Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Research Blog 10: Abstract and Bibliography

This research examines the prevalence of stress among current and recently graduated college students, and attempts to create a causal relationship between experiences of stress and anxiety and the privatization of higher education. This paper aims to identify in our country, the socio-systemic roots of the stress epidemic as they lie in a lack of financial knowledge and awareness and typical neo-liberal business practices. Discussions of stress-carry over and the medicalization of stress will be useful in understanding why individual accountability for financially motivated stress and anxiety is only continuing a cycle of isolation which can only be broken by comprehensive reform to the student loan industry. At the conclusion of this research the reader should have a strong understanding of the reasons why financial stress manifests in the individual, the ways in which the persuasive power of loan institutions in our government and schools perpetuates this stress, and how we can learn to view this stress as a systemic social health problem

Avard, Stephen, et al. “The Financial Knowledge of College Freshmen.” College Student Journal 39.2 (2005): 321-339. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Mar. 2014.
Becker, Dana. One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble With Stress As An Idea. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.
Collinge, Alan. The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History- and How We Can Fight Back. Boston: Beacon Press, 2009. Print.
            Davis, Christopher, et al. “The Consequences of Financial Stress for Individuals, Families, and Society” Centre for Research on Stress, Coping and Well-Being. (2004):1-32. Web. 3 Mar 2014.
Default: The Student Loan Documentary. Dir. Aurora Meneghello. Perf. Anya Kamenetz, Carmen Berkeley, Alan Collinge, Robert Applebaum. Krotala Films, 2011. Film.
Hacker, Jacob. The Great Risk Shift: The Assault on American Jobs, Families, Health Care and Retirement and How You Can Fight Back. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.
Lee, John. “Higher Education and Privatization.” NEA Higher Education Research Center Update 10.2 (2004): 1-6. National Education Association. Web. 10 Feb. 2014.
Lewin, Tamar. “Record Level of Stress Found in College Freshmen.” The New York Times     26 Jan. 2011, sec. Education: 1-3 The New York Times. Web. 7 Mar. 2014.
Pedersen, Daphne E. "Stress Carry-Over And College Student Health Outcomes." College Student Journal 46.3 (2012): 620-627. ERIC. Web. 4 Mar. 2014.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Literature Review 5

Avard, Stephen, et al. "The Financial Knowledge Of College Freshmen." College Student Journal 39.2 (2005): 321-339. Academic Search Premier. Web. 3 Mar. 2014.

This article largely focuses the ways in which financial stress experienced by student loan borrowers stems from a lack of financial prepardness in high school. Avard discusses the reasons why college students are unprepared, legislation which has attempted to correct this issue, and proposed solutions to resolve the financial stress problem.


Debt loads: the amount of debt an individual is carrying at a given time
The Jumpstart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy: an organization formed in 1995 aimed at improving financial literacy among American youth.

Helpful Quotes:

"...Perhaps universities should regard financial knowledge as being a component to their general education program and require a course in personal finance of all its students" (Avard 1)

"The emphasis in high school curriculum is on preparation for college or on acquiring skills necessary to obtain a job and to earn an income. Very little of the student's studies focus on how to effectively use the income in dealing with financial matters such as bank accounts, investments, mutual funds, mortgages, credit cards, loans, Social Security, insurance and taxes. Only if a student has taken a high school course in consumerism, finance or in economics would he or she be exposed somewhat to every day financial issues while in school" (Avard 1).

"The low level of knowledge will limit their ability to make informed decisions" (Avard 3).

This article is extremely valuable to my argument as it provides insights to the beginnings of financial stress before college even begins. This article will be helpful in enforcing my argument of student loan borrowers as "personal responsibility crusaders" (Hacker) as Avard positions the borrowers in a way in which they are responsible for their own financial literacy, as opposed to holding loan companies accountable for their corrupt practices. 

Research Blog 9: Argument and Counter-Argument

Throughout my research paper I seek to investigate the ways in which stress has been individualized in our society, and denied as a social health problem. I begin with an examination of financial stress and they ways in which financial stress "carries over" to other areas of an individual's life. The latter half of my argument focuses on the ways in which we can reform the current available options for stress coping, to better suit the socio-systemic nature of the problem itself. One of the most useful tactics I have encountered comes from the film Default: The Student Loan Documentary and is called "outing yourself" which means exposing the nature of an individuals debt in an effort to rid borrowers of feelings of isolation and helplessness in their debt. This idea is reinforced by Collinge in his book The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History via his establishment of

