Sunday, January 15, 2006

Student Loans as an Industry

Here is an early peek at my next Generation Debt column. I am working on a couple of related stories about the development of the student loan industry. Behind the students' experience of growing debt there is another story, of rampaging corporate growth and, ahem, extremely close ties between business and government within the student loan industry.

If you'll forgive a digression into policy/philosophy land.

It's not that I think that the interests of industry can't intersect with the interests of individuals. As customers, we all benefit from the revolutions of price, choice, and service that have come with the corporate growth and intensified competition of the last half-century. And yet allowing a private company, Sallie Mae, to have such a strong hand in setting education policy (determining who will get money to go to college, how much they will get, at what rates and under what conditions) seems to me contrary to the growth of our economy (students as human capital), the aims of government (students as citizens), and the ideals of our society (students as human beings with free will and aspirations).

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