Brian accuses professional students of “mooching”:

If you go to graduate school, you know going in what it’s going to cost. If you don’t have the means, and aren’t prepared to deal with debt coming out of it, then maybe you shouldn’t make the choice to attend that school. To my way of thinking, it is not Yale’s responsibility to provide anyone with an education — it is your choice to take advantage of a system, with full knowledge of your responsibilities. Even protesting tuition before you attend the school, I might understand. But once you’ve made the choice, you have to deal with the results. You have entered a contract to attend school for a certain price, and that includes the contract to pay back what you borrow to cover that fee. Seriously, if anyone can explain to me why these people are entitled to “forgiveness” (I’d call it mooching), please educate me.

There are a few perspectives from which to come at this. I’ll try (briefly) to make the case from the perspective of Yale’s own convictions about itself rather than an appeal to my more radical perspective on education and democracy. One is the social mission of the University, which the majority of people on this campus would agree includes extending educational opportunity to deserving students and creating strong national national leaders. Don’t take it from me – read Levin’s book on the topic (although I should warn you, it has some dull stretches). Yale is a non-profit educational institution and not, say, an elite private racquet club, and so while there may be disturbing parallels between the two at times, many within and outside of this community are rightly more indignant when Yale institutes or maintains policies which narrow the population to whom its tremendous resources are accesible. Because yes, it is precisely Yale’s responsibility to seek to provide education to qualified students. Ergo we have financial aid and a need-blind admissions policy in Yale College.

Accepting the conception of the academy which Brian posits – if you don’t have the means, you shouldn’t go – hurts everyone’s education here. It keeps exceptionally talented students with a tremendous amount to learn from and teach their peers and their teachers out of the University. And it further narrows and weakens the social and academic community experienced here by robbing it disproportionately of the perspectives of working-class students and students of color. That further divorces Yale’s students from the country they’re being trained (however much comfort some of us may or may not have with such a project) to lead, and does a disservice to everyone being educated here.

And accepting crippling debt as a consequence of professional education narrows the viable options for students to pursue after school, making careers in advocacy and non-profit work potentially untenable for many students and narrowing the career options for Yale’s graduates. This is, as they say, a double whammy.

That’s why professional school students will keep fighting for a more progressive policy that would both widen the opportunities available to them after college and widen the backgrounds of their incoming peers. They’re uniquely poised to do so as students already attending this school; discounting their advocacy because they chose to attend Yale is no more justifiable than discounting criticism of this country from immigrants who chose to come to the United States.


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