- October 13, 2021
The warning signs started in 2010: For the first time in U.S. history, the Federal Reserve reported that student loan debt had eclipsed credit card debt as the second most common cause putting Americans in the red, only beat out by money owed in mortgages. Three years later another record clocked in, with the total amount of student debt cusping $1 trillion, while credit card debt cut back to $659 billion.
In 2014, documentary filmmaker Andrew Rossi decided to try and do something about it: expose how the college business model is broken, and what price students and society are paying in the meantime until it’s fixed.
On Sept. 9, the Central Florida community is welcomed out for a showing and discussion of Rossi’s film “Ivory Tower” on the Seminole State College Sanford campus.
Seminole State College will host a screening of the documentary “Ivory Tower” on Tuesday, Sept. 9, at 12:30 p.m. Seminole State College of Florida Planetarium located at 100 Weldon Blvd. in Sanford. The showing is free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Student Life department at 407-708-2611 or [email protected] Seating is limited.
For more information about the documentary and to watch a trailer, visit takepart.com/ivorytower
“The very concept of the institution of higher learning is about to be broken,” said Andrew Delbanco, director of American Studies at Columbia University, in the documentary’s trailer.
As the documentary analyzes the cost and benefit of higher education, it continues to ask the question: Is college worth it?
SSC accounting program manager Terri Walsh says yes, but that students need to be smart about not only the subjects they study and where they do so, but also just as educated about the money they borrow.
Walsh said that as a professor she sees the struggles of students trying to manage debt and schooling everyday. She can name off more than a handful of students who’ve showed up in her SSC classes after wracking up tens of thousands of dollars in loans at liberal arts colleges only to drop out because of the costs and start again at Seminole State. They work three jobs just to cover their basic living costs along with accruing loan interest, Walsh said, and they have no degree to show for it.
“They’re essentially stuck with the equivalent of a house payment, without owning a house,” she said.
According to The Project on Student Debt, the average student loan debt for those who graduated in 2013 tallied in at $29,400. By comparison, Walsh said that the average debt accrued by students graduating from Seminole State is closer to $6,000. Community college, she said, can be one affordable solution for the increasingly expensive higher education problem.
“In education, low cost doesn’t necessarily mean low quality,” Walsh said.
The showing of “Ivory Tower” at SSC may be preaching to the choir, as many expected to attend are already SSC students, but Walsh said she hopes the showing of the film will increase awareness of the need for smart borrowing.
Even community college students can fall in the black hole of student debt by taking out additional money in loans that they don’t necessarily need, or could work to make up for elsewhere, said Walsh.
“They’re hurting their future for a short term fix … The root of the problem is there’s too much availability of [loans] and the temptation’s too great,” she said.
There’s a bubble brewing as the costs of pursuing higher education soar, and Walsh said that it doesn’t take a college degree to know that what goes up must come down. And, she said, if a solution can’t be found before it bursts, we’re all going to pay.
“It’s going to hurt all of us because that money isn’t free,” she said. “It has to come back from somewhere.”