English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

Damming Student Debt: One Liberal-Arts College’s Approach


The Chronicle of Higher Education

July 29, 2016

Sheila C. Bair is familiar with the hardships that debt can bring. For five years, including during the subprime-mortgage crisis, she served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. A year ago she became president of Washington College, a 234-year-old private nonprofit institution in Maryland, and she has turned more of her attention to student-loan debt. How can students, especially those from poorer families, get a good liberal-arts education and not pay too high a price for it? She shares her strategies here.


RUTH HAMMOND: Hello, I'm Ruth Hammond. Our guest here today is Sheila Bair, the president of Washington College in Maryland, and she's a former chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And we welcome you here today. Well, when you were chair of the FDIC, you really had to worry about the subprime-mortgage crisis. Now that you've made the transition to higher education, I imagine you're worried about the amount of student-loan debt and what should be done about that. Could you tell us some of your main concerns about that?

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah. So in aggregate, it's a big problem. I think it's different depending on institutions and students, but in aggregate it's a big problem. It's something I think everybody in higher education needs to be worried about. I do see parallels between the student-debt crisis we're having now and the mortgage-debt crisis I had to deal with when I was at the FDIC.