Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Online Discussion #2 - due January 31


College debt in the U.S. is rapidly nearing a staggering $1.5 Trillion, becoming a hidden drag on the economy and a secret drag on many people's lives.  I say "hidden" and "secret" because most Americans do not talk about their debt in public, and therefore few of us recognize just how widespread a challenge it is.  Our readings today offer us insight into why student debt has increased and how it shapes the lives of college graduates.  

After reading the selections from Ken Ilgunas's Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, the excerpt from Rebekah Nathan's My Freshman Year, and (optionally) chapters from Alan Collinge's The Student Loan Scam or Armstrong and Hamilton's Paying for the Party (all available in the Resources -- Required Course Readings on our Sakai site), please reflect on one of the questions below regarding student debt by making an original connection between at least two of them.

Answer one of the following in the comments below, then respond to someone else for the full two points participation credit:

Question Option #1: "In what way (or ways) is college no longer a 'liminal' space for self-discovery?"
In the excerpt from her book My Freshman Year, Rebekah Nathan discusses how the cost of college seems to have changed the experience of today's students by making college less a place for free exploration and self-discovery and more a place to focus on preparing for the job market or worrying about money.  How does Nathan's argument connect to at least one of the other readings for today, and what does that reading suggest about Nathan's thesis?  Is college no longer a 'liminal' space of freedom between childhood and adulthood? Is "the party pathway" one example of how students explore their liminal position?  But is it the best way for those who can afford it?  Is it still possible to make college a place where people can freely choose who they want to become or how they want to live -- or how they can think and live freely (which is the essential meaning of "the liberal arts")?  Would you say that Ken Ilgunas's story illustrates how some college graduates are extending the possibilities of liminality?  For this question, you might reference Armstrong and Hamilton's book, including Chapter 6 on "Strivers" which connects very well with Nathan's argument about how "adult realities" intrude on the liminal space of college for some students.

Question Option #2: "Does debt destroy freedom?"
Based on the readings -- and citing specific evidence from two of them -- answer at least one of the following questions:  How does debt affect the "freedom" (a key word for Ilgunas) of debtors?  Do students make free choices that get them into debt or is it a trap they are forced into?  How is debt sometimes caused by limited choices -- and how does being in debt itself constrain choice?  How can debtors regain or reassert their "freedom"?  How does Ilgunas's description of the liberal arts (especially in his graduation speech) connect to his view of "freedom"?  What do you think students can do about the growing problem of student debt and the larger problem of income inequality it exacerbates?  Or does debt make it too difficult for graduates to worry about anyone but themselves?

Question Option #3: "To what extent are colleges in cahoots with the banks?"
Especially in Collinge's chapter on the privatization of Sallie Mae and in Ilgunas's anecdotes about his best friend, Josh Pruyn, who goes to work for a for-profit school, we see how colleges at least feed the private banking industry and sometimes eat at the same trough.  How does the relationship between colleges and banks connect to the theme of privatization we have been discussing?  How and why can private interests damage higher education in these cases?

Respond to this question using the comments feature below, making direct reference to two of the readings in your comment, before we meet on Tuesday.  Then comment on another student's comment.

40 comments:

  1. Post comments below and remember to return later to comment on someone else's post to get the full 2 points participation credit. If you post anonymously, please sign your post with at least your first name.

    Please note: sometimes the comment feature can give students trouble, as it can time-out or have technical problems that lead to losing your work (though it is often not lost if you immediately click the back button, sometimes twice). For this reason, it is a good idea to at least "Copy" anything you write to the clipboard before posting. Or draft your comment in a word processing program and then copy and paste into the comments so that you have a back-up.

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  2. In Rebekah Nathan's piece on "liminality", kids going off to pursue higher education in college is alluded to as a 'rite of passage', as it is now becoming a life cycle our society goes through now. This almost diminishes the accomplishments achieved by a two or four year college degree. That could have it's own thesis statement by itself, but getting back to the 'liminal state' as defined, it is a a basically a space in a young adult's life where they are supposed to find themselves and have the opportunity to come up with new concepts and ways of doing things, "amid rules of suspended normality and often hardship, explore identities, wrestle with their parents' world,.." However, Nathan argues that this space is being heavily infringed upon with the rising concerns of loans and dwindling prospects of social mobility, which is a very important topic in Armstrong and Hamilton's piece on 'Paying for the Party'. The problem is, there is less funding for all kinds of students to be able to get to college (maybe after weighing the advantages and disadvantages that will come with it), and after making that decision,now the less fortunate ones have this debt burden and are forced to think about paying the debt off as soon as possible. This was the case for Ken, who only really started putting one and one together after his applications repeatedly kept getting rejected by potential employers where he felt his experience would be enough to at least land him the basic jobs with his major. Sadly, nothing he planned was working for him, and he found himself doubting his choice of concentration in college. The more real his debt became (not that his mother was not a big help..), the more he started worrying about the future, and the more he started regretting his choice of major, and this intertwines with Nathan's debate on the reason why more kids are coming in college with a goal to get out with a lucrative undergraduate degree such as business, engineering, medical field, and computer tech. These choices are sometimes solely affected by the knowledge that once they start paying off these loans, they can be done with them and not be as affected by them with their hopefully good starting salaries. At that point, it is no longer really focused on changing the world with new brilliant ideas in the supposedly "liminal" state- seeing that the responsibilities are not supposed to be as heavy yet, but it has become a total different game and aim: to put your head down and grind out four or five years to get out with the best degree possible and pay off loans and then secure a good future for oneself. It's a dangerous game, but one that is being forced upon students now by shrinking the funding for so many students.

