This week Saint Louis University had the privilege of hosting its 14th annual Sam and Marilyn Fox Atlas Week Program. The purpose of the Atlas Program is to increase awareness of current global issues and to inspire students to take action. In response to this year’s Atlas Week theme, “Education: Igniting the Flames of Change”, the SLU Economics Club decided to hold its very first Atlas event.
With it being their first time hosting an Atlas event, the club expended a lot of time and effort on the planning process. In deciding what to address with their event, the organization wanted to be sure that they discussed issues that are directly relevant to modern-day college students. As student debt is one of the hot topics among college communities today, they thought students would find it to be a rewarding and appropriate lecture.
Thao Nguyen Dang, the Economic Club’s public relations officer, said, “Because we envisioned our event to be about education in regards to economics, we wanted someone who could tie the two together.”
After contacting the Federal Reserve, Bryan Noeth was chosen as the guest speaker. Noeth, a Mizzou graduate, is a policy analyst for the Center for Household Financial Stability. With his extensive knowledge, Noeth had many insightful comments on rising student debt.
Noeth started his presentation by giving students an overview of just how much student debt has risen.
“In 2006 the student debt was around $400 billion,” said Noeth. “As of the end of 2013, it now has little over a trillion dollars.”
Following mortgages, student debt has become the second biggest liability. Noeth commented that 71 percent of college students graduate with debt.
“Unlike other student debt presentations, which emphasize how to manage individual student loans, Noeth focused on the macroeconomic problems of the increasing student debt,” said Dang.
Noeth argued that student debt is a macroeconomics issue because it affects not only students but also the government’s budget and government policies. Noeth encouraged people to think of news ways to reconstruct how students receive and pay back school loans.
The purpose of the presentation was not to scare students away from loans, but to think of ways to reconstruct them. Noeth argued education is important and can significantly improve one’s way of life. He commented on education and higher wages being directly related to each other and the need for this to be emphasized.
Noeth remarked that sometimes loans are the only way for people to receive the education they need and because of the struggling economy paying back student debt is the problem. The presentation ended with a question and answer session during which Noeth provided students a chance to ask any last minute questions.
The Economics Club said the event was a success and that they would be delighted to host another Atlas event for next year. One thing they said that they would consider doing differently is emphasizing that students did not need to be an economics major to enjoy their event, but rather just have an interest in global issues.