Higher education in America, while still great, is expensive. For most individuals and families, even a community college education can be difficult to fund, and federal and private loans have prevented many from reducing their college debt. Inside Job explained that an entire industry maneuvered unsuspecting Americans into debt as one particular factor in the the Great Recession. Default: The Student Loan Documentary examines the student debt problem and how those looking to better their lives with higher education are living the nightmare of student debt.

Default: The Student Loan Documentary, a short film, frames the multifaceted issues regarding student debt in this country in accessible terms. There are issues that are not discussed within the short film, such as the exact differences between federal and private loans, or the possibility of the mismanagement of loans by the students themselves. The filmmakers do make an excellent case regarding misleading practices such as forbearance, which allows a student to postpone or reduce payment for a limited time while interest is still charged and added to the principal. This gives students with debt the idea that they are solving a problem, when in fact they may end up paying up to one hundred percent more over time.

Several of the students in the film “assumed” that they would have the job they wanted or a job that would be enough to immediately place them in the comfort of the middle class. One of the biggest issues within the current generation is this idea of entitlement, and many of the interviews with students unknowingly express it. The Great Recession has placed an end to the idea that a college education guarantees you your dream and eternal comfort.

It is the for-profit institutions and private loan companies that are piggybacking off this disappearing dream. Both private and federal loan outlets are not preparing students enough to taking on these loans. When one student was asked how they were presented with the loans, she said she was simply presented with the loans and the amounts, but never considered looking for other sources of loans.


In terms of the film’s actual form, it suffers from inconsistent, awkward and amateur talking-head interviews. It is not the guests that appear that are awkward, it is the lighting and blocking of these guests and the filming of presentations that are of low production value. Overall, this documentary’s content is far more telling than the form, but even the content is uneven. The end of this short documentary raises the awareness of a Facebook group that advocates the idea of a student debt bailout that would free up millions of graduated students’ finances to stimulate the economy. A more objective documentary would explain or try to imagine unintended consequences.

Default: The Student Loan Documentary is set to premiere on public television, with a full-length version in the works. If the filmmakers can expand on more of the issues of this multifaceted expos√© on the funding of America’s higher education institutions and can smooth out many inconsistencies and production faux pas, the film could have a landing punch. Without, it is merely a necessary and compassionate cry for help on an issue that could put America’s education in a far worse position that it is in now. The filmmakers could still use your help; check out their Facebook page for more.



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Aaron Weiss founded CinemaFunk in September 2009 after recieving his degree in Cinema Studies from the University of Central Florida. In 2012, he received his Master's in Cinema Studies from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He works full-time as a Senior Web Strategist at Tampa SEO Training Academy. When not doing either, Aaron is watching Indycar races, taking a hike, or riding his bike in Tampa, FL.