Tag Archives: debt

What is the Church? Process Organisation Studies, Actor-Network Theory, and Excommunication for Debt

A message from Jamie Hall ’15 with the promise of cookies!

Between 1300 and 1550, church court across Europe frequently excommunicated delinquent debtors for breach of faith. This did not reflect the preoccupations of prelates or ecclesiastical judges, but widespread, popular demand for legal-religious remedies in matters of day-to-day, relatively minor credit.

By examining the practice of excommunication for debt in light of recent theories of network and organizations, we can glimpse how pre-Reformation believers understood the Church–and the market.

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Date: Tuesday, April 21
Time: 4:15 PM
Place: Downey 113

The College Bubble: A Higher Ed Round-Up

Unless you shut yourself off from the world this past week, you probably read, or at least heard mention of, The Atlantic’s feature story on fraternities and their dangers, which highlighted Wesleyan University and Beta Theta Pi. The article explores the role of fraternities on campuses, especially in the crafting of party culture and the rise of sexual assault. The article is long, but well worth the read, and has reopened space for dialogue on these issues.

Cooper Union Charges Tuition, Adds Air & Water to Meal Plan

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Since 1902, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art has remained tuition free, offering accepted students scholarships drawn in part from industrialist Peter Cooper’s epic neck beard real estate holdings and alumni contributions to cover the cost of attendance. Though Cooper Union previously rallied under the banner of an education “as free as air and water,” it seems the only banners being hoisted today are in protest of the school’s move to cover only 50% of tuition. On Tuesday, Cooper Union made it official that it would be instituting the tuition plan proposed by the university’s maligned board of directors back in December of 2012. This blog covered developments in this story at length, which included a student response in the form of a building occupation and that occupation’s inevitable conclusion, as the activism at Cooper Union clicked with the campus zeitgeist regarding Wesleyan’s own decision to discriminate against students without the means to attend Wes abandon need-blind admissions.

Click through the jump for more on what this means for those of us who also attend institutions that renege on espoused principles like inclusion and diversity.

Affordability of Higher Education with Professor Skillman

From Amy Davis ’13:

Concerned about need-blind? Student debt? Want to know what you’re really getting out of your education? Or just want to address the NYT article on need-blind admissions? Join the Roosevelt Institute on Wednesday at 7pm in Usdan 110 for an informal discussion on the future of affordable higher education and the true costs and benefits of getting a degree.

Date: Tomorrow, December 5
Time: 7pm
Place: Usdan 110
Cost: Freesiezzz

Freshmen Libido-Killer: The Atlantic and NYT jibber-jabber on College Ed

Let’s talk about all that money that you’re spending on college, and more important, how you’re spending it.

Now, it is not my sincere intention to deflate anybody’s boners here – what with the new school year approaching and all – so this is somewhat optional reading if you’re really, really keen on that whole ignorance is bliss nonsense. But this is a red-button issue if there ever was one, and it behooves one to at least become marginally familiar with the general shape of the pretty stupid conversation that’s going on about it right now.

It is very, very difficult for such a small person as myself to think about, write on, or even hint upon the rather complex and delicate topic of the college debt issue. And truthfully, this isn’t going to be a very coherent or original post, but that isn’t the goal here. The goal is to get something going.

(Disclaimer: Much of this is an opinion piece.)

Read on?

“The University has no Clothes” – New York Magazine

Photo credit: New York Magazine

A couple of weeks ago I posted a brief comment regarding libertarian, entrepreneur and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel’s mission to rip the universal fabric of higher education’s importance to education, job prospects, and the rate of winning at life.

It comes, I think, at the spear’s tip of an emerging wave of skepticism over whether or not whippin’ out around $200,000 for a college education (or incurring the Wrath of Debt in that magnitude) is worth the investment. There seems to be a steadily rising number of popular written material on this issue in the past couple of months, and only time can tell whether the raised awareness of it all will ultimately change things before American society hits some sort of economic pressure point and explodes.

And while most of these writings say generally the same things (like this whole university thing is a bubble like the housing thing was, kids don’t actually learn shit in school, etc. etc.), this recent article in New York Magazine – entitled “The University has no Clothes” – has particular appeal enough to warrant a Wesleying post for three reasons.

  1. It engages the Peter Thiel Project from a different angle.
  2. It comes with the above picture of naked people.
  3. And it has the following quotation:

“People come back to me,” he (James Altucher, a subject of the article) says over lunch at a crowded restaurant in Union Square, “very smart, intelligent people, and say, ‘Look, college teaches you how to think, college teaches you how to network, college teaches you how to write.’ Personally, I didn’t learn how to do any of those things in college.” What Altucher learned to do in college, he says, is what all young men—“with almost no exceptions”—learn to do: drink and talk to women.

