Well, I'm finally going to do it. This letter finally put me over the
edge. One more invitation to the Class of 2000 to support, among other
things "... generous financial aid policies that allow talented students
to graduate free of student loan debt." I don't believe (all) student
debt is a bad thing. There, I said it.
So clearly, I must be part of some aristocracy who dares to thumb his
nose at the working class poor not even giving them a chance in the world;
wanting these poor suffering students to wallow in debt for years to come.
I'm not opposed to financial aid. Princeton has so much money and can
do so much good, it should forgive debt ... if you go volunteer in inner
city schools, help craft legislation, or join the Peace Corps, among other
things. When I was a student, I vividly remember Princeton's best and
brightest traipsing off to convince McKinseyBainDeloitteToucheMerilILynchLehmanBrothers
that they were indeed the best and the brightest. It's not that I object
to students applying to the Woodrow Wilson School only because it's supposedly
an "honors" liberal arts major and will improve their chances
that a Lehman Brothers banker will smile benevolently on them. (Okay,
I actually do object to this.) What I object to is subsidizing their education
only to watch them make six figures in a few short years. If they need
it, why shouldn't they have student loans and pay them back? More important,
instead of forgiving all loans, shouldn't we be crafting a program to
strengthen Princeton's creed: "in the nation's service"? Work
for a nonprofit, your loans are forgiven. Work for (and get paid a lot
by) Goldman Sachs, pay back your loans.
So bring it on. Send me all your vitriolic criticism, your hate mail.
My phone is set to automatically transfer you to Stephanie Ramos '00,
my class agent. Her operators are standing by, eagerly awaiting your donation
to the Princeton Goldman Sachs Class of 2010.
Nelson Cheng is a corporate cog at one of those "big businesses"
and luckily didn't have to worry about loans and financial aid because
his parents graciously paid all his bills.
In early February, I interviewed Micah Hall, valedictorian-to-be at Machias
Memorial High School in Machias, Maine.
Shortly thereafter, Princeton's trustees announced the abolition of student
loans in favor of scholarships. I called Micah, who had also applied to
UMO, Bowdoin and Harvard. He replied, "Unless the others follow suit,
I'm going to Princeton." The others did not follow, and Sunday, June
10, I drove Downeast to Machias to hear Micah's valediction "forbidding
taking oneself too seriously." In September 2001, he will matriculate
with the Princeton Class of 2005.
Three reflections: First, in abolishing student loans and assuring students
they'll graduate debt-free, the trustees stewardship of the university's
endowment was magnanimous.
Second, that magnanimity will diminish undergraduates fear of graduating
with debt and liberate them to take courses for the sake of the courses
themselves rather than courses as means to ever-higher-paying jobs to
hird, the trustees' decision gives ASC members an extraordinary edge when
interviewing high school students. Three Cheers for our Nassau.
Cuthbert Russell Train 64
Northeast Harbor, Maine