Showing posts with label Historically black colleges and universities. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Historically black colleges and universities. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When It Comes to Student-Loan Crisis, The Department of Education Is a Wizard of Oz Outfit: No Brains, No Courage, and No Heart

As the The Chronicle of Higher Education reported recently, the U.S. Department of Education has relaxed it standards for regulating student loans in ways that benefit certain segments of the higher education industry at the expense of students.

Specifically, DOE spared two or three dozen colleges from the consequences of having high student-loan default rates, it loosened standards for awarding Parent Plus Loans, and it dropped the "cohort-default-rate metric" from DOE's new "gainful employment" rule--a rule that is intended to rein in for-profit colleges that are not producing good student outcomes.

Relaxing standards for PLUS Loans

First, DOE relaxed standards for receiving Parent PLUS loans, loans parents take out to pay for their children's college educations. This may be good for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), which  have lobbied DOE to undo changes in DOE eligibility rules for Parent Plus loans because the stricter eligibility rules had hurt enrollment rates at some HBCUs.

But by relaxing its eligibility standards for PLUS loans, DOE may have hurt parents who are struggling to put their children through college. PLUS loans are a dangerous way to finance a college education because parents who sign them are personally liable along with their children for paying back those loans. And parents who take out PLUS loans will find it almost impossible to discharge those loans in bankruptcy even if health problems or a job loss makes it difficult to pay those loans back.

Dropping the "cohort-default rate" 

Likewise, dropping the "cohort-default rate" metric from DOE's new gainful employment rule will be good for HBCUs and the for-profits, both of which tend to have relatively high student-loan default rates. This change will make it easier for them to continue being elibible for participation in the federal student loan program--their life's blood.

Nevertheless, as critics noted, "the revised rule, which only looks at graduates' debt-to-income ratios, will allow 'dropout factories,' to pass simply by limiting the debt of the few students who finish" (Field, 2014). Allowing dropout factories to continue participating in the student loan program cannot be good for the students who are lured into attending them.

Sparing colleges from consequences of high student-loan default rates

Finally, sparing some colleges from the consequences of their high default rates, as DOE did last fall, is good news for the institutions that were spared (somewhere between 20 and 30).  But to allow a handful of high-default-rate colleges to continue receiving federal student-aid money may not be good news for the students who will continue borrowing money to enroll in colleges where a high percentage of students are unable to pay back their student loans.

DOE's approach to student loan crisis: No brains, no courage and no heart

The US. Department of Education: No brains, no courage, and no heart

The Chronicle quoted Maxwell John Love, president of the United States Student Association, as saying that DOE's actions "reinforces concerns the system is rigged in favor of the industry and special interests" (Field, 2014). And of course Love is right.

President Obama, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and the Department of Education's senior officials know that the student loan program is out of control.  Their feeble attempts to rein in the for-profits are evidence of that.

But the for-profits will never be brought under control.  They have consistently fought DOE's efforts to regulate them either by lobbying or through litigation. In fact, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities sued DOE again this month, trying to block DOE's latest reiteration of its gainful employment rule (Field, 2014). This is the industry's third lawsuit against DOE that I know about.

In short, the Obama administration is a Wizard of Oz operation when it comes to confronting the student-loan crisis.  Its approach to fixing this massive problem lacks political courage; its regulatory efforts are cumbersome and unimaginative; and--at bottom--Obama and his minions are without genuine sympathy for the millions of people who have been hurt by the federal student loan program, by the for-profit colleges, and by the banking industry that has made millions in profits by offering private student loans

No brains, no courage, and no heart: this is the epitaph of the Obama administration's pathetic efforts to address the student loan catastrophe.

References

Kelly Field. ON College Accountability, Will Education Dept. Blink Again? The Chronicle of Higher Education, November 20, 2014. Accessible at:


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.