Showing posts with label student-loan default rates. Show all posts
Showing posts with label student-loan default rates. Show all posts

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Long-term student-loan repayment rates are shockingly low: A new report from the National Center for Education Statistics

Last month, the Department of Education released its latest report on three-year default rates for the 2014 cohort of student borrowers. DOE reported a three-year default rate of 11.5 percent, up slightly from the Department's 2016 report.

A student-loan default rate of 11.5 percent doesn't seem so bad. After all, nearly 90 percent of the 2014 cohort are not in default.

But wait a minute. Instead of looking at default rates, let's look at repayment rates. How  many people are paying off their loans?

It's not a pretty picture. A few days ago, the National Center for Education Statistics produced a report on student-loan repayment rates; and the NCES's findings are alarming. The report is packed with incomprehensible, technical jargon and far too many tables and appendices, but if you dig around in the report,  you get to the heart of the matter.

Among borrowers who were first-time students in 1995-1996 (more than 20 years ago), less than half had paid off their loans by 2015. According to NCES, only 41.3 percent of the students in this cohort had paid off their loans 20 years after first entering postsecondary education.

What is the status of the other 59 percent? About 31 percent were still making payments in 2015, 13.8 percent had their loans in deferment, and 13.7 percent were in default.

In the 2003-2004 cohort of borrowers, only 23.5 percent had paid off their loans 12 years after beginning their studies. Three quarters of borrowers in this cohort were still making payments, had loans in deferment, or were in default.

As we would expect, student borrowers who obtained bachelor's degrees or higher had the best repayment rates. Nevertheless, in the 1995-96 cohort, only half of these people had paid off their student loans twenty years after they first enrolled in college.

The bottom line is this.  By giving out deferments and encouraging student debtors to enter long-term repayment plans, the Department of Education has kept its official student-loan default rates artificially low. But the fact remains that almost 60 percent of a cohort borrowers who took out student loans in the mid-nineties had not paid off their loans 20 years later.

And remember, people in the repayment phase who aren't paying down their loans or who are making token payments are seeing their loan balances grow larger with each passing month. An individual who hasn't paid back his or her student loans after 20 years is probably never going to pay them back because the loan balance is out of control.

That should scare Betsy DeVos and her minions at DOE. But she is focused on propping up the for-profit college industry and not the appalling data that show that a majority of college borrowers cannot pay off their student loans even when given 20 years to do so.

Presiding over a looming disaster


References

Andrew Kreighbaum. Post-Recession Borrowers Struggle to Repay Loans. Inside Higher Ed, October 5, 2017.

Jennie H. Woo, Alexander H. Bentz, Stephen Lew, Erin Dunlop Velez, Nichole Smith, RTI International,  (2017, October). Repayment  of Student Loans as of 2015 Among 1995-96 and 2003-04 First-Time Beginning Students. First Look (NCES 2018-410). U.S. Department of Education. Washington DC; National Center for Education Statistics. [Sean A Simone, Project Officer]


Thursday, April 30, 2015

By the thousands, student-loan borrowers are dropping out of income-based repayment plans

Thousands of student-loan borrowers are dropping out of income-based repayment plans, the U.S. Department of Education admitted recently. As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education, almost 700,000 borrowers dropped out of the plans during the course of  just one year--57 percent of the total number of people who signed up for them.

Why did they drop out? DOE says they lost eligibility because they didn't file their annual income documentation--data the government needs to set borrowers' individual monthly payments.

What happened to those dropouts?  DOE says some of them signed up for economic-hardship deferments, some went back into standard 10-year repayment plans, and some slipped into delinquency.

This must be an astonishing turn of events for the Obama administration, which has aggressively promoted income-based repayment plans as a way to keep student-loan default rates down and give student borrowers some relief from high monthly loan payments. Most people who make monthly payments based on their income have lower payments than people who pay off their loans under the federal government's standard 10-year repayment plan.

There's a catch of course. Income-based repayment plans stretch borrowers' monthly payments out over 20 or even 25 years. Moreover, if borrowers' monthly payments are set too low, the payments will  not cover accruing interest, in which case student-loan debtors will see their loan balances go up rather than down, even if they faithfully make all their monthly payments.

Nevertheless, for student-loan borrowers who are unemployed. marginally employed, or simply borrowed too much money, income-based repayment plans are a lifeline because they can dramatically lower the amount of a student-loan borrower's monthly payments.

