Friday, May 6, 2022

Student Loan Forgiveness: An Economic Overview

We have started to hear the calls for student loan forgiveness more loudly over the past few years- and more recently with some congressional members urging the President to move towards loan forgiveness. With so much at stake, now is the time to seriously consider the specifics of the proposals and evaluate what it means for the state of the economy. The consequences of ignoring this issue has dire effects for the long-term economic prospect of the U.S. with a possible global impact.

When the Department of Education (ED) was formed in 1867, the goal was simply to make schools more effective and accessible for students. But with the passage of the GI Bill and the National Defense Education Act (NDEA,) the role of the ED expanded and the first federal student loans began to be disbursed. It was not until 1972 that Congress passed the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant, also known as Pell Grant. It was in the early 1990s that the federal government implemented the Federal Direct Loan Program, which allows students to borrow student loans directly from the government rather than going through private institutions. Today, all federal loans are required by law to be direct loans, but private lenders are also able to provide student loans. As of the writing of this article, the outstanding federal student loan debt is $1.76 trillion.

It is worth looking back and asking ourselves why the federal loan and grant programs were established in the first place. The first student loan was provided in 1958 under the NDEA act. This was done as part of the federal government’s effort to create a better-educated labor force to compete against the Soviet Union. The move came after the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite. These first student loans were provided only to a select group of students studying targeted subjects such as science and engineering. However, the implementation of the loan program became more than just a geo-political endeavor. Because of the popularity of these programs, over time, the federal government expanded the loan programs to all fields of study. Part of the reason for this expansion was the recognition that college education provides a significant amount of positive externality to society. Better-educated people provide better economic value to the society; they are more entrepreneurial, pay more taxes, and engage in less criminal activities- all of which provide economic benefits to the community. Therefore, in order to increase the demand for higher education, the federal government implemented federal grant and loan programs with one simple notion- that having more college-educated students equates to more economic activity and better society.

After adjusting for inflation, the student loan debt has increased nine-fold over the last two decades, from $187 billion in 1995 to $1.7 trillion in 2021. So, how did we get to this point and who is to blame for it? If you talk to a baby-boomer, they might argue that they worked hard during the summer months to be able to pay their tuition for the year and therefore graduated college without a single penny of debt. The problem with this argument is that the cost of colleges has increased significantly over the past few decades. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average total in-state cost of attending a degree-granting public college has increased over 10 times, from $1,856 in 1980 to over $19,747 in 2020, adjusting for inflation. Several factors, including state funding cuts and increasing demand, are responsible for the dramatic increase in college costs over time.

The huge amount of student loan debt has a significant impact on the economy. In fact, according to a recent survey conducted by, 21% of borrowers have delayed getting married, 26% have pushed back having kids, and 36% have put off buying a home. That translates into a reduced young labor force, a larger aging population, and less economic activity. If this rate of student loan debt continues along the same trend, we are looking at a whole generation of population with less productivity and less wealth who are not able to contribute at their full potential to the country’s economic activity. Most economists fear that this means that we are looking at very bleak economic growth in coming decades. In fact, some data already point to this. According to NPR, the millennials’ net worth is about 11% less than that of the previous generation. The income and wealth disparity between these generations is getting wider. According to data from the Federal Reserve, when baby boomers were under 40, they held 13% of household wealth, compared to just 5.9% for millennials under 40 in 2020, and that gap is expected to increase.

Looking at all these economic implications of student loan debts, it is clear that this huge amount of debt is a problem. So, what can we do about it? One proposal, mostly from Congressional Democrats, is that we should forgive most or all of this debt. However, there are a lot of logistical challenges to this proposal along with some significant economic implications if it is not done right. If all the student loan debt is erased, what happens to the loans held by new borrowers and how do you change the student loan structure for future borrowers? Do the students who have paid their debt get a refund? There has not been a definitive answer to these questions from the ED or the Congressional members. Despite all these logistical challenges, I would argue that we should move towards targeted and incremental debt forgiveness for student borrowers. The future of this generation and the future American exceptionalism depend on it.

