Alam ’13 and Student Loans in Businessweek

Wesleyan student and senior interviewer Zain Alam ’13 has been featured in Businessweek for an op-ed regarding student loans as part of a feature piece on student loans, an issue which is becoming more and more prevalent as private universities continue to increase their costs. The increasing amount of time required to pay off loans is acknowledged in the story title: Student Loans: Debt for Life. The blurb for Alam’s photo illustrates a situation that has become commonplace at top schools, including Wes:

A senior at Wesleyan University, Alam works 10 to 25 hours a week to limit his loans, which he still expects could reach $23,000 by the time he graduates. “It becomes really apparent how absurd the price tag is when you go abroad and everyone’s jaw drops,” he says. “Of course, most of them say they’d do absolutely anything to get an education in America—but at what price?”

Alam Editor Peter Coy cites a New York Fed study that found people over 60 are responsible for over $60 billion in loan debt, and offers a handful of possible longterm solutions to the problem:

One huge step would be to allow bankruptcy judges to wipe out education debt, as they could until Congress began to tighten restrictions in 1976. Under today’s punitive statute, judges can discharge student loans only in cases of undue hardship, which in many jurisdictions requires proof of “certainty of hopelessness.” (Congratulations, pal, you’re hopeless!) “The law is much too harsh,” says U.S. Bankruptcy Judge A. Jay Cristol in Miami.

Check out the rest of the article on Businessweek. Also, the issue of crushing student loans is one of the many reasons why President Roth is moving to end need-blind admissions, another hot, controversial topic at Wesleyan. As Roth says, “Schools can also remain ‘need-blind’ by increasing loan levels or expected parental contribution. We will not do this.” To read what Roth has to say in relation to loans and “need-blind”, check out his blog entries here and here.

These two money-related issues are at odds. Which is better in the long run? Does need-blind admission justify terrible, life-long loans? Is scaling back need-blind a reasonable means of reducing loans? Which is the lesser evil? Sound off in the comments.

Correction: Alam did not author this piece, as we originally posted. His photo (and profile blurb) was included as part of a feature piece by economics editor Peter Coy, thanks to a call for photos by Businessweek editor Jared Keller ’09. Apologies for any confusion.

[Businessweek]

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  • [anonymous]

    Unlike Wes, Davidson has responded to a tight financial situation by taking a moral stand: http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-09-06/the-debt-free-college-degree

  • Jared Keller

    This is not an op-ed by Alam, but a reported item by Peter Coy, our economics editor. The photos included here are not ‘part of a series’ of op-eds, but the faces of people who are dealing with student loan debt (as I did, and still do, after leaving Wesleyan in 2009). I know this because I work for Bloomberg Businessweek and put out a call for people with student debt to have their photos taken for this article last week. Just FYI.

  • ’15

    “Schools can also remain ‘need-blind’ by increasing loan levels or expected parental contribution. We will not do this.”
    My pathetic financial aid award (down nearly 20K from last year) disagrees.

    • anon.

      students not getting the financial aid they need and deserve is exactly what President Roth is trying to avoid by getting rid of need-blind. He has said that he is ‘not comfortable’ with the amount of debt (in loans) that he sees students graduating with, and the way to fix that is to have a set amount of financial aid available, giving it all out until there is none left, and then not admitting anyone else beyond that point. Doing anything else would be plain dishonest. What happened to you is a terrible side-effect of this dishonesty. The truth of it is, schools can only afford a certain amount of financial aid. Getting rid of need-blind helps schools be honest with themselves and their students. Yes, it sucks for the kids who need financial aid and don’t get admitted because of it. But couldn’t you argue that it is just as bad to be admitted by a school that promises aid, can’t follow through, and then having loans for the rest of your life?

      • suat

        oh hey roth, how are ya

      • Or…

        Do you think that maybe it’s better to at least give those kids the option? Then it’s a personal decision for the admit rather than a bureaucratic one by admissions.

        • anon.

          But it’s not an option. If they don’t know that financial aid may later be taken away, how would they know they had to make a choice? The kids applying to Wesleyan will obviously be able to get into another great school. The bureaucracy here owes them the chance to go somewhere where they won’t get screwed 2 years into their college career.

          • Or…

            The change to need-blind does not affect current students — only applicants. Any year-to-year changes to financial aid packages for current students are made for reasons entirely independent of the need-blind issue.