Letter to the Editor: Student debt is misunderstood


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

University of Iowa President Sally Mason visited the College of Education on Sept. 24. During the Q&A of a forum that was held with students, faculty, and staff, a professor asked the president if she had any ideas on how the faculty could help students who are heavily indebted and who are struggling with student loans.

In response, Mason said that 40 percent of Iowa students graduate with no debt and that 60 percent graduate with an average of $27,000. Mason also said that when she graduated, she had approximately $3,500 in student loans. That, according to her, was the price of a cheap new car.

She went on to say that $27,000 is the price of a decent new car, but that half of the $27,000 students have borrowed to attend Iowa is what she calls lifestyle debt. This is because, she said, students now all have iPhones, iPads, and laptops, etc. She said the best thing faculty can do to help students with debt and loans is to counsel them not to spend so much money. She also stated that when she was a student, poverty was just the way of life, and if you were a college student, you were expected to be poor.

I am a UI graduate student, and I have been here since 2010 as a student and a teaching assistant. I have had the chance to meet many wonderful students at this university and to learn their stories.

Among those I met, student loans and lifelong debt following those loans is a constant. I have seen classmates and colleagues literally counting pennies just to survive, struggling to provide for themselves and their families. Some of them even have to send money back home. I have also had very bright undergraduate students who had to drop out of school for a semester or two because they simply couldn’t afford to both be in school and provide for themselves or their families. Their debt was not due to lifestyle but survival and a desire to better oneself through higher education.

Poverty is indeed a way of life for far too many UI students today. These students will graduate worse off than when they came here: They had nothing then, but they have thousands of dollars in debt now. They also have a degree from a university that is recognized as outstanding, but they might not be able to find a decent job that will pay them the salary they will need to pay back what they borrowed. In other words, they may never be able to pay back entirely on their student loans.

Perhaps there needs to be a better understanding that these are different times, that the price of tuition and fees have skyrocketed in the last few decades and that, unlike in the 1960s and 1970s, the investment one makes in higher education now might not pay back in the future. In fact, it might never pay back. Not going to college, however, is not an option, for research yields that those without a college degree are even more likely to be unemployed or live in poverty for the rest of their lives.

Student debt/college loans is a serious issue, not only at Iowa but everywhere in the United States. I am glad to see that some faculty members understand it and have shown solidarity with the students.

The entire university community, however, should come together and take this very serious problem more seriously.

Gleidson Gouveia
UI graduate research assistant

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.