Monday, November 30, 2015

"This is Not a Day Care. It's a University!" by Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University (worth reading)

Hello, dear readers:

Please read this brief message from Dr. Everett Piper, President of Oklahoma Wesleyan University.  I find it remarkable for two reasons:

1) This message was written by the president of a relatively obscure university in Oklahoma; and it should have been written by the president of Yale,  University of Missouri or Dartmouth or by the president of any of a couple of dozen elite universities where students have professed the infantile view that they are entitled to be protected from unwelcome ideas.

2) President Piper writes concise and clear declaratory sentences, and that is quite rare among academic administrators today.

Enjoy! You can find President Piper's message at this web site address: http://www.okwu.edu/blog/2015/11/this-is-not-a-day-care-its-a-university/

This is Not a Day Care. It’s a University!
Dr. Everett Piper, President
Oklahoma Wesleyan University
This past week, I actually had a student come forward after a university chapel service and complain because he felt “victimized” by a sermon on the topic of 1 Corinthians 13. It appears that this young scholar felt offended because a homily on love made him feel bad for not showing love! In his mind, the speaker was wrong for making him, and his peers, feel uncomfortable.
I’m not making this up. Our culture has actually taught our kids to be this self-absorbed and narcissistic! Any time their feelings are hurt, they are the victims! Anyone who dares challenge them and, thus, makes them “feel bad” about themselves, is a “hater,” a “bigot,” an “oppressor,” and a “victimizer.”
I have a message for this young man and all others who care to listen. That feeling of discomfort you have after listening to a sermon is called a conscience! An altar call is supposed to make you feel bad! It is supposed to make you feel guilty! The goal of many a good sermon is to get you to confess your sins—not coddle you in your selfishness. The primary objective of the Church and the Christian faith is your confession, not your self-actualization!
So here’s my advice:
If you want the chaplain to tell you you’re a victim rather than tell you that you need virtue, this may not be the university you’re looking for. If you want to complain about a sermon that makes you feel less than loving for not showing love, this might be the wrong place.
If you’re more interested in playing the “hater” card than you are in confessing your own hate; if you want to arrogantly lecture, rather than humbly learn; if you don’t want to feel guilt in your soul when you are guilty of sin; if you want to be enabled rather than confronted, there are many universities across the land (in Missouri and elsewhere) that will give you exactly what you want, but Oklahoma Wesleyan isn’t one of them.
At OKWU, we teach you to be selfless rather than self-centered. We are more interested in you practicing personal forgiveness than political revenge. We want you to model interpersonal reconciliation rather than foment personal conflict. We believe the content of your character is more important than the color of your skin. We don’t believe that you have been victimized every time you feel guilty and we don’t issue “trigger warnings” before altar calls.
Oklahoma Wesleyan is not a “safe place”, but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; that the bad feeling you have while listening to a sermon is called guilt; that the way to address it is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up!
This is not a day care. This is a university!

Catharine Hill, president of Vassar College, shovels horse manure in the New York Times about rising college costs

Catharine Hill dumped a load of horse manure on the op ed pages of the New York Times today, which is a good place to put it. In an essay expressing opposition to free college tuition, she made three bogus points:

1) College costs have gone up because state governments provide less funding to higher education than they once did.
2) Although the cost of going to college has gotten more expensive, it is still a good investment because college graduates make more on average than people who don't have college degrees.
3) The way to address the rising tide of student-loan indebtedness is better counseling and long-term repayment plans.

Let's look at Hill's three points.

First, declining state support for higher education has little to do with Vassar, which is a private institution. It costs a quarter million dollars to attend Vassar for four years, and that cost can't be explained by declining financial support from state governments.

Second, yes it is true that people who graduate from college earn more money on average than people who don't. But that doesn't justify skyrocketing college costs. Many college graduates attended relatively inexpensive state colleges. For those people, their increased earning potential justified the expense of going to college. But people who get liberal arts degrees from elite private colleges like Vassar often take on unmanageable student-loan debt. Many of them would have been better off going to an institution like Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, than borrowing money to listen to postmodern screeching by Vassar professors.

Finally, Hill's suggestion for handling the student-loan crisis is pure horse manure, and it isn't even fresh.  Hill recommends"better counseling," longer repayment periods and income-based repayment plans as the way to help students manage their crushing student-debt loads. Of course,this is exactly what the Obama administration is saying, along with higher education's professional organizations and sycophantic policy think tanks like the Brookings Institution.

Come on, Catharine. Come clean. Why don't you tell us the real reason you are opposed to free college tuition? You are opposed to it because the feds can't possibly provide free tuition for students to attend overpriced joints like Vassar. And a comprehensive  federal program offering free tuition would mean less money for elite colleges. You would prefer the status quo, whereby the exclusive colleges get the benefit of Pell grants and federal student loans--federal money you cannot operate without.

In fact, you reveal your true motivations in the last few paragraphs of your essay. "Without federal loan programs, many students could attend only schools that their families could afford from their current income or savings."  That's right, Catharine. You want students to attend colleges they can't afford. Otherwise, they might have to enroll at the University of Connecticut or Florida State. The horror! The horror!

Frankly, I would have expected more from Catharine Hill. After all she is an economist. Surely she knows that most of the people who sign up for 25-year repayment plans will never pay off their student-loan balances because their income-based loan payments won't be large enough to cover accruing interest. Surely she understands that making people pay for their college education over a majority of their working lives does not make economic sense.

