Filmmaker: Student loans are 'worst weed in your yard'

By Amy R. Connolly  |  Jan. 28, 2016 at 2:11 PM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (UPI) -- When Iowa financial literacy adviser Adam Carroll took a closer look at the student loan system, what he found was alarming: college freshmen with little understanding of their debt, graduates swamped in debt and educators second guessing the longterm effects of such borrowing.

In his newly released independent documentary, "Broke, Busted and Disgusted," Carroll highlights the breakdown in the student loan system and the longterm economic strain on ill-informed student borrowers.

After months of research and interviews, Carroll, 40, found young adults knew little about their student loans until the bills started rolling in after graduation. In a quest to land dream jobs, college graduates are blindsided by the monthly payments and the seemingly never-ending debt, bringing into question the veracity of the established norm that college should be a foregone conclusion for most high school graduates.

Carroll, in his research, found there may be more of a trend to rethinking the direct-to-college route for high school students. Carroll, a self-proclaimed financial literacy junkie, travels the country to talk about entrepreneurship and finances, including student loans. He has also written two books on personal finance.

"At what cost is more education the solution if it takes $60,000 to get there," he told UPI. "It cemented in my mind just how unaware young people are."

The film, funded by a $66,719 Indiegogo campaign and completed in about nine months, paints a stark picture for student borrowers, including many who owe more than $100,000 with undefined plans for repayment. Some of the comments from educators themselves underscore the growing need to take a deeper look at the student loan system.

"This is going to sound almost like heresy coming from an educator, but I almost think we've oversold higher education in this country, " Anthony Paustain, provost at Des Moines Area Community College West in Iowa, said in the film.

"I think we made a mistake several years ago in assuming that every young person, every adult in the United States has to have a four-year college degree," William Ruud, president of the University of Northern Iowa, said.

Today there is more than $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loan debt nationwide. A growing number of borrowers are defaulting on loans because they overestimated their ability to repay, underestimated the amount they'd owe or simply didn't understand the scope of their loans.

The film, supported by the Iowa Credit Union Foundation, is aimed at educating students and parents about the high cost of financing college. It also shows the slow move away from the absolute need for a college diploma, including a move to apprenticeships for learning trades, community college to take a bite out of early college education and other new postsecondary goals.

Carroll said he sums up student debt as a weed in a yard: "This is the worst weed in your yard," he said. "If you just ignore it this will grow to epic proportions. It will take over everything."

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