An English professor, saddled with student loans, decided to write a history of student loans

Historians in the News
tags: education, Student Loans



In 1473, Alexander Hardynge, who had finished his bachelor’s degree at Oxford nearly two years previous, borrowed money through an educational loan service. The loan came with a one year repayment deadline.

With some of that money, he rented a room at Exeter College and offered tutoring services to college students. He soon repaid that loan. In 1475, Hardynge took out a second loan – again, in part to rent teaching space.

Then, in 1478, he was appointed as a subdeacon, a post two orders lower than a priest, likely in Durham, a city in the north of England. From all evidence, it seems that he promptly packed his robes and abandoned his teaching gig. There is also nothing to suggest that he gave a single penny to his lenders.

For students today, Hardynge’s story would be too good to be true. Not only did he get his bachelor’s degree without incurring debt, but also, he did not have to repay the money he borrowed.

Prompted by my own anxiety about educational debt, an anxiety that intensified several years ago with the birth of my own prospective college students, I have been researching the long history of educational loans in order to get a better context for the current student debt crisis.

With student loan growth rates spiraling out of control, it behooves us to think through the ways other time periods and cultures have monetized, funded or not funded student labor. ...





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