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Letter to University of Denver Korbel School of International Studies Dean, Graduates Ask for Debt Relief

January 14, 2020

University of Denver campus. Fall, 2013

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Dear Dean Mayer,

We, the undersigned alumni, are writing to address the Korbel Administration’s recent decision to lower the number of credits required to graduate with a master’s degree, resulting in the school’s tuition being lowered from $53,000 per year to $38,000 per year per student.

We acknowledge and appreciate that the tuition reduction will help reduce barriers to entry within higher education and enable more aspiring and diverse students to pursue a career in international studies. However, we would be remiss not to mention that we, as recent Korbel graduates, are under the intense strain of student loan debt.

It is widely acknowledged that the United States is facing a crisis of student debt. Student debt is now at $1.5 trillion, and we are just a few of the 45 million people affected. While it receives less attention, graduate studies account for 40% of government debt, up from 32% in 2002, and data from 2016 indicate that 51% of student-loan carrying households have at least one member with an advanced degree.

In short, the burden of debt is unsustainable, and among other issues, is contributing to a growing inter-generational wealth gap that is affecting us both financially and emotionally.

Though we value our education and the opportunities that were available to us through Korbel, the burden of debt resulting from the loans we took out to cover the cost of our education is crippling, and, for some, may never be paid off. In light of the school’s decision to lower its tuition, we each respectfully request from Korbel a refund of $15,000 per year of enrollment.

This total of $30,000 per signatory represents the difference in tuition costs in the years prior to 2020 and the next academic year, without accommodating for inflation or outstanding interest accrued. The burden that each of us absorbed will restrict our economic freedom for years to come as we accept the inability to own property, support our communities, or participate in investment opportunities widely available to generations before ours.

The dramatic drop in Korbel’s admission price further aggravated the effect of this burden by suggesting that there was a significant overvaluation of the degree being offered at Korbel at the
time of our attendance. This would indicate that the capitalisation of our hopes and dreams typical of the American higher education system went even further: it was exploitation.

It must be acknowledged at this point that attending graduate school is a choice. This choice, as aptly summarised on Korbel’s admissions page, is motivated by a desire to be empowered “to effect positive change in the world.” Statements like this demonstrate the fact that schools like Korbel actively recruit those who are making a decision about their graduate studies that goes beyond a cold financial calculation. The result is that the higher education system penalizes those most committed to creating positive social change, and capitalises on their good will and ambition.

We understand that the Josef Korbel School is not the only institution that has lowered its tuition to increase enrollment. Schools across the nation make unilateral decisions to increase or decrease their tuitions based on market forces, but also as an enrollment management strategy. Institutions argue that they must act as businesses in order to stay afloat in the year 2019 and beyond.

Especially for an institution founded with the Korbel namesake, and launched as a beacon of inclusivity, empowerment, and the American dream, this institution has a responsibility to serve as an example for those values in real-world application. The Korbel family, to include the Honorable Madeline Albright, themselves overcame innate obstacles to achieve personal freedoms and career goals, and themselves support that a not-for-profit institution of higher education must not serve economic interests of the few, but rather the interests of its students, alumni, and the wider community of which it serves.

We believe that education should be treated as a right, not a commodity, and those beliefs were supported and fostered through education received at the very school to which we write. Moreover, we reject the exploitative nature of the higher education system in the United States.

For all these reasons, we must request a refund for the money that the school has discounted to future students. Some argue that it is futile to look to institutions of higher learning to be agents of change in the face of the student loan debt crisis. However, our experience at the school suggests that we can, and should, hold Korbel to a higher standard. We encourage continued dialogue to reach an acceptable outcome, but remain steadfast in our interest as economic actors in what has, unfortunately, become a purely business relationship.

Please find below our list of names in alphabetical order, with our respective degrees, years of graduation, and the amounts owed to us. We have also emailed a copy of this letter to the Office of Financial Aid so that we may be reimbursed. If you have any questions, please contact us at


Aaron Nilson, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Abigail Harms, M.A. International Human Rights, 2016; $30,000

Adedamola Ladipo, M.A. International Development & Humanitarian Assistance Certificate,
2018; $30,000

Alanna Markle, M.A. GFTEI, 2017; $30,000 requested to be returned to the Hughes & Dickson
Endowed Scholarship Fund

Alex Iverson, M.A. International Security, 2017; $30,000

Alexander Hart, M.A. International Studies, 2015; $30,000

Alexia S. Cato, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Alison Karp, M.A. International Administration, 2017; $30,000

