The Stakes in the College Affordability Crisis

Molly M. Claflin, a recent graduate of Stanford Law School, had a good op-ed on student loan companies and SAFRA in Monday’s Los Angeles Times.

She expresses the stakes here very clearly and forcefully:

It’s hard to save the world when you know that all of your hard work is going to pay for some executive’s bonus. Reforming the student loan system creates a snowball effect. By helping finance a student’s education, the government helps that student embark on a successful career. Years down the line, that student will be able to buy a house, a car or a business. And long term, it will build a nation of educated, career-minded and socially minded citizens who can help create a better future while paying into Social Security and the tax system. As I make my transition from classroom to community, I understand that I owe a debt to society. I appreciate the opportunities I’ve been given and the loans that helped me afford them. But student loans shouldn’t be a Wall Street business venture. They represent the struggles and dreams of millions of families to help the next generation succeed. They provide hope, encouragement and a chance to focus on the huge challenges before us.

Moreover—and this is a particularly pressing issue for law students—when private lenders rip students off, greatly increasing their debt load, it has the natural effect of steering them away from the sorts of lower-paying, public service jobs we want our best and brightest going into.

This is an overlooked aspect of the college affordability crisis, and one that was very capably tackled by Daniel Brook in his book The Trap: Selling Out to Stay Afloat in Winner-Take-All America, which I highly recommend (if you’re interested, you can read a review of it I wrote during my Campus Progress days here).

Jesse Singal

Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.