Student Debt

I’ve been following with interest the public discussion of student debt and our need to forgive it. My own story is relevant.

I grew up in poverty. As reported here before, my mother was an alcoholic and my father was in prison. Some days I didn’t have enough to eat. So I became self-reliant. While in grammar and high school, I took part-time jobs to feed and dress myself. When I graduated from high school in 1954 with mediocre grades (due to lack of time to study) and it was time for college, I applied to Cal, that is, the University of California in Berkeley, a short bus ride from where I lived. The tuition was around fifty dollars per semester. That was something I could afford.

I graduated from Cal in 1958 and joined the army to go to the Army Language School. I had a year of intensive study of Vietnamese. When I graduated, the army assigned me to the National Security Agency (NSA) near Washington, D.C. I enrolled at Georgetown University to study Chinese because the tuition was low enough that I could afford it. Years later I enrolled in graduate school at the George Washington University (GW) to complete my education with a doctorate. Tuition was moderate, and the GI Bill covered most of the cost.

I was, in short, able to get through college and graduate school because the government, both state and federal, maintained low fees for public universities and assisted me financially.

More next time.

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