PeletonU & AC4D: Digging Deep into Education and the Workforce.

Another mystery to be solved

As the second quarter of the 2018-2019 Austin Center for Design kicks off, I am excited to share that the 2019 AC4D class will be working closely with PeletonU, a unique group of people who provide comprehensive support to help get post-traditional students through college.

In a team of three, Gerald Codina, Aaron Steinman, and I will be exploring one facet of a growing problem.

A Growing Problem

Growing up, we were often told that the path to a happy secure future is to go to school, work hard and the seeds you have sewn in your efforts will fruit. Sadly, this is not the system that about 44 million people experience. Collectively, student debt in the U.S. is over $1.48 trillion in student loan debt. Year over year, we witness this number grows exponentially. Clearly, something is amiss. Were we lied to as children? Or did we not work nearly as hard as we thought? The answer is a bit of both, or neither depending on how you slice the pie.

The system that has been set is a dated and broken one given today’s standards. Over the last 15-years, the average college tuition has steadily increased. Where tuition in this statistic represents the cost of only 1-year of education + room and fees. Keep in mind that while an bachelor’s degree is expected to graduate in 4 years (tuition X 4), but in reality, the typical student will take 6-years to complete college (tuition X 6). Depending on where you went to school, if you were in- or out- of state, how long you attended, it’s not impossible to imagine a debt number in the 6 figures. Even with the staggering collective numbers, the law treats education debt differently than all other debt. Under the provisions of Chapter 13, student debt is effectively like a terminal illness, you can try to treat it with blunt tools, or lose everything to discharge yourself of it, more on the topic here.

Elephant in the Room

We all have debt, but we don’t often talk about how we get there. This is not an accident. Debt has a negative effect on one’s psychology, putting up in a ‘scarcity mindset’ that has real implications on our decision-making process.

At junctures of complex problems like this, it is important to recognize that this is a man-made problem. In the spirit of optimism and practicality, we MUST talk about the issues honestly, to understand them deeply, before we can begin to pick apart the messy pieces.

Our Intent

My team and I will be working closely with PeletonU, Advisors, students and several designers to understand the decision-making process that financially independent students face while considering their current state and employment. We aim to understand, map and help navigate this complex environment and consider all the possibilities for a brighter future for all those involved.