Could it be that college graduates today are worse off than indentured servants from colonial times? A closer look at the data shows a remarkable similarity according to a provocative article by Jeffrey J. Williams in the January issue of Academe Online.
The majority of immigrants to the British colonies arrived under “indenture,” or an agreement to work for a specific period of time to pay for the cost of passage. The indenture period typically lasted a year, but could extend to four or even seven years, at which time the servant was free to keep the wages from his work.
Similarly, the average undergraduate in 2008 earned a degree along with $24,000 in federal loan debt according to the most recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics of the U.S. Department of Education. This number jumps to about $30,000 if private credit cards are included. Remember, this average means that some students have much more – 14% owed more than $40,000.
Therefore most undergraduates have already committed the first year of salary to paying for the education that serves as the means to obtain work. In the case of the immigrant, the first year paid for the passage to the New World and led to the opportunity to work. The immigrant, however, was essentially assured of having a job in the labor-intensive colonies. Current graduates have less assurance of actually working, especially in the non-STEM majors (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).
Current graduates have the advantage that Stafford loan repayments are typically amortized over 15 years or even 30 years, if making payments for an entire working career is an advantage. Federal student loans are much like an indenture in that there is no forgiveness of the debt, not even by declaring bankruptcy. Only death forgives federal student loans (or an indenture contract in colonial times).
Theologically the similarity is clear: the rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender (Proverbs 22:7). Only in this case the federal government, not the rich, rules over indebted college graduates for many years. Gentle reader, don’t let friends drive drunk. Also, don’t let friends sell themselves deeply into slavery to obtain the means to work in this great nation.