But Catharine doesn't care. She just wants to keep the federal money rolling in so that places like Vassar, Yale, and Dartmouth can pay the professors and administrators more than they are worth to teach arrogant students who think they are smarter than the faculty and are probably correct.

And once a year, these condescending institutions have a dress-up day when the faculty wear medieval clothing and hand out bits of paper they insist on calling diplomas to the dunderheads who went hopelessly into debt for the privilege of wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the name of some fancy college like Vassar.

Image result for catharine hill vassar
Horse manure from Catharine Hill, president of Vassar

References

Catharine Hill. Free Tuition Is Not the Answer. New York Times, November 30, 2015, p. A23. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/30/opinion/free-tuition-is-not-the-answer.html?_r=0

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Liz Kelly, a school teacher, owes $410,000 in student loans--most of it accumulated interest. Will she ever pay it back?


Compound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it ... he who doesn't ... pays it.
Albert Einstein 
Liz Kelly, a 48-year old school teacher, owes the federal government $410,000 in student loans, which she will never pay back. How did that happen?

The New York Times article chronicled Kelly's story in this Sunday's Business Section, but the Times didn't adequately explain how Kelly got into this jam. My commentary for today is a forensic commentary on Kelly's situation.

Compound interest. As the Times story reported, Kelly didn't borrow $410,000 to finance her studies. She actually borrowed less than $150,000. Two thirds of her total debt is accumulated interest.

Albert Einstein observed that "[c]ompound interest is the eighth wonder of the world. He who understands it, earns it . . . he who doesn't . . . pays it." As Liz Kelly's story illustrates, most people don't understand Einstein's simple observation about compound interest any better than they understand his theory of relativity.

Over the years, Kelly took out student loans to pay for her undergraduate education, graduate studies, child care and living expenses. She also borrowed money to get a law degree, which she did not complete, and a Ph.D. from Texas A & M, which she also did not complete.

Her graduate studies enabled her to postpone making payments on her loans, but she continued borrowing more money; and the interest on her loans continued to accrue. Some of her loans accrued interest at 8. 25 percent--a pretty high interest rate. When her total indebtedness reached $260,000, she consolidated her student loans at 7 percent interest--still pretty high.

Over a period of 25 years, Kelly received a series of forbearances or deferments, and she never made a single payment on her loans. Thus, it is easy to understand how the total amount of her indebtedness tripled over the amount she borrowed.  In fact, as the Times pointed out, the annual cost of interest on her unpaid student loans is now larger than the total amount she borrowed for her undergraduate education!

Back in the old days, when people received interest on their savings, most people understood the principle of compound interest. People knew, for example, that money saved at 7 percent interest doubled in 10 years, and that money saved at 10 percent interest doubled in 7 years.

But no one gets interest on their savings any more, and perhaps that explains why many student-loan borrowers don't understand that their total indebtedness grows every year their loans are in deferment. Certainly Liz Kelly didn't understand this. The Times reported that she was shocked to learn that she owed $410,000.

No cap on student loans.  Although Kelly never made a single payment on her student loans, the federal government continued to loan her money. In fact, in 2011, she borrowed about $7,500 to pursue a Ph.D. in education, even though her total indebtedness at that time was more than a third of a million dollars and she had made no loan payments.

As the Times writer succinctly observed:
A private sector lender approached by a potential borrower with no assets, a modest income, and $350,000 in debt who had never made a payment on that loan in over 20 years would not, presumably, lend that person an addition $7,800. But that is exactly what the federal government did for Ms. Kelly. Legally it could do nothing else.
Obviously, a federal student-loan system that works this way is dysfunctional, irrational, and unsustainable. The feds should have shut off the student-loan spigot long before Kelly borrowed money to get a Ph.D.

The Charade of Income-Based Repayment Plans. If Kelly had accumulated $410,000 in consumer debt or a home mortgage, she could discharge the debt in bankruptcy. But discharging a student loan in bankruptcy is very hard to do. Indeed, Kelly might find it very difficult to meet the so-called "good faith" prong of the three-part Brunner test. After all, she continued taking out student loans over a period of 20 years and never made any loan payments.

Kelly's only reasonable escape from her predicament is to enroll in the federal government's loan forgiveness program, which would allow her to make payments based on a percentage of her income for a period of 10 years so long as she works in an approved public-service job. As a school teacher, she should easily qualify for this program.

But as Kelly herself pointed out, her monthly loan payments under such a plan would not even cover accumulating interest on the $410,000 she owes. At the end of her 10-year repayment program, her total indebtedness would be larger than it is now--easily a half million. That amount would be forgiven, leaving the taxpayers on the hook.

In fact, Kelly's situation is a perfect illustration for the argument that income-based repayment programs are not a solution to the student-loan crisis. Most people who participate in them--about 4 million people--will not pay down the principal on their loans.  Income-based repayment plans are really just a penance for borrowing too much money--say one Our Father and three Hail Marys and go and sin no more.

Conclusion

The Times story on Liz Kelly concluded with the observation that Kelly's story is unusual, but that's not really true. As the Times itself observed in a recent editorial, 10 million people have either defaulted on their loans or are in delinquency. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported in 2013 that 9 million people were not making payments on their student loans because they had obtained a forbearance or deferment. And about 4 million people are in income-based repayment plans.

