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.
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