However, one scholar in particular refutes the idea of stress as a social problem and instead proposes the continued individuation of stress. In their article The Consequences of Financial Stress for Individuals, Families and Societies, authors Davis and Manter cite the importance of a sense of personal mastery, or the belief that one can manage stressful situations, in coping with stress. However, the modifier "personal" in this terms helps us understand that this is a continued form of individual support, and refuses to acknowledge the socio-systemic nature of the stress concept. While some scholars argue that stress needs to be solved through it's societal roots, Davis and Manter argue that a strong sense of personal mastery is important in gaining immediate control of the stress problem for individuals, as oppossed to waiting for a successful social movement to overrun loan institutions.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Research Blog 8: Interview

I interviewed my roommate Meghan about the impact of privatized student loans on an individual's mental health. I chose to speak with her because of the struggles she has experienced with anxiety and finances since I have lived with her. Through our interview, it appears that Meghan is a prime example of a student loan victim. She pays for her own education via students loans suggested to her through the Rutgers student aid office, and incurs multiple other monthly expenses associated with renting a home (ie. rent, food, gas/electric, water, internet, phone). She stated that she works two part time jobs during the week in addition to a 12 credit course load. During the course of our conversation, her nervousness and anxiety in regards to her finances were evidenced through statements such as, "I work 35 hours a week for what? $250 at the end of that week? That doesn't even begin to make a dent in the kind of debt I'm dealing with." Meghan additionally mentioned that the amount of time she spends at work has affected her performance in school. Despite being a third year college student, Meghan has only accumulated 33 credits. She says, "I just don't know how they can expect us to keep up with school when some of us have to work huge amounts of hours just to cover our day to day expenses, forget long term payments. I've failed classes just because my professor's don't want to give me an extension when I have a lot of hours at work. But I need that money, so I guess there's not much I can do." This example of Meghan's performance in school perfectly illustrates Pedersen's concept of stress carry-over whereby stress in one area of life impacts another aspect of life. However, her financial anxiety has impacted her in other non-academic ways as well. After her first year of college, Meghan mentioned that she began drinking to excess which in turn led to a semester of failed courses. She explains, "the stress of it all just became too much. It was much easier to just have a good time and not think about it". This provides another great example of stress carry-over where Meghan's financial anxieties affected Meghan's mental health leading to substance abuse which in turn negatively impacted her academic performance. The last point that Meghan made in our interview regarded campus academic and student counseling services. After being put on academic probation for a semester and meeting with an advisor regarding her academic performance, she was given a referral to the campus's counseling services to speak with a counselor to manage her stress. This particular experience illuminates the concept of stress individuation. The current practices in place to help students manage with stress, much of which stems from finances (in this case in particular), do not address the root of the problem but instead individualize the problem and position the stress and anxiety ridden individuals as what Hacker has termed, personal responsibility crusaders.

Prior to researching the topic of student loan privatization and the effects it has on an individual's mental health, I did not realize how relevant this topic was to virtually every individual's college experience. Not only did I not realize how wide spread this problem is, but I did not realize that it would effect someone so close to me. Meghan has experienced many of the ramifications of student loan privatization that I have encountered through my research and provides a prime example of why privatization along with it's high interest rates and corrupt practices should be exposed and reformed.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Research Blog 7: My Case

Default: The Student Loan Documentary

Relevant Links:

Default: The Student Loan Documentary:

The Proposal to Forgive Student Loan Debt:

To frame my argument about the relationship between higher education privatization and experiences of stress, anxiety and depression in college students, I will look closely at the film Default: The Student Loan Documentary. This film examines the current state of the student loan industry and the resulting economic and personal stress experienced by student borrowers. Student loan experts, activists and borrowers come together in this film to chronicle the life of privatization from its advent through modern day in an effort to expose the true culprit of the financial stress experienced by college attendees and graduates. Default ties in many of the themes that I have discovered thus far in my research. Most prominently, this film addresses the widespread personal responsibility shift that has occurred through the passage of Acts such as the Higher Education Act of 1968 and the Bankruptcy Abuse and Consumer Protection Act. As Lauren Asher, President of The Institute for College Access and Success explains, students from low income families attending college during America's Golden Age would have been able to graduate from college with no debt by working only a minimum wage job part-time during the semester and full-time during the summer, while that same student today would have to borrow private loans to make their way through college today. This film will be useful in providing multiple specific cases which illustrate the devastating effects of the private loan industry. From Matt who owes more than $200,000 in student loan debt and has experienced stress carry-over into his personal romantic relationships, to Gregory who worked three part-time jobs each semester of college and still graduated with $30,000 in student loan debt, and Jelisa who was awarded two different government grants, works a part-time job during the semester, and still needed student loans only to graduate in $60,000+ in student loan debt, it becomes clear through this documentary that the root cause of this issue does not lie in any deficit of the individual, but in a corrupt loan system. Lastly, this documentary offers compelling ways to solve this student loan crisis. Methods such as "outing yourself" involve vocalizing the financial stress experienced by individuals in an effort to highlight the socio-systemic cause of financial stress, while grass roots movements allow students the opportunity to advocate for their own causes and beliefs. But perhaps the most radical of solutions was proposed by Robert who wrote The Proposal to Forgive All Student Loan Debt. While this proposal did not pass congress, it provides an interesting an interesting viewpoint on the ways our loan dollars could be put to use if not lied up in the student loan industry. While I am not yet sure how I will incorporate The Proposal into my argument, I have attached the link for further consideration. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Research Blog 6