According to the Committee for Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB), a blanket $10,000 forgiveness for all borrowers would eliminate debt for 15 million borrowers and boost the GDP by $31 billion over three years. Since these loans are direct loans, it would not add to the federal debt stock. In addition, the current Income Based Repayment (IBR) plan allows for some debt forgiveness for some borrowers after a certain number of payments over several years. Therefore, there are a few actions that the ED can take towards student loan forgiveness: 1) Reform the IBR plans so that the repayment amount and time is shortened. Under the current plan, a borrower who lives in household whose income is $100K has an IBR monthly payment of approximately $550, even if the borrower does not have any personal income. 2) Reform the future loan structure so that new borrowers know the implications of having student debt. 3) Consider forgiving student loans of $10,000 every year, with borrowers having to make monthly payments based on the reformed IBR.

The question, then, is how will these adjustments affect the macroeconomic health of the country? Currently, the unemployment rate is just 3.6%, but the GDP growth rate for the first quarter of 2022 is -1.4%. Because of the newly released data on the growth rate, the general fear of recession (and possibly stagflation) has grown. Therefore, I’d argue that this is a good time to start some form of student loan forgiveness. However, since the fear of inflation is still strong, caution must be used to implement the forgiveness program. An influx of thousands of dollars in the economy as a result of loan forgiveness would create an inflationary pressure by boosting the aggregate demand in the economy. The amount of the inflationary pressure depends on how the student borrowers decide to spend (or save!) the money. The Federal Reserve might have to adjust the money supply to make sure that the inflation does not increase further. Since the core CPI does not include food and energy prices, I’d argue that there will be a very marginal impact in the core CPI as reported by the BLS. According to the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS,) 65% of the student borrowers who have defaulted on their loans had incomes below 200% of the federal poverty line for their family size. Therefore, we should expect most of the money from forgiven loans would go towards financing basic necessities, such as food and housing, which would not affect the core CPI.

Forgiving the student loan debt in an incremental way as I suggested would amount to be the largest transfer of wealth in American history. However, doing nothing about it could be catastrophic.

Dr. Robin Dhakal

Dr. Robin Dhakal Bio:

“Dr. Robin Dhakal is an Assistant Professor in the Forbes School of Business and Technology. He earned a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Economics from University of South Florida and a B.A. in Business/Economics and Mathematics/Computer Science from Warren Wilson College. His academic research focuses on development economics and political economy. He has been teaching Economics in colleges and universities for the past nine years. “


Brief History of Federal Student Loans | NCLC Digital Library. (2017). National Consumer Law Center.

Anderson, T. (2015, August 5). Debt-Locked: Student Loans Force Millennials to Delay Life Milestones. NBC News.

Bhutada, G. (2021, February 4). The Rising Cost of College in the U.S. Visual Capitalist.

Gitlen, J. (2022, January 19). The History of Student Loans in a Timeline. LendEDU.

Minsky, A. S. (2022, April 21). What The Student Loan Forgiveness Memo Means For Mass Student Debt Cancellation. Forbes.

*The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any other entity.

Monday, April 18, 2022

“Walk the Talk” UFP Project Studying How to Help Faculty Become More Equity-Centered Moves to Next Phase

On Friday, March 25th, over fifty UAGC faculty (Full-time and Associate) and staff participated in the unique virtual interactive experience, "Factuality the Game" that simulated structural inequality in America. Their participation supported an ongoing University Fellowship Project, “Walk the Talk,” that seeks to explore what the ignitor for movement from talk to action is. What is an effective way to help faculty and staff become more culturally responsive and equity-centered in both thought and action? Figure 1 is the word cloud of the Factuality participants.

Figure 1
Word cloud of the Factuality participants.

