More awareness, education needed
One reason APAGS staff and members decided to conduct this
new survey, according to Ameen, was to raise awareness about
these issues among psychologists who have been out of school
for a while and don’t realize the staggering costs that current
students take on.
“We don’t discuss this enough as a training community,”
Ameen says. “Faculty may not have had to pay debt for a while,
and students tend to keep their finances private.”
He and others also want to address what they see as a “blame-
the-victim” mentality among some in the field, which frames
student debt as an individual rather than a systemic problem.
For example, they wanted to look into the question of
whether students use loan money to fund lavish lifestyles, a
perception Ameen says he’s encountered often. So they asked
respondents about cars, vacations and other aspects of their
spending. They found that most students were living modestly
and using their loan money to pay tuition and basic living
expenses — the median amount spent on leisure travel, for
example, was $400 per year, and the average student’s car was
10 years old.
“I have actually been surprised at times about how
judgmental people are about student debt,” Durvasala says.
“They say things like, [students] just need to work harder,
get more jobs. … But our problem right now is that too
many people have to come up with individual solutions and
work themselves to the bone, rather than coming up with
macro solutions as a field.” Now Durvasula and the CSES,
along with APAGS members and APA’s Committee on Early
Career Psychologists, are hoping to start that discussion.
They’ve established a working group on the issue that will
present a symposium on student debt at APA’s 2016 Annual
Convention in Denver, Aug. 4–7.
They are also working on drafting a resolution on the topic.
It would be the first piece of APA legislation to address the issue
of student debt, according to Kipp Pietrantonio, PhD, vice chair
of the CSES and a psychologist at the Ohio State University
student counseling center.
Would you choose psychology again,
given your educational debt?
Current students Early career psychologists
n Yes n No n I’m not sure n Not applicable/no debt
Doran, J. M., Kraha, A., Marks, L. R., Ameen, E. J., & El-Ghoroury, N. H. (2016).
Graduate debt in psychology: A quantitative analysis. Training and Education in
Professional Psychology, 10( 1), 3-13. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tep0000112