Showing posts with label Catharine Hill. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Catharine Hill. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Loan-Forgiveness and Income-Driven Repayment Plans Are Costing Taxpayers a Bundle of Money

The Department of Education's Office of Inspector General (OIG)issued another one of those mealy-mouth reports we've come to expect from the Department. In essence, the OIG told us something we already knew: DOE's income-driven repayment plans (IDRs) and debt forgiveness plans are costing taxpayers billions of dollars.

For several years now, the higher education community has touted income-driven repayment plans as the panacea for the rising  cost of going to college.  Back during the 2016 presidential campaign, Catharine Hill, president of Vassar College, wrote an op ed essay for the New York Times attacking Senator Bernie Sander's proposal to allow people to go to college for free.  Free college is not the answer, Hill argued. Rather we need to expand income-driven repayment programs.

Indeed, DOE has expanded income-driven repayment options. President Obama's administration rolled out the PAYE and REPAYE, programs that allow student borrowers to pay 10 percent of their adjusted income for 20 years in lieu of the standard 10-year repayment plan. Borrowers who make regular payments for 20 years will have their loan balances forgiven.

As outlined by OIG, the Department of Education offers six income-driven repayment plans and two loan forgiveness plans. Of course, all the student loans under these plans accrue interest. Even an idiot knows that borrowers who makes loan payments that aren't large enough to pay accruing interest will never pay off their loans.

So it shouldn't surprise anyone that DOE's flexible spending plans and loan forgiveness plans are costing the taxpayers billions of dollars because the government is loaning people more money than they will ever repay.

As the OIG reported, DOE's loan balance for income-driven repayment plans increased from $7.1 billion to $51.5 billion between 2011 and 2015. That's an increase of 625 percent in just four years.

Meanwhile, government subsidies for income-driven repayment plans ballooned from $1.4 billion to $11.5 billion over the same four years--an increase of more than 800 percent.

Why did our government create these insane flexible repayment plans?  I can think of one primary reason.

IDRs allow DOE to maintain the fiction that the vast majority of college borrowers are paying back their loans. For most of the people in these plans, an IDR is the only alternative to default. In fact, DOE has encouraged college-loan defaulters and people in danger of default to sign up for IDRs.

But most people in income-driven repayment plans are not paying off their loans because their payments aren't large enough to cover accrued interest. Thus, while IDR participants are not officially in default, they are only making token payments on loans they will never pay off.

What is the OIG's advice to DOE about how to handle the enormous cost of its income-driven repayment plans and its loan forgiveness programs? Here is OIG's gobbledygook recommendation:
We recommend that the Department enhance its communications regarding cost information related to the Federal student loan program's IDR plans and loan forgiveness plans to make it more informative to decision makers and the public.
That's right: All OIG can think of to recommend is more transparency!

As the Wall Street Journal reported about 20 months ago, 43 percent of college borrowers--approximately 9.6 million people--weren't making loan payments as of January 1, 2016. Some of these borrowers were in default, some had delinquent loans and some had loans in forbearance or deferment.

And thanks to DOE's income-driven repayment plans, an additional six million people are making payments too small to pay off their loans.

It is time for DOE to be more than transparent. It needs to admit that about half the people who took out student loans will never pay them back. Thus, of the $1.4 trillion in outstanding student loans, more than half of it will never be collected.



References

Paul Fain. Costs Mount for Federal Loan Programs. Inside Higher Ed, February 5, 2018.

Catharine Hill. Free Tuition Is Not the AnswerNew York Times, November 30, 2015, p. A23.

Josh Mitchell. More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren't Making Payments. Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2016.

U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General (2018, January 31). The Department's Communication Regarding the Costs of Income-Driven Repayment Plans and Loan Forgiveness Programs. ED-OIG/A09Q0003. Washington DC: Author

U.S. Government Accountability Office (2016 December). Federal Student Loans: Education Needs to Improve Its Income Driven Repayment Plan Budget Estimates. Washington DC: Author.


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hillary Clinton promises free college education and lower interest rates on student loans: These ideas won't solve the student-loan crisis, which is one hot mess

Prompted by Senator Bernie Sanders, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton made two promises to student-loan debtors. First, if she is elected President, all Americans with a family income of $125,000 or less will be able to get a college education for free from a public institution. Second, if elected, Hillary will slash interest rates on student loans.

These are both good ideas, and I endorse them wholeheartedly. But even if Hillary gets elected and keeps these promises, the student-loan crisis will still be one hot mess.