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    1. I agree that the transitional space that college creates has become less of a place for self-exploration and more of a place to prepare for yourself to contend in the job market. It is unfortunate that the funding that students are receiving is shrinking while tuition is at an all time high. As you pointed out, student debt is infringing on our "rite of passage" and producing graduates with more lucrative degrees instead of ones that are more enlightening. It seems like the only solution to this is to shorten the gap between tuition and student funding.

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    2. When talking about Walden on Wheels, I like that you mentioned that Ken doubted his major the more he felt burdened by his debt. I think that that really backs up everything Nathan spoke about in her piece. Students aren't exploring because they feel obligated to make money. If they do explore, they end up feeling like Ken and Josh, guilty and panicked. Lucrative degrees are leaving young adults feeling empty. Luckily, Ken was able to arrange his life so he could re fulfill himself but most people are not as lucky as he is and can't make the arrangements that he did. Overall, students are straying from liminal life, to limited life like Josh.

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  3. In today’s day and age, a college education can be gratifying and crippling at the same time. Gratifying in terms of enlightenment, personal enrichment, and something that seems to elude many college educated people today: a well-paying job. Crippling in terms of debt, too many ramen noodles eaten, and failing to find that well-paying job that so many graduates seem to take for granted. From Ken Ilgunas comes “Walden on Wheels”, his story of undergraduate and graduate life that culminates with living in a van during his tenure at graduate school at Duke University. In his article, Ilgunas states, “If we have debt, we have a goal—we have a reason to get out of bed in the morning” (Ilgunas 167). Just like a college education can be both gratifying and crippling at the same time, debt can shackle us down and allow us to be free at the same time. Shackling us down with years, even decades, of student loan debt to pay off. Freeing us by taking away our hopes and dreams and replacing them with a cubicle, dreary office small talk, and the ability to live life without any hard decisions to make any more at the cost of 40 hours a week, 40 years of your life. Ken’s childhood best friend, Josh, made this decision to be a slave in order to pay off his debt (although he would eventually quit, but not the point I am making). It made his choice the only one he could take: work a job that could doom students, just like him, with mountains of debt and not much to show for it. The security of being able to pay off debt and live comfortably comes at a hefty price. In relation with Alan Collinge’s piece, “The Student Loan Scam”, Collinge’s article summarizes the downfall of landmark education legislation, such as the GI Bill and the Higher Education Act of 1965, the rise of Sallie Mae as a monopoly in student loans, and how in turn they are now making more money off of default student loans than students who actually pay their loans back. People like Ken and Josh are prime examples of victims: one who was forced to adventure from place to place, job to job, and eventually live in his van during his graduate career, and one who decided to slave his life away for some time just in order to pay off his student loan debt. In one of his ending paragrpahs, Collinge states, “Ironically, their (Americans) attempts to achieve the American dream through higher education have turned their lives into living nightmares which they have no recourse” (Collinge 20). Students have come to be like Ken: living in a van, pondering how to wash his dirty dishes with no running water, all in an attempt to graduate from graduate school without any debt. That’s certainly one thing students could do in order to resolve student loan debt. Perhaps another would be to figure out what it is you would like to do with your life, that is reasonable and feasible, before you embark on the road of higher education, and ultimately, suffer from the inevitable potholes and accidents of student loan debt.

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    1. In response to the quote you used, "if we have debt, we have a goal—we have a reason to get out of bed in the morning” it really is unfortunate that higher education has become an expectation, and post-college has become a period to pay off that expectation (Ilgunas 167). As a disheartening as it is, the reality of debt is a common problem in the youth of our society. In terms of your definition of freedom, it is very interesting you described it as freedom from both spectrums: freedom from our hopes and dreams and well as freedom from the option to chase these same hopes and dreams. The subjectivity of both freedom and debt is presumably stemmed from the expectations of an individual's parents, peers, and high school. While in some high schools it is unheard of for graduating seniors to forego college, in some less prominent districts, it is not as remarkable.

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    2. As Ilgunas suggests in the passage you quote, most people in debt settle into the narrow and expected path of typical middle-class existence, with work, consumption and debt repayment -- repeat, for decades. The only "freedom" in that is the freedom to give up critical thinking. Josh seems set on that path himself, working as a recruiter for a for-profit school that puts students in debt for worthless degrees, but something clicks and he decides to just stop working for the system that enslaved him in the first place. He implicitly compares himself to Eichmann, the Nazi bureaucrat who saw himself as just doing his job. And he decides that he just cannot continue on that unthinking path. Don't you think maybe Josh's quitting his job was very important to Ilgunas's point? Isn't that more of an assertion of freedom than just continuing on, unthinking, along the expected path?

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  4. Anne Choi

    For many of us in higher education, we strive to be successful in order to gain access to freedom from debt, stress, and parental dependence. However, with the increasing costs of higher education, largely due to privatization, many students and parents are faced with debts that consequently affect their decision to participate in higher education. Many eighteen year olds cannot yet grasp the idea of monetary debt, let alone afford college; so ambitious high school graduates will take on student loans, putting aside the obstacle for a later date. However, some students preemptively decide that their freedom to go to college is not even in question, so they forego the probable debt of student loans. In Josh’s case he, somewhat ignorantly, optimistically decides that he will have no problem with debt and attends college. Upon graduation, his lack of job offers puts him at risk of extreme debt. His freedom for desired employment is stripped and he “enrolls in Bartending School, a decision he made not only because he’d lost hope of finding a job relevant to his education [but also because], the gaps in employment had made it difficult for Josh to pay off his debt at a reasonable pace” (Ilgunas, 132).

