Dealing With Student Debt

The dream of a successful life via education tends to lead to unwanted yet unavoidable student debt—sometimes amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. Accounting professor Kerry Duvall recognized this issue, and with the help of social work professor Jim Kunz, has already implemented a small program to teach students about debt.

Professor Duvall began her career at McDaniel in the fall of 2014, leaving behind a successful business career. Last year, Duvall told the Free Press, “I felt like I won the lottery” after she became an accounting teacher. Her love for the subject and for her students has been verified yet again.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics (ANCES), in the 2014-2015 academic year the annual undergraduate expenses ranged from $16,188 to numbers even higher than $40,000. In 2014, 73.5 percent of young adults aged 25 to 34 who earned a bachelor’s degree had a year-round full-time job. With lower degrees such as an associate’s, less than 66 percent of people had a full-time job. states that the average student debt varies by institution, with the range falling between $26,000 and $100,000.

With these statistics in mind, what can students do if they want to learn about and understand student debt or even debt in general? They can take various business courses, but most only give enough information to get through the unit or chapter. Is there another outlet for students?

A program has already been implemented into the 2016 fall semester, thanks to professors Kerry Duvall and Jim Kunz. This program is designed to help students understand and cope with student debt. The plan is simple and has plenty of potential to grow into something even better.

Every freshman seminar class has an hour-long “first look” session they are required to attend. During this session, Duvall and Kunz meet with the different classes to talk about what student debt is, how it is accumulated, and ways to cope or lessen the burden of debt.  Professor Duvall states that these sessions aren’t designed to act as another class; they are designed to plant a seed in the back of students’ minds to help spark interest in the topic later down the road.

The seed for this program was planted a few years back when professor Duvall was teaching a personal finance Jan Term course. The students were the ones who planted the seed for the professor by talking about how their own personal struggles lead them to take the course. They wanted to learn skills to manage and understand debt since it is such a prevalent factor in so many people’s lives. With the issues and concerns of the students in mind, Duvall and Kunz teamed up and started to throw around ideas that formed into a small program during the freshman’s first look sessions.

Professor Kunz is a social work professor, which opens many doors of opportunity for this plan to go through. He understands personal interaction and the human psyche, or personality. He can provide coping methods on a psychological and social playing field for students. The main issues with this plan vary.

The freshman are new and trying to adjust to the college lifestyle. They may think it’s just another guest lecturer and won’t pay attention. Freshman are still young and might not be that concerned with debt because it doesn’t apply to them until later, when they’re seniors. Upperclassmen expressed more interest in the subject, according to professor Duvall, claiming that if this were offered to them they would take full advantage of it.

Another perspective that professor Duvall has is that debt should not be seen as only a negative part of life, but also a crucial positive component. Repaying debt builds a person’s credit, improving access to loans.

The goal of Duvall’s and Kunz’s program is to help students understand and deal with student debt. Professor Duvall wishes to see this expand into a possible senior seminar, a required course, or into even a small office that students can go to for help. With more exposure to the topic of student debt within the student body, hopefully new thoughts and ideas will sprout up and spread like wild fire.