Student Debt

Conversation Guide

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College students leave school with more debt today than any previous generation. With the increasing costs of both public and private colleges and universities, loans have become increasingly common as a way to finance education. According to the federal reserve, student debt has increased by 102% percent between 2010 and 2020. Given these difficulties and the availability of more and more online education, especially post-pandemic, people have begun questioning the value of a traditional college education. Recent attempts to provide free tuition for qualified students have left many questioning the resulting costs to taxpayers. So what is the right balance? What might be done?

Background Information:

While you don’t need to be an expert on this topic, sometimes people want background information. Our partner, AllSides, has prepared a variety of articles reflecting multiple sides of this topic.

Let's Get Started!

Living Room Conversations offers a simple, sociable and structured way to practice communicating across differences while building understanding and relationships. Typically, 4-6 people meet in person or by video call for about 90 minutes to listen to and be heard by others on one of our nearly 100 topics. Rather than debating or convincing others, we take turns talking to share, learn, and be curious. No preparation is required, though background links with balanced views are available on some topic pages online. Anyone can host using these italicized instructions. Hosts also participate. 

Introductions:
Why We're Here (~10 min)

Each participant has 1 minute to introduce themselves.

Share your name, where you live, what drew you here, and if this is your first conversation.

Conversation Agreements:
How We'll Engage (~5 min)

These will set the tone of our conversation; participants may volunteer to take turns reading them aloud. (Click here for the full conversation agreements.)

  • Be curious and listen to understand.
  • Show respect and suspend judgment. 
  • Note any common ground as well as any differences. 
  • Be authentic and welcome that from others. 
  • Be purposeful and to the point. 
  • Own and guide the conversation. 

Question Rounds:
What We’ll Talk About

Optional: a participant can keep track of time and gently let people know when their time has elapsed.

Round 1:
Getting to Know Each Other (~10 min)

Each participant can take 1-2 minutes to answer one of these questions:

  • What are your hopes and concerns for your community and/or the country?
  • What would your best friend say about who you are and what inspires you?
  • What sense of purpose / mission / duty guides you in your life?

Round 2:

Student Debt (~40 min)

One participant can volunteer to read the paragraph at the top of the web page.

Take ~2 minutes each to answer a question below without interruption or crosstalk.

  • Does student debt affect you or someone you know, and if so, how? What went into the decision to take on student debt? How do you (or the person you know) feel about the decision now?
  • What has been your experience with Higher Education? How does that impact your ideas around whether it’s important to have a significant number of young people attend college? Is student debt a factor in those ideas?
  • How have you seen the opportunities for those in the job market with a degree shift in the last 10 to 50 years?
  • Where or how do you see college debt affecting our economy and communities?
  • What are your hopes surrounding student debt moving forward? What roles could individuals, government, universities or students have in realizing those hopes?

Round 3:
Reflecting on the Conversation (~15 min)

Take 2 minutes to answer one of the following questions:

  • In one sentence, share what was most meaningful or valuable to you in the experience of this Living Room Conversation?
  • What new understanding or common ground did you find within this topic?
  • Has this conversation changed your perception of anyone in this group, including yourself?
  • Name one important thing that was accomplished here.
  • Is there a next step you would like to take based upon the conversation you just had?

Closing (~5 min)

  • Give us feedback! Find our feedback form here.
  • Donate! Make more of these possible; give here.
  • Join or host more conversations! With a) this group by exchanging your emails; b) others in person and/or by video call online. Get more involved or learn how to host here.

Thank You!