    In Rebekah Nathan’s My Freshman Year, she references another work by Moffatt titled Coming of Age in New Jersey, which I personally greatly identified with. Nathan further discusses the concept of college as a rite of passage into the professional stage of one’s lifetime: “eighteen year olds leave the strictures and comforts of their parents’ homes, they enter a geographically removed youth-based college culture with its own rules and values” (Nathan 146). Attendance of higher education has become an integral part of a student’s schooling. Due to the contractual nature of obligation, college has become something a student is expected to do, rather than a voluntary decision. So, in Nathan’s reading, college is not a freedom, but a debt to the expectations of society. Debt is merely a state of being under obligation to repay something in return for something received. In this case, debt is the obligation to go to college because of the predetermined necessity of college in some communities. This particular idea of debt is subjective due to the nature of differences in society. High school seniors lose the freedom to decide the course of their post-high school path because of this “debt” they feel the need to repay to the expectations of their peers, parents, and society.

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    1. We face a harsh reality in today's day and age. This idea that college is truly a necessity is starting to become less of an idea, and more of a fact. Your last sentence pretty much sums it all up, and I couldn't agree more with you. It's as if doing anything else besides going to college is just a let down to your peers, parents, and society. We no longer live in a time where hard work and dedication in the work place is enough to live well off. Rather, we now need hard work and dedication in more schooling in order to get better jobs, plain and simple.

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    2. Anne,

      I completely agree with you that college is now looked at as a necessity. What caught my eye was when you said that "ambitious high school graduates will take on student loans, putting aside the obstacle for a later date." Because college has become apart of necessary education, loans just accompany part of the process. We often hear that everyone who finishes some sort of higher education is in debt. High school students take debt as a part of higher education in today's world. Often they fail to realize how fast accrued interest adds up. They think they are going into college with so much freedom, but little do they know how much of a hindrance it will put on their adult life. Steven made a great point that we now have to work harder than ever to make something of ourselves after college. Some people have to work even harder if they are trying to maintain a job while going to school full time.

      -Shayla C.

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  5. Question Option #2: "Does debt destroy freedom?"
    How is debt sometimes caused by limited choices -- and how does being in debt itself constrain choice?

    Debt has become both a precursor to and a product of limited choice. These limited choices have a constraining effect on our freedom. One example present in the excerpts from Ken Ilguna’s, Walden On Wheels, and Rebekah Nathan’s, My Freshman Year, is the necessity to get a good-paying job. Most jobs these days with a salary capable of supporting yourself require a college degree. Debt is then caused by the hikes in tuition to make up for funding shortfalls, even though the average college student is poorer than those of the past (Nathan 150). When you fall into debt you can again feel your choices becoming constrained. With the pressure of paying your debt off in a timely fashion so interest doesn’t collect, combined with the poor job market, you may find your choices limited. Ilguna gives a real life example of this by choosing to work at Coldfoot Camp in Alaska immediately after graduating. Illguna hoped that the free room and board would help to take a chunk out of the debt he accumulated, even though it only offered a measly $9 an hour (Ilguana 39). Although, he did a good job of getting out in front of his student loans, Illguna’s choices were limited to working at Coldfoot Camp in order to pay off his debt. These examples show how debt can limit your freedom.

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    1. I agree with your point regarding the necessity of a good-paying job. Both authors mentioned this point and how it was causing students to choose certain majors which I agree, is destroying the freedom of choice for many students. It is sad to admit, but as you mentioned, even those who did graduate with a degree still find themselves in a position where they can't find a desirable job and instead settle for something that will guarantee them a bit of money in order to chip away at their student loans.

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    2. You present a very logical progression of how debt is derived out of the limited choice associated with the advancement of the self through the attendance of a collegiate establishment. I believe you presented a good point about how attending a solid university is necessary for financial success post college, but disagree to a sense with the limited choice idea seen with Illgunas' and your point. I believe that attending college, as though it does put you in debt, gives you the tools necessary to explore and succeed in a post college life. It does limit your freedom to a degree, but it also manipulates the way you think and act, influencing how you interact with the world after you graduate.

      -Jason Mitchell

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    3. I agree. The focus of college has become to get a good paying job. We have lost in touch with pursuing a career and a job that gives job satisfaction or further enhances our interests. Because of the privitization of higher education that has caused a hike in tuition which forces students to take out loans, everything about college has changed. Students are forced to pay off their loans as quickly as possible otherwise the interest will accrue. Privitization could be a cause of this when it all comes down to it.

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  6. Does debt destroy freedom?

    Student loans are becoming more and more prevalent in todays society, and the debt that many young adults find themselves with is not something that goes away easily. In an excerpt from her book, My Freshman Year, Rebekah Nathan talks about the culture of universities (and how they are beginning to look a lot like businesses) and how they shape the experiences and futures of students. She mentions how the privatization of universities is causing tuition increases, being that a common strategy to make up for the difference between what the government allocated to public universities and the actual cost of running them, is to ask for more and more money from students. The fact that more money is being demanded from students (and their families), is causing more debt across the board. She further explains that students, knowing they will acquire debt over their college years, choose “practical” and “well paying” jobs. Debt, even if not acquired yet, affects the choices students are making regarding their field of study, and in turn denying them the freedom to perhaps pursue a job that may be their passion but won’t necessarily take care of their student loans.

    Similarly, in his book, Walden on Wheels, Ken Ilgunas tells the story (in a rather funny tone), expressing the affects that his student debt had on his life as well as his friend’s, Josh. He explains their situations approaching graduation and how neither of them were having any luck in the search for a job or internship. In regard to the question, how does debt affect the “freedom" of debtors? Ilgunas made a very interesting point. He said that “by 2009, 17.4 million college graduates had jobs that didn't even require a degree.” Students who graduate with a degree, along with thousands of dollars of debt and no job offers to help pay it off, are forced into jobs that guarantee them at least a small income to help them stay afloat. The freedom of students who are burdened with debt seems to be completely stripped away in the sense that they spend years, perhaps decades, working in a job (other than the one they worked so hard in school for), just to pay off their student loans.

