Facing Student Loans: Sentenced to Debt is an empirical sociological research project that asks the question, “How are Americans dealing with their student loans?” Many macro-economic studies have graphed out the student loans crisis and analyzed how the $1 trillion deficit will impact the global and national economies. A few news channels have highlighted clips of impoverished citizens bemoaning their personal financial crisis as they are shown flipping through their endless stacks of bills. This project aims to put the human face on the student loans crisis by collecting personal narratives that describe the daily impact of extreme debt.
My name is Dr. Beverly Yuen Thompson and I am a sociologist at Siena College. My personal student loans debt was $55,000 when I began realizing that I needed to fundamentally alter my lifestyle in order to pay off my loans. I have always been financially irresponsible, living beyond my means, behavior I had seen modeled by others. Taking out student loans was simply another bad decision amongst a long list of others. It took me ten years of college in order to earn my Ph.D. and enter the unstable academic job market. In 2012, I decided to turn my life around and get out of debt—forever. I realized that many people were in the same position I was in. I wanted to collect the stories of other people in order to understand the magnitude of student loan debt and how people were managing—or not. Thus, I decided to create this research project where I could bring together the voices of Americans suffering under the weight of oppressive student loan debt.
On this website, I will be compiling a list of helpful references, as well as personal narratives. I encourage others to add their story to the project by posting your own video or written narrative about your own situation and tagging it #FacingStudentLoans. I hope to interview folks around the country about their situations and help share the faces and stories of the student loan crisis. Please consider inviting this project to your campus, workplace, or community organization in order to collect and share stories. Check out the website here.