Showing posts with label student loan reform. Show all posts
Showing posts with label student loan reform. Show all posts

Monday, September 5, 2022

President Biden, please be honest with the American people about the student-loan crisis

Be real
Baby, be real
That's all I ask of you
Baby, be real.

An Officer and a Gentleman is a terrific movie about a couple who mistrust each other. Zack Mayo, played by Richard Gere, is an officer candidate at a Navy training facility. To put it mildly, Mayo grew up in a dysfunctional family and wants a better life. 

Paula Pokrifki, played by Debra Winger, is an ethnic factory worker in a dead-end job. She too wants a better life. She can leave her blue-collar world behind if she marries a handsome, up-and-coming naval officer.

Zack and Paula fall in love but are wary. Paula wonders if Zack is just looking for a casual relationship to help him get through basic training. Zack wonders whether Paula is trying to trap him into a marriage that will spring her out of the loser's bracket.

Their complicated relationship is encapsulated in the movie's soundtrack, especially the song "Be Real," sung by the Sir Douglas Quintet. "Be real. Baby, be real. That's all I ask of you. Baby, be real."

An Officer and a Gentleman and "Be Real" are metaphors for the American people who just want to know what the fuck is going on with the federal student loan program.

We know that about 45 million Americans have federal student loans. And we know that the total outstanding debt is about $1.7 trillion. We also know that millions of college borrowers are not paying back their student loans.

Will President Biden's debt forgiveness plan do anything to clean up this colossal mess?

Will the plan rein in the spiraling cost of a college education? Will it help make a college degree something that will get student borrowers into real jobs?

Or is Biden's student-debt forgiveness plan just a gimmick rolled out by the cynical hucksters in the Department of Education to help the Democrats win the midterm elections?

Be honest with us, President Biden. Be real. That's all we're asking: baby, be real.

That's all we ask of you: baby, be real.

Saturday, March 19, 2022

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt: The Student-Loan Crisis is Getting Worser and Worser

"It's a thankless job," Kurt Vonnegut observed in Titans of Siren, "telling people it's a hard, hard Universe they're in."

I know how Kurt feels. I've been writing about the student loan crisis for 25 years. About ten years ago, I started blogging about it.  I've written over 900 essays, and I've gotten a million hits. 

Has anything changed?

The short answer is no. Forty-five million Americans have outstanding federal loans, a total of $1.8 trillion. Americans hold another $150 billion in private student loans, and students' parents owe another $100 billion.

Research confirms that student debt prevents people from getting married, buying homes, and saving for retirement. Indeed, some college graduates would be better off financially had they never gone to college.

Over the years, Congress and the Department of Education have launched various programs to ease the burden of college debt, but everything they do just makes matters worse.

Income-based repayment plans, which set repayment rates based on a borrower's income, have turned nine million student debtors into indentured servants who make monthly payments based on their income, not how much they owe.

The result? Virtually none of those nine million people will ever pay off their student loans because their monthly payments aren't big enough to cover accruing interest. As a practical matter, these college borrowers have defaulted on their loans even though DOE pretends the loans are in good standing.

The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program benefits people who take low-paying service jobs (firefighters, teachers, EMS personnel, etc.). But until recently, only about two percent of the people who thought they were entitled to PSLF debt relief actually got it.

Parent PLUS loans have driven thousands of families into poverty, but Congress refuses to reform the Parent PLUS program. The Wall Street Journal published an essay listing five reasons Congress refuses to act--including the colleges' desire to get Parent PLUS revenue.

When I started writing about the federal student loan program, I viewed it solely as a problem for individual student borrowers--not a boondoggle that could weaken the entire nation.

But it's now clear to me that the program has become so large, corrupt, and mismanaged that it is destroying the integrity of American higher education and undermining the national economy.  Millions of student debtors cannot buy homes, save for retirement, or start families because they are burdened with college debt they can never repay.

Our higher education leaders tell themselves that they are the most sensitive people in America. They constantly prattle about equity, inclusion, and the need to expand opportunities for low-income Americans.

But not a single university president has called for student-loan reform. No college CEO has demanded an overhaul of the Parent PLUS program or legislation to stop the Department of Education from garnishing Social Security checks of elderly student-loan defaulters. 

 Harvard President Lawrence Bacow bent over backward to get a student visa for a single Palestinian, but has this Ivy League prig said anything about a federal program that has injured millions of people, including students at his own university? No, he has not.

University leaders have nothing to say about the federal student loan program because their institutions are addicted to federal money. The status quo suits them just fine.

 After all, if college students graduate with worthless degrees and a mountain of debt, it's not the universities' problem. The colleges get their money upfront.

Harvard University: Ain't we got fun!