As part of our annual reporting, I was asked: “What are the biggest misconceptions, mistakes, or ‘oh dear’ moments from the past year?”
The biggest mistake I made was lumping the student body all together. There are a number of reasons students borrow money. Some do it because it’s promoted as ‘good debt’, others because of true financial necessity, some because it’s the path of least resistance, others because they don’t know (knowledge gap) of other options.
But what I didn’t realize was that there are some that don’t really see it as a big deal. Here is what I wrote:
I believe there is a sub-set of the student body that doesn’t see borrowing money as a problem. Thus, any number of resources dedicated to helping this populace will go unused. I came to this conclusion by accident while looking at the student debt numbers of those students that have 100% (full) tuition covered by scholarships. A small amount (around 10%) of these students still borrowed, and they borrowed relatively large amounts (around $15k year). For these students, additional financial resources weren’t the issue. Instead they have a ‘cultural perspective’ or worldview that doesn’t see this behavior as problematic to their future wellbeing.
This isn’t a local issue – I believe one reason for the explosion of growth of all national student loans is based on a small percentage (10%?) of overall students that really don’t have an anti-debt bias. It’s important to emphasize: They don’t have a financial problem.
Larry Burkett used to teach that debt isn’t a problem, it’s a symptom of a problem. This is a great illustration of that principle. Even in situations where tuition is completely covered, a small subset of students will borrow extensive amounts of money.
The question for which I don’t have an answer is this: What if anything should be done?