For 19 years I worked in college learning centers. One of the colleges was in rural New York, the other in downtown Chicago. Both were small, private schools. Neither was selective. That is, they accepted many applicants who were academically unprepared for higher education. Whether or not the odds for graduation were promising, a Financial Aid Office made sure students could put together enough in loans to pay tuition.
Some who sought the services of the Learning Center were B students striving for A’s, but most who came struggled academically. Often they were the first in their family to attend college. Because I worked with students individually, I learned of their aspirations and struggles. Most hoped for employment in public education, social services, and the hospitality industry. Women balanced lives as mothers, students, and employees at minimum wage jobs.
What you might not understand about student debt is that many colleges are small private institutions whose survival depends on student tuition to pay bills. Often this has been a predatory practice, as young men and women who had little chance of graduating were burdened with debt they would likely never be able to repay.
You probably know that our public-school systems, particularly urban ones, are not preparing students for college. Yet college graduates earn more money over a lifetime than non-graduates. This reality preys upon the aspirations of those who dream of someday having a family and home. So why would a young person, even one academically unprepared, NOT choose to attend college?
For many I worked with, graduating required persistence…and a willingness to accumulate debt.
I feel blessed to have known them and admire them for the contributions they’re making to their communities. As a taxpayer, I am willing to contribute to their debt relief and that of others exploited by a system that never had their interests in mind.