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  7. Question #1: "In what way (or ways) is college no longer a 'liminal' space for self-discovery?"

    Rising expenses regarding college tuition is a problem facing many families and students in the United States. With tuition expenses and competition within universities steadily increasing, there must be a trade-off at some point. This is where the "liminal" aspect of having the ability to express yourself and undergo a self-discovery period thwarts this process for some students. In Rebekah Nathan's "My Freshman Year", she states "It is in the middle or "liminal" state-- the ambiguous place of being neither here nor there-- that anthropologists see profoundly creative and transformative possibilities" (Nathan 147). As I stated earlier, there are many students who can not afford college due expensive tuition rates that need the "liminal" experience of going away to a school and undergoing self-discovery. The lack of liminal space can influence the average college student to conform and treat college as a process and not treat it as an experience. While I do agree with the notion that Ken Ilgunas' story may be extending the possibilities of liminality amongst college students, I also feel that his story is a bit too unique. Ilgunas is part of a very small minority, and sadly at the end of the day, it all comes back to affluence and whether or not one can afford to attend college.

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    1. I agree with you that in order for a student to really be able to express themselves, and find out who they really are comes down to whether they can afford college. The fear of coming out of college in debt pushes students to work more hours then they would want making it harder for them to enjoy their college experience. Unless the price for college decreases it will be hard for all students to really get the chance to experience self discovery.

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  8. In the excerpts of Nathan's book, a very important idea was brought up. That idea being that college students today have been influenced by the costs of college, and pressures of finding a job that they are no longer experiencing free exploration and self-discovery. I personally agree with this idea. When you add the high costs of attending college, and extreme competition in today's workforce students put a mass amount of stress on themselves. They worry about not landing the high paying job they want after graduation and they worry about how they will re pay their loans. Nathan brings up that "To repay their debts, students are anticipating the need for immediate and lucrative employment after college, so they choose both 'practical' and 'well-paying' fields of study" (151). This shows how students are now taking courses that will help them pay off their loans and make them more money instead of what interests them. This takes away from their self-discovery and free exploration. Nathan's book relates to Alan Collinge's The Student Loan Scam. In this book, it discusses the student loan business and how it has become privatized. It explains how these companies are making millions off students who cannot repay their loans. This sort of fear causes students to choose a major that may not interest them but will guarantee them payment of their student loans.

    The party pathway is an example of how students explore their liminal position. The reason for this is because when college students go out they socialize with many different people. Leading them to figure out a better idea of who they really are. Meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures exposes people to new ideas allowing them to grow. Although this is one way for students to reach their liminal position it is not the best choice. Going out and socializing can affect the students grades and that could affect the chances of them getting a job. Although the party pathway is one way to reach a liminal position. There is still hope for colleges to become a place where students can freely choose who they want to become again. In Collinge's book he gives a simple solution to decrease student loans and that solution is that “it is imperative that standard consumer protections be returned to student loans" (20). This will decrease the average amount of student debt per student. This will allow students to once again have self-discovery and free exploration. The decrease is debt will take away the stress of high student loans and needing a high paying job out of college. It will once again give students the time they need to find out who they really are.

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    1. I also agree with the idea you pulled out of the excerpt in Nathan's book that college student's are influenced by the cost of debt and debt having an impact on how they determine their own future. This is definitely something we all struggle with in college and the question arises of whether or not we should choose the path of life we please that's riskier and more looked down upon or live up a forever in debt life and risk the life path of mediocracy in that sense.

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    2. Hey Kyle, after reading your blog I completely agree with what you're saying. Those students who come from affluent families are able to go to college and find themselves, usually through the route of the party pathway. Those who are less fortunate and can not afford to go to college without taking out heavy loans tend to skip the "liminal" aspect of moving out and finding themselves due to pressures to perform while in debt. Great read!

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  9. Option 1. College was made to be a period of time in an emerging adult's life where they get to have one foot in the door and one foot out. They can explore adult life and their potential future while not carrying the burden of full adulthood. This is what Nathan is referring to when she speaks of college's "liminal" experience. Over time, college has become less and less liminal. The reasons behind this begin and end with privatization. Like discussed in Armstrong and Hamilton's piece, privatization and the shift in college funding have created a high stress environment for those who are not affluent. Now, college is a time where students have to take on full adulthood while going to school. Exploration is narrow because students need to aim for majors that are going to make them money to pay off their high debts. Students usually have to do this by working, taking on financials, and maintaining perfect grades to keep scholarships and support. This then causes high stress because students are looking for majors that make money but they also have some interest in. This is exemplified in Ilguna’s “Walden on Wheels.” Ken speaks of his best friend, Josh who excelled in college by following his humanitarian passions. But at graduation, he found his passions not helping him pay off his major. He ended up having to take a job that was against his strong morals just to pay off his debt. Ken himself made the decision to spend the next four years after college traveling to Alaska without a car or any supplementing possessions to take a job that would pay for his loans. He spent his grad college years living in a van, paying no rent, determined to graduate debt free. While Ken achieved this, the point lies that college has restricted exploration. College is now a time where students are fighting the tidal wave of loans. With privatization, emerging adults scramble to use their 4 years to pay off what they can and set themselves up to “not be poor.” While exploration is certainly becoming more limited with time, universities still try to create modern ways to let students branch out and feel independent. Nathan states, "There are positive aspects to this development. Universities today are probably more responsive for students needs for easy registration, comfortable housing, and seamless transfer of credits. To attract paying students, they are more accommodating of a wider variety of student's constraints, such as where and when one can attend class, which enabled more non traditional students to enroll,” (151). So while Nathan speaks of the lack of liminal development, she also mentions that colleges now put in effort, while selfish, to give students the most self-comfortable experience possible. The quote also mentions non-traditional students. Colleges now acknowledge people of all kinds and let them have a place. So while academic exploration is low at this current time, personal exploration may be improving.

