on the student debt crisis

There is one. It’s a crisis by which I am decidedly unaffected. I will be graduating this spring with a B.A. and zero debt.

I chose my university according to my budget.

I won’t be paying my own (nonexistent) student debt, but with taxes, I will probably be paying yours. Irrespective of that, and despite the fact that I feel I made a decision and that forgiving student debt is unfair because other people made a different one and would not face the consequences of their decision with such a proposal, I would in no way criticize any student who chose an extremely expensive, prestigious school despite inability to afford it. This is because in all rationality I know that, unfortunately, my sentiment that an action to partially or entirely relieve someone of student debt is somehow “unfair” is a result of a false sense of threatened security: as though the more students who are in inconceivable degrees of debt, the more advantage I have in this economy.

That is, of course, untrue. The perception that in order for someone to be financially successful, someone else has to be unsuccessful, is an economically false one. And it’s exactly how people who accumulate their wealth by screwing over other people want me to feel. The reality is that people who can not afford expensive, prestigious schools are people like me. And the best way to ensure that people like me don’t get in the way of people like them is to turn me against myself–is to make me feel that helping you out because you made a different decision, because you didn’t compromise on your educational dreams for money, is somehow unfair. The reality is I don’t actually have an advantage. (Who am I kidding? I’m just like you.) The reality is even if I had an advantage it’s one I would have had unfairly, gained from a system whose premise is to force people like to me to choose between something that is vital to financial security and compromising that security, like a Catch 22. With education. With something that is, according to how our nation functions, supposed to be a civil right. In fact, it’s one that you can’t even opt out of practicing. It’s a civil requirement.

The reality is I graduated high school with all the promise of anyone who would attend an expensive, prestigious school. The reality is my high school English instructor, upon discovering that I would choose not to attend an expensive, prestigious school, insisted, “But Nahida, you’re a thinker,” with a tone of great distress. “There is a difference.”

Yeah, there fucking is a difference. I’m convinced the crap people tell you about how your school is just as good as an Ivy League are either (1) trying to make themselves feel better with delusion or (2) attending an Ivy League with the aforementioned false belief about economic success.

Elizabeth Warren is proposing a bill that give students the same rate as the bankers. (Which in some cases is ZERO PERCENT interest.) Which is like, the most OBVIOUS MOVE IN THE WORLD. The reality is, we have all been screwed over beyond an extent we even realize. By people who do exactly that to make money.

Once upon a time (and I don’t even WHEN!) when someone became wealthy, their community prospered with them. I don’t think that’s ever demonstrably been true, but when bankers and big business are claiming it is and that’s why they should get off on taxes and receive subsidies, you bet I’m sure as fuck going to hold them to that golden standard. And when it’s clearly not happening you bet I’m going to cut off their unearned advantages. Because when that doesn’t happen, it means the people who are accumulating wealth are doing it illegally. They are leaning on the support of your taxes and your labor, and they are not contributing to the prosperity of our civilization in return. You don’t need to gain over someone’s loss–not when you earn your money honesty. You can even forget treating students like bankers. Goddammit, treat bankers like ME.

I’ve heard people tell friends of mine who went to Harvard and Duke and are inconsolably distressed over their debt that they shouldn’t have chosen these schools to begin with. Why the fuck not? They made amazing grades and did amazing things. What doesn’t entitle them to that kind of education? (Say it: class; admit that’s what you want–the poor out of your precious schools.) The perfect debtor is much like the perfect victim: nonexistent.

I didn’t want to go to Duke or Harvard. I would have been living in New York. And I would’ve returned to California, but the experience–living alone somewhere unfamiliar and having to function daily that way–would’ve taught me an invaluable amount of independence.

I didn’t do it for my education because I would have had to pay interest on loans, which is Islamically illegal, but I would in no way criticize any student who chose an extremely expensive, prestigious school despite inability to afford it; I know what it’s like, not in this but elsewhere, to risk all stability to relentlessly pursue a passion.

3 thoughts on “on the student debt crisis

  1. This — the student debt crisis — is something that’s been on my mind a lot recently because I’m going to college next year. I’ve made the decision to go to college a year early despite the fact that this means I can’t access certain forms of tuition aid for at least a year (the early admission program I’m in will grant my high school diploma after my freshman year in college as long as I take the three classes I need at some point during that year). The college I’ve chosen is not excessively expensive — and look at the language I’ve been talked into using? ‘Excessive’ as though education is something I should feel guilty about *indulging* in — but tuition in the States is ridiculous just about anywhere, and since most financial aid only takes into account parental income and not already-present parental debt I’m unlikely to get any need-based aid.

    Not sure what the point of this comment was. Maybe just thank you for not reinforcing my father’s opinion (he called it “financially insane” to go early — my father could afford to pay my tuition out of pocket but he prefers getting behind on the child support he’s *obligated* to pay) and giving me something to counter it with. Although any information on how you managed to pay for college without debt would be appreciated, since the impression I’m getting is that that’s pretty much impossible without scholarship-hounding.


    1. I pretty much engaged in scholarship-hounding. =-= My tuition is nearly $4,000 a semester; I qualified for Cal Grant for a year (about $3,000) & I also had an $8,000 scholarship (only $6,000 of which I was able to use because it was spread out $2000 per year and I earned it my second year.) I worked a bit when I could (finding work is difficult) on temporary projects and made a few hundreds. Someone was gracious enough to provide me with $500, an interest-free loan I was able to pay back. (Quite a few people trusted me for some reason.) The rest I needed (which was a lot) came from my very supportive mother, and because of that, and because you don’t qualify for aid until you have your diploma (which is ridiculous), I don’t know how helpful I am for you. You’ll have access to those forms later at least, so it sounds as though it’ll get easier on you, hopefully.

      You should have the university bill the cost straight to your father. ;) Of course it won’t help you much if he doesn’t pay, because then they’ll just drop your classes.


  2. Education is a civil right up to a point. One can not be discriminated against getting access to compulsory education. No one has the right to go to college, they have the freedom and the opportunity to get in by whatever means are accessible to them. The freedoms U.S. citizens have bar the Government and institutions from stopping them from accessing their rights. How they access them is in a gray area. Predatory lending is wrong, it should be regulated. Average people shouldn’t be taken advantage of by banks and a lack of regulation allows that. It happened in housing and it is happening with student loans.

    Until the possible becomes actual it is a distraction, so for now in this messed up climate one can choose crushing debt or “vote with their feet” http://www.usnews.com/education/articles/2009/01/15/the-surprising-causes-of-those-college-tuition-hikes

    while others, the Alumni and Alumnae, the parents and the drop outs, like me can fight for reform to fix the bloated spending and salaries of administration that fuel the astonishingly high tuition costs.

    About 100 miles from me, the UCSD Board of Regents chose to hike tuition AND pay their new Chancellor more than $400,000! Why does that position warrant more pay than the President?

    Is it class warfare? I don’t think so. I think it’s Boomer Greed at work.

    Is college a civil right? Certainly not. I think a more important question is this: Is college really that important? I think no, not for everyone.



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