Thus, at least 23 million people have loans in the repayment phase who are not making standard loan payments. So what should we do?

1) First, the federal government should not loan people more money if they are not making payments on the money they already borrowed. No one did Liz Kelly any favors by loaning her an additional $7,500 when she had already accumulated indebtedness of $350,000 and didn't have a prayer of ever paying it back.

2) There needs to be some cap on the amount of money people can borrow from the federal student-loan program. I'm not prepared to say what the cap should be, but surely it is bad public policy to lend money so that people can accumulate multiple degrees that do not further their financial prospects.

3) We've got to face the fact that income-based repayment plans--favored by the Obama administration, the New York Times, and the Brookings Institution--are not a solution to the student-loan crisis. Surely it is pointless to put Kelly on a ten-year income-based repayment plan that won't even pay the interest on her indebtedness.

As unpalatable as it is for politicians and the higher education community to admit, bankruptcy is the only humane option for people like Liz Kelly.  Did she make some big mistakes in managing her financial affairs? Yes. But the federal government and several universities allowed her to make those mistakes; and the universities received the benefit of Kelly's tuition money.

No--we need to face this plain and simple fact: Kelly will never pay off that $410,000. And putting her in a long-term income-based repayment plan is nothing more than a strategy to avoid facing reality, which is this: the federal student loan program is out of control.

Image result for albert einstein
Compound interest: The eighth wonder of the world

References

Kevin Carey. (2015, November 29). Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist. New York Times, Sunday Business Section, 1. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/29/upshot/student-debt-in-america-lend-with-a-smile-collect-with-a-fist.html?_r=0

Editorial, "Why Student Debtors Go Unrescued." New York Times, October 7, 2015, A 26. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/07/opinion/why-student-debtors-go-unrescued.html

Rohit Chopra. A closer look at the trillion. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, August 5, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/a-closer-look-at-the-trillion/

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What do Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have in common? They all received political contributions from Dade Medical College or affiliates. Dade's former CEO has been charged with making illegal campaign contributions

What do Barack Obama, Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz have in common? All four received political contributions from Dade Medical College or someone affiliated with DMC.  Ernesto Perez, the college's former CEO, was recently charged with making illegal political contributions. Indeed, the Miami Herald ran a photo of Perez being handcuffed earlier this month.

Perez had a remarkable career in higher education. Although he is a high-school dropout and convicted criminal, that did not stop him from founding a medical college that trained nurses and had five campuses.

Dade Medical College or people affiliated with it made three quarters of a million dollars in political contributions over the years, and two Florida legislators were on its payroll. It is closed now, and its 2000 students have been left in the lurch. Most of them have student loans that still have to be paid back.

Americans should thank the writers of the Miami Herald and Michael Vasquez in particular for relentless and hard-hitting reporting about DMC and the for-profit college industry in Florida. As the Herald series of corruption in the Florida for-profit college industry revealed, a ton of Florida legislators received political contributions from the industry, helping it to flourish. In fact, 18 percent of all postsecondary students in Florida attend a for-profit, far higher than the national average--about 12 percent.

Another individual who has written great stuff on the for-profits is David Halperin, who has shown a spotlight on the way the for-profits have bought influence with legislators at both the state and national level.

If you want to understand how the for-profit college industry manages to prosper in spite of low graduation rates, high dropout rates, and high student-loan default rates, read Halperin's work in Huffington Post and the Miami Herald articles on corruption in the Florida for-profit industry. The for-profits have hired lobbyists and made strategic campaign contributions to nearly every legislator who has the power to help or hurt them. And millions of naive students have been injured by this pernicious industry.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz: A bleeding heart liberal
who takes political contributions from the for-profit college industry

References

Francisco Alvarado. Dade Medical College Has Powerful Friends but Struggling Students.  Broward/Palm Beach  New Times, August 29, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/2013-08-29/news/dade-medical-college-has-powerful-friends-but-struggling-students/

Patricia Born & Jay Weaver. Homestead mayor's ties to downtown redeveloper probed. Miami Herald, June 8, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/08/v-fullstory/3441091/homestead-mayors-ties-to-downtown.html


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/08/v-fullstory/3441091/homestead-mayors-ties-to-downtown.html#storylink=cpy
Dade Medical College.  Ernesto Perez to be Honored at SFBJ CEO Awards. 2013. Accessible at: http://www.dademedical.edu/rightnow/ernestoperezbehonoredsfbjceoawards

Kelly Field, "U.S. Has Forgiven Loans of More Than 3,000 Ex-Corinthian Students, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://chronicle.com/article/US-Has-Forgiven-Loans-of/232855/?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en

Fred Grimm. Before his fall, Ernesto Perez bought himself lots of friends. Miami  Herald, November 4, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article42988848.html

David Halperin. Exposed: For-Profit Colleges' Blueprint for Blocking Obama Regulations. Huffington Post, May 5, 2014. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/exposed-for-profit-colleg_b_5256688.html

David Halperin. For-Profit Colleges Spend Big on Lobbyists to Fight Obama Regulation. Huffington Post, April 28, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/for-profit-colleges-spend_b_5221407.html

David Halperin. For-Profit College Lobbyist Explains Decades of Fraud as Humanitarian Mission. Huffington Post, September 23, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/for-profit-college-lobbyi_b_8184952.html

