Author Discusses College Debt at Social Science Summit


Author and professor of Sociology Dr. Joel Best discussed issues concerning student loans and debt this morning as part of a social science seminar in the James Union Building.

Titled “The Student Loan Mess: How It Got Here and Why It’s Not Going Away,” Best’s lecture focused on America’s growing reliance with student loans and how this reliance has resulted in $1 trillion dollars of student debt.

According to Best, the issue of student loans will only worsen until it is addressed in its entirety and not in parts.

“We spend our time rearranging the deck chairs on the sinking ship when really we need to be focusing on the bigger issue,” Best said.

For Best, the bigger issue is America’s dependence of student loans.

Best began the lecture with a history of college loan programs in America then delved into discussing the behaviors of students, universities and state legislators when it comes to dealing with student loans.

Best observed that when students use student loans, they are more likely to attend bigger, more expensive universities, thereby increasing their debt down the road.

He also criticized the federal government for their views of student debt.

“No one in Washington cares, and the reason they don’t care is because they see student loans as an asset,” Best said. “They see this is a financial return.”

Though student loans allow for the federal government to reduce the value of pell grants, money provided by the government to pay for a person’s tuition, the government has, according to Best, failed at keeping up with the rising costs of college tuitions.

Best’s lecture combined aspects of class and education. In one of the presentation’s slides, Best used a line graph to illustrate the higher likelihood wealthy students have of attending college.

“In our society, education is strongly related to income,” Best said. “The more advanced degree, the more money you are likely to make in the field and the more likely you are to survive.”

This lecture was part of the 23rd annual Social Science Symposium, a two-day lecture event that focuses on social issues. This year’s theme was “Worth Every Penny?: Debt, Education, and Opportunity.”

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To contact news editors Max Smith and Meagan White, email newseditor@mtsusidelines.com

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