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How Financial Aid Letters Often Leave Students Confused and Misinformed

The Department of Education has a model financial aid award letter. It’s very different from what schools are actually sending.

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A student guide points out campus sites to prospective students and their parents during a college tour. The financial aid award letters that colleges send to prospective students can be confusing with grants, scholarships and loans all under one heading. (File, Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo)

The financial aid award letters that colleges send to prospective students can be confusing: Many mix grants, scholarships and loans all under the heading of "Award," "Financial Assistance," or "Offered Financial Aid." Some schools also suggest loans in amounts that families can't afford.

Take Parent Plus loans, a federal program that allows families to take out as much as they need, after other aid is applied, to pay for their children's college costs. As we recently reported with the Chronicle of Higher Education, Plus loans are remarkably easy to get. With minimal underwriting and no assessment of whether parents can actually afford the loans, families can end up overburdened by debt.

Colleges often exacerbate things when their letters lay out, or "package in," large Plus loans to cover unmet need when student aid falls short. Just like the government, many colleges recommend loans without regard to family income or ability to repay.

The practice can leave students feeling misled. As we reported, Agostinha Depina, a 19-year-old college student, said that one of her award letters — from her top choice, St. John's University in New York — "made it seem like they gave me a lot of money."

After consulting a counselor, she realized that "it was more loans in the financial-aid package than scholarship money." St. John's did not return our request for comment.

"Financial aid award letters need to be more transparent around laying out aid that doesn't need to be paid back and loans that do," Education Department spokesman Justin Hamilton said in an email.

The department has laid out what it says is a better option. Earlier this year it created a model award letter [PDF], which separates "gift" aid — grants and scholarships from the school or the government — from "loan options." Parent Plus loans are included in a separate category — "Other options" — with no suggested dollar amount.

 

The award letters many students are actually getting from schools look very different from the Education Department's preferred — but not required — layout. Here's one package from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, a public school.

 

Notice that the student in this case — whose name we have redacted for privacy — was suggested a $16,800 Plus loan in the financial aid award letter, bringing the student's total estimated financial assistance to $33,200.

Conveniently, the figure matches the stated cost of attendance for that year. Not so conveniently for this student, it was beyond what her family could afford. (MassArt has yet not returned our request for comment.)

The language on award letters can also leave the wrong impression. The MassArt letter starts by saying the student will be "eligible to receive the following assistance" — even though getting the Parent Plus loan requires a credit check and applicants are sometimes denied.

Another award letter from Pace University, a private university in New York City, also packages in the Parent Plus loan to bring the total "offer of financial assistance" to just a few dollars short of the full cost of attendance. The student in this case also qualified for a federal Pell grant — need-based aid that typically corresponds to a household income of $50,000 or less. Pace still suggested a nearly $19,000 Parent Plus loan for just one year.

 

Robina Schepp, Pace's vice president for enrollment and placement, said the school offers financial aid counseling and information sessions for parents and students.

Long Island University, another private university in New York, also packages in the Plus loan to match the estimated costs down to the dollar. An LIU spokesman did not comment.

 

Some colleges do consider parental income when they suggest Parent Plus loans. Ringling College of Art and Design uses an algorithm to determine the recommended loan amount. The school's letter notes that the listed amount is "an estimate of what you may wish to consider borrowing, and is partly based on your income." Parents, it says, "may apply for more or less."

Similarly, Drexel University — a private university in Philadelphia — packages in Parent Plus but "does take into account the ability of the family to contribute to the education cost for the suggested Plus loan amount," said Niki Gianakaris, a university spokeswoman. (Gianakaris said the school is also revamping its award letter to make clearer distinctions between grants, scholarships and loans.)

It's not clear whether these more conservative approaches to packaging in Parent Plus loans actually result in more conservative borrowing: At Drexel, the average Parent Plus loan was more than $24,000 in the 2010-2011 fiscal year. Meanwhile, the average parent loan at Ringling topped $26,000. That's much higher than the average Plus loan across all schools that year: $11,877.

