Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Default! A Movie Review by The Liberal Mob

In any sense, Default is a success of the documentary form.  With its focus on the stories of various individuals burdened by student loan debt, Default brings the worries of all college students to life and presents a powerful argument for reform of the private student loan system.  Despite the quite depressing nature of many of the subjects’ stories, the film also gives hope for reform and change.

Over the course of the film, Default makes several key points.  Firstly, it notes that the burden of paying for higher education has been shifted, quite violently, onto students; rather than being able to rely mostly on grants and scholarships, the vast majority of students have to rely on loans.  Secondly, many schools and institutions provide little to no information on what options are available regarding loans, and what the best route for students is.  Additionally, basic consumer protections do not exist for student loans, and thus private lenders can charge absurd rates.  Thus, private loans can be an economic death trap for students.
Default is able to make these points by relying primarily on those who have been harmed by the current system.  Many of those interviewed had upwards of six-figure amounts to repay, and the majority owe far more than they originally borrowed because of arbitrarily high interest rates, compounding interest, and so on.  Default succeeds most when it focuses on these stories – the information from activists and experts in the field is welcome, but the emotional impact of seeing those who feel that their lives are almost over because of their debt cannot be understated.
Those who plan on borrowing to finance their education need to be very careful, and Default makes the case for that very well.  We here at The Liberal Mob recommend it wholeheartedly to any student past, present, or future, or anyone with an interest in ensuring the ability of young people to get a good education without bankrupting themselves.  Default is what a good documentary should be – direct and to the point, and able to make its case with both logic and emotion.

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