The next step in the study is that participants will read and discuss the book, From Equity Talk to Equity Walk by Tia Brown McNair, Estela Mara Bensimon, and Lindsey Malcolm-Piqueux. Over four sessions, participants will discuss chapters entitled: From Equity Talk to Equity Walk, Building an Equity-Minded Campus Culture, Using and Communicating Data as a Tool to Advance Equity, Aligning Strategic Priorities, and Building Institutional Capacity, and Building Capacity for Equity-Mindedness among First-Generation Equity Practitioners. Researchers will lead participants in discussions of these rich chapters in one-hour virtual sessions.

Another tool in this multi-pronged approach is the voluntary, self-guided 21-day Equity Challenge. An equity challenge allows participants to keep growing and learning through this change process. So, over 21 days, participants can further their learning through the following categories: read, listen, watch, notice, connect, engage, act, reflect and stay inspired. The researchers sent each participant an online tracking tool to track and reflect on their learning. At the end of the three-week challenge, participants will complete a survey.


The researchers are excited about the next phase of the project! Stay tuned!

Background on Researchers:

Dr. Teresa Handy
Dr. Teresa Handy is a Core Faculty member in the Master of Arts in Early Childhood Education Leadership College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Teresa has been a Turn the Tide Facilitator at UAGC, a Power of One Faculty member, and a Donna Beegle Certified Poverty Coach. She earned the Ed.D. specializing in Education Leadership and the Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of Memphis, where she earned the distinction of Outstanding Leadership and Policy Studies Doctoral Student. She earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Chicago. Teresa completed her undergraduate work in Sociology and Education at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She has worked in public, charter, and private schools as an administrator, early childhood and elementary educator, and learning specialist. She has also served as a diversity consultant, helping local and national organizations develop their inclusion initiatives. Her recent children's book, "There is an Elephant in my Ear," was written for children ages 3-5 to help begin courageous conversations about differences in the preschool classroom.

You may contact her at


Dr. Tamecca Fitzpatrick
Dr. Tamecca Fitzpatrick is the Program Chair for the Master of Art in Early Childhood Education Leadership in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She obtained her Ed.D specializing in Early Childhood Education from the University of North Texas. Her Master's degree in Education and bachelor's degree in Psychology were earned at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. Her work experience includes positions as an elementary classroom teacher, a Diversity Scholar Lecturer, Professor, and Author.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Economic Impact of the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

Dr. Robin Dhakal

The recent conflict in Eastern Europe between Russia and Ukraine has tested many international norms, institutions, and systems. The strengths and relevance of international alliances, such as the United Nations (UN) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), have been directly challenged by this conflict. Even though the West has been reluctant to make this conflict a direct conflict between Russia and NATO, many countries have applied crippling economic sanctions against Russian oligarchs, government officials, and the Russian economy at large. Most recently, the Biden-Harris administration announced that the U.S. will stop importing oil from Russia. With these unprecedented international economic pressures on Russia, an obvious question arises- what will be the impact on the U.S. and the global economy?

While any war is undesirable, from the global economic perspective, the timing of this conflict couldn’t be worse. We just went through the worst pandemic in recent history and our economy has been recovering from a pandemic-induced recession followed by a high level of unemployment. While the U.S. is not in a direct conflict with Russia, we should expect the Ukraine-Russia conflict to impact the U.S. economy and to influence its monetary and fiscal policies.

It is helpful to know a few key statistics prior to a discussion about the economic impact of this conflict. First, the Russian Federation has a gross domestic product (GDP) of about $4.32 trillion (PPP, 2021 estimates), which is just 1.3% of the global economy, according to the World Bank. However, Russia’s exports make up one quarter of its GDP. There is thus reason to believe that the targeted economic sanctions imposed by the West could have a significant impact on the Russian economy. In 2021, the U.S. imported $30.76 billion worth of goods from Russia, according to the UN Comtrade Database. Oil and oil refinery products amount to sixty percent of U.S. imports from Russia. Hence, the recent announcement that the U.S. is banning imports of Russian oil will surely impact the Russian economy. However, despite the sanctions from the West, Russia’s economy is not likely to collapse thanks to its largest trading partner- China. In 2020, Russia’s exports to China amounted to $50 billion, of which 15% were oil and gas (an amount that is expected to grow during and following the Ukraine conflict). It is also important to note that two of the largest trading partners for China are the U.S. and the European Union. Therefore, it seems unlikely that China would jeopardize its own economy in order to help Russia by exclusively aligning itself with Russia.