A Free College Education for Families of Modest Means: A good idea

Hillary has promised a free college education at a public institution for everyone whose family income is $125,000 or less. How much would that cost?

Catharine Hill, president of Vassar College, estimated that Bernie Sander's free-college plan would cost about $70 billion a year. The Clinton campaign estimates that her plan will cost less---about $50 billion a year.

Currently, the federal government gives out around $100 billion a year in student loans, and roughly a third of this money goes to for-profit colleges and private institutions. So if the government replaced $50 billion in loans with grants in the same amount, that would go a long way toward giving middle-class families access to a free college education at a public university.

But  Clinton's plan faces major hurdles. First, it will require Congressional approval from a Republican Congress, which seems unlikely. Second, Hillary's plans calls for state governments to contribute one third of the cost, and that assumption may not be realistic.

But let's assume Hillary gets this plan through. We still have a huge problem.  Millions of Americans will still have massive student-loan debt totally $1.3 trillion, and free college for future students will do nothing to relieve them of their suffering. People are having their wages garnished, their Social Security checks dunned, and their income-tax returns seized. Honest people who deserve bankruptcy relief are prohibited by law from getting it.

So if Hillary implements her free college plan she must do something to help the millions of people who are suffering from massive student-loan debt. In my view, she must push for bankruptcy reform that will permit honest but unfortunate student-loan debtors to shed their oppressive student-loan debts. And she should also endorse loan forgiveness for everyone who took out loans to attend an overpriced for-profit college and received no economic benefit from the experience.

Lowering Interest Rates On Student Loans: Another good idea

 Hillary also promises to slash interest rates on student loans if she is elected President, and she has called for a 90-day moratorium on student-loan payments to allow borrowers to refinance their debt. Ag ood idea.

Interest rates on student loans, currently around 4 percent, seem too high when ten-year treasury bonds are going for 1.7 percent. Lowering those rates will give student-loan debtors some relief.

But again, refinancing student loans won't relieve the massive suffering people are experiencing right now. Millions have seen their loan balances grow larger because they obtained economic-hardship deferments that caused unpaid interest to pile up. Others defaulted on their loans, and the loan guaranty companies slapped an 18.5 percent penalty to their loan balance. As a result, many people now owe two or even three times what they borrowed due to accruing interest, penalties, and collection fees.

A two percent interest rate on a $50,000 debt is certainly better than an 8 percent rate, but Hillary must stop the student-loan guaranty companies from imposing unreasonable costs and penalties to borrowers' loan balances. After all, the loan guarantee companies are supposedly charitable organizations, but four of them have each accumulated $1 billion in assets--most of acquired from their debt collection activities.

Conclusion: Hillary must acknowledge that the student-loan program is a catastrophe

Hillary's two proposals for reforming the federal student-loan program are good ideas, but free college in the future and lower interest rates won't relieve the hardship visited on American young people who borrowed too much money to enroll in educational programs that resulted in little or no economic benefit.

We must face facts. Millions of people were ripped off by shoddy and rapacious colleges. The victims of the student-loan program need to get back into the economy and begin building economic security for themselves and their families. That won't happen until massive amounts of  student-loan debt are forgiven.



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

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/29/us/politics/bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton.html

Laura Meckler. Hillary Clinton's Free College-Tuition Plan Short on Specifics. Wall Street Journal, August 14, 2016. Accesible at http://www.wsj.com/articles/hillary-clintons-free-college-tuition-plan-coming-up-short-on-specifics-1471167001

Letter to the Honorable John King, Secretary of Education, from 23 Democratic Senators, September 15,2016. https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/files/9_15_16%20ITT%20Tech%20ED%20Letter%20(1).pdf

Dawn McCarty and Shahien Nasirpour. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After ShutdownBloomberg, September 16, 2016. Accessible at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-16/itt-educational-services-files-for-bankruptcy-after-shutdown-it6byu6t

Reuters. ITT Educational Services Files for Bankruptcy After Aid CrackdownInternational New York Times, September 17, 2016. Accessible at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/18/business/itt-educational-services-files-for-bankruptcy-after-aid-crackdown.html?_r=0

Robert Shireman and Tariq Habash. Have Student Loan Guaranty Agencies Lost Their Way? The Century Foundation, September 29, 2016. Accessible at https://tcf.org/content/report/student-loan-guaranty-agencies-lost-way/




Sunday, December 20, 2015

Harvard Economist N. Gregory Mankiw Provides a Lazy and Self-Serving Answer to Why College Costs So Much

Harvard Professor N. Gregory Mankiw wrote a lazy and self-serving op ed essay in the New York Times today, in which he purported to explain why college costs so much.

