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The Intersection of Student Loans and Social Class: Exploring Borrowers’ Journeys into Debt and Repayment

Paradoxes of the Democratization of Higher Education

ISBN: 978-1-78635-234-7, eISBN: 978-1-78635-233-0

ISSN: 0196-1152

Publication date: 7 November 2016

Abstract

As students increasingly incur debt to finance their undergraduate education, there is heightened concern about the long-term implications of loans on borrowers, especially borrowers from low socioeconomic backgrounds. Drawing upon the concepts of cultural capital and habitus (Bourdieu & Passeron, 1977), this research explores how student debt and social class intersect and affect individuals’ trajectory into adulthood. Based on 50 interviews with young adults who incurred $30,000–180,000 in undergraduate debt and who were from varying social classes, the findings are presented in terms of a categorization schema (income level by level of cultural capital) and a conceptual model of borrowing. The results illustrate the inequitable payoff that college and debt can have for borrowers with varying levels of cultural resources, with borrowers from low-income, low cultural capital backgrounds more likely to struggle throughout and after college with their loans.

Citation

Chin Lu, E. (2016), "The Intersection of Student Loans and Social Class: Exploring Borrowers’ Journeys into Debt and Repayment", Paradoxes of the Democratization of Higher Education (Research in Social Problems and Public Policy, Vol. 22), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 1-67. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0196-115220160000022001

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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