So, what does all of this mean for the U.S. economy?

Most of the impact that this conflict will have on the U.S. and global economy will be seen in subsequent supply chain disruptions. The sanctions and economic restrictions placed on Russia mean that we are creating a virtual wall around Russia. Companies are now unable to use Russian airspace or Russian ports to transport goods. This means that it costs companies more money to transport their goods over longer air and sea routes. This is especially true when it comes to the flow of goods between China and Europe. Most of the Russian ports are closed to cargo ships which means companies must find alternative shipping routes. Because of this, since the start of the conflict, other ports around the world, including the seaports in California, have seen increased traffic. In addition, because Chinese warehouses and ports are still not functioning at full capacity because of COVID and its new wave of infections, the supply chain has been further disrupted. Furthermore, the rising oil and fuel prices have made the transportation of goods even more expensive. All of this is bad news for the world, especially since the global economy grew 2.5 times larger over the past 30 years because of ocean transportation, according to a report by the World Bank.

Perhaps the sector hardest hit by the supply chain disruption is the auto industry. Many auto manufacturers have stopped production in Russia. For example, Nissan halted production at its factory in St. Petersburg, and Renault suspended its operation in Moscow. In addition, auto manufacturers rely on many auto parts from Russia and Ukraine. This means that the auto producers are having a harder time finding chips and other parts. For example, Audi halted production for weeks because of the shortage of parts after the start of the invasion. Ford’s plant in Germany reported a similar disruption because of the shortage of parts.

In addition, we are also expected to see an impact in the global food market. Russia and Ukraine combined produce over 30% of wheat and 15% of corn in the world. Because of the conflict and the subsequent sanctions and supply chain disruption, most of the stores of wheat and corn are not expected to hit the global market. Those two products are also essential ingredients in a variety of food products we consume, such as bread, pasta, cereals, sweeteners, etc.

All of this means that we should expect to see shortages and possibly even higher inflation in the U.S.

There are a few economic scenarios that are worth analyzing if the conflict does not end soon. First, the combination of higher energy prices and supply chain disruptions means that the economy experiences a negative supply shock, which may result in stagflation. Although there is no concrete evidence of stagflation occurring in the U.S. economy yet, it remains a possibility if this conflict continues. Because there are no easy solutions to stagflation, the Fed and Congress must navigate the usage of policies carefully, such that we do not enter a bigger recession while trying to tackle inflation.

A second scenario is even more plausible: the conflict increases inflation and affects some specific industries, but the U.S. GDP and unemployment are healthy. This is a relatively easier scenario for the Fed and Congress to tackle. With appropriate policy tools, the Fed can try to decrease the money supply to dampen the fast-economic growth in the hopes of slowing down inflation. In fact, on March 16th, the Fed approved the first interest rate hike in over three years. Even though this is a step in the right direction, the Fed has to navigate these tricky waters carefully, because the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia recently released a revised estimate of the GDP growth rate for the U.S. economy, taking it down from 2.1% to 1.8%.

In either of these scenarios, Congress can aid the Fed by passing appropriate fiscal policy bills that are not likely to increase inflation. Slowing down some discretionary spending like the general government, defense, and foreign aid expenditures would lower government expenditures which will ease inflationary pressure. In addition, reducing targeted tax credits in energy and housing sector and reducing subsidies on fossil fuel industry could help address inflation. However, these steps need to be taken with caution and in conjunction with the Federal Reserve System.

Dr. Robin Dhakal
Dr. Robin Dhakal Bio:

“Dr. Robin Dhakal is an Assistant Professor in the Forbes School of Business and Technology. He earned a M.A. and a Ph.D. in Economics from University of South Florida and a B.A. in Business/Economics and Mathematics/Computer Science from Warren Wilson College. His academic research focuses on development economics and political economy. He has been teaching Economics in colleges and universities for the past nine years. “


GDP, PPP (current international $) - Russian Federation | Data. (n.d.). Data.Worldbank.Org.

