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Re: [xmca] Student Debt

Seems good that this issue is being foregrounded. I think that it's a rather peculiarly US phenomenon. The rest of the world seems to regard higher education as an arena in which society invests in students for the good of all. In the US, higher education is some sort of consumer good for which you have to pay through the nose because it benefits you, rather than a common good which benefits society.

If you can't pay, society sees enough residual benefit to itself to at least offer you below-market rate loans to encourage you to both educate yourself and dig yourself deeper into debt. Americans are also, I think, more so than people elsewhere in the world, acculturated to the notion that debt is the normal way to participate in the consumer economy.

Another peculiar feature of higher education in the US is that most of the best universities are private. I'm pretty sure that's not true anywhere else. While student debt is piling up for those at public universities, too, the cost of private universities in the US is scandalous.

A modest proposal: Nationalize the top 20 public research universities in the US, fund their budgets completely from the federal treasury, move them to competitive admission and zero tuition and fees, and expect them to serve only as many students as their tenure-line faculty can teach at a 20:1 student-faculty ratio in all classes. For more on this and links to a fuller argument, see my blog at: www.jaylemke.com . 


Jay Lemke
Senior Research Scientist
Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition
Adjunct Full Professor, Department of Communication
University of California - San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, California 92093-0506

New Website: www.jaylemke.com 

Professor (Adjunct status 2011-2012)
School of Education
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Professor Emeritus
City University of New York

On Apr 18, 2012, at 10:41 AM, Greg Thompson wrote:

> Just passing along this post about an event (at the University of Chicago)
> that considers the problem of student debt. Although I doubt anyone can
> make it to the event, it is interesting for the way in which it points to a
> huge problem that many of us in academia probably don't talk too much
> about, and it does so in a very "playful" space called "Debtopia".
> -greg
> This National Day of Action celebrates the One Trillion Dollar mark on
> student debt (that's $1,000,000,000,000,000). Student debt is personal
> and national and all around in the structure of higher education. Both
> graduates and undergraduates, our parents and our children, the
> education we enjoy and the jobs anticipate -- debt weighs on it all.
> Welcome to "Debtopia Carnival," a day on the Quad to open questions
> and imagine alternatives.
> "Debtopia" is a land where students are weighed down by the pressure
> of debt and the privatization of their futures, where students are
> lost in bureaucracy, buying time to escape the barren job market and
> making life decisions based on immediate market value. The
> administrators cheerfully refer to the place as "Loantopia," advising
> students on how to invest in their own future, while our collective
> future withers away even in our imaginations.
> The booths at the Carnival will be designed both to make visible how
> student debt touches different aspects of higher education (from
> financial aid to career choices to graduate labor), but also will
> offer creative ways to assert how we value our education differently.
> The day will not only be meant for education and awareness-building,
> but also as a provocation to spark conversations on campus.
> https://www.facebook.com/events/344892505569276/
> -- 
> Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
> Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
> Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition
> Department of Communication
> University of California, San Diego
> http://ucsd.academia.edu/GregoryThompson
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