In recent years, student debt has rocketed to staggering heights climbing above $1 trillion of unpaid loans in 2012, becoming more of a major problem for attendees of the University of Massachusetts. While student debt has started to become a rising issue for so many students of this generation, UMass Sociology Professor Dan Clawson, author of the book “The Future of Higher Education,” has made a number of observations and critiques of the modern system and where it has gone wrong.
In his book, Clawson refers to the current way universities work as a “business oriented model.
According to him, “There has been a huge decrease in funding for the university, and when that decrease comes the university says… we could make the university worse, we could lower the quality, we could squeeze the workers more, or we could squeeze the students more. To some degree, they do a little of all of those things.”
When Clawson began working at UMass in 1978, he says “the most common occupation for students’ parents was being a machinist… today I’m much less likely to have students with working class parents even though they’re still having to borrow.”
“You have to have some to borrow some,” says Clawson, “if you’re attracting students who can afford to take on a lot of debt and whose parents can pay high bills … you want to put up things like North Dormitories, where they spent $109 thousand dollars per room so that they could attract affluent out of state students.”
As a result of the debt crisis, a group on the UMass campus, UMass Students Against Debt, was started “in order to speak out about crippling amounts of student debt,” according to Lauren Vaughn, club member. Vaughn is a junior Communications major at UMass, and a member of the organization.
“I have a sister, so my parents are currently paying for two tuitions at the same time,” says Vaughn. “It’s reached a point where people are going to be paying this off for decades, or the rest of their lives. It’s something that is going to hang over us for some of us who have taken out so many loans.”
Ed Blaguszewski, Executive Director of News and Media Relations at UMass, is very conscious of the present issue of debt among students and offers a number of ways that the university is aiming to combat this.
“The University is very concerned about affordability,” he says, “ and that is why President Caret has proposed his 50/50 plan to have the state pay for 50 percent of the universities core educational budget.”
According to a news release by UMass Amherst, in 2008 57 percent of UMass’ educational funding came from the state. In 2013, just 43 percent of the schools budget comes from the state, forcing the institution to derive funding from elsewhere, such as the students.
“Financial Aid advises students that in addition to maximizing their aid, they should be thinking about their expenses,” says Blaguszewski, “How can I minimize the amount spent on books, should I buy used, new, rent, etc… In regard to paying back student loans, students should reach out to their Direct Loan servicer.”