Aliza Vaccher, M.A. International Human Rights and Humanitarian Assistance Certificate, 2018;

Althea Andrus, M.A. International Development, 2016; $30,000

Alum/Current DU Employee, M.A. International Studies; $30,000

Amber Moffett, M.A. International Development, 2017; $30,000

Amelia Grauer, M.A. International Studies, 2019; $30,000

Amy Czulada; M.A. International Studies & Certificate in International Law and Human Rights;
2017; $30,000

Ana Carolina Gutiérrez, M.A. International Development & Certificate in International Law and
Human Rights 2017; $30,000 refund to go back towards financial aid for future students in need

Anam Ahmed, M.A. International Development, 2017; $30,000

Annalisa Triola, M.A. International Studies, 2015; $30,000

Brandon Papajohn, M.A. International Security, 2015; $30,000

Brendan Mapes, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Brooke Harland, M.A. International Studies, 2016; $30,000

Brooke Ward, M.A. International Human Rights, 2018; $30,000

Caitlin Trent, B.A. International Studies, 2011; M.A. International Studies & Certificate in
International Law and Human Rights, 2016; $30,000

Caitlin Welte, M.A. GFTEI, 2016; $30,000

Catie Fowler, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Channing Carney-Filmore, M.A. International Human Rights and Global Health Affairs
Certificate, 2017; $30,000

Chauncee Birdsey, M.A. International Security, 2017; $30,000

Christine Colburn, M.A. International Development and Humanitarian Assistance Certificate,
2018; $23,200

Christine Mulhall, M.A. International Administration; Certificate in Global Health Affairs, 2018;

Christopher A Williams, M.A. GFTEI, 2017; $30,000

Colin Gaiser, M.A. GFTEI, 2017; $30,000

Daniel Durbin, M.A. International Security, 2017; $30,000

Daniel Tracy, M.A. GFTEI, Certificate in Global Business & CSR, 2016; $30,000

Danielle Jablanski, M.A. International Security, 2016; $30,000

Dominica Mades, M.A. International Development, 2015; $25,000

Elayna McCall, M.A. International Development, 2016; $30,000

Elise Moore, M.A. International Security, 2017; $30,000

Elizabeth Coolman, M.A. International Studies, 2016; $30,000

Elizabeth Stephen, M.A. International Development, 2016; $30,000

Emily Greenfield, M.A. International Security, 2019; $30,000

Emily Zmak, M.A. Conflict Resolution, 2018; $15,000

Erika Hepburn, MA International Studies, 2015; $30,000

Evan Booth, M.A. International Security, 2017; $30,000

Evelin Lopez Gerardo, M.A. International Administration, 2018; $30,000

Felipe Vieyra, B.A. International Studies, 2012; $30,000

Grace Brown, M.A. International Development, 2015; $30,000

Gretchen Johnson, M.A. International Studies, 2018; $30,000

Gururoop Wazir, M.A. International Development & Certificate in Humanitarian Assistance;

Hannah Oak, M.A. GFTEI, Certificate in Global Business & CSR, 2016; $30,000

Harry Smythe, M.A. GFTEI, 2016; $30,000

Heather Livering, M.A. International Studies, 2016; $30,000

Jacob Dubbert, M.A., GFTEI, 2019; $30,000

Jakob R. Scheidt, M.A. International Security, 2018; $30,000

Jeanne Crump, M.A. International Development, 2016; $30,000

Jennifer Walsh, M.A. International Human Rights, 2018; $30,000

Jessica Benning (Nixon), M.A. International Security, 2016; $30,000

Jessica L. Murison, M.A. International & Intercultural Communication/Cert in Global Health
Affairs, 2015; $30,000

Jessica Stoker (Ruch), M.A. International Development, 2016; $30,000

Jinghong Wang, M.A. GFTEI, 2019; $30,000

Joey Prebys, M.A. GFTEI, 2018; $30,000

Jordan D Smith, M.A. International Development & Certificate in Corporate Social Responsibility
and Global Business, 2017; $30,000

Julie Hawke, M.A. Conflict Resolution; 2016

Justine Lyons, M.A. International Human Rights, 2018; In solidarity

Justine Medina; M.A. International Administration 2017; $30,000

Kaelyn DeVries, M.A. International Security; 2018; $15,000

Kaitlin Marshall, M.A. International Security, 2017; $30,000

Kara Napolitano, M.A. International Development, 2016; $30,000

Katelyn Kerker, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Katelyn Melloh, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Katie Stevens, M.A. International Security, 2016; $30,000