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    1. Your last point about universities being "more responsive for students needs" is very important to mention, because the schools don't lose much doing that, and it's funny because that's what they're supposed to be doing in the first place- make your experience in college as smooth and beneficial as possible- but now it seems like it's a bonus to be able to have more flexibility with schedules and availability of classes. Sadly, the only reason they do this is to benefit their own pockets and count on the loans they will reap from these amenities. As Nathan mentioned, they now proceed "just as business does, to produce more for less", because they sell us these great dreams of social mobility and financial stability, when all most of us will be doing after college is pay off those debts and barely be able to call ourselves middle class as unemployment does not seem to be decreasing. Of course they'll take more variety of students as long as the revenue from tuition and loans keeps coming in.

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  10. Being forced to take out loans that put you into debt take away freedom during and after college. While discussing student debt Nathan writes that “To reduce running debt even higher, most students must now work and go to school at the same time, which has the added corollary of compressing their academic activities into even smaller time slots”(151) Students do not have the freedom to choose if they want to have a job. They are simply forced to do so in order to keep their debt at a manageable level for themselves and their families. Students also do not have the freedom to spend their money on what they want. They are required to only spend the bare minimum they need , and to and designate the rest of their money to paying off loans. As shown by Ilguanas, this lack of freedom doesn't end after graduation. Ilguanas speaks about how his friend Josh “became his job” when he had to start persuading people to attend an online college which left them in a lot of debt. Although this contradicted what Josh actually wanted to do, because he would not want to put others in the same position he was in, he did not have the freedom to do otherwise and tell people the truth. “He tried to do his job as ethically as possible, but because he wasn't signing up enough students, he'd been put on probation, kicked off his sales team, and warned that he might loose his job. Because of his debt obligations, he had to begin to think about himself.” (160) Even though Josh wanted to be ethical and truthful, his thousands of dollars in debt took away that freedom from him and basically made the decision, that he would need to do everything possible to pay back his debt, for him.

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    1. The excerpt about Josh in Ilguana's Walden on Wheels made me feel bad that Josh was forced to do a job that he hated because he wasn't getting hired anywhere and his debt was only increasing. His job was ironic because he was encouraging students to enroll at Westwood which was a university that was not accredited and many students left school in debt and without jobs while Josh himself was in debt also. Although Josh was a successful student with a high GPA, the student debt hindered him from achieving what he wanted to do out of college. Students would be less inclined to pay for a more expensive university or even attend college at all if they knew they would struggle out of college even though they had a degree. On the flip side, if a student chooses to attend a community college, they may not get the degree or higher paying job than a student from a more impressive and accredited school. To me, it seems like a lose, lose situation.

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  11. Question 2: “Does debt destroy freedom?”

    In Ken Ilgunas's Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, on the day he graduates college he says, “There was nothing liberating about leaving college: I’d ended one series of obligations only to enter into another.” In modern times, college is viewed as a must-have for success. Teachers and parents tell you as you grow up that if you want to be successful, you need to go to college and get a worthy job. But with this positive life course stereotype does not come the lesson on debt, the difficulty of competing with your equally impressive colleagues and the possibility of moving back in with your parents to take some of the burden off. Ken Ilugana’s is forced to take a tour guide job in Alaska because he was denied the 20 some office jobs he applied for and because he was so worried about his forever collecting debt along with its interest if he did not start hacking away at it. This is a fear that we all have – your college debt hacking away at your freedom accompanied with the aching want to pursue your dream job when it’s still so out of reach. Somehow what gets lost in the “you have to go to college” stereotype is how hard it is to actually land that dream job, and all of the debt you’ll be paying off if you ever fortunately do.
    In the excerpt from the book My Freshman Year, Rebekah Nathan also alludes to this positive stereotype about college drilled in our brains. “As they do this [college] from one generation to the next, such rites become part of the intimate biographies of a society’s members as well as part of the way the society reproduces and regenerates itself. College can be considered such a rite of passage.” Going to college became the norm and somehow with that, so did debt. Undergraduate college has become a liminal state for students who might otherwise without having the same college in common not normally have the same status in society. The hardships of job searching and severe debt has a bonding effect on students these days that didn’t always exist many years ago when debt was less steep.

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    1. I agree that their is a problem where our teachers, parents, and others who advise us tell us college is a must have but they do not disclose all the hardships that come with it. I do think college is vital in order to take specific life paths but their are complications that going to college can't fix such as competition for a job and debt. Every aspect of college must be presented to students in order to make the best decision. Largely due to the privatization of colleges, that decision is no longer as easy as it used to be

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    2. I agree with you that the excerpt from Nathan's book eludes an idea of college, this idea being that it is a liminal state for students to explore who they are and what their dreams are. This is sadly an idea of the past because college is no longer a time for students to act and do how they please when they please. With impending student debt weighing over the heads of millions of students, it changes the whole idea of this elusively free time that college used to be. The high price of college has changed the overall experience of college immensely. It has created a divide among students; students who do not have to worry about debt and having part-time jobs and students who do. Those students of higher affluence get to have the experience that college was meant for, but students who are less fortunate do not. Their entire experience is altered all because of one main reason, that being their student debt.

