Taking readers into the homes of middle-class families to reveal the hidden consequences of student debt and the ways that financing college has transformed family life, the author describes the profound moral conflicts for parents take on enormous debts and gamble on an investment that might not pay off.
As an anthropologist, Zaloom is particularly attuned to how institutions teach us to see ourselves ... ends up being a story about modern families—about how we understand our responsibilities toward one another in a time of diminishing prospects. Sacrifice is nothing new, and guilt has mediated family relations for eons ... Zaloom’s book takes much of what we have come to accept and renders it alien and a bit absurd.
Zaloom relies on interviews with children and their families to understand the type of planning that goes into financing higher education and deconstructs the student loan industry, depicting it as a structural issue that transcends planning and financial literacy. She deftly tracks shifts in the student loan industry...and explores how higher education facilitates the tethering of both parents’ and students’ financial futures to creditors, restricting their decisions to those that serve to pay off debt ... If one of this country’s foundational myths is that higher education is a precondition for social mobility, many parents see investing in future generations as one of the few ways to advance. However, by unraveling the student debt complex, Zaloom demonstrates how this path exacerbates preexisting inequalities.
This work unpacks ways in which class and race intersect and scrutinizes the values implied by the current system’s structure ... Zaloom provides a clear-sighted and timely analysis of this issue. Recommended for readers interested in the cultural and economic implications of the current student debt crisis.