As of late last month, more than 300 schools — representing about 10 percent of all undergrads — had adopted the Education Department's model letter.

Some members of Congress have tried to go further. Earlier this year, Sen. Al Franken sponsored legislation that would make it mandatory for all institutions of higher education to adopt a standardized financial aid award form. The bill is still in committee.

"Students and parents are not getting consistent, accessible and comparable information about college costs and their financial aid offers," Sen. Tom Harkin said in an emailed statement. Harkin is chairman of the Senate education committee and a co-sponsor of Franken's bill. "A concerted effort at all levels — campus, community, state and federal — is necessary to ensure that families have the information they need to make the decision that is best for them."

Based simply on your article - which isn’t necessarily scientific or representative, and isn’t represented as such - it appears that private, for-profit educational institutions (likely in cahoots with financial institutions, of course) are more likely to attempt to abuse prospective students and their parents than public, non-profit education institutions.

But it would be nice to see solid evidence…

Me, I feel quite confident in assuming that many, many private for-profit educational institutions have been created over the last decade solely because of student lending and anticipated - and subsequently delivered - Republican bankruptcy “reform” in the same arena.

That is, the Republicans set a whole generation of America’s kids up like ten-pins in a bowling alley, and now they’re knocking them down…and the Republicans are now simultaneously running advertising demanding that those kids vote Republican with a divide and conquer strategy of blaming the parents and grandparents of those kids for increasing the financial pressure on them with Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid deductions on top of their student debt payments!!!!!

Are the righties/Republicans some (in lieu of some choicer, more explicit terms) dirty birds, or what?

Glad you are doing this series!

In the meantime, data collection is rapidly expanding with this rationale:
“Technology, data, and entrepreneurs can help with college affordability—as well as help address our national priorities in K-12 education.”“Education Data Initiative, an Administration-wide effort to ‘liberate’ government data and voluntarily-contributed non-government data as fuel to spur entrepreneurship, create value, and create jobs while improving educational outcomes for students”... “all while rigorously protecting personal, proprietary, and national security information.” “Our Administration’s education agenda, including initiatives like Race to the Top and the ESEA Flexibility Package, have emphasized the centrality of data.” http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2012/01/19/unlocking-power-education-data-all-americans

Oh the sweet mingling of corporations and government!
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/microsites/ostp/ed_data_commitments_1-19-12.pdf

Three corporations stand to profit in a “data locker commitment”:  Microsoft, Parchment and Personal.
http://blog.personal.com/2012/01/grade-a-idea-my-data-button-brings-ed-records-to-you/

“A Personal Learning Profile is the collection of all the information about what and how I learn—both in formal settings like school, and informal settings like online learning or community activities. So it would include grades and test scores, as well as results from a robotics competition, feedback from a violin performance or books I’ve read. Soon students will see MyData download buttons on a variety of sites that have that have parts of their learning profile, such as a school’s online grade book”
http://www.ed.gov/edblogs/technology/mydata/

Just press MyData Button for Big Bro to mine data for “life long learning”!!!

Stephanie Palmer

Oct. 16, 2012, 5:44 p.m.

What is wrong with these kids?  Use the community college system for the first two years. It was set up amid a lot of controversy as part of Johnson’s Great Society.  Community colleges are far less expensive than regular college. Why not take advantage of it?  And why would you go to a private university rather than use the state college systems?  State colleges are expensive enough, but private universities are really like going to the moon.  The expense is ridiculous.  If you can afford college on your own or with help from your family, knock yourself out. But if you have to place burdens of loan debt on your family, that’s wrong. Times are too tough. If enough kids reject the private colleges, their prices will come back down from space and rejoin the human race.

Delivering personalized and actionable data to prospective college students (of all ages) enables them to make informed decisions and graduate with as little debt as possible. With that as its mission, last week Rezolve Group and its subsidiary Student Aid Services of Sacramento became the first to enable colleges and other post-secondary schools to adopt the new Financial Aid Shopping Sheet, an individualized aid award letter to help prospective students understand and compare their affordability among various colleges of interest.