David Halperin. The Perfect Lobby: How One Industry Captured Washington, DC. The Nation, April 3, 2014. Accessible at:  https://www.thenation.com/article/perfect-lobby-how-one-industry-captured-washington-dc/


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article42988848.html#storylink=David Halperin. $33 Million Per Year of Your Tax Money to For-Profit College Whose CEO Hid Criminal Record. Huffington Post, October 21, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/33-million-per-year-of-yo_b_4136451.ht
David Halperin. Which For-Profit Lobbyist Are You? Huffington Post, March 28, 2014.  Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/which-for-profit-college_b_5040172.html

Michael Vasquez. Amid criminal charges, CEO of Dade Medical Ccollege Resigns. Miami Herald, October 23, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/23/3706821/ernesto-perez-resigns-as-head.html

David Halperin. $33 Million Per Year of Your Tax Money to For-Profit College Whose CEO Hid Criminal Record. Huffington Post, October 21, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/33-million-per-year-of-yo_b_4136451.html

Dade Medical College owner turns himself in. Miami Herald, November 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article42643344.html

Michael Vasquez. Amid criminal charges, CEO of Dade Medical College Resigns. Miami Herald, October 23, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/23/3706821/ernesto-perez-resigns-as-head.html

Michael Vasquez and Christina Veiga. A for-profit empire, Dade Medical College, tumbles down. Miami Herald, October 30, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article41967387.html

Going out of Business Sale!! Prices Slashed!! Everything Must Go!! Colleges that heavily discount student tuition are teetering on the brink of closure

According to a survey conducted by the National Association of College and University Business Officers, private colleges discounted their tuition prices for first year students by an average of 48 percent in 2014. Think of it: on average, a private college now charges only about half its tuition sticker price to its freshman class.

And the discount rate is going up. Inside Higher Ed reported that the discount rate has risen 20 percent in just seven years: from 39 percent in 2007 to 48 percent last year.

Moreover, at many schools, nearly everyone gets a discount. As explained by Inside Higher Ed, 69 percent of the colleges surveyed by NACUBO offered discounts to 90 percent or more of their students last year.

As many experts have pointed out, heavily discounting tuition rates is not sustainable. In fact, heavy discount rates are a sure sign that a college is in trouble. Sweetbriar College, for example, which closed (and then reopened) last year, was discounting its tuition price by 62 percent, but still couldn't attract enough students to keep its doors open.

 NACUBO's survey determined that almost 10 percent of private colleges discounted their tuition prices by an astounding 60 percent, surely a bad sign for all the colleges that discount at that level. “If your discount rate is at 60 percent, that's a very dangerous warning sign,” observed David Breneman, former Dean of the University of Virginia's school of education (as quoted in Inside Higher Ed).  “If you were any other business of any other sort [you wouldn’t] think you were in a very good position.”

What does this mean for higher education in general? At least three things:

1) First, a liberal arts education at a non-elite private college is not worth what colleges have been charging, and everyone knows it.

2) Second, heavy discounts are destroying colleges' credibility.  When 90 percent of students are getting a discount and when discount rates average nearly 50 percent, everyone know that colleges have posted deceptive sticker prices for their tuition. They've become like Texas fireworks peddlers: "Buy 1 and get 6 free!"

3) Third, a lot of small, nondescript private colleges will close in the coming years. A Moody's report on colleges' financial viability predicted that college closures will triple by 2015, which would mean about 15 colleges will close that year. But surely that figure is too conservative.

Personally, I think we will see many private liberal arts schools closing in the coming years. The economics of getting a liberal arts degree from an obscure private college just don't make sense anymore. In fact, if it weren't for the federal student loan program, which is propping up the private-college sector, half of them would be closed already.

Image result for "fireworks stand" images
Discounting college tuition prices: Buy 1, Get 6 free!

References

Kelly Woodhouse. (2015, November 25). Discount Much? Inside Higher Ed. Accessible at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/11/25/what-it-might-mean-when-colleges-discount-rate-tops-60-percent?utm_source=Inside+Higher+Ed&utm_campaign=389f6fe14e-DNU20151125&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_1fcbc04421-389f6fe14e-198565653


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dade Medical College is closing and its former CEO is charged with making illegal campaign contributions: All its former students should have their federal student loans forgiven

Dade Medical College, a Florida for-profit institution that trains medical professionals, is closing. Its former CEO, Ernesto Perez, is a high-school dropout and former rock musician who at one time made a salary of $431,000 a year; and the college collected $100 million in federal student aid money over a three-year period.

DMC students, however, didn't do so well. According to the Miami Herald, DMC's  Hollywood (Florida) campus had a pass rate of only 13 percent on the 2014 Florida nurses' exam.

And DMC surely benefited from strategic political contributions. David Halperin, writing for Huffington Post article, wrote:
Perez and his wife have given at least $100,000 to political candidates and PACs, with recipients including Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Harry Reid (D-NV), and Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Joe Garcia (D-FL) . . . .
Miami Herald writer Fred Grimm reported that Perez and his associates made $750,000 in political contributions. And a couple of Florida state legislators were actually on DMC's payroll. Indeed, Perez was recently charged with making illegal campaign contributions

What is going to happen to DMC's 2000 students, most of whom took out student loans to finance their studies? The U.S.  Department of Education has a program in place whereby students can have their federal loans forgiven if their institution closes before they complete their studies. There is also a loan forgiveness program for students who were defrauded by the educational institution they attended.