So what is the Obama administration doing to turn this situation around? According to the Chronicle,  the Department of Education will soon take over the process of notifying borrowers of their annual income-reporting obligations.  DOE is even consulting with "social and behavioral scientists" in order to craft more effective notices. Lots of luck, guys.

Personally, I was astonished to learn that so many people are falling out of income-based repayment plans--the most generous student-loan repayment programs that the federal government offers.. This development is simply another indication that the federal student-loan program is out of control.

Let's review the evidence one more time:

  • The two-year student-loan default rate (the percentage of students from the most recent cohort who default on their loans within two years of beginning repayment) doubled in just seven years, according to DOE's own data. In 2007, DOE reported a two-year default rate of 4.7 percent. In 2013, the two-year default rate was 10 percent.
  • Almost 9 million people in the repayment phase of their loans have economic-hardship deferments and are not making payments on their student loans. Meanwhile, their loan balances are increasing due to accruing interest.
  • About 1.5 million people have signed up for income-based repayment plans, but more than half of them have already dropped out due to the fact that they didn't file their obligatory annual income reports.
We can tinker with the student-loan program in many ways as the Department of Education and the policy tanks are now doing. But the fact remains that millions of student-loan debtors are under water financially and have basically dropped out of the economy. This reality is illustrated by the fact that more that half of the people in the generous income-based repayment programs are not bothering to file their annual income reports.

The only way out of this morass is to admit how bad the crisis is, which will require DOE to tell the truth about the student-loan default rate. Then we need to crack down on higher-education institutions that are exploiting college students. Finally, we must open up the bankruptcy process to allow honest but unfortunate student-loan debtors to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy.

Bleep it, Dude. Let's go bowling. 

References

Robert Cloud & Richard Fossey, Facing the Student-Debt Crisis: Restoring the Integrity of the Federal Student Loan Program. Journal of College & University Law, 40, 467-498.

Kelly Field. Thousands Fall Out of Income-Based Repayment Plans. Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2, 2015.

















Saturday, April 4, 2015

What was your first clue, Sherlock? A Chronicle of Higher Education writer explains that some colleges are gaming their student-loan default rates

Colleges must keep their student-loan default rates down or they will lose their right to participate in the federal student loan program. If a college's three-year default rate (as measured by the Department of Education) reaches 30 percent for three consecutive years, that college can be kicked out of the federal student loan program. And most colleges cannot survive without federal student-aid money.

Ben Miller, writing for Chronicle of Higher Education, explains how colleges can artificially keep their student-loan default rates down, hiding the fact that a lot of their students are not paying back their loans.  As Miller points out, DOE's student-loan default measure only calculates the percentage of defaulters who default within three years of beginning repayment--which is a very short window of time.
[B]ecause the measure tracks results for such a short time, it is possible for colleges to game the metric by artificially lowering the number of students who default within three years. How? A college can encourage borrowers to ask for a forbearance--an option in which the federal government allows borrowers to stop making payments without their loans becoming delinquent or heading toward default. Since it takes almost a year to default, the college needs borrowers to enter forbearance for a couple of years, ensuring they cannot show up in the default rate, even if they never make a single payment.
In fact, as Senator Harkin's Senate Committee documented in its report on the for-profit college industry, many for-profits aggressively encourage students to apply for economic hardship deferments, which are ridiculously easy to obtain.

That is probably why the three-year student-loan default rate for for-profits actually went down a bit according to DOE's 2014 student-loan default rate report. The for-profits are adept at getting their former students to sign up for economic hardship deferments that obscure the fact that these students are not making their loan payments.

Miller argued persuasively that a better measurement of student-loan defaults would be compare the number of students going into repayment at a college compared to the number of graduates.  Students who are going into repayment without graduating have lower rates of success than graduates in terms of getting good jobs, and they also have higher student-loan default rates.  Therefore, a college that has a high level of students beginning repayment compared to the number of graduates is probably a college that has a high student-loan default rate.

So what did Miller find?  Among public 4-year institutions, 84 students went into repayment for every 100 graduates.  But in the 4-year for-profit sector, 233 students went into repayment for every 100 graduates.  In other words, more than twice as many students attending 4-year for-profit institutions began repayment (in the most recent cohort of borrowers) than obtained degrees.

That is a very bad sign, and a strong indicator that the for-profits have much higher student-loan default rates than DOE's anemic metric shows.  It seems reasonable to conclude that the true student-loan default rate in the for-profit sector is at least twice as high as DOE reports; it is probably at least 40 percent!