Like most of higher education's shills (Sandy Baum, Susan Dynarski, Catharine Hill, etc.), Professor Mankiw began his pitch by assuring us that college is still a good investment. The median wage for a college graduate, Mankiw reminds his readers, is about twice as much as the median wage for a worker with only a high school education.

Of course it is true that college graduates generally make more money than people with only a high school education, but that fact doesn't justify skyrocketing costs across almost all sectors of higher education. Nor does it justify the ever-increasing amount of money people are borrowing in order to attend college.

Mankiw then goes on to give three explanations for why college costs are going up--all bogus:

First, Professor Mankiw instructs us, we have "Baumol's cost disease."  According to Mankiw, Baumol recognized that as wages rise across all sectors of society, salaries rise even for services that have seen no increase in productivity.

Of course everyone knows that. It costs more for a haircut today than it did a generation ago, even though barbers haven't grown more efficient. Likewise, the cost of higher education has gone up. We used to call that phenomenon inflation, but Professor Mankiw prefers to call it Baumol's cost disease.

But of course this blather does not explain why the cost of higher education has gone up three times the rate of inflation over the past 30 years.

Second, Mankiw argues, higher education seems more expensive due to rising inequalities in society as a whole.  Here I'll let Mankiw explain this argument in his own words:
Educational institutions hire a lot of skilled workers: It takes educated people to produce the next generation of educated people. Thus, rising inequality has increased not only the benefit of education but also the cost of it.
OK, Professor Mankiw, what you say may be true. But again, how does that argument explain why college costs have risen much faster than inflation?

Finally, Mankiw explains, college costs haven't gone up as much as the public thinks because most students aren't paying the sticker price.  Colleges engage in "price discrimination," with only the suckers paying full price. And of course this is true. On average, private liberal art colleges are only collecting about 60 percent of the sticker price because they give discounts in the forms of grants and scholarships to preferred students.

In other words, Professor Mankiw is trying to assure Mr. and Mrs. America that when their children go to college, they'll probably get some sort of brother-in-law deal and won't be paying full price.

All this is pure horse manure. At bottom, Professor Mankiw is merely defending the status quo in higher education, just as Vassar's Catharine Hill did a couple of weeks ago in the Times when she argued against free college education. In fact, when you read Professor Mankiw's essay closely, which he hopes you won't do, he really isn't saying anything at all.

The reality is this: the cost of higher education has gone up for a variety of reasons, and many of those reasons are tied to greed and laziness.  At the elite universities, tenured professors are teaching fewer classes--ostensibly to have more time to do more important things.  College costs could go down if every professor taught the typical teaching load of 30 years ago.  I would be surprised, for example, if Professor Mankiw teaches more than three courses a year.

Moreover, the cost of attending for-profit colleges is especially high, much higher than a comparable educational experience at a community college or public university.  Students who attend these rapacious institutions borrow more money than students who go to public schools. and their student-loan default rates are shocking. According to the Brookings Institution, the five-year loan default rate in the for-profit sector is nearly 50 percent.  But of course, Professor Mankiw didn't even mention the for-profit colleges.

College costs have also gone up because the number of ancillary employees has increased. For example, Harvard was recently ridiculed for printing special placemats that contained instructions to students about how to answer their parents' embarrassing questions when they went home for the holidays.  As if Harvard students are too stupid to know how to talk to their parents or to have their own opinions.

How much, do you suppose, Harvard is paying the person who dreamed up and printed those embarrassing placemats? Well--whatever it is, that amount adds to the cost of Harvard's tuition.

In truth, the cost of postsecondary education is out of control for multiple reasons, and the problem varies in its seriousness across higher education's many sectors. For-profit colleges charge too much; almost all objective commentators agree. Professional education is far too expensive. In particular, the law schools have jacked up tuition prices and are producing about twice as many lawyers as the nation needs. Administrators' salaries have gone up faster than professors' salaries, and numerous frills--fitness centers, luxury student housing, recreational facilities like LSU's "Lazy River"--all this has contributed to the spiraling cost of higher education.

About all these issues, Professor Mankiw had nothing to say.