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  12. Question 2: In today’s society going to college, getting a degree, and then using that degree to nail your dream job right out of college is the ideal goal for most Americans. However, most parents and students seem to downplay all of the debts, loans, and financial aid that could produce bumps in their road to success. In the reading this week, Walden on Wheels: On the Open Road from Debt to Freedom, Ken Ilguana’s graduation speech gave me a new outlook on student debt. He explained that students struggle through “nets” or these bumps in the road throughout and after their college careers, but “we must first undergo a period of self-examination to see, for the first time, what nets have been holding us back all along” (294). Ilguana suggests that student debt is a fact of life and an economic reality that students must pay a large amount of money to achieve social mobility. It is unfortunate that our society forces us into the debt trap and these “nets” making us believe all of the loans will be worth it in the end. This is a catch 22 because we believe a college degree is our ultimate guarantor of success, yet with large amounts of debt and no job out of college, a student is constricted to achieve what they originally desired. Rebekah Nathan, who wrote My Freshman Year, explains that the average student is poorer then in the past and students constitute an increasingly less elite economic segment in society (150). This issue is becoming relevant to most of us because many of us are graduating soon and our “freedom” may be held back by Rutgers. Although the college experience and education was great, was it all worth it if it leads us to be broke and homeless just like Ken Ilguana’s? It is a scary cycle and debtors like us have to regain our “freedom” by working extra hard, holding extra jobs, and putting ourselves in positions where we could pay off debt and ensure our success.

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    1. I think it was very interesting how you used Ken's graduation speech to emphasize the impact of student debt on his freedom to pursue his education. I agree as I do think it is unfortunate that such debt controls decisions of a student that could change their lives entirely. They are stripped of their freedom of choice as they consciously aware of their racking student debt and it alters their decisions as they are in worry of their growing interest rates and paying them back. Relating it back to Rutgers, I think it is very true how student debt shows to play a role in student decision making. It truly is relatable to us as students because we are constantly aware and worry about getting jobs that can pay off our loans.

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  13. Question Option #1: "In what way (or ways) is college no longer a 'liminal' space for self-discovery?"

    In her book, My Freshman Year, Rebekah Nathan mentions that college was a place where university student culture and society influenced each other. She mentions that college was suppose to be an environment where one was equal despite their differences in race, gender, age, nationality, etc. Where one would discover themselves, and their interests, and pursue these interests. However, due to the deep debt that students are now in, it has made this significant self discovering process impossible as one does not prioritize their self interests and solely their school work, but the job titles to merely pay off the loans. Nathan mentions that, “To repay their debts, students are anticipating the need for immediate and lucrative employment after college, so they choose both “practical” and “well paying” fields of study (Nathan 151)”. Instead of choosing majors such as English and Philosophy, majors that were once popular, students now are subjected to taking majors that would provide them a good enough job to pay off their debt. The effect of student debt is also seen in Alan Michael Collinge’s book, “The Student Loan Scam” as he mentions an individual that could not pursue his doctoral degree at a school he wanted to go to because of the cost of the school. He writes, “ He found that he did not qualify for financial aid because he had defaulted loans on his record” (8). Therefore, due to his undergraduate loans, he was unable to pursue a further education in the field he was passionate about: even after spending years hoping he could qualify for loan forgiveness. Nathan’s thesis is supported, as debt shows to play a significant role in determining one’s goals as it interferes with their dreams. I feel that the college that includes exploring liminal spaces is much more available to those with money, such as the “the party pathway” mentioned in the other readings. As one can afford to not worry about doing well because they have scholarships and debt in jeopardy if they do not do well in class, others can continue to explore themselves without those worries. Debt shows to be an issue in Ken Ilgunas’ piece, “Walden on Wheels” as his debt makes him rethink his decisions and his life path. This directly connects with Nathan’s piece as both show that debt alters one’s decisions as they pursue after job titles that could earn them money to pay off their debt. Ken specifically mentions his friend, Josh, who was also in large student debt. As he finished his BA, he enrolled in a Ph.D program to further his education. However, Ilguna writes, “But after one year - between second thoughts about grad school and worries about the interest that was stealthily accruing on his loans - he dropped out of school to find work” (37). This is just another situation where student debt controls and disrupts one’s freedom in choice of pursuing a further education due to the burden of their student debt.

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  14. Question #1 "In what way (or ways) is college no longer a 'liminal' space for self-discovery?"

    I found this weeks reading very interesting because they are so relatable to most students today. In Rebekah Nathan’s book, My Freshman Year, her discussion about how the cost of college seems to be one of the main reasons the experience of students has also changed is in my opinion very much accurate. Because tuition has become so insanely expensive, students need to supplement their education with a part-time, or sometimes a full-time job. There are many noticeable differences in students who have to work than students who do not. In an attempt to achieve social mobility students are choosing different majors than they have in the past, “the majors for which there have been the largest proportional increase in degrees conferred since 1980 include business, computer science, parks and recreation, protective services, and the health professions” (Nathan 151). Unfortunately for lower income students, having a job while attempting to earn a degree in one of these majors can be extremely difficult. Students experience stress at a much higher level than those who do not have jobs, and they lose the little time that they have to explore themselves and grow both emotionally and educationally. In Chapter One of Alan Collinge’s book The Student Loan Scam, he discusses the danger of student loans how how quickly they can spiral out of control, leaving graduates unable to move past this oppressive debt. Having a student loan is very common among American college students, and this is yet another reason for the change in experience that Nathan illustrates. The intrusion of adult realities on the liminal space commences much sooner when a student knows there is an impending debt waiting for them when they graduate. It is difficult for students to take time for self-discovery when they have schedules packed with classes, homework, and work. College for most students looks completely different than it has in the past. The time that students used to take for themselves has now been replaced by the stress that comes with a student debt. They have to wonder whether or not they will be able to pay it off in a timely manner, because if they cannot they worry they will become another student debt horror story.