Reuters. (2022, March 1). Factbox: China-Russia trade has surged as countries grow closer.

Trading Economics. (n.d.). Russia Exports to China - 2022 Data 2023 Forecast 1996–2020 Historical.

United States Trade Representative. (n.d.). Russia.

*The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of any other entity.


Monday, March 14, 2022

UAGC Chronicle 4Q 2021 Edition

The UAGC Chronicle is a quarterly publication that is designed to inform and educate faculty while keeping the broader UAGC academic community updated on student successes, events, initiatives, and the people that shape our community of learners and scholars. The contributions we have received from across all departments demonstrate the high level of engagement and dedication to the UAGC Chronicle’s mission. As we strive to increase readership with each issue, we welcome your questions, ideas, and submissions. Learn more here.

The UAGC Chronicle Fourth Quarter 2021 Issue

Friday, March 11, 2022

The Role Scaffolding Plays in Student Success and Faculty Satisfaction

Designing courses that engage online learners to achieve the highest mastery of course learning outcomes is at the forefront of online course development at The University of Arizona Global Campus. During a recent course redesign, the developers sought to incorporate opportunities for the students to learn the information through various modalities, including lectures, interactives, and videos. Additionally, the developers built scaffolded assignments into the course so students could build upon the knowledge they were gaining each week and ultimately master the course learning outcomes. Along with scaffolding the assignments for student success, the developers considered the faculty's ability to provide more detailed and meaningful feedback in a time efficient manner that would contribute to student mastery of course learning outcomes. By designing scaffolded assignments, the faculty can focus on specific elements each week and cumulatively build their feedback throughout the course to support student learning and growth.

This research project was conducted in order to take a deep dive into how incorporating these strategies in course design impacts student success and faculty satisfaction. Through a mixed-methods research project, the researchers will investigate the efficacy of scaffolded course design and how it contributes to both student success and faculty satisfaction. Specifically, the research will consider the following:

1.       How does presenting information through different modalities in an online asynchronous classroom impact student retention?

2.       How does intentional scaffolding of content impact performance on course learning outcomes?

3.       How do course tools that provide guided practice, reteaching, and scaffolding impact faculty's satisfaction when teaching?

4.       How does intentional scaffolding of content impact faculty’s ability to support student success?

5.       How do students perceive their own learning was impacted from the intentional scaffolding of the course content?

6.       How do students perceive the presentation of content in this course in relation to presentation of content in their other courses?

This research will inform decisions about curriculum development to support student success and retention across the university and throughout online higher education.

Jennifer Zaur (Principal Investigator)

Jennifer Zaur is an assistant professor in the Department of Education and Liberal Arts at the University of Arizona Global Campus. She has a BA in Elementary Education and a Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an emphasis in Language and Literacy, both from Arizona State University. She has been an elementary school teacher, a reading interventionist, a teacher mentor, and an instructor of professional development workshops. For the last nine years, she has worked in higher education, focusing on student retention, curriculum development, and best practices in online learning.

Professor Jennifer Zaur

Dr. Amy Johnson (Co-Investigator)

Amy Johnson is a Core Faculty member for the Associate of Arts in Early Childhood Education degree program in the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Arizona Global Campus (UAGC). She earned a Doctorate of Early Childhood Development and Education from Texas Woman’s University, a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University, and a Bachelor of Arts in English and Creative Writing from San Diego State University. Dr. Johnson began her career teaching elementary grades before transitioning into higher education in 2010. She has a heart for marginalized populations and has spent time in Cambodia and Mexico working with individuals who have been orphaned, trafficked, and traumatized.