But these programs are cumbersome. Only a small fraction of  Corinthian Colleges' former students have obtained relief from their student loans, even though Corinthian recently filed for bankruptcy and is being investigated by several states' attorneys general for misrepresentations and other improprieties. Corinthian has 350,000 former students, but as of September only about 3,000 of them have had their student loans forgiven.

It is probably true that some people actually benefited from attending Ernesto Perez's medical college. After all, a small percentage of DMC students who took the nursing exam actually passed it.

But surely most DMC students have a good argument that their student loans should be forgiven. So why should DMC students have to file individual claims to have their loan obligations wiped out?

Given what we know about this tawdry institution, it does not seem fair to require all of DMC's former students to go through an elaborate administrative process in order to have  their student loans forgiven.  No--DOE should wipe the slate clean for everyone who took out a federal student loan to attend Dade Medical College.

Image result for ernesto perez dade medical college
Ernesto Perez in court
photo credit: Al Diaz, Miami Herald

References

Francisco Alvarado. Dade Medical College Has Powerful Friends but Struggling Students.  Broward/Palm Beach  New Times, August 29, 2013.  Accessible at: http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/2013-08-29/news/dade-medical-college-has-powerful-friends-but-struggling-students/

Patricia Born & Jay Weaver. Homestead mayor's ties to downtown redeveloper probed. Miami Herald, June 8, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/08/v-fullstory/3441091/homestead-mayors-ties-to-downtown.html


Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/06/08/v-fullstory/3441091/homestead-mayors-ties-to-downtown.html#storylink=cpy
Dade Medical College.  Ernesto Perez to be Honored at SFBJ CEO Awards. 2013. Accessible at: http://www.dademedical.edu/rightnow/ernestoperezbehonoredsfbjceoawards

Kelly Field, "U.S. Has Forgiven Loans of More Than 3,000 Ex-Corinthian Students, Chronicle of Higher Education, September 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://chronicle.com/article/US-Has-Forgiven-Loans-of/232855/?cid=pm&utm_source=pm&utm_medium=en

Fred Grimm. Before his fall, Ernesto Perez bought himself lots of friends. Miami  Herald, November 4, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article42988848.html

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article42988848.html#storylink=cpy

David Halperin. $33 Million Per Year of Your Tax Money to For-Profit College Whose CEO Hid Criminal Record. Huffington Post, October 21, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/davidhalperin/33-million-per-year-of-yo_b_4136451.html

Michael Vasquez. Amid criminal charges, CEO of Dade Medical Ccollege Resigns. Miami Herald, October 23, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/10/23/3706821/ernesto-perez-resigns-as-head.html

Dade Medical College owner turns himself in. Miami Herald, November 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article42643344.html

Michael Vasquez and Christina Veiga. A for-profit empire, Dade Medical College, tumbles down. Miami Herald, October 30, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/community/miami-dade/article41967387.html


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Department of Education's so-called plan to "strengthen" the student loan system is pathetic. Do President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan really care about distressed student-loan debtors?

On October 1, 2015, the U.S. Department of Education issued a report entitled Strengthening the Student Loan System to Better Protect All Borrowers. It's about time. More than 20 million people are struggling with unmanageable student loans, including 10 million who are delinquent on their loans or in default.

But what a pathetic document! Clearly President Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan don't have the moral courage to seriously address the student-loan crisis. They are just tinkering with this problem, hoping they can keep the student-loan crisis off the public's radar screen until after Obama leaves office.

Here are my specific critiques:

Garnishing Social Security checks of elderly student-loan defaulters. The federal government garnished the Social Security checks of a 155,000 student-loan defaulters in a recent year, which is shameful. It is true that the U.S. Supreme Court approved this practice in its heartless Lockhart decision; but President Obama, using his discretionary enforcement powers that he so often invokes, could stop garnishing Social Security checks immediately. But he hasn't done that because he really doesn't give a damn about the suffering of elderly people.

Instead, the Department of Education recently proposed to insert an inflationary index into the garnishing system that would allow Social Security recipients to protect more of their Social Security check from garnishment when inflation occurs. (Currently, only $750 a month is protected from garnishment.)

This is an incredibly callous proposal. In the Roth case, the 9th Circuit BAP court's 2013 decision, Jane Roth sought to discharge more than $90,000 in student-loan debt. At the time she filed for bankruptcy, she was 68 years old, had chronic health problems, and was entirely dependent on her Social Security check of less than $800 a month.

How could any humane and reasonable person argue that  any of Ms. Roth's Social Security check should be garnished? But that is what the Department of Education's recent report basically proposes.

Arbitration clauses imposed on unsophisticated student-loan borrowers by for-profit colleges. The New York Times reported recently that many private businesses (particularly those in the finance industry) require individuals to agree to arbitration clauses and to waive their right to sue. As the Times pointed out, the arbitration system favors the business community over private individuals.

Many for-profit colleges also require students to arbitrate their grievances and to give up their right to sue, even if they believe their college defrauded them or breached contractual obligations. Arbitration can be more costly for individuals than litigation because arbitration fees can be quite expensive. And a business party is more likely to win than an individual.  For-profit arbitration clauses have been upheld by the courts.

Why don't Arne Duncan and Barack Obama stop the for-profit college industry from inserting litigation waivers and arbitration clauses into their admission documents, which they could do simply by enacting a regulation prohibiting the for-profits from engaging in this pernicious practice?

