Student Loans: The Fund-Eating Dragon : Throughline At the start of the 20th century, only the most privileged could afford to go to college. Today, millions of students pursue higher ed — and owe $1.7 trillion in debt.

Student Loans: The Fund-Eating Dragon

Student Loans: The Fund-Eating Dragon

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From 2011, at an Occupy DC protest in Washington. A man holds a sign and a ball and chain, representing his college loan debt. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) Jacquelyn Martin/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

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Jacquelyn Martin/ASSOCIATED PRESS

From 2011, at an Occupy DC protest in Washington. A man holds a sign and a ball and chain, representing his college loan debt. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Jacquelyn Martin/ASSOCIATED PRESS

At the start of the 20th century, only the most privileged could afford to go to college. Today, millions of students pursue higher ed — and owe $1.7 trillion in debt.

Would you believe us if we said it started with Sputnik?

This week on Throughline, we explore the origins of federal student loans, the promises the government made, and how an idealistic vision transformed into what some have called a monster.


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