Tag Archive | "education"


The College Conundrum: How US student loan repayment policy created $1 trillion in outstanding debt


Credit to: https://farm1.staticflickr.com/44/148486190_9e1daed403_o.jpg

On average, a US student will spend approximately $21,000 per year pursuing a college degree, approximately 22% of which will be paid through borrowed funds. Considering the increasing costs of college tuition coupled with the need for students to borrow almost ¼ of their tuition, it no surprise that the outstanding federal student loan debt has crossed the $1 trillion mark. With continuously increasing tuition threatening to put higher education just out of reach for many Americans, it’s intriguing to consider that many countries around the world take a surprisingly different approach to higher education tuition and funding.

Recently, Germany reverted back to a free tuition model for public universities, after an eight year period in which the universities were allowed to charge up to €1,000 per year (approx. equivalent to $1,300). Denmark takes a similar approach but goes a step further by providing higher education completely free, not only to its own citizens but also to those of any country in the European Union, while also providing monthly stipends for cost-of-living expenses. While not tuition free, Australia nonetheless has a similar student-centric policy that bases tuition on major, with higher rates for those areas in which the student can expect a higher future income. As an incentive to lessen the amount of debt taken on by students in financing their education, students who pay as much of their tuition upfront as possible receive a 10% discount on their tuition rate.

When compared with countries like Australia and New Zealand, the United States’ debt forgiveness and repayment policy seems rather harsh. As previously mentioned, Australian students who are able to pay some of their tuition upfront receive a discounted rate. Anything that is not paid up front is paid back based on income but only once the student has graduated, become employed, and their income has reached a certain minimum level. In the event that their income drops below the minimum level, they are not required to make further payments until their income again meets the minimum standard.

While the US does offer a somewhat comparable systems in theory, in practice the differences are significant. For example, American students do have the option of applying for an income-based repayment plan, but rather than automatically being enrolled in the plan or allowing anyone to opt-in, only students demonstrating partial financial hardship can take advantage of this option. Similarly, American students have the option to apply for deferment or forbearance if they are unable to continue making payments on their loans, however, these options are limited in time, up to three years for deferment and twelve months for forbearance. Most significantly, interest continues to accumulate during the deferment/forbearance period whereas no interest accumulates during the Australian no-payment period.

So is a US college degree worth the increasing price tag? The answer depends on your perspective.

In the US, college graduates in general have a much lower unemployment rate than those without a college degree. As you might expect, when comparing unemployment rates of all college graduates with recent college graduates, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is higher but maintains fairly steady (peaking at 5% for all graduates in 2010 compared with 7% for recent college graduates in the same year). Somewhat troubling however, is the fact approximately 44% of graduates are underemployed, meaning those graduates who report having a job are employed in a job that does not require their degree. Thus the question of whether or not to pursue a college education depends on balancing the likelihood of landing a “dream job” (or even finding a job after graduation), with the encumbrance of a large amount of unforgivable debt. Given the staggering and still increasing amount of federal student loan debt, this, apparently, is a gamble that many hopeful young Americans, myself included, are willing to take.


Demi Arenas is a 2L and Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

Posted in Demi Arenas, DJILP Online, DJILP Staff, Featured ArticlesComments (2)


26 Reasons for Environmental Optimism in Haiti

For many Haiti evokes images of absolute poverty, environmental devastation and desperate emigrants. When I think of Haiti, I see 26 young leaders dedicated to serving others and the environment.

I was invited by the State Department’s Fulbright Program for the Western Hemisphere to co-lead a course in Environmental Leadership and train 26 Haitian students from three of the country’s universities in the skills and qualities necessary to lead. In a process coordinated by the U.S. Embassy, the students were selected by their deans based on their subject area of study and their Grade Point Averages. Through a combination of field visits, experiential exercises, readings, discussion groups and case studies, the students furthered their understanding of the need for each individual to take thoughtful initiative in addressing the environmental challenges in Haiti.

During the course there were several ‘Ah Ha!’ moments for the students. The most profound were when the students realized:

  1. By making changes in their own behavior they can affect positive change in those around them.
  2. Leaders do not need to have all the answers, but rather need to know how to bring together the relevant parties to find answers.
  3. Leaders are not only those in positions of authority, and the students began to see themselves as leaders.



In respect to the first point, the students took to heart the notion of change beginning with the individual. It was noted that here were students at the top of their classes in their respective universities studying environmental management and yet each time they would get a cup of water, they would use a plastic cup and then immediately discard it. This became an unexpected entrée into the subject of integrity in leadership. It is much easier to blame others for the trash choking the waterways or littering the nearby islands and imagine all sorts of solutions to “educate” others. In not so subtle ways throughout the week, these inconsistencies between articulated values and behavior were pointed out. By the end of the week, the students had taken to writing their names on their cups and toting them from session to session.

Second, through the analysis of several case studies in the country, there was recognition that complex environmental problems cannot be solved through traditional leadership. Rather, they require collaborative solutions that draw upon the collective intelligence of those affecting and affected by the situation. A noticeable shift occurred where students in the early part of the course focused on persuading others of the correctness of their individual point of view, while towards the end they were truly making an effort to understand the perspective of their fellow students.

Finally, the students showed increasing leadership from small actions to huge commitments. One student, acknowledging that her neighbor was reluctant to speak up, encouraged her to share her ideas. Later in the week, a small group organized a ‘spectacle,’ where the students sang ‘I believe I can fly’ and went on to explain their belief in their capacity to change Haiti. On the last day, the students announced the formation of a ‘Group of Reflection’ that continues to meet to reflect and take action on environmental problems in their communities. These students recognized that through effective collaborative leadership, even at their own hands, Haiti can address and overcome environmental challenge.

These students—26 reasons for environmental optimism in Haiti—are at the center of significant positive change in Haiti.

Posted in CDR Associates, DJILP Online, Featured ArticlesComments (0)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law