Friday, October 11, 2013

A $64,000 question

In an article on student debt in the Fall 2013 issue of the American Federation of Teachers publication On Campus, a sidebar describes the situation of a University of Illinois-Chicago lecturer in English who is not sure that he can afford to continue teaching. He makes $30,000 a year, owns no car, and cannot buy a house. He is paying off the loans that financed his graduate work at UI-C. His loans total $64,000.

It is sad to say, but I’ll say it: Borrowing $64,000 to finance graduate work in the humanities is folly. Borrowing any amount of money to finance graduate work in the humanities is folly. And anyone who encourages a student to take out loans to finance graduate work in the humanities is dangerously out of touch with the economic realities of academic labor.

In case you’re wondering: the On Campus article, which focuses on rising college costs, decreased need-based aid, and for-profit schools, says none of these things.

[Interesting numbers: the UI-C English website lists thirty-two non-emeritus professors, forty-seven lecturers, and seventy-eight doctoral students.]

comments: 2

The Arthurian said...

You're sitting on the steps, aren't you -- in the picture, I mean. (I just figured that out.)

But oh, it is not the borrower who is out of touch with "realities". It is the economy itself.

The economy has lost touch with reality -- "Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?" -- lost touch with reality because policymakers think borrowing more will get the economy growing again.

...They still think that, after all that has happened in the past five years.

1. removed an exclamation point from the end of the first line.
2. added (4) words as repetition after the second "--" in paragraph 3.
3. had qualms about quoting the Bible.
4. added a pause at the start of parag 4.
5. Deleted first word ("And") from parag 3.

Michael Leddy said...

Yes, back of our house.

People do borrow in sensible ways all the time (I think of the mortgage that went with our house), but for grad school in the humanities: not a good idea. I’m really not in a position to comment on the larger economic picture.

Thanks for showing your work. :)