Are Student Loans Bringing Back Indentured Labor?

Who What Why –  by Ryan McNamara

The American system of financing higher education is broken. Instead of freeing students to use their talents in creative ways, it saddles them with a form of oppressive debt—to the detriment of themselves and of society.

Indentured servants made up a large part of the workforce in colonial America. These were typically young people from Europe who paid for their passage to North America by working for a set number of years (usually between four to seven) as virtual slaves.

This form of indentured labor disappeared from American society in the early 1900s. But the staggering burden of debt incurred by today’s college students—in which young people pay huge fees for the opportunity to work for a living wage—has been compared to a modern form of indenture.

In taking on such indebtedness, students are only trying to keep pace with the ever-rising cost of a college degree. Over the last 40 years, tuition and fees at U.S. schools have increased almost twelve-fold, far more than food, housing and even medical care.

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