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  15. Question #1.
    The concept prospective college students have of college itself is one widely known. I will go to college, have the time of my life, discover whom I am and what I want, all along side earning a degree to use in the real world. This space of freedom to find out about the self is known as a liminal state. Rebekah Nathan describes this space in her piece, “My Freshman Year” as a “youth-based college culture with its own rules and values… where students bond with one another, sometimes for life and amid rules of suspended normality and often hardship, explore their identities… and wonder about their future” (146-147). With colleges becoming privatized, and the price of tuition rapidly increasing, this space of liminality is becoming non-existent due to the worry college students have about debt. Worrying about debt makes students look at college more competitively. If you are leaving college with thousands in debt, your main priority upon graduation is finding a great paying job. Because of this, the “liminal” space is decreasing because of the constant worry of entering the work world.
    Partying and taking classes that genuinely interest a person is something they would do in the liminal space. We see a decrease in the liberal art studies because this field has a reputation for not being as financially rewarding as, for example, a STEM major would be. This is the same problem Ken Ilgunas had when in college. His liminal space was interrupted by the constant thought of debt, as brought up by his mother. He was one of the fortunate ones who were able to drop his life at home and explore debt free. In this way, Ken was able to find a time period in his life to enjoy this space. He explains this is “that wild man who whispers into your ear when you most need it and least expect it:’ go for it’” (Ilgunas 296). However, most people who jump right into a job after college do not have this opportunity because they have too much to lose. The liminal space, for many, is becoming non-existent, and it s a very sad reality of colleges becoming privatized.

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    1. I agree, in a space of liminality, students would be more inclined to experiment by taking classes they may genuinely like or doing extracurriculars they never done before. However because many students commute and/or have a part-time job to help exacerbate the debt and don't have time to thought to experiment. Ilgunas and Josh both initially faced hardships finding paying jobs because they decided to take degrees that taught them a lot and made them happy, but did not provide job security at all. Their liminal space in fact, can actually have taken place after college as they felt at their most trapped in debt and had to find ways to get out of it as soon as they could. Iglunas's liminal space happened earlier as he found a paying hiking job that gave him his sense of adventure, while Josh's started when he quit his job at Westwood.

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  16. Question 2:

    In this ever evolving world, it has come to be commonplace that society inherits the mindset that attending college is the end all, be all for advancing human capital, in order to attain financial stability later on in life. In addition to this, the amount of prestige and clout associated with the university one attends contributes massively to the amount of wealth accumulated post undergraduate/graduate life. Essentially, to attend college is equated to attending an establishment of finesse and academic excellence, which further equates to spending an exorbitant amount of money to ensure this phenomenon occurs. The mindset that spending more money attains a more astounding university throws an incredible amount of students into high levels of debt. In accordance with this, Rebekah Nathan in, My Freshmen year, details how individual passions are sacrificed, while debt is achieved, as students have embraced the practicality of college. In this, she states how, "To repay their debts, students are anticipating the need for immediate and lucrative employment after college, so they choose both 'practical' and 'well paying' fields of study" (151). Students feel trapped by the overbearing nature that is the collegiate establishment, that academic fields, such as the arts, are overshadowed for areas of study which will ENSURE financial success. To a degree, a students freedom is destroyed by means of justifying the debt accrued through attending a prestigious university. In Ken Ilgunas' work, Walden on Wheels, he avidly touches upon the concept of student financial entrenchment in corroboration with loss of freedom. In this, he alludes to the idea that "'Unfortunately, economic realities and political priorities, require that most students pay an unreasonable amount of money for their education, even though the great majority of students only wish to better themselves and society'"(294). Students essentially choose to freely go into debt by attending college, thus sacrificing personal freedoms to do so; but, the idea is twofold as society essentially forces students to go down this road. Nathan touches upon this idea with her views on liminalaty, an idea where society has ingrained that attending college is a writ of passage for the youth of America. Overall, debt has become a necessity for people who are convinced that college is necessary for financial security and personal success later on in life. Both Ilgunas and Nathan touch upon this idea heavily in their work and reveal the idea that this idea does not fade post college life.

    Jason Mitchell

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  17. How does debt affect the “freedom” of debtors?

    As we have seen, higher education is taking a shift from public to private when it comes to funding. Because of this, most of the burden is being put on students and families as they have to pay a lot more tuition to complete college. And most families have to take out a loan and go in debt to finance the high rates of tuition. Coming out of college, with high debt, students are really restricted and don’t really have many choices to make. Ken Ilgunas talks about his friend Josh who graduated college with a GPA above a 3.8 with a Bachelors in History and Political Science. His dream job he isn’t able to do because he has over $50,000 in student loans to pay off. Because of this, he is forced to take a sales job working for a college where his primary responsibility is to convince low income students to go to school at the online college. As he works, he finds out that students coming out of the college have low job offers and come out with high amount of debt. He wanted to leave because what he was doing was against his moral but “the debt was getting the best of him”(161). The only reason Josh was working here and putting others in the same situation as him is because he needs to money to pay of his own debt. It is seen how Josh really has no freedom whatsoever but to do whatever he can to pay off is debt, even if it means putting others in the same situation as him. Students are now going to college to land a good job that will pay well, instead of following their dreams and passions. As Nathan discovers, in order to “repay their debts, students are anticipating the need for immediate and lucrative employment after college, so they choose both “practical” and “well-paying” fields of study, resulting in the decline of majors such as philosophy, history and English literature”(151). Students like Josh, who majored in History, have no chance of finding a well paying job in this field in order to pay off his debt. And because of the struggle to pay of this debt, more and more students are pursuing degrees with well paying job opportunities. Students choices are limited in the sense that what they want to do in the future must be able to pay well. If it doesn’t, they have to alter what they want to do and compromise in order to make ends meet. Debt really does limit freedom.