Personally, I found Professor Mankiw's essay offensive. Millions of people can't pay back their student loans, and most can't discharge those loans in bankruptcy.  Meanwhile, the Department of Education and the policy wonks are urging the expansion of long-term repayment plans that will force Americans to pay on their student loans for 20 or 25 years. In short, the student loan program is a mess, and Professor Mankiw prattles on about Baumol's cost disease!

Professor Mankiw's op essay in the Times was nothing  more than a lazy and self-serving defense of the status quo--a status quo than benefits people like Professor Mankiw.
Professor N. Gregory Mankiw: He likes the status quo.









Friday, December 18, 2015

Deeper into the abyss: Obama introduces REPAYE, yet another income-based student-loan repayment plan designed to turn students into sharecroppers

This week, the Obama administration introduced REPAYE, a new student-loan repayment plan.  Like PAYE ("Pay As You Earn"), REPAYE allows borrowers to pay back their student loans over a 20 year period and to make monthly payments no larger than 10 percent of their discretionary income.  REPAY, however, is available to borrowers who were not eligible for PAYE.

What is the significance of this new development?

It's complicated.  First of all, REPAYE is the federal government's fourth income-based repayment plan. We now have:

  • ICR Plan (Income-Contingent Repayment Plan)
  • IBR Plan (Income-Based Repayment Plan
  • PAYE (Pay  As You Earn Repayment Plan
  • REPAYE (Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan)

Not all borrowers are eligible for all plans, and some plans are more favorable to debtors than others. DOE issued a 26-page set of guidelines called "Income-Driven Repayment Plans: Questions and Answers," but the guidelines are complicated.

Here is a sample passage:
The REPAYE, PAYE, and IBR plans offer an interest benefit if your monthly payment doesn't cover the full amount of interest that accrues on your loans each month. Under the three plans, the government will pay the difference between your monthly payment amount and the remaining interest that accrues on your subsidized loans for up to three consecutive years from the date you begin repaying the loans under the plan. Under the REPAYE Plan, the government will pay half the difference on your subsidized loans after this three-year period, and will pay half the difference on your unsubsidized loans during all periods.
Millions of people are already confused by their student loans. Some don't know if they have private loans or federal loans, some don't know how many loans they have, some don't know how much they borrowed or what they now owe, and some people don't even know that they took out a student loan.

For the 20 million people who aren't able to make loan payments under a standard 10-year repayment plan, REPAYE is not going to offer much relief.  It's just another level of bureaucracy and administrative regulations.

REPAYE is a new sign of desperation. Second, REPAYE is just another sign of the federal government's desperation about the federal student loan program. As the New York Times noted a few weeks ago, 10 million people have either defaulted on their student loans or are delinquent in their payments.  About 4 million are making payments under the government's first three income-based repayment plans; and most are not making payments large enough to cover accruing interest.  And a bunch more have gotten some kind of deferment from making loan payments based on economic hardship.

The government's response to all this chaos and misery is to roll out ever more generous long-term repayment plans.  But this strategy hides the fact that millions of people on these plans will never pay back the principle on their loans and for all practical purposes are in default.

REPAYE is really just a program for turning college students into sharecroppers for the federal government.  But the real problem with REPAYE, with PAYE and with IBR and ICR are that these plans force millions of people to make payments to the federal government for a majority of their working lives in return for the privilege of attending college.  In effect, the government is turning our nation's young people into a generation of sharecroppers.

And remember, for most people, these 20- and 25-year repayment plans don't begin when students graduate from college. Often former students struggle for five years or more with their student loans before they finally sign up for a long-term repayment plan.  And that's when the long-term repayment plan starts.  Thus a person who graduated in 2010 and joins an income-based repayment plan this year, will not be free of student loan debt until 25 or 30 years after first enrolling in college.

President Obama, Arne Duncan, the Brookings Institution, and higher education leaders like Vassar's Catharine Hill hail long-term repayment plans as a solution to the growing student-loan crisis. But of course, these plans are not a solution at all. They're a strategy for turning Americans into indentured servants.

Image result for sharecroppers images
Go to college and become a sharcropper!


Image result for catharine hill vassar
Vassar's Catharine Hill: What the kiddies need is a nice long-term repayment plan!



Monday, December 7, 2015

College presidents' salaries are going up. Don't governing boards know they can hire dunderheads for a lot less money?

Salaries for private college presidents went up 5.6 percent between 2012 and 2013, according to a  Chronicle of Higher Education survey. Lee Bollinger is the highest paid president. He made $4.6 million in total compensation in the survey year. Amy Gutmann ranked second. Her total compensation was more than $3 million in the year of the survey including a bonus totally a cool million and a half.

