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By: Sarah Kendzior
May 29, 2013

I have a friend who was the first in his family to go to college. He grew up poor in the rural Midwest and earned his BA from a top school in the region. But when the recession hit in the early 2000s, he could not find a job. He decided he needed more training and applied to graduate school. When Harvard accepted him, he was thrilled. Within one generation, his family’s highest level of education went from a high school diploma to an Ivy League degree.

A Harvard education was supposed to provide opportunity. But with the degree came debt. Now in his early 30s with children of his own, my friend’s social mobility has stalled. He wants his sons to have the same quality of education he did, and the professional advantages that came with it. But he does not see how this is possible. When his sons are old enough for college, he will still be paying back his own student loans. With wages stagnant and tuition fees well outpacing inflation, there is little chance he will be able to afford their education. His children will be back where he started. Mobility was a mirage.

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