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Graduates’ Attitudes, Debts Hit : Students Burdened by Loans Ignore Civic Duties, Report Says

Associated Press

Colleges are graduating students with too many debts and too little sense of civic responsibility and entrepreneurial drive, a Carnegie Foundation report said today.

The study, by Frank Newman, president of the Education Commission of the States, urges research universities to overcome their antipathy toward technology and apply “the fruits of research . . . to practical problems in industry, the environment and society.”

To produce a new generation of civic and business leaders equipped to handle economic challenges from abroad, colleges must stop “stifling the inherent creativity of the student” and start encouraging risk-taking, the study said.

The report, “Higher Education and the American Resurgence,” decried the trend to saddle students with loans as the main form of federal student aid.

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Loans ‘Out of Bounds’

The spiraling Guaranteed Student Loan program is “way out of bounds,” Newman told a news conference. “Student aid programs should be expanded, not contracted,” he said, with greater emphasis on Pell Grants and Work-Study, a program that subsidizes campus jobs.

He said more of the $8 billion in federal student aid should be profferred in exchange for public service, either during the undergraduate years or afterward as teachers or other community workers.

Newman, a former president of the University of Rhode Island, wrote: “Excessive loans inadvertently undercut traditional values. Working one’s way through college is a cherished American concept that conflicts head on with ‘Go now, pay later.’

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“A student who leaves college with a large debt burden may well feel he has already assumed all of the risk that he possibly should.”

Agenda for ‘Vigorous’ Debate

Ernest L. Boyer, president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, said Newman’s white paper “sets the agenda for a vigorous new debate about the federal government’s relationship to the nation’s higher-learning institutions.”

Newman said the U.S. system of higher education--enrolling more than 12 million students, including half of all who graduate from high school--is still “the best in the world.”

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But “despite its high quality, American higher education must be even more effective if it is to meet the needs of this country in the decade ahead,” he said.

The report decried students’ materialism, saying, “By every measure we have been able to find, today’s graduates are less interested in and less prepared to exercise their civic responsibilities.”


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