The Obama administration surely knows that the number of students who default on their loans is much higher than DOE reports every year and that the true default rate for students who attended for-profit institutions is alarmingly high.

But so far at least, the for-profits have evaded effectively regulation; and they have hidden their true default rates by encouraging their former students to sign up for economic hardship deferments. Meanwhile they suck up about one quarter of all the federal student-aid money while only enrolling about 11 percen of all the post-secondary students.

Some day this house of cards will collapse, and the public will realize that the for-profit colleges have unacceptably high student-loan default rates. And we will have to face the fact that millions of people --mostly low-income and minority students--have defaulted on their loans and have had their lives wrecked by the fact that they attended for-profit institutions.

References

Ben Miller. Student-Loan Default Rates Are Easily Gamed. Here's a Better Measure. Chronicle of Higher Education, March 26, 2015.





Wednesday, September 24, 2014

The Department of Education Dishes Out More Baloney About Student Loan Default Rates

During World War I, it was said the British Army kept three different casualty lists: one list to deceive the public, a second list to deceive the  War Office, and a third list to deceive itself.

Something like that is going on with the Department of Education's latest report on student-loan default rates. According to DOE's latest report, which was released today,the three-year default rate actually dropped a full percentage point from 14.7 percent to 13.7 percent.

However, as Inside Higher Ed reported, DOE tweaked this year's report, adjusting rates for some institutions that were on the verge of losing their student aid due to high default rates. Students at these institutions were not counted as defaulters if they defaulted on one loan but had not defaulted on another. According to Inside Higher Ed, the adjustment will be applied retroactively to college's three-year default rates for the past two years.

Thus, as a Chronicle of Higher Education article noted it's "unclear whether [the adjustments for certain schools] or other factors affected the reported percentages."

The bottom line is this: As of today, we don't know whether student-loan default rates really went down or whether DOE's "adjustments" account for the decline.

Arne is full of it!
But it really doesn't matter.  As everyone in the higher education community knows, many colleges with high default rates have hired  "default management" firms to contact former students who are in danger of default and urge them to apply for economic hardship deferments.  Borrowers who get these deferments--and they are ridiculously easy to get--don't pay on their student loans but they aren't counted as defaulters.

Moreover, Arne Duncan's Department of Education has been pushing students to sign up for income-based repayment plans (IBRPs) that will lower students' monthly payments but will extend their repayment period from 10 years to 20 or even 25 years.  As I've said before, many people who obtained IBRPs are making monthly payments so small that the payments do not cover accruing interest. Thus, these people are actually seeing their loan balances get larger even though they are making payments and aren't counted as defaulters.

In short, we don't know what the true student-loan default rate is if it is defined as people who are not paying down their loan balances. But it is a lot higher than the 13.7 percent rate that DOE reported today.

Why is DOE tinkering with the numbers? One reason may be the high student-loan default rates among the HBCUs.  Last year, 14 HBCUs had three-year default rates of 30 percent--high enough to jeopardize their participation in the federal student loan program. This year, Arne Duncan announced that no HBCUs had default rates that would put them at risk of losing federal aid money.

Abrakadabra!  Arne Duncan tinkers a little with definitions and the student-loan default crisis is solved.

As Robert Cloud and I have argued in a forthcoming law review article, one of the three most important things that needs to be done to solve the student-loan crisis is to accurately report the true default rate.  And these are the other two things we must do: 1) provide easier access to bankruptcy for overburdened student-loan debtors, and 2) implement stronger regulations for the for-profit college industry.

But these things are not being done, and the student-loan crisis grows worse with each passing day. Like the British Army during the First World War, DOE doesn't want to know what the true student-loan default rate is and it doesn't want anyone else to know either.

References

Stratford, Michael. Education Dept. tweaks default rate to help colleges avoid penalties. Inside Higher Education, September 24, 2014.

Thomason, Andy. Student-Loan Defaults Decline in Latest Data, Education Dept. Says. Chronicle of Higher Education, September 24, 2014.




Thursday, April 17, 2014

The New York Times Said Something Sensible Today About Predatory For-Profit Trade Schools

I seldom agree with the New York Times.  I live in the real world, and the Times editorial writers and op ed essayists live in the land of gobbledygook.  Nevertheless, every now and then the Times makes contact with planet earth and says something sensible.

