In the still of the night last week, the Twitter account for the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) made a huge gaffe that resulted in a resounding “thud” each time it was retweeted onto a new timeline:
The offense here seems obvious. Apparently, it is only obvious to every person who isn’t the social media manager of the FAFSA account. There are a lot of things to address here, one of them being the flippant way we’ve come to use the word “poor,” which desensitizes us to real issues of poverty.
The other glaring offense is the insensitivity to rising cost of higher education, and the mounting and sometimes oppressive student loan debt that recent graduates incur in order to obtain their degree. It’s also a broad-sweeping offense, given the amount of people who actually borrow money.
American Student Assistance, a non-profit organization that helps students and families manage higher education debt, notes that about 60 percent of the 20 million students who attend college each year, borrow money.
In this sluggish economy, higher ed can have a slow ROI for recent grads (you’ve heard about them, the Millennials, who are still living at home trying to find work), and has consistently raised questions about access to higher education. But even among those who are able to borrow, the financial impact (read: “burden”) of student loan debt (which gets coupled with other forms of debt — home, auto, credit card) can go on for years.
“As of the first Quarter of 2012, the under-30 age group has the most borrowers at 14 million,” reports American Student Assistance. But with10.6 million borrowers in their 30s, 5.7 million borrowers in the 40s and 6.8 million borrowers in the 50s and 60s, the lack of affordability of a college education is a universal hurt.
One that the Department of Ed. makes late night jokes about.
Of course, the good folks at FAFSA did what anyone who goes a Tweet too far does; they deleted the tweet and issued an apology.
“We apologize for the insensitivity of our previous tweet,” the apology read. “Our goal is to make college a reality for all. We’re very sorry.”
The lesson: That with all the money their presumably degreed social media team likely borrowed in pursuit of their respective higher education and professional goals, money can’t buy class (or common sense).
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