a home; 24% say it has had an impact on the kind of career they are pursuing; and 7% say they have delayed getting married or starting a family because of it.

What is surprising about the post is the link to another Pew report,  Is College Worth It? College Presidents, Public Assess, Value, Quality and Mission of Higher Education (scroll to the “Read more”  section).  I haven’t read the report until now, and question not only the link with the student debt stats and debt servitude, but what seems to be the primary assumption of the College Worth It study, that

A majority of Americans (57%) say the higher education system in the United States fails to provide good value for the money students and their families spend, and about four-in-ten college presidents say the system is headed in the wrong direction, according to a pair of new nationwide surveys—one of the general public; the other of college presidents—conducted by the Pew Research Center.

What is “good value”? It’s not really defined, but described as “excellent value for the money they [sic, students] and their families spend”  (p.10, 67).

Doesn’t education rest on an individual’s (acquired) ability to critique and reason? The honing of different literacies?  Be associated with conflict resolution? And shouldn’t the “good value” of an education lead to advancement of  human knowledge? In the sense that Thomas Jefferson intended when he proposed public education for the “principal foundations of future order” (p. 154) and to “enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom…” (Letter to Gov. John Tyler, p. 393)?  Education equals self-determination, reflection, and betterment; “good value” and statistics aside, what are the personal and social value of education, if not for these considerations?

Until we as society fully arrive at the decision to disconnect education from a narrow vision of economic value, privilege and debt servitude, and to not claim education as a common good and right, that when exercised has implications for awareness and benefit to present and countless future generations, there will be no solace for borrowers. In this way, the future of public education in the U.S. remains perilous without reexamination of “good value.”

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Written by S.

April 26, 2012 at 10:27 pm