Just Published: Heretical Advice from a Happily and Heavily Indebted Ph.D.

Heretical Advice from a Happily and Heavily Indebted Ph.D.:Why Poor Students Shouldn’t Fear Student Loans

Recently a student told me how he had been discouraged from freely taking out federal student loans by his professor. When the student said he wasn’t particularly concerned about repayment, the teacher replied, “Well you should!” This mentality, while partially understandable, is promoting a fear of borrowing for education in precisely those who should be encouraged and emboldened to take out loans.

In the US, economic disadvantage breeds poverty that carries on through generations. One of the central purposes of federal student loans is to aid those who are financially less fortunate in obtaining a quality education. But again and again I have either personally listened to others warn against the dangers of student loans or heard countless stories from students who are discouraged from borrowing. As I see it, the discussion around student debt is significantly influenced and directed by the fallacy of magnifying risks.

The fallacy of magnifying risks occurs when the probability of negative outcomes is overstated. I’ll never forget family members overstating the negative outcomes of dropping out of high school. As it turns out, the GED literally reads “High School Diploma” and entitles students to enter into community and many state colleges just the same as students who graduate with a high school diploma from high school. When it comes to student debt, there is usually very little discussion as to why students should fear debt. Commonsense, which is quite often just plan badsense, tells us that borrowing beyond our means is bad! And it’s this kind of thinking that colors many teachers, parents, and, unfortunately, students’ attitudes about student loans.

But the very purpose of student loans is to allow those who do not have the means to acquire quality education to have the opportunity to do so. And when we examine the facts around student loans and repayment options there is no good reason for low-income students to fear borrowing. In fact, there are two good reasons students shouldn’t fear taking federal loans

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