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Unformatted text preview: DISSENT / Summer 2006 a73 53 53 53 53 53 Jeffrey J. Williams tudent loans , for more than half those attending college, are the new paradigm of college funding. Conse- quently, student debt is, or will soon be, the new paradigm of early to middle adult life. Gone are the days when the state university was as cheap as a laptop and was considered a right, like secondary education. Now higher education is, like most social services, a largely privatized venture, and loans are the chief way that a majority of individuals pay for it. Over the past decade, there has been an avalanche of criticism of the corporatization of the university. Most of it focuses on the im- pact of corporate protocols on research, the reconfiguration of the relative power of admin- istration and faculty, and the transformation of academic into casual labor, but little of it has addressed student debt. Because more than half the students attending university receive, along with their bachelors degree, a sizable loan payment book, we need to deal with stu- dent debt. The average undergraduate student loan debt in 2002 was $18,900. It more than doubled from 1992, when it was $9,200. Added to this is charge card debt, which aver- aged $3,000 in 2002, boosting the average to- tal debt to about $22,000. One can reasonably expect, given still accelerating costs, that it is over $30,000 now. Bear in mind that this does not include other private loans or the debt that parents take on to send their children to col- lege. (Neither does it account for post-bacca- laureate loans, which more than doubled in seven years, from $18,572 in 19921993 to $38,428 in 19992000, and have likely doubled again). Federal student loans are a relatively new invention. The Guaranteed Student Loan (GSL) program only began in 1965, a branch of Lyndon B. Johnsons Great Society programs intended to provide supplemental aid to stu- dents who otherwise could not attend college or would have to work excessively while in school. In its first dozen years, the amounts borrowed were relatively small, in large part because a college education was comparatively inexpensive, especially at public universities. From 1965 to 1978, the program was a mod- est one, issuing about $12 billion in total, or less than $1 billion a year. By the early 1990s, the program grew immodestly, jumping to $15 billion to $20 billion a year, and now it is over $50 billion a year, accounting for 59 percent of higher educational aid that the federal gov- ernment provides, surpassing all grants and scholarships. The reason that debt has increased so much and so quickly is that tuition and fees have increased, at roughly three times the rate of inflation. Tuition and fees have gone up from an average of $924 in 1976, when I first went to college, to $6,067 in 2002. The average en- compasses all institutions, from community colleges to Ivies. At private universities, the average jumped from $3,051 to $22,686. In 1976, the tuition and fees at Ivies were about...
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