Serving nearly 700 campuses and 1.5 million college students annually, Rezolve Group showcased how some colleges it works with are already adopting the Shopping Sheet and Student Aid Services’ own detailed Personal Student Prospectus to communicate an individual’s affordability and academic fit by providing accurate aid eligibility and cost estimates as well as other personalized information about academics, housing and other interests so students and their families make smart choices.

Knowing aid eligibility, net price (sticker price minus free grants) and a student’s real out-of-pocket costs and eventual monthly loan repayments is essential to planning for college and needs to be done well in advance of actually applying to schools.

Samantha Egerthune

Oct. 17, 2012, 8:33 p.m.

I keep waiting for the education cost bubble to burst and each year I’m surprised it hasn’t.  I thought the growing disparity between indebtedness and ability to get a job to pay it would pop the bubble, but so far it just continues to squeeze it and squeeze it.

William McClain

Oct. 18, 2012, 4:32 a.m.

@ibsteve02

Won’t disagree one way or another on the way private vs. public schools work their awards letters, because I don’t know. That said, it’s important to note none of the private schools listed above are for-profit. Just because a school is private does not mean it’s for-profit, a huge distinction for accounting and regulatory standards. For-profit schools include institutions like ITT, or the Arts Institutes, often Culinary schools, or institutions like the University of Phoenix. Private non-profit universities are expected to account and behave according to non-profit standards, and are regulated as such.

@William McClaim -  thank you!

My cue to go:  “Private non-profit institutions engaging in such behavior?  Oh, dear - you mean they don’t even have the profit motive to justify such heinous behavior?  But…that suggests other motives such as pay-offs from lending institutions to the educational institutions…the possibility of which should be investigated!!”

lolll….matter of fact, the student lending arena has the aroma of a suddenly foreclosed fish market about it: 

http://www.finaid.org/educators/illegalinducements.phtml

Not every state is as aggressive as New York when it comes to protecting their consumers…to include their students.  In fact, I daresay New York is an extraordinary exception for even making the attempt…and still has loopholes sufficient to ensure that Wall Street and Big Banking operate from there.

Stephanie, call it pervasive marketing.  Schools have the luxury of having two of the most gullible audiences possible, teenagers who are trying to define their identities and parents who “want the best” for their children.  Ask around teenagers and parents of teenagers you run into, and you’ll get a consistent story that community college is some sort of exile for poor kids.

Considering the money private schools put into circulating their names and the money states do NOT put into doing so, it’s maybe easy to imagine how brand has become so important.

And there are times when it is important.  In an “old boys’ club” industry like finance or law, having been someone’s nephew’s freshman year roommate is often more important than the degree (and just as many industries where it just matters that you have any degree), so “community college then transfer” isn’t a one-size-fits all solution.

The Shopping Sheet is great. Our institution is implementing it. In fact, I’ve been tasked with formatting it and creating it.

That said, and “apples to apples” comparison is only part of the issue.

What happened to students and families actually budgeting their costs? The article states the listing of PLUS loans as deceptive and contributory to increased debt burden. The fact is: all three parties have an equal responsibility in this:

1. Students MUST budget their costs. As most of us know, the cost of college, the ever-confusing COA (Cost of Attendance) includes things like clothing, misc/personal, transportation, and entertainment. While clothing is important, the suggestion that a loan should subsidize a student’s ability to have spiffy new clothes or a nice Prada bag is outrageous. Parents and their students need to seriously consider budgeting, in addition to their direct costs (tuition, fees, and housing—if on campus) a reasonable monthly amount necessary to cover things like groceries, travel, and what contribution they will make out of pocket.

2. Institutions need to make sure they communicate clearly about the PLUS loans (credit-based, higher interest rate, etc.). In fact, our institution takes extra effort to dissuade individuals from pursuing this loan. Institutions need to be more pro-active about grants/scholarships. They need to learn to effectively utilize funds, discounts, and endowments available. Finally, they need to take responsibility for their direct costs. Many institutions have inflated sticker prices due to subjective reasons (professor celebrity, institutional reputation, so on and so forth). It is imperative to make sure that institutions price their costs reasonably, accurately, and ETHICALLY. We live in a society that breeds competition and free market. Because of that, even non-profit institutions shell out $250,000+ salaries for presidents and VPs. Additionally, our undergraduate program has not increased tuition in 4 years, though it is going up by a minimal 3% (unofficially) for the 2013/2014 academic year.