Dr. Amy Johnson 

Dr. Allison Rief (Co-Investigator)

Dr. Allison Rief is an Associate Professor and Associate Director in the Academic Engagement Center at the University of Arizona Global Campus. Dr. Rief’s research interests include virtual professional learning communities, collaborative and reciprocal relationships with online associate faculty, course design with intentional scaffolding within online learning, and the effects of how flexibility and care impact student learning. Within higher education, she has had experience launching new programs and revising existing programs, developing courses, providing professional development, and working with collaborative teams across the university. Currently, Dr. Rief is a member of the Change Advisory Group, Student Conduct and Community Standards Committee, Forbes Center for Women’s Leadership, Turn the Tide, and oversees the partnership with No Excuses University schools. Beyond the programs she leads, she also serves on Doctoral committees and teaches the Doctoral In-Residence.

Dr. Allison Rief 

Monday, March 7, 2022

Live Learning Through  Asynchronous First-year Experience: Learning from Students

Jennifer Robinson, Ph.D.
The purpose of this research was to understand better and disseminate students' reactions to Live Learning (or synchronous learning) as part of an asynchronous first-year experience course. Live Learning (LL) is optional, except for Information Literacy. However, LL is now gaining traction as a viable alternative to solely asynchronous teaching and learning. Understanding how students react to these sessions is crucial as part of the First-Year Experience High Impact Practices (Kuh, 2008). Without understanding this information, we run the risk of not adapting our sessions to meet the needs of our students and not supporting their persistence to graduation. 

 Information Literacy has traditionally been a completely asynchronous course as part of the general education sequence at UAGC. However, during the 2021 redesign, embedded orientation and LL were added as requirements for students. Embedded orientation is mentioned in conjunction with LL because LL teaches students how to use the online library to complete assignments and how-to-use-the-library modules were traditionally housed in an orientation course. When the decision was made to embed orientation into general education courses to demonstrate the connections between university resources and course progression, LL and the library became a common objective. 

Synchronous learning is a viable option alongside otherwise completely asynchronous learning. Such sessions allow faculty to make public what is often private teaching, especially in asynchronous courses (Yamagata-Lynch, 2014). These participatory learning spaces enable students to feel a sense of connection with the university while demonstrating the value of their presence (Han, 2013) and decreasing transactional distance (Moore, 2013). Students who engage in synchronous learning as part of an asynchronous course engage in scaffolded teaching and learning and begin to think of themselves as participatory learners. Synchronous learning sessions must be well-executed and intentionally designed to promote community, interaction, and dialogue (Conrad & Donaldson, 2011). 

This qualitative case study will share the themes and patterns that emerged from students' voices through the triangulation of three data points:

1. Zoom chat during LL
2. Post LL student surveys
3. A question required on the final project in the course
Conclusions will also offer suggestions for what research still needs to be undertaken. Since the revision team followed the recommendations of creating a well-executed and intentionally designed Live Learning session, we want to ensure that students feel they have benefitted from this required part of the course. This study supports the High Impact Practice of First-Year Experience and supports the Power of One retention and persistence initiative. Through uncovering themes in the data, it will be possible to revise GEN103 and the LL sessions to meet the needs of students and promote retention and persistence toward graduation.

PI for this study is Jen Robinson (Lead Faculty). Co-PIs are Stacy Manning (Core Faculty), Tanya Mooney (Core Faculty), Diane Hilbrink (Associate Faculty), Benjamin Sorensen (Associate Faculty), and Cathlene Dollar (Associate Faculty).

Conrad, R.M. & Donaldson, J.A. (2011). Engaging the online learner: Activities and resources
for creative instruction (2nd ed). Jossey-Bass

Kuh, G. (2008). High-impact educational practices: What they are, who has access to them,and why they matter. Association of American Colleges and Universities.  

Han, H. (2013). Do nonvermal emotional cues matter? Effectof of video casting in synchronousvirtual classrooms. American Journal of Distance Education, 27(4), 17-28.

Moore, R. (2003). Reexamining the field experiences of preservice teachers. Journal of TeacherEducation, 54(1), 31-42.

Yamagata-Lynch, L. C. (2014). Blending Online Asynchronous and Synchronous Learning. TheInternational Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 15(2), 189-212. doi: 10.19173/irrodl.v15i2.1778