The story of the rising cost of college in America is often told through numbers, with references to runaway tuition prices and the ever-growing pile of outstanding student debt.
The personal toll these trends have taken is hard to convey, but the anthropologist Caitlin Zaloom does so in her new book, Indebted: How Families Make College Work at Any Cost, which documents how the price of a college education has forced many middle-class families to rearrange their priorities, finances, and lives.
In Indebted, Zaloom, a professor at New York University, draws on some 160 interviews she did with families who are taking on debt to pay for college, mixing in history of education policy and analysis of the financial morass students and their loved ones must navigate—including a close reading of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, form and the concept of family it promotes.
The fear is a really visceral feeling for parents. What they want is for their children to be able to go off into the world and become adults without the weight of their history—that of the parents—bringing them down. Across all of my interviews, it was so important to parents to enable their kids to move into open futures, not limited by the parents’ economic background. The idea of limiting the horizon of their children is almost inconceivable to the parents that I spoke with.
Parents understand something profound about living in a powerfully unequal society. They recognize that having a kid who can take their shots—who can really make the most of themselves—is essential to the possibility of reaching this far-off tier where people are living lives of stability and wealth. And if young adults are unable to take that shot, they face the possibility that they will be in either that constrained, eroding middle class that their parents belong to—or, worse, that they will fall, and fall far.
For the full article click here: https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2019/09/college-cost-indebted-zaloom/597181/