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Cornwell downplays student debt

Alex Kaufman


The fall edition of Wooster, the school’s alumni magazine, featured an article by President Grant Cornwell entitled “The Truth About Student Debt.” Cornwell argues that the national student debt crisis really isn’t a problem and cites a study claiming that only a quarter of students graduate with over $20,000 in student loan debt and that the cost of receiving a college education created no additional burden upon families. The tremendous amount of student debt currently faced by the youth of America is an important issue that Cornwell addressed in a reckless manner. The study cited is flawed; large data ranges push down averages, creating bias, and the study ignores the fact that the amount of student loan debt has almost quadrupled in just ten years (rising from around $250 billion in 2003 to almost $1 trillion in 2013). Furthermore, Cornwell seems to overlook the fact that Federal Student Aid is not really aid; it’s debt as well (government subsidized loans are still loans).

I understand the purpose behind this article; Cornwell is trying to convince alumni of the school that sky high tuition and massive student debt really aren’t problems at Wooster and that Wooster graduates aren’t as likely to be affected by this problem, making them more ready to give to the school. However, working in the Alumni office and speaking with several alumni per week has allowed me to understand that many of them are very upset with Wooster’s high tuition. Cornwell’s writing an article like that, denying such a large and widespread problem, will not convince them otherwise. Rejecting one of the largest problems America’s youth face today works against Cornwell’s mission. Standing in opposition to this problem will 1) anger current students more than we already have been (decreasing the chance that we will give money after graduation) and 2) anger alumni who have already stopped giving because of this problem, further alienating them from giving.

This article indicates that President Cornwell is out of touch with what students need at the school (and thus what the school needs). It doesn’t help his case that Cornwell is a rich (or should I say overpaid?), cisgendered and heterosexual white man who isn’t personally facing this massive problem that so many students and their families are currently dealing with. Coming from a place of such high privilege does not allow Cornwell to truly understand the issues that so many students at the College face, and he should not be speaking on an issue that is so close-to-home for many of its students, especially since he is claiming that this really isn’t a problem. The fact that student loan debt is commonplace should be seen as an enormous problem, especially considering the fact that so many students are leaving college with no savings and having tens of thousands of dollars of debt and face high unemployment rates. Although Wooster graduates compare favorably to national averages, this does not change the fact that President Cornwell is blatantly denying such a large and important issue affecting the majority of students at The College of Wooster.

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