Story by Tracy Kile Schwartz
Social work students, alumni, faculty and community practitioners gathered on Oct. 19 for the inaugural Brad Sheafor Lecture in social work.
Created in honor of Colorado State University Professor Emeritus Brad Sheafor, the lecture was presented by University of Kansas Associate Professor William Elliott III, who explored the connection between financial assets and educational success, including economic and racial disparities in educational achievement and socioeconomic indicators. His talk covered the initial philosophy behind student loans, and the short- and long-term implications of various approaches to funding higher education.
Elliott explored the disparity between our societal value of education and the actual costs. He noted that education is touted as the “great equalizer” in our society, where effort and education are, in theory, rewarded regardless of race or socioeconomic background. In reality, however, students who take on student loan debt are not, on average, better off than their peers who do not take on debt to pursue higher education. At the crux of the issue is the question: “How much debt is too much debt?” The current student loan structure in the U.S. was originally envisioned with much smaller loan amounts in mind. Current debt loads, repayment timelines and strategies can create economic burdens that outweigh the economic benefits of the education they supported.
Start saving early
Another strategy for financing education is to help children begin building assets at a young age, with college in mind. Child savings accounts are one tool some states and communities have adopted, some with matching options to help leverage family investments.
“Nationally we know students and families are shouldering larger and larger amounts of the costs of a college education,” said Audrey Shillington, director of the School of Social Work. “Dr. Elliott’s presentation sheds light on how those from low-income backgrounds are impacted significantly over a lifetime by student debt.”
A lively question-and-answer session followed the lecture, with discussion ranging from policy considerations to international research and outcomes.
“This is your day,” Elliott said to Sheafor, acknowledging his renown in the field of social work.
“Dr. Elliott’s presentation is a fitting tribute to Brad Sheafor’s 38 years of dedicated service to Colorado State University’s School of Social Work,” said Shillington.
The Brad Sheafor Lecture Series honors his leadership and contributions to social work both locally and nationally.
The College of Health and Human Sciences selected Sheafor to participate in the Legacies Project, which celebrates former faculty and staff through videos, photos, and documents that outline their personal and professional histories and impact on the college. Learn more about Sheafor and the Legacies Project here.
The event, originally scheduled for March 23, was canceled and rescheduled due to a spring snowstorm.
Click here to view slides from the event.
Watch the video of Elliott’s lecture here: