Phoenix, AZ: Last month, the University of Phoenix unveiled a new department for registration. The department is called “Student Debt Studies” and boasts a catalog of ten courses covering the subject of owing money for getting educated and preparing students for a future of misery and ramen noodles. The department will combine a number of disciplines. For example, a three-credit course called “Student Debt Communications” allows students to explore the intricacies of writing a billing statement that, even though written in perfect English, is completely incomprehensible.
“It’s really a booming field,” explains Dr. Gene McGill, chair of the department, “More than a third of Americans have some kind of student debt and only twenty percent have mental health problems. Yet you see tons of psychology departments, am I right?”
The department includes faculty from a wide range of fields, including economics, communications, psychology and a number of art professors. Those holding art degrees are widely known to be experts in the area of student debt.
“Well, I mean, it beats working at Starbucks,” claims professor Nancy McPheeny. Her course, “Debt Arts”, challenges students to express the fear of their crushing financial burdens through illustration. She encourages students to purchase expensive graphics programs that they’ll never use in the real world in order to really get in touch with their inner debtor.
The department has gotten some early recognition for one of its students who, as her final project for the course “the Music of Student Debt”, gave a performance that consisted of a few seconds of clarinet followed by several hours of quiet weeping.
“It really is groundbreaking stuff,” says economist Dr. Milton McKensey, “I spent my last class showing, minute-by-minute, how much my lecture was costing them.”
Dr. McGill has big plans. He is developing a PhD program housed within the department. Dr. McGill explained that the inspiration for the PhD program actually came from a student. As Dr. McGill describes it, a student came into his office with an equation he wrote on the back of a past due notice. The equation mapped out how the student’s quality of life decreased at a precise proportion to the increase in loan interest rate.
“That’s a dissertation, right there!” exclaimed Dr. McGill, “And what better way to get in touch with decreased quality of life than by going into a PhD program?”
As far as career options, Dr. McGill was optimistic. Studying student debt, he explained, gives students the kind of background in human misery that is essential to surviving in a world of limited job options. He claims that any field would be excited to have someone prepared for disappointment.
“As they say about loan interest rates,” Dr. McGill smiled, “The sky’s the limit!”