3. The federal government should compile accurate data about the correlation of those receiving the most Pell and their likelihood of graduation/employment. At this time, despite all the data that we have, there has not been any tracking of this information. For a vast government as ours, that detail on our now $40 billion investment should seem obvious. There is some suggestion through correlative data that those receiving the most gift aid are not necessarily the most successful, competent, or effective in the society after graduation. Additionally, the aid process needs to continue to be more streamlined. I am not a fan of big government, but private lenders participating in the Stafford Loan process seemed to be a less effective way of administering such funding, especially with what often seemed like inherently evil intentions by lenders to abuse or skirt federal regulation. Finally, the DOE needs to add logic to their policies, procedures, and regulations handed down to institutions. The Return of Funds process is convoluted and messy. I attended a conference back in May where a DOE rep presented on the Return of Funds process. He literally stated, “don’t look for logic in this regulation; it is not there. Just follow the regulations even if it doesn’t make logical sense.” Yeah, that definitely seems like the best practice.

Those are just some of the issues, but in my experience (6 years in higher ed fin aid), the only party not actively pursuing personal responsibility in it is the student and family. While institutions and the government may not make the most beneficial changes and updates, we are in a constant state of flux and introspective evaluation. We regularly update our practices as is the DOE. But, you ask a student to complete a budget with their parents to fully evaluate what their need is and what their ability to pay may be, you get a lot of grief, resistance, and complaining.

I and my colleagues have dedicated our lives and careers to helping students achieve their higher education goals and it is often disappointing to see the lack of interest in parents and families in being actively involved in being a partner toward meeting their goals.

Most private and state schools list the parent and graduate PLUS loans as part of available financing resources on the award letter. This is nothing new.
While it may be a little confusing at first, parents and students are then given instructions how to secure these funds. In students case they must complete an MPN and an entrance interview. Parents must complete an MPN and a credit check. If they credit is denied, the student is eligible for additional loan funds.
Parent don’t take out PLUS loans because they’re deceived, they take those out to pay for cost of attending college because they don’t have any savings and have failed to plan for their kids education. The award letter is just the first step and the first communication between families and the office of financial aid. Families know exactly how much they borrow, when repayment begins, interest charged and if they are approved or denied for this LOAN. This is why it doesn’t matter how you present it on a first communication letter. It all comes down to if the parents and student want to buy more college than they can afford at that present point in time.. This decison is allways made by the consumer. Our learning institutions have provided considerable resources in financial literacy and debt management over the past decade.
No one talks about the other side of the trasaction. How do you tell a kid or a family that “this private university is NOT for you because you can’t afford it based on your current income” when our government has put in place a financing mechanism called parent PLUS loan specifically for this purpose? This loan program is put in place, to allow parents who haven’t saved and planned for kids education to catch up. Weather this loan should exist or not and its credit approval criteria is another topic all together.
To state that our private universities imply shady practices hiding the true cost of education is dangerous to the world reputation and brand our universities have build over the last century. Our universities are the pillars of our nation and to compare them to credit card companies is not a road our nation should go down. While I love the work Pro-Publica has done on other issues, I’m not sure they understand the big picture here. 

Also, as far as which type of college to attend dabate, since its a federal loan, the credit approval criteria is the same regardless of which private university or communitty college their kid chooses to attend.

I think there is a misconception regarding the role of a college’s Financial Aid Office.  Our primary responsibility is to assist students with finding funding for college.  While we would love to help students and parents learn financial responsibility (and we do in fact provide some information about making wise choices), our ultimate goal is to help students and their families determine what aid might be available to help them pay for college.  While not the ideal solution, student and parent loans are indeed valid sources of aid; families who have limited grant or scholarship aid available may need to rely heavily on loans to pay for college. 