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  18. Debt affects freedom of debtors by forcing them to see debt as a goal, a reason to get up in the morning and work to pay it off. Because of this goal, people in debt see it as another "normal" bill like paying for housing or insurance, except that being behind on payments would increase the payment period even more because of interest.

    Students have the opportunity to avoid massive debt by choosing to live frugally like Ilgunas does (e.g. living in a van during his graduate school classes) (171) or going to inexpensive colleges, but the college environment is different. Ilgunas describes the environment of his generation as "frontiers" that are less obvious than that of other generations. The frontier of adventures for these students is gone and most are focused on just paying off the debt they incur after living comfortably in college. This focus can trap these students to tunnel visioning on paying off debt rather than actually enjoying their lives, just like Josh.

    Debt is caused by limited choices, such as being a student from a low-income family. The for-profit university that Josh works at, Westwood, aims at these vulnerable students who would be desperate to take on debt in hopes that they can easily pay it off. Debtors can regain or assert their freedom not by being desperate to pay it off and finding ways to change the circumstances they live in, according to Ilgunas. Ilgunas did not have a moment of euphoria when he paid off his debt, he was free when he was able to pay off his debt by doing what he wanted; to go on adventures in the mountains. Meanwhile Josh is stuck in an office job he does not like and barely pays off his loans. Josh is not poor however, he has his house, a girlfriend, dog, TV subscription, etc that allow him to live a functional life. However he is far more trapped in debt than Iglunas is because he hates what he is doing.

    Ilgunas's speech about the liberal arts connects to what purpose he is searching for in life. He said it was "not to go on adventures or have a girlfriend, but to be the best man I can be". By being the best he could in whatever he wanted to do, he was not trapped by the constraints of debt and living frugally.

    Students can learn about Josh's life and how to avoid doing what he did to fall into the trap of doing morally unethical jobs for the sake of payment. Informed people should work to prevent the less informed from being desperate for overpriced education. Universities like Westwood seek to ruin students' lives by putting them in massive debt with little to no rewards at all.

    According to the reading "My freshman Year", universities should avoid being like businesses because they do not serve to people "without money" (150). Students struggle to be the best they can be like Iglunas managed because they are too focused on school and work at the same time to realize what they really want.

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    1. Batrisyia Jamal AffendyFebruary 1, 2017 at 5:46 PM

      I agree with your first point, whereby it forces them to see debt as a goal. Some graduates would have to resort to any kind of jobs for as long as they are able to start paying off their debt to avoid increasing payments or interest. They would have to sacrificed the pursuit of their dream job, which would take a long period of time to find the right one, if there is any.

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  19. Option #1:

    College is no longer a space for self-discovery because evreryone is worried about spending as little money on tuition by graduating in 4 years. Students are stressing about picking their major as soon as possible in a field where they are guarenteed to find a job instead of studying something that they are passionate about. Nathan states, “undergraduate culture itself becomes this liminal communal space where students bond with one another sometimes for life, and, amid rules of suspended normality and often hardship, explore their identities, wrestle with their parents’ world, and wonder about their future,” (Nathan 147). College is supposed to be a place where the students are able to spread their wings and find themselves in such a big world. However, it has turned into a struggle for graduating and job finding. In Ken Ilgunas writing, there is a conversation with his mother where she says, “‘Do you realize how much money you're going to have to pay back?’” (Ilgunas 30). This is another example that proves the investment in sending someone to college. It is all about graduating on time. Students try and find who they are by immersing themselves in the party culture. Parties are a place where students do not have to worry about the future but live in the present.

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    1. I like how you incorporated the quote by Ken's mother, where she asks him if he realizes how much money he has to pay back. The reality is, at that time, I do not think Ken knew how much he had to pay back or what it would actually take to pay his debt back. I also like how defiantly said that college is no longer a space for self-discovery. This is highlighted in the fact that students choose majors based on the job market rather than what they are passionate about. It is important to note that upper-middle class students, or students who are provided a financial cushion, DO have this luxury in most cases, so this mainly applies to students without this cushion or familial financial status. In this sense, college is a space for self-discovery IF you can afford it.

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  20. Student debt limits the choices a student can make, and therefore, affects his or her freedom or sense of freedom. In "My Freshman Year", Rebekah Nathan discusses a common thought amongst students-- that they will and that they NEED to acquire a good paying job. Because a good paying job requires a college degree, many students, especially lower class students attempting upward social mobility, must take out loans and, inevitably, go into debt. As there are hikes in student tuition to make up for funding shortfalls, student debt continues to grow although the average college student today is poorer than those of the past (Nathan 150). Do students make these free choices to go into debt or do they fall into a trap? Let me start out by saying that the drinking age in America is 21 because the human brain, particularly the region which controls rational and logical thinking, has not been fully developed. The typical student beginning their college career is between the ages of 17 and 19 (not fully developed). While students might willingly make decisions like taking out large loans, I do not believe that they fully understand the financial magnitude of these situations, nor should we expect them to. I believe that they are tricked not only by the universities they attend, but by the banks who lend them those loans, and by the government. In Ken Ilguna's "Walden on Wheels" it is clear that when his mother "nags" him about how he will pay off his debts, he cannot fully understand the magnitude of them. After college, his freedom is limited because of his lack of funds. His friend Josh is also forced to take a position that does not align with him morally because of his student debt. Although he faced these hardships, Ilgunas went on to say that his education and his debt had taught him valuable lessons that had made him wealthy in knowledge (Ilgunas 294). While this is a great takeaway from his ordeal, it makes me wonder whether only those who have experienced financial hardship and debt as a result of getting an education can advocate for others facing the same fate.

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