This table comes from Daphne Pedersen's study "Stress Carry Over and College Student Health Outcomes". It is helpful in illustrating her theory of "stress carry over" and the types of types of stress that are the most prominent, and most likely to affect other areas of an individuals life. From this graph we see that school carry-over outweighs all other types of carry-over bringing us to the conclusion that the college experience is the most stressful aspect of a college-aged individuals life. This will be helpful in strengthening my argument that stress among college students is increasing, and that their stress stems from the increasing expectations of them set forth by Privatization. 

This chart comes from a PDF distributed to students at the University of Illinois at Chicago by the campus Wellness Center and is designed to give students an empirical evaluation of their stress levels. Students were tasked with tallying points received based on different categories of stress they have experienced within the past three months. A stress score of over 300 signaled a need to visit the Wellness Center for counseling. This chart and the attached pdf is helpful in reinforcing Dana Becker's assertion that stress among college students has been individualized instead of being though of as a social health problem as this chart is meant to determine and individual diagnosis for individual treatment. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Literature Review 3


Becker, Dana. "Stress: The New Black Death?". One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble With Stress As An Idea. Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 2013. 1-18.

Becker, Dana. "Getting and Spending: The Wear and Tear of Modern Life". One Nation Under Stress: The Trouble With Stress As An Idea. Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 2013. 18-48.

Dana Becker is a professor of social work at Bryn Mawr College. She recieved her graduate education in Social Work at Bryn Mawr College and has done extensive research on the concept of stress. Her previous work examines the various relationships between mental health and social conditions in the United States. Due to her extensive exposure to the topic of stress, Becker should provide an authoritative voice as to how stress has become such a prominent aspect of American life that it has become salient in virtually all situations as well as ways to create alternatives to reduce the prevalence of stress among individuals.

The first two chapters of Dana Becker's book are what I will examine here. She begins the book by citing numerous effects the concept of stress may have on our mental and physical health, stating that our current society has been "elevating stress to the status of an actual disease" (Becker 3). She terms this concept the medicalization of stress whereby a social phenomenon is transformed into a disease. This is an important concept to consider when thinking about the widespread nature of stress in America, because the health care sector has transformed the idea of stress into a money-making industry which perpetuates a desire for stress alleviation which Foucault classifies as "technologies of the self," or strategies used to attain a particular state of happiness (Becker 5). Similarly, Becker notes that the solutions available to Americans to cope with stress are middle-class solution middle-class problems. She clarifies this when she states, "The achievement of a 'healthy lifestyle' requires more than individual 'healthy choices.' When the stressor is poverty, we need to reckon with inequalities that make the universal attainment of a healthy lifestyle so exclusive" (Becker 13). She further illuminates the effects of the American obsession with mental health when she claims that stress has the ability to "produce people who can act and think about themselves in certain ways" (Becker 5). She validates this with a discussion of Type A personalities and the physical ramification this obsessive personality type has on individuals, such as heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure. But Becker claims that this Type A personality is harmful for the individuals, but even more harmful for society as a whole. "Type A was the first of may attempts to quantify the social and psychological nature of our society in terms of the individual" (Becker 44). This exemplifies the vicious cycle that Americans remain trapped in as stress is produced by social and societal factors, yet is only treatable on the individual level.

Dana Becker's book will be explicitly helpful in my research as it provides a mode of analyses that contrasts sharply with many of my other sources. Because many other scholars on the topic of stress offer solutions which Becker explicitly refutes throughout her research, her book will be helpful in understanding why the solutions that have been proposed thus far are not working.