HUFFINGTON POST: The Illegitimacy of Student Loan Debt

Career College Central Summary:

  • The Corinthian 15, the narrative goes, fell victim to a bad actor, a predatory company that preyed on the good intentions students and their relative lack of opportunity. Corinthian Colleges, Inc.'s history of abuse, in this respect, grants the debt strike some amount of legitimacy, and brings to light broader issues with the for-profit education market.
  • That narrative is true, as far as it goes, but it leaves intact the student loan system itself, and gives a pass to the almost universal reliance on it among non-profit colleges and universities as well. In other words, it doesn't challenge the fact that the entire postsecondary education system in the United States is, in one way or another, financed by debt, which now clocks in at well over a trillion dollars among all individual borrowers. While real wages for most lower- and middle-class families remain stagnant despite the so-called economic recovery as the cost of higher education continues to rise, the $30,000 or so of debt that the average student now graduates with only looks to increase.
  • By focusing solely on the abusive practices of Corinthian Colleges, Inc., the media miss the fact that the system itself is abusive. Corinthian Colleges, Inc. is certainly a particularly egregious offender, but in terms of degree, not the only of its kind. Higher education in the United States is, for most, an education that indebts: it may promise opportunity, but that opportunity remains the possession of the federal government and the army of student loan servicors and providers.
  • Ultimately, the student debt strike is not about "illegitimate" vs. "legitimate" debt, but the illegitimacy of student loan debt as such. That is why the various calls for lower interest rates and more generous refinancing options, although an improvement, ultimately miss the point and do nothing of any real substance in the long run. The larger issue is, rather, education as a basic right, a right that should not be bought and sold. Strike Debt gets this point, which is why it understands solidarity with the Corinthian 15 as a "fight for quality, tuition-free education."
  • Calls for tuition-free education isn't something many that politicians, administrators and investors want to hear, precisely because the current system we have in place is so profitable for all involved — except, that is, for students. But that's why it needs to be heard. It's far past time to say "no" to debt-financed higher education, and "yes" to tuition-free education for all.

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