Lots of these academic high rollers get salary enhancements in the form of puffball performance bonuses and deferred compensation packages that help them manage their taxes. As if some bloated college president needs the incentive of a  financial bonus in order to make key executive decisions like raising tuition, and outsourcing student services.

Of course the governing boards insist they have to pay ridiculous salaries to attract top talent. What a load of horse manure.  You don't need to pay $4.6 million to find a president wiling to defend race-based admission policies, like Bollinger did at the University of Michigan.

You don't need to pay a guy millions of dollars to wear a bow tie and host elaborate parties for big-shot donors, like Ohio State University did when it had Gordon Gee on the payroll.

Image result for gordon gee ohio state university compensation

Gordon Gee: Goof balls can be hired for a lot less money.
You don't have to pay $3.0 million a year to hire someone who writes mediocre books, which is what University of Pennsylvania pays Amy Gutmann, author of Democratic Education, one of the purest examples of academic bull crap you'll ever want to read. And Vassar could certainly find a dullard president for less than it pays Catharine Hill, whose only solution to the student  loan crisis is better counseling and long-term repayment plans!

You don't need to pay a half million or so to find a president willing to hold photo ops serving pancakes to students while presiding over a university that pays assistant football coaches a million dollars a year--more than the president himself makes--as Louisiana State University did when it hired F. King Alexander.

This is the same Louisiana State University, by the way, that is planning the construction of an $85 million "lazy river" recreational project that includes a "water feature" shaped in the letters of LSU.  Why is LSU doing this?

According to Laurie Braden, LSU's Director of University Recreation,  “I will put it up against any other collegiate recreational facility in the country when we are done because we will be the benchmark for the next level.” The next level of what--the next level of insanity?

I wonder how much Braden makes for dishing out that kind of logic?

University governing boards need to be clued in to this simple fact: They can hire dunderheads for a lot less than a million dollars  a year.  For a lot less money, presidents can be found who will sign contracts with Starbucks  so that university students pay four bucks for a cup of coffer instead of a quarter.  Presidents can be hired who will sign contracts with Barnes & Noble to sell overpriced textbooks to students and give the university a  percentage of the profits. Presidents can be found at reasonable salaries who will collude with banks and credit card companies to encourage students to utilize the services of favored financial institutions.

CEOs can certainly be found at very reasonable salaries who are willing to kiss the butts of student protesters and coddle the kids who take over the presidents' offices.

In short, this nation could run a crappy higher education system like the one we have for a lot less money.

LSU President F. King Alexander: Would you like pancakes with your fee bill?
Photo credit: Baton Rouge Advocate and Hilary Scheinuk

Friday, December 4, 2015

New York Times essayists argue for subsidized food, housing, and transportation for college students. Well, why the hell not?

Sara Goldrick-Rab and Katharine M. Broton argued in the New York Times today that federal poverty programs should be expanded to include college students. Some college students are homeless, the authors point out, and one in five reported in a recent survey that they had gone hungry at least once in the previous 30 days due to lack of money.

This is the second vacuous essay published in the New York Times over the space of less than a week about the cost of higher education and what to do about it. Just a few days ago, Vassar's President Catharine Hill argued against Bernie Sanders' "College For All" proposal to allow people to attend a public four-year college for free. Hill said the solution to the high cost of higher education is better counseling and long-term repayment plans.

If I were grading President Hill's essay, I would give it a C- and scribble "trite and unoriginal!" in the margin of her paper in bold red ink. If I were grading Goldrick-Rab and Broton, I would assign them a failing grade but give them the opportunity to resubmit after doing a little research.

Yes, there are homeless college students--about 50,000, according to one report. But at least some of those people were unscrupulously recruited by colleges who just want their Pell Grant money and the proceeds from their student loans. Do we really want to expand the federal school-lunch program to deal with those people as Goldrick-Rab and Broton propose? Shouldn't we just help homeless college students in the same way we help all homeless people?

Currently, the U.S. government is spending about $165 billion a year on various student-aid programs, including loans, grants, and campus work-study jobs. And the government gives food stamps to 52 million people, including some college students. Isn't that enough?

Interestingly, neither Vassar's Hill or Goldrick-Rab and Broton (from the University of Wisconsin apparently) offered any serious plan for reducing college costs. Hill said vaguely that students need longer repayment plans to pay their tuition bills and the Wisconsinites didn't offer any suggestions at all.

