This essay focuses on the remediation of higher education in the U.S. In the period after World War II, higher education was cast as a remediation of social ills, particularly inequality. The period saw the opening of colleges and universities to unprecedented numbers of people from different classes and groups, funded largely by governmental sources. The period since then — the era of neoliberal capitalism, which began in the 1980s — has seen a pronounced shift, as higher education has been privatized in several ways, notably with the cost of tuition being progressively shifted from the government to the individual. One of the most striking features of this shift has been the astronomical increase of college student loan debt. This article outlines basic information about student debt and presents excerpts from an archive of testimonies of student debtors from across the U.S. The testimonies tell distressing stories of the pernicious effects of student debt. They also correct some current misperceptions — for instance, that student debt only became an issue after the financial crisis of 2007/08, when in fact it has been a problem since the 1980s. Overall, contemporary student debt performs a perverse remediation, violating the humanistic aim of the university and reinforcing rather than relieving inequality.

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