And today is such a day. In an editorial entitled "Reining in Predatory Schools," the Times commended the Obama administration for its attempts to regulate the predatory for-profit trade-school industry that has hurt so many poor and disadvantaged students.

The Obama administration seeks to impose reasonable rules on the for-profit trade schools, requiring them to maintain average debt levels for their graduates that don't exceed 8 percent of their total annual earnings. In addition, to remain eligible for student-aid money, the trade schools must keep their student loan default rates at no more than 30 percent.

These are good rules, and the Obama administration deserves credit for pushing these rules forward in spite of ferocious opposition from the for-profit college industry, its lobbyists, and the lap-dog legislators who receive receive campaign contributions from the for-profits and do the industry's bidding.  But--as the Times noted--the rules do not go far enough.

Currently, the for-profits risk being kicked out of the federal student-loan program if their student-loan default rates exceed 25 percent for three consecutive years.  As I have pointed out before, the Feds only measure loan defaults during the first three years of a student's repayment period.  Any student who defaults after three years is not counted in an institution's default rate.

The for-profits have been successful in hiding their true default rates by encouraging their former students to sign up for economic hardship deferments, which excuse students from making their loan payments.  In fact, many for-profits have formal "default management" programs that target former students and help them get deferments.

Hundreds of thousands of former trade-school students who obtained economic hardship deferments will never pay back their loans and for all practical purposes are in default.  The Times is right to say that this problem must be addressed.

And just as importantly, the federal government needs to identify all the people who took out federal loans to pay for worthless for-profit training programs-well over a million people--and forgive these loans. Otherwise, all the people who defaulted on these loans will be hounded by their student loan debts for the rest of their lives.  As I have said before, these people deserve reasonable access to the bankruptcy courts.

I could say more on this topic, but today I simply tip my hat to the Obama administration for its efforts to rein in the predatory trade-school industry and to the New York Times for supporting the Obama administration and urging it to do more.

References

Editorial. Reining In Predatory Schools. New York Times, April 17, 2014, p. A20.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

National Consumer Law Center Report on Sallie Mae: Good Recommendations But They Don't Go Far Enough

The National Consumer Law Center (NCLC) published a report this week on Sallie Mae, the nation's largest lender of private student loans and a major servicer of federal student loans.  The report documents a long history of poor performance and allegations of wrong-doing. As documented by NCLC, Sallie  Mae was under investigation by both the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Justice Department during 2013.

NCLC has produced a very useful and interesting report--but like most reports on the student-loan industry, it does not go far enough with its reform recommendations. In this blog, I will briefly summarize the NCLC  report and give my own recommendations for reform.

Sallie Mae: A Summary of the NCLC Report

The Student Loan Marketing Association--commonly called "Sallie Mae"--began as a government-sponsored enterprise during the Nixon administration. Today it is a publicly traded corporation involved in nearly every aspect of the student loan business.

Sallie Mae is incredibly profitable.  According to NCLC, it enjoyed a return of 30 percent on equity in 2006, and its income nearly tripled between 2010 and 2013. As of September 30, 2011, it has received almost $100 million from the federal government for servicing federal loans.

Sallie Mae's CEO, Albert Lord, received more than $200 million in compensation between 1999 and 2004 (NCLC Report, p.2).  According to Salary.com, Mr. Lord made more than $7 million in total compensation in fiscal year 2012.

Albert Lord, CEO of Sallie Mae
photo credit: Sallie Mae
How does Sallie Mae make its money? Besides servicing federal student loans, it lends money to student borrowers at high interest rates--often much higher than the rates charged under the federal student loan program.

In NCLC's view, Sallie Mae's activities are often not in the interest of student-loan borrowers.  Its private student-loan business offers loans at higher interest rates than loans offered through the federal student loan program and these loans do not provide options for forbearance and long-term repayment that are available to students who borrow from the federal program. Default rates are high for Sallie Mae's "nontraditional" loan, including loans made to students with poor credit ratings who attend for-profit schools.

NCLC also criticizes Sallie Mae's work as a servicer of federal student loans.  According to  NCLC,  Sallie Mae often encourages students who are delinquent on their loans to apply for forbearances instead of steering them into income-based repayment plans, which might be in the students' best interest.  Students who receive forbearnces on their loans are excused from making payments but interest accrues on the loan balance, making them more difficult to pay off.

