Journalists, academics, and ordinary Americans wrongly bemoan the student debt and college financing crises as two separate unhappy endings to a mythical story of unprecedented postwar federal and state support for higher education. Rarely have they considered that either catastrophe has anything to do with the labor question. Yet the thousands of Americans in debt and the many colleges facing bankruptcy (even before the pandemic) are intertwined disasters, which reveal that Americans never had genuine economic security or basic social welfare, a basic truth that has historically hurt and still overwhelmingly harms residents of color, particularly women, who disproportionately hold the most debt. Colleges and universities have always had to rely on tuition and business support because they never received adequate sustained funding from lawmakers, who had far more interest in offering young people and their families ways to creatively finance tuition in order to get the credentials needed to just compete for well‐paying work. Business needs and demands did a lot to shape postsecondary schools before the emergency of the neoliberal university, supposedly a late twentieth‐century phenomenon. As such, seemingly radical solutions, like forgiving debts and unionizing adjuncts, are not enough to transform universities into the progressive strongholds that they never really were. Lawmakers, taxpayers, and faculty would have to embrace a complete overhaul of how higher education is funded as well as how students are assisted in studying.

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