Social Security touches the lives of all Americans, even college students (through payroll taxes that pay for current benefits and eligibility for disability benefits). Social Security is so intertwined in all of our lives, and its policy challenges so fraught with political danger, that few policymakers have dared to enter into its arena. It is no wonder then that many of the core elements of our nation’s Social Security system have remained unchanged from the 1930’s, despite profound changes to the American family, workforce, and society that Franklin Roosevelt and its architects could have never dreamed of. In this course we will address the very real challenges facing Social Security in our ever-changing nation.

Students will learn the fundamentals of the Social Security system and learn to identify and break down the common myths about Social Security that often paralyze policymakers. In addition, students will get an uncensored look how public policy is, and isn’t, made from Capitol Hill to the White House and to the administrative agencies. There are no textbooks for this course; students will read the same primary source materials that the policy staff read including reports from the Congressional Research Service, Congressional Budget Office, Social Security Administration, and leading think tanks. The course will also include a policy seminar on Capitol Hill where students can share their ideas with key Congressional staff and get feedback on their ideas. The course will culminate with students working together to formulate real policy solutions to some of Social Security’s problems. Armed with the knowledge and experience gained in this course, students will finish the semester with the courage to take on the challenges facing Social Security or other seemingly intractable policy issues.