I recently counseled someone who just graduated with a degree in social work with 100k in debt. Someone should be prosecuted.
When someone graduates with 100k in debt, our injustice antenna goes up. It’s easy to inherently feel some level of injustice and want to blame someone. Maybe it’s justifiable for a doctor or an attorney, but a future social worker is going to make $30-40k a year out of school. Something feels wrong.
The problem with our feeling of injustice is that for our mind to move on, it needs to find a resting place for the fault. It’s the reason we build internal narratives about greedy politicians, evil corporations, liberal communists, and right wing nut jobs. The world makes more sense to us if we can find a place for the blame.
Part of the confusion around the student loan epidemic is where to place the blame. I was talking to a former seminary president this week and he summarized the issue: Nobody in the loop feels total responsibility for the issue. “It’s not my problem, it’s your problem…..”
The reality is that the problem isn’t binary – it’s nuanced. The government made student loans really cheap and easy to accept because they make $51 Billion a year in profit. As the supply and demand of money changed, schools raised prices significantly faster than inflation because educational institutions have always and will always need more resources. As individuals we participate in a social narrative that says I need this education to get the job I want. We are always reluctant to accept personal responsibility for actions we participated in – even if they are the product of a broken system.
In the aftermath of the mortgage meltdown, home owners sued banks for being misled into mortgages with high fees. Banks sued homeowners for non-payment. Even the government, who didn’t exercise any regulatory control, sued banks. Nobody was willing to take the full responsibility, and instead played the blame game.
The reality is, with the home mortgage meltdown and with the skyrocketing student loan balances, the complexity of just knowing who to blame makes finding a reasonable solution even more nuanced.
The solution is complex because the problem is complicated.