NCC's Recommendations for Reform

NCLC recommends better oversight of Sallie Mae's activities and urges the government to hold Sallie Mae and other private loan servicers accountable for poor performance and legal violations.  Who can disagree?

NCLC also recommends the creation of a "safety net" for distressed student borrowers who took out private student loans, "including bankruptcy discharge rights and cancellation rights for fraud victims." Again, who could disagree?

My Own Belief: The Private Student-Loan Business Should Be Shut Down

NCLC's recommendations are reasonable, but they don't go far enough. In my view, the federal student loan program should be the exclusive provider of college loans.  In other words, the feds should shut down the private student-loan business completely.

Certainly, Sallie Mae and the major corporate banks should not be offering college loans to students at high interest rates and with inadequate consumer protections--loans which are almost impossible to discharge in bankruptcy. It is outrageous that Congress amended the Bankruptcy Code in 2005 to make private student loans nondischargeable in bankruptcy absent a showing of "undue hardship."

Even the banks themselves have come to realize that the their private student-loan activity is dirty business.  The banks have reduced their student-loan business from $22 billion in loans in 2008 to only $6.4 billion n 2012.  And JP Morgan Chase recently announced recently that it is getting out of the private student-loan business altogether.

All Congress needs to do to shut down the private student-loan industry is to repeal its 2005 Bankruptcy Code amendment and allow distressed student-loan borrowers to discharge their private student loans in bankruptcy just like any other unsecured loan.  That one reform would cause the banks to voluntarily stop offering private student loans.

Why won't Congress enact this one simple reform? Perhaps it is because Sallie Mae, the banks and the for-profit college industry pay powerful lobbyists to discourage Congress from cleaning up the giant mess that the student-loan business has become--both the federal student loan program and the private student-loan industry.  As NCLC pointed out, Sallie Mae paid lobbyists more than $22 million between 2007 and 2013 to protect its interests.

The Feds Should Not Be Paying Private Firms to Manage the Federal Student Loan Program

In addition, the Feds should stop paying private companies to service federal student loans and act as loan collection agencies.  The government now has $1 trillion in outstanding student loans and 39 million borrowers in repayment status.  It is time the government itself takes over the management of this huge portfolio of debt instead of outsourcing loan management to Sallie Mae and other private entities who act in their own private interest and not the interest of student borrowers.

References

Albert L. Lord executive compensation. Salary.com. Accessible at: http://www1.salary.com/Albert-L-Lord-Salary-Bonus-Stock-Options-for-SLM-CORP.html

JP Morgan Chase to stop making student loans. USA Today, September 5, 2013. Accessible at:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2013/09/05/jpmorgan-chase-student-loans/2772509/

Deanne Loonin. The Sallie Mae Saga: A Governmet-Created, Student Debt Fueled Profit Machine. National Consumer Law Center, January 2014.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Borrowing money at interest: The root cause of the student loan crisis

Many people underestimate the magnitude of the student loan crisis because they forget that student-loan debtors are borrowing money at interest and that this interest gets added to the amount borrowed if the borrowers get behind on their payments.

Thus, when we read the published bankruptcy court opinions, we see debtor after debtor who is trying to discharge a debt that is two times or even three times the amount they orginially borrowed. For example, in In re Bene (2012), Donna Bene borrowed about $17,000 in the 1980s to finance an education that she never completed due to the fact she had to leave school to care for her aging parents. She was unable to make her loan payments, and by the time she filed for bankruptcy, the amount of her debt, including fees and accrued interest, was $56,000--three times the amount she originally borrowed!

The York Times, the Obama administration, and other fuzzy-minded liberals think that economic hardship deferments and income-based repayment plans (IBRPs) provide meaningful relief for overburdened student-loan borrowers, but they  are apparently ignoring the fact that interest accrues while people participate in these programs. People who obtain economic hardship deferments for a period of even three or four years will find the amount they owe has grown substantially. 

The case of In re Halverson illustrates this phenomenon. Mr. Halvserson obtained economic hardship deferments on his student loans for many years and was never in default. Nevertheless, by the time he filed for bankruptcy, when he was in his 60s, his $132,000 debt and grown to almost $300,000.

Likewise, people who participate in IBRPs and whose adjusted payments are less than the accruing interest on their loans will discover the amount they owe will grow over the years--not shrink--because the interest is piling up even though they are making regular payments.

