Student Loan Related

We Are All Peasants Now: the student loan crisis is destroying the middle class

Written by Richard Fossey

“As the world changed, we reverted to social divisions that we’d thought were obsolete. . . . A plain majority of the townspeople were laborers now, whatever in life they had been before. Nobody called them peasants, but in effect that’s what they’d become.”

World Made By Hand
James Howard Kunstler

American higher education is the emperor who wears no clothes. College leaders boast that our nation’s universities are the envy of the world while they rake in so-called federal “student-aid” and parade about in medieval regalia peddling worthless degrees.

And America’s young people are the losers. They’ve been gulled into thinking they can gain a middle-class lifestyle by getting a college degree and maybe a graduate degree as well. But millions are finding that their college degrees gained them little more than massive debt. And those online MBAs and doctorates they purchased with borrowed money–just junk.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank, outstanding student-loan debt reached $1.56 trillion last January. Around 45 million Americans have student-loan obligations and 7.4 million are enrolled in long-term repayment plans that stretch out for as long as a quarter of a century. As Secretary of ,Education Betsy DeVos admitted with shocking candor last November, only one out of four student borrowers are paying off the principal and interest on their loans.

It is now well documented that student-loan debt is contributing to the nation’s declining birth rates–now near a record low. People can’t afford children because they’re paying off student loans.

Young people can’t afford to buy homes, they can’t save for retirement, they can’t pay off their debts. Their liberal arts degrees, their shoddy law degrees, their fluffy MBAs and doctoral degrees qualify them to become baristas and clerical workers.

We are now in the early stages of the 2020 presidential election season, and what do our politicians talk about? Russia, border walls, free health care, and the Green New Deal. We should be discussing the New Raw Deal–the deal our government and our universities have imposed on guileless young people.

For too long, Americans have bought the line that our colleges and universities operate for the public good and that the people who run them are wise and kindly. We particularly revere the ivy league colleges where we get nearly all our prune-faced Supreme Court justices and most of our presidents.

But if the folks who run Harvard are so goddamned wise, how could they have fallen for Elizabeth Warren’s scam that she’s a Cherokee? And if our elite college leaders are sensitive and kindly, how did little boys wind up getting raped in a Penn State shower room? And how could dozens of female athletes get groped by Larry Nasser while he was on Michigan State’s payroll?

No, let’s face the truth. Many American colleges and universities are not run by wise and kindly people; most are run by administrators who are primarily concerned with the bottom line. And far too often, higher education is not preparing young Americans to enter the middle class. On the contrary, by forcing people to take on oppressive levels of debt to get a college degree, colleges are setting up millions of Americans for a lifetime of peasantry.

About the author

Richard Fossey

Richard Fossey is a professor at the University of Louisiana in Lafayette, Louisiana. He received his law degree from the University of Texas and his doctorate from Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is editor of Catholic Southwest, A Journal of History and Culture.


  • This also explains why so many veterans my age are committing suicide. Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush royally f***ed us over. It was Bush who fixed it so we can’t file bankruptcy on studen loans. I thank God both our sons are grown and out of the house.

  • The current Administration has no care for folks in debt, especially student loan debt. Look at the joke of a Secretary of Education we have right now. I’m in the same boat as
    wdsmith1959. Over 40 years old and over $100k in student loan debt because I went to a scam of a school and have loans through a scam of a government and Interest rates that change from day to day and compounding interest… (I’ve been paying for 10 years already and owe almost double what my tuition was.) Seriously? When the financial department explained student loans to me, they had me believing me it’d be like a mortgage, fixed terms and time period. NOPE. I’ll never be able to buy a house, go on vacation, do anything but work to pay off a predatory loan from loan sharks (Thanks for nothing Sallie Mae and Navient!!) I took out thinking I’d get to make my life better, and all it’s done is make me miserable and hopeless. Peasants, yeah you got that right. It’s a good thing I am single and childless… I’ll be paying on these loans til I die.

  • It isn’t only young people. Us older folks have been scammed also. I have $100K hanging over my head right now, and I’ll be 60 in September. No one will hire me at my age. I have no idea how I will ever pay this back. What can I do?

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