I'll tell you why. Because for all their public hand-wring and their tongue-clucking over the student-loan crisis, Obama and Duncan are firmly committed to the status quo.  Obama and Duncan's failure to address unconscionable arbitration clauses is shameful.

Making private loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. The DOE report recommends "potential changes" to the treatment of private loans in the bankruptcy courts.  DOE is referring to a provision in the Bankruptcy Code that Congress legislated in 2005 that makes private student loans nondischargeable in bankruptcy unless the debtor can show "undue hardship."  Senator Joe Biden, acting at the behest of the banking industry, helped get that legislation passed.  Thanks,Joe!

Several prominent bankruptcy scholars have recommended that the 2005 legislation be repealed and that private student loans be dischargeable in bankruptcy like any other nonsecured debt. But the DOE doesn't go that far. Here's what the DOE report says:
[T]he report recommends allowing private loans that do not offer [pay-as-you-earn or PAYE]-like borrower protections to be dischargeable in bankruptcy similar to other forms of consumer debt. Allowing private lenders the protection of non-dischargeability if they offer PAYE-like features will provide an incentive for private lenders to create meaningful ex ante payment modification options available for when borrowers cannot make standard payments. (p. 17)
In other words, Obama and Duncan propose that banks will still have the protection of having their student loans virtually impossible to discharge in bankruptcy if they will allow distressed student-loan borrowers to switch from standard loan payments to long-term income-based repayment plans. Of course, the banks might be willing to add an income-based repayment feature to their student loans, but that would mean that most private student loans would negatively amortize due to the fact that the income-based payments would almost certainly not be large enough to pay accumulating interest.

What an idiotic notion! What the DOE report should have said is simply this: private student loans should be dischargeable in bankruptcy like any other unsecured loan--period.

The fact the the Department of Education advocates any restrictions on bankruptcy relief for distressed debtors who took out private student loans is outrageous and shows that the Obama administration--for all its posturing--is little more than a lackey of the banks.

A few timid but good recommendations. The DOE report does contain a few timid but good recommendations  Eliminating tax liability for people whose student loans are forgiven under long-term income-based repayment plans is a good idea and one that President Obama had earlier proposed.

But student-loan borrowers were never under much of a threat of being assessed a huge tax bill if their loans were discharged. Present IRS regulations do not consider a forgiven loan to be taxable income if the debtor is insolvent at the time the loan is forgiven.  And in any event, this relief is small consolation for people who wind up in 25-year income-based repayment plans.

Streamlining the disability discharge process, which DOE recommends, is also a good idea.  But if it is such a good idea, why did DOE oppose bankruptcy discharge for Bradley Myhre, a quadriplegic student-loan debtor whose expenses exceeded his income due to the fact that he needed  a personal full-time caregiver in order to remain employed? (Myhre v. U.S. Department of Education, 2013).

Finally, DOE promises to streamline the process whereby individuals can have their student loans forgiven if they were defrauded by the institution they attended.   The DOE report states that the Department of Education "will conduct negotiated rulemaking on borrower defense and plans to develop new regulations to clarify and streamline loan forgiveness under the defense repayment  provision . . . ."

What DOE probably means is that it will negotiate with the for-profit college industry regarding the process for forgiving loans owed by students who were enticed to enroll at for-profit collegea through fraud or misrepresentation. Of course it is a good idea to streamline the loan-forgiveness process for people who attended institutions that have been found guilty of misrepresenting their education programs.

But I doubt if DOE is willing to streamline the loan-forgiveness process enough to provide meaningful relief. After all there are 350,000 former students of the Corinthian Colleges system, which filed for bankruptcy last spring amid allegations of wrongdoing.  As of a few months ago, only about 3,000 students had had their student loans forgiven by DOE.

Conclusion

In my opinion, President Obama's Department of Education issued a report that purports to "strengthen" the student loan system for the protection of borrowers but does not attack the underlying problems.  Until the private loan industry and the for-profit college industry are shut down and distressed student-loan debtors have meaningful access to the bankruptcy courts, the student-loan catastrophe will just grow bigger. And the number of people who can't make their student-loan payments--now more than 20 million--will only grow larger with each passing day.

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/static/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2008/12/16/obamaeducation476.jpg?w=620&q=85&auto=format&sharp=10&s=26d17b6c928a0f80f7662a66a2d328a8
Frankly, my dear, we don't give a damn.
References


Sirota, David. Joe Biden Backed Bills to Make It Harder For Americans To Reduce Their Student Debt. International Business Times, September 15  , 2015. Accessible: http://www.ibtimes.com/joe-biden-backed-bills-make-it-harder-americans-reduce-their-student-debt-2094664

U.S. Department of Education. Strengthening the Student Loan System to Better Protect All Borrowers.  Washington, D.C., October 1, 2015: Author. Accessible: http://www2.ed.gov/documents/press-releases/strengthening-student-loan-system.pdf

Friday, November 13, 2015

When the mouse is away, the cats will play or (to mix my metaphors) the nannies have put the children in charge of the nursery at American colleges and universities

"When the mouse is away, the cats might play," Churchill remarked about one of his political colleagues. I believe he was speaking of Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister who sealed the Munich Pact with Hitler. (And we know how that turned out.)

