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How much skin do you have in the academic game?

Dr Christopher Hartney looks at a vitally important article in Harper's Magazine December 2020 by Avi Asher-Scapiro called "Skin in the Game: Wall Street's answer to the student-debt crisis".


This article highlights two of the ways in which higher education is going seriously wrong in North America. The author charts the experience of young U.S. electronics wizard Dusan Simien who wanted qualifications in the tech industry. He signed up for a technology training program at a private college in San Francisco called the Holberton School. The first shock was that Holberton teaches by a project-based peer-taught process - that is, no experienced instructors were generally available to guide the learning process. This left inexperienced students like Dusan chasing more advanced students for knowledge and guidance. And these older students had no interest in mentoring - they just wanted to finish their degree. The second shock (to me anyway) was that to pay for this peer-led education, Dusan signed up for an ISA - an income-share agreement. Rather than pay back a set amount through a student loan, Dusan signed away a percentage of his future income. Asher-Scapiro shows how bundles of ISAs are now being traded like shares on the stock market - with investors able to bet on the income success of student's careers. To make these bets more certain investors aren't so interested in funding ISAs from the humanities - but business, tech, and med students are more likely to have their futures traded. Why does the idea of trading in human futures like this seem very wrong? Is this kind of tertiary education funding ushering in a new age of indentured slavery?


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