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A Contract You have to Take: Debt, Sacrifice, and the Library Degree

Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education

ISBN: 978-1-78754-881-7, eISBN: 978-1-78754-880-0

ISSN: 0065-2830

Publication date: 17 May 2018

Abstract

Purpose – Drawing on a survey of over 1,000 Library and Information Science (LIS) professionals and over a dozen interviews, this chapter explores the student loan crisis from an LIS perspective and offers practical solutions for the field to decrease debt from LIS graduate programs, which has ballooned in recent years.

Design/Methodology/Approach – In April 2016, I sent a survey via email to approximately 10 library-affiliated listservs ranging from Code4Lib to the UMD iSchool discussion list. While I attempted to keep the reach small and controlled to only library-affiliated listservs, the survey link quickly spread to Twitter and other social media. The survey attracted 1,630 qualified responses and ran for two weeks in total. Using skip logic, all potential respondents who did not attend a library school (26 in total) were automatically disqualified. Email addresses were provided by 497 participants for interview post-survey. I received 215 partial responses. In September 2016, I conducted qualitative interviews with participants. Thirty-two telephone interviews were conducted extending for 15–20 minutes and I received 38 written questionnaires in response to my questions.

Findings – The findings are outlined in sub-chapter headings, including increased tuition does not equal increased aid, older students borrow less and take longer in programs tailored to their needs, new graduates unlikely to pay off their loans soon, and students with high undergraduate debt: a divided loan burden. Other findings include interview results, which are embedded within the chapter.

The final section offers recommendations for LIS programs to lessen the burden for students. These recommendations include better financing information and counseling for students; shorter, more flexible degree programs; apprenticeship model, more pathways for a paraprofessional to professional track; and expand public service loan forgiveness programs.

Originality/Value – This is the first comprehensive qualitative/quantitative study of the cost of library school as well as the debt burden for students. It provides actionable outcomes as well as an analytic framework through which to view the academic debt crisis. It features the voices of librarians from around the country as they struggle through a changing job market and increased monetary burden.

Keywords

Citation

Halperin, J.R. (2018), "A Contract You have to Take: Debt, Sacrifice, and the Library Degree", Percell, J., Sarin, L.C., Jaeger, P.T. and Bertot, J.C. (Ed.) Re-envisioning the MLS: Perspectives on the Future of Library and Information Science Education (Advances in Librarianship, Vol. 44A), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 25-43. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0065-28302018000044A003

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2018 Emerald Publishing Limited