Sep 29 2012

The Price of Student Debt

Category: StudentsBob Hanke @ 1:26 am

NYU Professor: Are Student Loans Immoral?

by Andrew Ross

(excerpted from The Daily Beast, September 27, 2012)

Straight talk about the crushing burden of student debt is everywhere—except the one place it should be: on college campuses themselves. Students, professors, and college administrators seem to be in denial. For students who have never managed their own finances before—certainly the vast majority of undergraduates—the silence isn’t so surprising. After all, they’re not required to pay a penny on their loans until they graduate, so they coast along, often blind to the consequences of their ballooning debts. And our college presidents and senior administrators have good reason to duck any responsibility for the gathering crisis: all the evidence shows that they’ve gotten steadily richer from the proceeds of the higher-education bubble.

As for professors, I have known for several years that my paycheck depends on my students going deeply into debt, often for decades to come. But like my colleagues, I chose not to dwell on it, a decision that seemed justifiable given that faculty salaries have been stagnant as a whole for some time now. We are hardly to blame for skyrocketing college costs.

At NYU, where I teach, students graduate with 40 percent more debt than the national average. One alumnus told me that he and his peers had formed a “hundred club” for those in the six-figure debt bracket. So it felt long overdue when I finally began to wrestle with the problem personally. Knowing that they were trading a large chunk of their future wages for the right to walk into my classroom, did I have additional moral duties toward my students? Did I share any of the responsibility, or blame, for their decision to pile on loan after loan? Was I obliged to speak out against the profiteers who were plying them with high-interest credit?

When I raised the matter in class, no one wanted to talk. When I quizzed them privately, two students explained that the volume of their loans was a source of profound shame. At a pricey college, they were surrounded by peers from well-heeled families, and they feared the stigma if they spoke about their own straitened circumstances. One of them apologized for falling asleep in class: he had taken on a second job—not uncommon these days—to avoid the burden of even more loans. The other confessed that she did not want to feed any inner doubts about whether her dream education would be a career stepping stone or a financial millstone; as long as she was still studying, she wanted to stave off such thoughts.

If enrolled students had reasons to hold back, their older brethren were shattering the silence. Some of the loudest voices at Occupy locations around the country were underemployed graduates with crushing debt, finding solace in pungent slogans like “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out!” It dawned on me that all of their testifying about the personal agony of debt in public squares was a kind of “coming out” moment for a new political movement.

To read the rest of this article, follow this link.


Sep 19 2012

The Combustible University

Category: News,Online Publication,StudentsBob Hanke @ 6:57 pm

The Combustible Campus: From Montreal to Mexico City, Something is Stirring in the University

By Enda Brophy

(excerpted from Briarpatch Magazine, Sept 1, 2012)

For three decades now, the neoliberal restructuring of post-secondary education has sought to implant market logic and corporate-style management into the academy. The systematic defunding of public education that enables this process has only intensified in recent years with the global financial crisis and the austerity measures imposed in its wake. The resulting transformation of public university systems has brought us corporatized administrations, rising tuition, departmental closures, expanded class sizes, noxious corporate food, offensives against academic workers, and ethically dubious corporate donations.

In its current form, one could argue that the academy produces little that extends our collective social capacities and much that diminishes them: hierarchy, exploitation, debt, individualism, precarious employment, and cynicism. At a time when knowledge is increasingly seen as a commodity to be produced in accordance with the demands of profit, and public education is decried as an unjust fetter on the ruthless pedagogy of the free market, the private sector has turned its attention to the university and is fervently dedicated to its transformation. The state has mostly obliged, with centre-right and centre-left governments across the world taking turns at accelerating this epochal shift in post-secondary education.

And yet, something is stirring in the university. From London to Montreal, from Santiago to Auckland, from Wisconsin to Mexico City, struggles against the commodification of knowledge are proliferating. The neoliberalization of the university has produced its own antagonists, and it is from the ranks of those who stand to lose the most from this transformation – students and academic workers – that the greatest conflicts have emanated.

To read the rest of this article, click here.


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