Sidestepping Debt: Student Loans and Saylor

[On July 1st, interest rates on U.S. federally-subsidized student loans doubled. The event was a re-hash of a similar drama last year in which a rate hike was averted by Congressional action. Discussions of alternative systems are back in fashion, such as the income-based repayment models used in Australia, Britain, and — maybe — Oregon. In the spirit of the season, we offer up this post by one of our research staff on an award-winning documentary about student debt in America. — Ed.]


Default: the Student Loan Documentary from Krotala Films on Vimeo.

By now everyone knows student loan debt is through the roof, currently hovering restlessly over the $1 trillion mark before (presumably) ascending to heights only once dreamed of by the student debts of yore.

As a number, one trillion is almost impossible to understand, let alone relate to. Yet we all do have some relationship to it.  As college graduates making payments each month (or more likely, in forbearance), as currently borrowing students, as parents of future borrowers, or even as cautious observers carefully sidestepping debt by taking Saylor courses, we find ourselves navigating over, around, under, or through that incomprehensible number any way we can.

Produced by a group of San Francisco filmmakers, Default: A Student Loan Documentary helps put student debt in human terms by telling the personal stories of a handful of students whose education has left them not with career opportunities and upward mobility, but rather with enormous and ever-growing debt.

Weighed down by promissory notes for tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars – often much larger than the size of their original loan – many borrowers today contend with compounded interest, exorbitant fees, and dwindling ability to discharge the loan.

One NYU film school graduate interviewed in the documentary felt that the achievement of his film school dream meant forfeiture of other typical middle-class milestones like buying a home — or having kids — things that a graduate degree used to all but guarantee.

The enormity of the student debt problem requires a number of solutions, and Saylor’s open courses, pathways to affordable credit, and open textbook challenge play a part. If you or someone you know has been affected by this issue, feel free to share your stories about how Saylor has helped you avoid student debt!

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