I thought of Churchill's line as I contemplated recent events at the University of Missouri, a fine public university with one of the best journalism programs in the United States. As everyone listening to the news now knows, Timothy Wolfe, Mizzou's president, stepped down after being accused of inadequate sensitivity to racism on the university campus.

This incident follows similar outbreaks of hysteria on other university campuses, including distinguished institutions like Yale and Dartmouth.

Apparently, there is a general perception among college students, the elite media, and even the Obama administration that America's college campuses are bastions of sexism and racism.  It is said that one in five college women are victims of sexual assault or attempted sexual assault and that minority students are repeatedly victimized by racist slurs.

Personally, I don't believe it. America's colleges and universities have many sins to answer for, but racism and sexism are not among them. No senior university administrator would last a moment in the politically correct atmosphere of academia if he or she said or did anything that could even remotely be considered as being insensitive on matters of race or gender.

In fact, the nation's college communities are in a frenzied debate about bathroom etiquette. Back in the Neanderthal age (20 years ago), benighted Americans thought that men should go to the men's bathrooms and women should use the women's bathrooms.  But now that simple rule has been undermined by people who are oh so much more sensitive than you or me.

And Christian student groups, once seen as inoffensive and perhaps even moral paragons, are now being kicked off campus by such prestigious institutions as Berkeley and Bowdoin. Mustn't allow Christians, with their benighted views on family life, to be recognized as a student group. They might pollute the rarefied atmosphere of our enlightened universities.

So if universities have turned their attention to toilet rules and to booting Christians off their campuses, I can't imagine that college administrators are insensitive to the very important issues of gender and race.

My guess is that President Wolfe did not resign out of shame about his insensitivity to racism.  He just said to hell with it.

I will make one final point about the witch-trial atmosphere of American colleges and universities, and it is this: Apparently no one at our higher education institutions has a remote notion of what free speech and academic freedom mean.

Worse than that, we've allowed students to tell professors and administrators what these concepts mean. If indeed college students know more than their teachers about academic freedom and our precious right to freedom of speech than their instructors and deans, why in the hell are students paying $40 grand a year to get a college education?

The University of Missouri imbroglio is not a new phenomenon. Tom Wolf's essay "Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers" was written more than 40 years ago, and it describes exactly the kind of behavior that we see at the University of Missouri.  Our college leaders either don't understand the principles of civil discourse and academic freedom or they are so cowardly that they will submit to being lectured on racial civility by their uncouth and ignorant students.  Or perhaps both.

Personally, if I were mom or pop, I would consider telling my kids to skip college altogether. Certainly, no one should borrow money simply to buy a seat in a guerrilla theater. And any university alum who makes a monetary donation to an American college or university is a fool.


Neville Chamberlain: Sensitive to Hitler's point of view

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Suicide and Student Loans: Is There a Link?

Death rates among white, middle-aged Americans have gone up significantly in recent years, according to a recent study by Anne Case and Angus Deaton, two Princeton economists. Case and Deaton found that death rates for people in the 45 to 54 age group began steadily going up beginning in 1999. For middle-aged white people with a high school diploma or less, the mortality rate rose 22 percent between 1999 and 2013.

Why are relatively young white Americans dying at a higher rate than they did 15 years ago? Case and Deaton say most of the rising mortality rate can be attributed to suicide or deaths related to alcohol or drug abuse. It seems this age group may  be experiencing a lot of stress, including economic stress, and are turning to alcohol and drugs to deal with it. “What we see here is a group that’s in quite a lot of distress,” said Ms. Case in a Wall Street Journal interview.

As Case and Deaton said in their report:
Although the epidemic of pain, suicide, and drug overdoses preceded the financial crisis, ties to economic insecurity are possible. After the productivity slowdown in the early 1970s, and with widening income inequality, many of the baby-boom generation are the first to find, in midlife, that they will not be better off than were their parents. Growth in real median earnings has been slow for this group, especially those with only a high school education. 
As everyone knows, Americans' accumulated student-loan debt has been going up steadily over this same time period. Could there be a  link between student-loan debt and rising mortality rates among middle-aged white Americans?

Deaton and Case did not examine student-loan indebtedness in their study, and any attempt to link student loans to rising death rates would be speculative. Moreover, Case and Deaton found that middle-aged people with college degrees had not experienced higher mortality rates.

Nevertheless, suicide rates for the Baby Boomer generation have gone up dramatically in recent years. According to a report by Katherine Hempstead and Julie Phillips, the suicide rate  for people in the 40-64 age group has gone up 40 percent since 2007.

Hempstead and Philips suggest that economic problems may have contributed to the rising suicide rate among Baby Boomers, and that "adverse effects of economic difficulties on psychological well-being may have been greater for those who did not anticipate them; this may well have been the case for those who were educated and wealthier . . . ."

One thing is certain: Our federal government has constructed a student-loan scheme so heartless that it almost seems to have been designed to plunge millions of Americans into long-term clinical depression.  So isn't it reasonable to conclude that there is some connection between crushing student loans and rising suicide rates among middle-aged people?