The student-loan guarantee agencies, which are the creditors in student-loan bankruptcy cases, have been asking the bankruptcy courts to put debtors on 25-year IBRPs, which is just crazy.  Ms. Bene and Mr. Halverson would have both been in their 90s before completing their IBRPS had they been required to do so. Fortunately, the bankruptcy courts discharged their debts and did not make these unfortunate people go through such a heartless and fruitless exercise.

There was a time--in pre-Reformation Europe--when loaning money at interest was considered sinful. And not so long ago, the states had enforceable usury laws that put limits on the amount of interest that could be charged on a debt.   In the jurisdiction where I practiced law, a creditor could charge no more than 10.5 percent on most debts.  Today, however, banks and credit card agencies are virtually unrestricted in the amount of interest they can charge.

Dorothy Day, the greatest American Catholic of the 20th century and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, subscribed to the ancient Catholic doctrine on usury, and she refused to accept interest on money owed to the Catholic Worker.  In 1960, she famously returned interest on money owed the Catholic Worker by the City of New York. The City had bought a piece of property from the Catholic Worker for $68,700, but there was some delay in making payment. When the check arrived, it included an additional $3,579.39 in accrued interest.

Dorothy sent the interest money back to the City of New York with this explanation (Day, 1963, p. 191):
We are returning interest on the money we have recently received because we do not believe in "money-lending at interest." As Catholics we are acquainted with the early teaching of the Church. All the early Councils forbade it, declaring it reprehensible to make money by lending it out at interest . . . .
Today, unfortunately, American society runs on borrowed money.  Presently, our government is keeping interest rates low for the expressed purpose of encouraging people to buy and borrow more. And where has all this borrowing gotten us? Americans now owe trillions of dollars in debt, including $1 trillion in student-loan debt alone.  College tuition is now so high at both public and private colleges that students are forced to borrow in order to get an education.

There is no easy way back from the abyss, but we can start by easing the burdens being borne by overstressed student-loan borrowers and by putting firm caps on college tuition costs.

References

Dorothy Day. Loaves and Fishes. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1963.

In re Bene, 474 B.R. 56 (Bankr. W.D.N.Y. 2012).

In re Halverson, 401 B.R. 378 (Bankr. D. Minn. 2009).

 
 




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Today’s New York Times Editorial About Student Loans is Not Very Useful


Today’s lead editorial in the New York Times is entitled “Full Disclosure for Student Borrowers.” Basically, the Times says that “[c]olleges, lenders and Congress must ensure that students understand their debt burden.”

Pardon me, Mr. and Ms. New York Times editorial writers, but that advice is not very useful. It is true that a lot of student-loan borrowers did not understand the nature of their loan obligations. Some did not realize they had borrowed from private lenders instead of the federal student loan program, for example; and a great many made poor decisions with regard to what they chose to study. People who borrowed a $100,000 or more to pursue degrees in religious studies, sociology, or some other non-remunerative field did not make smart decisions.

But the fact that many students took out college loans without understanding the consequences is only part of the problem. A bigger part of the program is this: The student loan program has spawned a rapacious for-profit college industry, which Congress refuses to regulate. As a whole, this industry has very high student-loan default rates; and many of them are much more expensive than public-college alternatives. Today, the for-profit institutions enroll about 10 percent of all the post-secondary loan borrowers but they receive about 25 percent of the Federal student aid money.

Another problem is the private student-loan market, which generally charges students higher interest rates than the federal student-loan program and offers students fewer protections like economic hardship deferments. Congress passed legislation that makes it almost impossible for students to discharge their private student loans in bankruptcy, which is an outrage.

If the New York Times wishes to offer useful advice about solving the trillion-dollar student-loan mess, it needs to endorse the following actions:

More accurate reporting of student-loan default rates by the U.S. Department of Education, particularly the default rate for students enrolled in for-profit schools,
Repeal of the statutes making it nearly impossible for insolvent students to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy,
Passage of effective consumer-protection laws that will protect students from unscrupulous college recruiters and colleges’ misleading representations about job prospects for graduates of post-secondary programs,
Congressional or executive action to stop the federal government and the student-loan guarantee agencies from garnishing elderly defaulters’ Social Security checks.

Perhaps the New York Times has offered more useful information about the student-loan crisis in the past.  But the advice offered on today’s editorial page does not go nearly far enough toward solving a problem that is causing hardship and suffering for millions of people.

References

Editorial (2012, May 23). Full disclosure for student borrowers. New York Times, p. A20.