One day in 2013, I sat down in a Starbucks in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington with Hugh Moren, then a junior at the nearby George Washington University. I asked him how much money he was borrowing to go to college.
“Eighty-two thousand dollars,” he said. “By the time I graduate, a hundred ten.”
The number shocked me, but not as much as the way it didn’t shock him.
Hugh Moren was born in Warwick, R.I., and like generations of smart young people raised in the country’s decaying industrial towns, he spent his adolescence plotting to leave. He wanted to study international relations and get a degree from a university with a good reputation. But his family didn’t have any money, and tuition, fees and room and board at George Washington ran almost $60,000 a year. So he borrowed as much as the federal government would lend him and went to private lenders like Sallie Mae to borrow more.
“I was given an institution and told, ‘Make this place better, and by the way, be embarrassed that you’re not Georgetown,’” says Stephen Joel Trachtenberg, former president of the George Washington University.
RICHARD A. BLOOM
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