Letter to the Editor Been Overdue? It’s About Time!

Elizabeth Agramont

Thanks for the insight on debt in this nation. It is true that debt is a severe problem in this country, especially credit card debt and debt incurred by taking out loans to attend private uni­versities. Another aspect of the debt is the structure of a loan and the interest rate associated with it over time. So even a $5,000 loan can become a $30,000 loan in over a 10-year span. Also, the average debt that a Colgate student graduates with is around $14,000 after all four years, which is under the national average. So not all students graduate with such a tremendous amount as $200,000. I understand that you sign a contract when you agree to take a loan, but is it just to have people pay these outrageous amounts when they simply want a better chance to play the game for a better life?

Why the hell is education in higher education institutions so expensive anyway?

Sure, students can save some money by going to community colleges to supplement their education for the first two years and save some money, but transferring is difficult and private institutions based on their endowment may offer more money than even a state school. Also, there are certain opportunities that private universities offer that you really can’t find anywhere else, the rigor and competition being one of them. So why deny intel­lectually talented students of a better opportunity to excel simply because of cost?

I would not jump to the conclusion that the people protest­ing for Occupy Wall Street are “loons” so fast. In fact, I would argue quite the opposite. Sure, a lot of them are young, unem­ployed and burdened with debt. But I would not solely blame the individual person for their problems.

We do not live in a “technical world” where a+b=c, or where every action has a clear and direct reaction. On the contrary, our world is an intricate series of networks based upon previous sys­tems, structures and beliefs continuing to impact our present. There are several factors that are important to take into account when examining why people take out loans in the first place, what prevents them from paying the loan, how much money they make, if they have a job, if they or their family have assets and wealth, access to education, how many people they are sup­porting, if they have health coverage and if they are paying for constant medical treatments or medication, to name a few.

America likes to promote the concept of earning your pay and declining handouts or welfare. American ideals promote the con­cept of individualism and not receiving help from outside forces, especially the government. America also conveniently forgets the conditions under which this nation was founded. Particularly the exploitation of labor of immigrants, slavery of African Ameri­cans, the removal of American Indians from land that was rightly theirs, separation from family and culture, not allowing African Americans to read, forcing American Indians to learn a language and culture that was not theirs. All of which greatly supported the U.S. economy and values, while simultaneously oppressing immigrants, Blacks, American Indians, Latinos and Asians.

The structures that existed back then directly affect the op­portunities when it comes to wealth and financial stability, as well as access to education in present day. Thus causing an in­equality and many opportunities people take for granted. It is necessary to examine historical contexts to give insight to our present day, which would tell us that there is a need for equity.

So I believe that the Obama administration trying to erase the majority of debt that people acquire from credit cards and college is ingenious, and a step in the right direction to fix our severely flawed and oppressive system. It will dramatically affect the lives of people who are affected by complex and difficult con­ditions in their lives, many of which resulted from the historical circumstances that I noted previously.

Last week’s “Being Right” article notes majors such as “Arts and Crafts,” sociology and gender studies as being of little worth be­cause it’s the author’s understanding that they will not be able to pay the amount of debt they will eventually accumulate.

Just because you have a certain major does not mean you will receive a certain job at a certain pay.

But the majors that are so disdained are of more importance than the ordinary “technical jobs” because they give insight to how our world works. These majors examine what was done in the past and present and the interaction between the two. Sociol­ogy and gender studies majors are not endangered when it comes to finding a job; there is plenty to analyze, study and evaluate in the world.

Maybe if racism, sexism, homophobia, classism and many other ‘isms’ in the world did not exist and did not directly affect me, I would be more passionate about thinking of my career and not trying to help others for generations to come. Maybe if more people who were not being directly affected by these isms would take a stand to help the cause. But it is usually the people who are most oppressed, who have seen the true power of these systems take root, that give a damn. I’m hoping this will change, but more than just hoping am actively and seeking opportunities to do something about these many problems that are more connected and real than the general public think. Alas, having a major that is going to make me the big bucks is not really my priority – honestly, it’s a privilege I can’t afford.

So much of what is going wrong in the economy can be ex­plained by sociology. Maybe more collaboration between the two is necessary. The economy, unfortunately, is not Ameri­ca’s only problem and tied within it are many more. To really “fix” the economy would require the analysis of all the isms I mentioned above and many more.

So given the opportunity to walk away from debt, I would. It does not mean I am irresponsible, lazy or greedy. Instead, I like to look at is as the U.S. finally taking some responsibility in paying back what they owe me, my family, my ancestors from hundreds of years ago, and trust me, those costs are quite high.

I do not need pity or an apology; I need money, access and better opportunities. It’s not as if I do not value the dollar. I have great respect for this imaginary world we’ve built around it.

I know exactly how much it costs without it. But the Obama administration abolishing a great amount of debt that my family has brings us one step closer to escaping the cycle of poverty. But do not be fooled, this is not the be-all, end-all of solutions. More must be done.

Contact Elizabeth Agramont at [email protected]