Student Loans: A Modern-day Form of Slavery?
This past week, students in my Social Inequality course were asked to read and think about causes and consequences of various types of debt. Given the audience, it's no surprise that student loans kept coming to the fore. Well over three-quarters of the students indicated that they would graduate with loans--many of them well over $20,000 owed on a Bachelor's degree in the social sciences, majors that are vital for our society but not notorious for their high salaries. They described an increasingly common pickle--there was no way that they could have attended college without the loans, and they are frightened that they will not be able to repay them, but they knew that without the college degree, their futures were beyond bleak. To say they feel between a rock and a hard place would be an understatement.
I am very concerned about these kids' futures because I know what they face. In order for me and my husband to get through graduate school, we took out well over $40,000 in student loans. My retirement is going to be postponed because the money that should be going into my 401K is instead going to Sallie Mae. I don't regret my education, however, I am discouraged and disgusted by the amount of student loan debt with which so many of our young people must graduate college. The student assistance that used to come in the form of grants has been replaced with loans. I would argue that these student loans are the modern day version of indentured servitude. Sallie Mae (or whomever carries the loan) has become the company store. Do I have the answers? No. But I do have the question: Is this the kind of society that we want to be--A society that burdens so many of our young people with decades of debt in exchange for higher education? If the answer is yes, it doesn't paint a very pretty picture of America.