Higher education is a great business isn't it? The universities can jack up their tuition as high as they like, knowing the students will simply borrow more money to cover their fee bills.  Who cares if the saps can't repay their student loans? "Not my problem" is the higher education industry's stance.

And when the public wakes up to the fact that the cost of going to college is out of control, who does it turn to for answers? People like Catharine Hill, Sara Goldrick-Rab and Katharine Broton--lackeys of the institutions that created the problem. And the New York Times, which doesn't really give a damn about the student-loan crisis, obligingly prints these dopes' essays on its op ed pages.

Image result for sara goldrick rab wisconsin
Sara Goldrick-Rab wants to expand the school-lunch program to include college students

References

Sara Goldrick-Rab and Katharine M. Broton. Hungry, Homeless and in College. New York Times, December 4, 2015, p. A33. Accessible at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/opinion/hungry-homeless-and-in-college.html

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













Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bernie Sanders' proposal for free tutiiton at public universities could actually save taxpayers money. So why don't we do that?

Bernie Sanders has proposed free tuition at all American public universities. Let's look at that proposal and also examine the reasons why Bernie's scheme will never be implemented, even though it would cost taxpayers less money than they are spending now on student financial aid.

According to Catharine Hill, president of Vassar College, free tuition at the nation's public universities would cost about $70 billion, which is a lot of money.

But the federal government will distribute almost $35 billion  this year in Pell Grant funding to low-income students. If Congress closed the Pell Grant program and simply provided free tuition at public universities, half of the estimated cost of Sanders' plan would be covered by the switch.

Where would the other $35 billion come from?

In addition to Pell Grants, the federal government operates the federal student loan program, which will distribute more than $100 billion a year in college-loan money. About a third of that sum will be lost due to defaults It would actually be cheaper to provide every American with free tuition at a public university than to operate the federal student-loan program at $100 billion a year and the Pell Grant programs at $35 billion.  In fact, this change would save the federal government about $65 billion a year.

Why then don't we adopt Bernie Sanders' proposal?  Three reasons:

1) The for-profit college industry would collapse. Currently, the for-profit colleges get about 25 percent of all federal student-aid money. If the government stopped subsidizing the for-profit college sector, the for-profits would be forced to close because they get 80 to 90 percent of their operating revenues from federal funds. In fact, offering free tuition at public universities in lieu of the current student-aid system would shut down the for-profit college industry almost overnight.

This sleazy sector of higher education will never allow Bernie Sanders' plan to be operationalized. The for-profit colleges have made strategic political contributions to key congresspeople, and they own most of the lobbyists in Washington. For this reason, Bernie's free-tuition program is already dead.

2) Nonselective private colleges would collapse.  Bernie's free-tuition plan would also kill the nondescript private colleges. Why would anyone attend Malloy University on Long Island, Cabrini College in Philadelphia, or Pine Manor College in Boston if they could go to a state university for free? This sector of higher education will surely do everything it can to make sure Bernie's pipe dream never  becomes a reality.

3) Elite colleges and universities would suffer. Free tuition to attend a public university would not mean the death of Harvard, Yale, Vassar, Dartmouth, and the other elite private colleges. Most of them have large endowments that would keep them afloat even if the federal student-aid program was closed. Moreover, there will always be wealthy families willing to pay almost any amount of money for their children to attend an Ivy League school, even if the public universities were free.

Nevertheless, the Harvards and the Yales do quite well under the status quo. They certainly get a hefty financial boost from Pell Grant money and federal student-loan revenues.  Having a federal cash infusion allows then to jack up their tuition, because they know students will simply borrow more money to cover tuition hikes. When Catharine Hill of Vassar spoke out against Bernie Sanders' free-college plan in the New York Times yesterday, she was speaking not just for Vassar but for all the elite colleges.

Conclusion: Bernie's Free-Tuition plan is Dead On Arrival

In short, Bernie Sander's proposal to give everyone a free undergraduate education at a public college or university is DOA.  The for-profit college industry  and the non-profit private universities simply will not allow it.  These two groups own Congress, and they like the status quo.

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Bernie's College-For-All plan: DOA

References

American Council on Education. The Status of Federal Student Aid Programs. Washington, DC: Author, 2015. Accessible at: https://www.acenet.edu/news-room/Documents/The-Status-of-Federal-Student-Aid-Programs.pdf

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/

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

Monday, November 30, 2015

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