Kristen Renda, M.A. International Human Rights, 2015; $30,000

Kristofer Nivens, MA GFTEI 2017; $30,000

Kristy Kumar, M.A. International Human Rights, 2017; $30,000

Kushagra Pokhrel, M.A. in International Human Rights and Certificate in Humanitarian
Assistance, 2018; $30,000

Lauren Stewart, M.A. International Studies, 2019; $15,000

Leonardo Godoy, M.A., GFTEI, 2018; $30,000

Liasor Dima, M.A. International Security, 2015, $30,000

Lise Anne Leap (formerly Ehlinger), M.A. International Security, 2017, $30,000

Lydia Wolcott, M.A. GFTEI, 2018; $30,000

Lynnette Schweimler, M.A. International Human Rights, 2014; $30,000

Macgyver Salazar-Juarez, M.A., GFTEI, 2020; $30,000

Maria Rodriguez-Sloan, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Marina Dosch, M.A. Conflict Resolution, 2015; $15,000Matt Bebb, M.A., GFTEI, 2018; Here to support those who are in financial need

Megan Davis, M.A. International Human Rights, 2017; $30,000

Megan E. Jenkins, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Melinda Zanner, M.A. International Development, 2019; $30,000

Michael Brandorff, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Michelle Walton, M.A. International Administration, 2017; $30,000

Monica Wright, M.A. International Development, 2017; $30,000

Morgan McDonald, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Morgan Niewinski, M.A. International Security, 2018; Here to show solidarity with my fellow

Nancy Li, M.A. International Security, 2018; $30,000

Nhat Do, M.A. International Development, 2017; $30,000

Peter Oesterling Jr., M.A. International Development, 2015; $30,000

Phoebe Browning, M.A. International Security, 2016; $30,000

Rachel Dyussengaliyev, M.A. International Human Rights, 2017; $30,000

Rachel Kerstein, M.A. International Human Rights, 2017; $30,000

Rachel Wolf, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Rita Hill, M.A. International Development, 2018; 30,000

Robert Osborne, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Rose Corbett, M.A. GFTEI 2017; $30,000

Rouguiyatou Toure, M.A. International Human Rights, 2019; $30,000

Ryan Lowry, M.A. International Studies, 2016; $30,000

Samantha McGinnis, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Samantha Tu, M.A. International Development, 2018; $30,000

Sandy Pham, M.A. International Development, 2019; $30,000

Sarah Eileen Johnson Harmacek, M.A. International and Intercultural Communication, 2016;

Sarah Hadsell, M.A. GFTEI, Certificate in Global Business & CSR, 2016; $30,000

Sarah McPhillips, M.A. International Studies, 2015; $30,000

Sentree Garner, M.A. international Studies, 2019; $30,000

Seth Daire, M.A. International Human Rights, 2017; $30,000

Shanae Kemen, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Shubham Sapkota, M.A. in International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Sina Khayat Kholghy, M.A. International Studies, 2017; $30,000

Spencer Dodge, M.A. Conflict Resolution, 2016; $30,000

Stacy Shomo, M.A. International Human Rights, 2016; $30,000

Stephanie Ayers, M.A. International Development, 2015; $30,000

Stephanie E. Nelson, M.A. in International Studies, Certificate in Homeland Security, 2015;

Stephanie Jones Killough, M.A. International Development, 2017; $30,000

Suzette Phillips, M.A. International Development, Global Health Affairs, Public Policy, 2018;

Taylor Schlacter, M.A. International Security, 2013; $30,000

Tess Waldrop, M.A. International Development, 2018; $15,000

Thomas Lasors, M.A. International Security, 2016; $30,000

Toni Bowerman, M.A. International Security, 2017; $30,000

Victoria Nava-Watson, M.A. International and Intercultural Communication, 2018; $30,000

Will Calhoun, M.A. International Studies, 2019; $30,000

Yessenia Prodero; M.A. International Human Rights 2017; $30,000

Yu-Hua Audrey Chang, M.A., GFTEI, 2018; $30,000

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Thomas M.Rauch permalink
    January 14, 2020 3:02 pm

    Rob, Thanks very much for posting this powerful and eloquent letter. I hope it has the desired effect. And thanks very much for all your thoughtful and challenging posts on View from the West Bank. You give us a valuable service with all the information and commentary about a range of issues and concerns. –On another subject, Maureen and I are moving to a different retirement community on January 31, and I hope to get back to the Book Club soon after that. I miss all of you and the stimulating discussions. Peace, Tom Rauch

  2. William Conklin permalink
    January 14, 2020 4:42 pm

    I like it!

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