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Student Debt

Conversation Guide

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. Average loan debt has increased by 25 percent between 2008 and 2014. Given these difficulties and the availability of more and more online education, 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!

This Living Room Conversation flows through three rounds of questions and a closing. Some rounds ask you to answer each question. Others feature multiple questions that serve as conversation starters — you need only respond to the one or two you find most interesting.

Before You Begin...

Please go over the Conversation Agreements with your participants.

Introductions: Getting Started/
Why Are We Here?

What interested you or drew you to this conversation?

Round 1: Core Values

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

Round 2:

What are your thoughts on Student Debt?

Remember that the goal for this Living Room Conversation is for all of us to listen and learn about where we have different opinions and where we have shared interests, intentions and goals. Answer ​one or more of the following questions:
  • Does student debt affect your life, and if so, how?
  • What is an acceptable and reasonable amount of debt for college education?
  • Is it important to have a significant number of young people attend college, including young people that are going to require loans to afford college?
  • How have the opportunities in the job market for someone with a degree changed in the last 10 to 50 years?
  • How do you think college debt is affecting our economy and community?
  • Where is this issue on your top 10 list? Why?

Round 3: Reflection & Next Steps

Answer ​one or more​ 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?

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Thank You!

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