America’s Refuseniks

One year ago, the news was awash with Billy Willson, a 4.0 GPA student from Kansas State University who decided to drop out of university after his first semester with this Facebook message: “YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED. You may not see it today or tomorrow, but you will see it some day.”  His post is still being shared and there are close to 9,000 comments mounting on this thread.  And as someone who has spent a long time in academia as a student and as a university professor, I can’t help but agree with Willson.  As the average increase in university tuition has exceeded that of the increase of salaries or the cost of living, we must begin to ask the tough questions as to why university fees in the US are outpacing the rise of inflation or cost of living increases, and why so many universities are playing a heavy hand in the student loan debt crisis.

As it stands today there are now several generations of university graduates unable to pay for their loans, from the millennials to those who graduated thirty years ago. And with the student loan debt in the United States at $1.3 trillion this year there is an alarmingly high percentage of graduates who are unable to command a salary high enough to pay back these loans.  The delinquency or default rate is approximately 17% and the non-payment rate at 43%. The end result is that new and older university graduates are facing a lifetime of living like Ross and Phoebe (without all the spare time to meet up with friends in…

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