According to the sloths we here at Wesleying hired to research the tastes and preferences of our readers, these are precisely the things that appeal to you folks. For the article, click here.

Happy Hangover Holiday!

TechCrunch: Peter Thiel v. The Higher Education Bubble

Why are we in college again?

This is a question that probably runs across the minds of many attending colleges and universities across this country at some point during their undergraduate tenures. There are of course many among us who have some understanding that the diplomas we are to receive give us some sort of “proof of worth” that in turn allows us beter access into the job market. And indeed, this is perhaps the true case of our modern times in complex societies.

But taking that truth within the context of the financial realities that come with it (see: an almost certain future of debt) highlights what can only be described as a perverse internalization of the “higher education” concept by society: It is an accepted convention that we are supposed to whip out large amounts of cash in order to be able or allowed to receive some decent amount of cash in the future (and even that’s not guaranteed).

This appears to me nothing less than a clear example of an absurdity made normal. And so it does to Peter Thiel (pictured) – co-founder of Paypal – as well who, as chronicled in a recent article by TechCrunch, is seeking to undermine this convention. Thiel is part of a project called “20 under 20,” where the idea is quite simple: Pick the best twenty kids they could find under 20 years of age and pay them $100,000 over two years to leave school and start a company instead.

In vouching for the notion of diploma-free success, Thiel is fighting what he calls the “Higher Education Bubble,” which he sees as having irrational and detrimental social processes that are quite similar to what we saw with the housing bubble that greatly contributed to the late-2000’s financial crisis. Fascinating stuff.

You can check out the article here.

[Thanks to Anike Arni ’13 for the tip!]

Painfully Indebted College Grad Seeks Donations

Déjà Vu ensues at Wes.

You might remember a Wesleying post over the summer regarding a Wes student ’12 whose family financial situation, coupled with his international status, rendered tuition for the coming semester all but completely unaffordable. Distraught but unbeaten, the student set up an extensive website and Facebook page soliciting donations and ideas for how to raise upwards of $60,000 in one summer. That student did not end up returning to Wesleyan this term. His website is no longer online. But the Wesleying comments section (archived here) unleashed some worthwhile (and unnecessarily ugly) debate, ranging from sincere outpourings of sympathy (“even if you don’t want to donate, show him some support!”) to terse dismissal (“Get a fucking job”) and much in between.

A recent Gawker story, regarding a 2009 graduate of Northeastern University who is now soliciting donations to help her cover over $200,000(!!)  in student loans, offers startling parallels. Kelli Space, 23, has also set up a website to plead her case and seek generous contributions: TwoHundredThou.com. She even provides the horrifying repayment schedule itself. For a 23-year-old, this is pretty goddamn bleak. She writes to Gawker:

The severity of my situation goes a bit deeper than “I owe this money, help me” – I am actually forced to live with my parents (forced = I am lucky! But…) as the monthly payments for just my private loans are currently $891 until Nov 2011 when they increase to $1600 per month for the following 20 years… attached is my payment plan. I also mentioned I have a job – which is great! And I probably have my college education to thank for that! Except there is still no way to make these monthly payments, and live on my own as a contributing member of society. Neither of my parents, nor I, really knew how this would pan out — unfortunately — and now that I’m here, I see no real light at the end of the tunnel.

Debt to Die With

With all this talk about rankings and all the fire that for-profit schools have come under recently, Gawker decided to try and rank the ‘real’ colleges whose students have amassed the most debt.  They took total debt, which made bigger schools come out on top, giving NYU a not-so-surprising win.

But what about Wesleyan? What about debt per student, which is probably a better measure in the first place? We’ve always know that Wesleyan is an expensive place to go to, with one of the highest tuitions and comprehensive costs in the nation, but let’s take a look at the debt burden it places on the students.  The “Median Federal Debt for Those Entering Repayment” for Wesleyan was $11,384.

Estimated Repayment Rates by Institution -- FY 2009 Wesleyan and Comparable Institutions

Yes, Wesleyan’s $11,384 median looks meager compared to NYU’s behemoth of $28,649 (which isn’t even the highest).  But what about comparable institutions? Our Little Three ‘frenemies’ Williams and Amherst have nearly identical medians at about $7,700 (are they even distinguishable schools anymore?), over $3,500 less than us.  Nearby Connecticut College, however, has a similar if higher load.  Vassar, who we seem to be compared to a lot, is also essentially similar to us in Median Federal Debt.  Our “Estimated Repayment Rate” is lower than any of our peers though.

The source information comes from the US Department of Education’s ED.gov, which has other useful information.  Click here for the relevant statistics directly from them.  Click here for Gawker’s Top Ten Universities for Student Debt.

Sorry for the awfully Argus-y post.