Let's examine some of the evidence pointing to growing stress among student-loan debtors:
  • As the New York Times recently pointed out, ten million people are in default on their student loans or delinquent on their loan payments.
  • According to a recent report by the Brookings Institution, loan balances for a significant number of student-loan debtors actually went up after they entered the repayment phase  of their loans. Why? Because a lot of people have obtained economic-hardship deferments that exempt them from making loan payments due to dire economic circumstances.  But because they are not paying down accruing interest, their loan balances are getting larger, making them more difficult to pay off.
  • The percentage of elderly Americans with unpaid student-loan debt is going up. According to a report from the General Accounting Office, the percentage of people in the 65 through 74 age group with outstanding student loans grew from 1 percent in 2004 to 4 percent in 2010, a four-fold increase   And the amount of student-loan debt owed by elderly people is growing as well.  In fact, the amount of debt held by elderly Americans grew six fold between 2005 and 2013--from $2.8 billion in 2005 to $18.2 billion.
  • The federal government is  garnishing more and more Social Security checks to collect on unpaid student loans.   In 2002, only 31,000 people had Social Security benefits garnished because they had defaulted on their student loans. That number ballooned five fold in just 11 years. In 2013, 155,000 Americans saw their Social Security checks reduced due to unpaid student-loans.
Let's consider that last bullet from a more personal perspective. According to a story posed on Market Watch, the U.S. government is garnishing the Social Security checks of Naomia Davis, an 80 year old woman who is suffering from advanced Alzheimer's Disease. Ms. Davis's only income is her $894 Social Security check, and the feds take $134 of it to pay down on an old student loan.

In short, it is reasonable to conclude that crushing student-loan debt contributes to depression and even suicide among Baby Boomers who are struggling to pay off college loans they took out when they were young.  The student loan crisis is not only eroding Americans' sense of economic well being; it may be literally killing them.



References

Jillian Berman. When your Social Security check disappears because of an old student loan. MarketWatch, June 25, 2015.  Accessible at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/when-your-social-security-check-disappears-because-of-an-old-student-loan-2015-06-25

Anne  Case and Angus Deaton. Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white
non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.  Accessible at: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2015/10/29/1518393112.full.pdf

Editorial. Death AmongMiddleAged Whites. New York Times, November 5, 2015.

Editorial. Why Student Debtors Go Unrescued. New York Times, October , 2015. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/07/opinion/why-student-debtors-go-unrescued.html?_r=0

General Accounting Office. Older Americans: Inability to Repay Student Loans May Affect Financial Security of a Small Percentage of Borrowers. GAO-14-866T. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office. http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-14-866T

Katherine A. Hempstead and Julie A. Phillips. Rising Suicide Among Adults Aged
40–64 Years: The Role of Job and Financial Circumstances.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine 84(5):491-500 (2015). Accessible at: http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(14)00662-X/pdf

Jason Iuliano. An Empirical Assessment of Student Loan Discharge and the Undue Hardship Standard. American Bankruptcy Law Journal 86 (2012), 495.

Gina Kolata. Deaths Rates Rising Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds. NewYork Times, November 3, 2015. Accessibe at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/03/health/death-rates-rising-for-middle-aged-white-americans-study-finds.html

Betsy McKay. The Death Rate Is Rising for Midle-Aged Whites. Wall Street Journal, November 3, 2015. Accessible at: http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-death-rate-is-rising-for-middle-aged-whites-1446499495

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

If you have to enroll in a 25-year income-based repayment plan to pay for your college education, you attended the wrong college

In his 2012 book entitled Don't Go To Law School Unless), Paul Campos made a statement that startled me by its intense clarity. "The truth is," Campos wrote, "that people who are likely to end up in [income-based repayment plans] if they go to law school should not go at all" (48). 
And of course Campos is right. But isn't the same observation true about undergraduate education as well? A person who must enter a 25 year income-based repayment plan to pay for a college degree either enrolled in the wrong college or chose the wrong academic major--and probably both.
For example, Ron Lieber of the New York Times wrote a story about five years ago that featured Cortney Munna, who borrowed almost $100,000 to get a degree in women's studies and religious studies at New York University, one of the most expensive universities in the world.. At the time of Lieber's story, Munna was working for a photographer for $22 an hour and enrolled in night school in order to defer her loan payments. 
As Lieber pointed out, going back to college simply to postpone student-loan payments on the degree one already has is not a good long-term option because interest continues to accrue on the debt.
I wonder how Ms. Munna is doing today. I think the chances are very good that she is in a 25-year income-based repayment plan
Campos said in his book that "there's a good argument to be made that law schools [that] promote IBR[income-based repayment plans] are participating in  a fraud on the public." (50) Again, I think Campos is right.
 Most people who enter into 25-year income-based repayment plans won't make payments large enough to cover accruing interest and also pay down the principal on their loans. In other words, most people in IBRs will see their loans negatively amortize. This means the taxpayer will be left holding the bag when the loan-repayment term ends and the unpaid portion of the loan is forgiven.
To return to Ms. Munna's story, shouldn't NYU bear some responsibility for allowing her to borrow so much money for a degree that is not likely to lead to a job that will allow her to pay back the debt?

Of course, universities are not in the habit of admitting that some of their degree programs are overpriced. But maybe it is a habit they should acquire.  How many private universities could look their students in the eye and say their degrees in women's studies, religious studies, sociology, urban studies etc. etc. etc. are worth going $100,00 into debt? Not many.
References
Paul Campos. Don't Go To Law School (Unless). Self-published, 2012.
Ron Lieber. Placing the Blame as Students Are Buried in Debt. New York Times, May28, 2010. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/29/your-money/student-loans/29money.html