As long as the school clearly marks a loan as a loan, I believe it is correct for the school to list loans as some of the financial resources potentially available to them.  Excluding loans from the financial aid package will likely result in many students deciding they can’t afford to attend school at all moving to private loans (with much less student-friendly terms) to cover the remaining cost.

While I agree that the shopping sheet is better formated and clearer than most award letters, it still doesn’t solve anything.

Families are either unprepared to pay for college due to their lack of financial planning and responsible budgeting or they come from poor socioeconomic backgrounds.

PLUS loan like very other loan puts people in debt. Access to credit for education is GREAT and too much of debt is BAD. Parents and families need to know this.

How much is too much debt? Our government credit approves PLUS loans. Should a financial aid office be able to reject it?

Our President took out a ton in student debt.Can you imagine if someone at Harvard had the ability to tell him that although he secured the funds to pay for the tuition, he can not attend because technically he can’t afford it? Also, if our Presidents Grad PLUS loan wasn’t part of his award letter, he would have thought that he can’t afford his education and never pursued Law school.

We should better prepare our nation by teaching financial literacy to our kids in grade school. Budgeting and financial responsibility courses are as equally or more important than trigonometry.

I don’t disagree that some award letters can be misleading.  But, more troublesome, is the undertone in your article that it is the SCHOOL’S responsibility to know what a family can afford and only package that amount.  That is impossible, unless we want to triple the info collected on the FAFSA (which we DON’T! - it is already too confusing for families as it is!)

Indeed, there is an undertone in our country that it is always “someone else’s” responsibility to pay for MY education!  That is called “entitlement” and it has become a very troublesome way of thinking for us!

Paying for college is the student’s/family’s responsibility.  We forget that sometimes!  With the exception of the Pell Grant and a few other VERY LIMITED AND DECLINING federal and state grants, financial aid is first and foremost up to the STUDENT and FAMILY!  If you can’t pay for it out of current income or past savings, then you will have to borrow if you want it (just like any other item.)  And it is up to the STUDENT and the FAMILY to figure out how much, if any, they want to borrow.  And, just like in the housing meltdown, families have to be careful.  So, let’s stop taking the responsibility away from where it should truly belong by making people feel like it is always someone else’s responsibility!

The news is not very understanding, etc. I understand then speak

I can’t help but be amused when a comment that introduces proof of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the financial industry and legislative attempts to prevent future wrongdoing results in a flurry of activity on a thread that was otherwise just idling - more or less - along.

Do you suppose that has anything to do with why I post so information?  Both to point out who works for who, and to make such individuals earn their money?  lollll…

William McClain

Oct. 19, 2012, 5:55 a.m.

@ibsteve2u

Thanks for the link, it’s packed with interesting information. There’s certainly a lot of questions that should be asked, and problems that should be dealt with, in the way that college financing intersects with predatory loaning.

I will say from my experience of attending a public school (Virginia), a private school (California), and now an international state school (Germany), that the worst in terms of transparency on financing was the public school. The public school submitted my financial aid in a form similar to LIU’s above, and was difficult to obtain counseling. My private university offered counseling both prior to FAFSA, after, and during my school term. That makes no qualitative or quantitative statements on which is better or worse, just an anecdotal experience. Of course, the relationship of the resources between the public and private school could be a big difference. My university in Germany is actually tuition-free (thank you Green party), so it is not an issue here. The BAföG in Germany serves as student loan/grant legislation but as a foreigner I have no real experience of it.

Also, not to downplay your contributions, but I think you’ll find that RealClearPolicy linked this article yesterday. They drive a lot of traffic (myself included) to articles that have yet to get exposure!

Richard Isacoff

Oct. 19, 2012, 8:23 a.m.

MISSING ISSUE. At what educational institution did students or their parents learn anything about finance or even how to balance a checkbook. Budgeting - Credit - Cost of Borrowing, are all foreign concepts. Maybe from watching NBC’s Numbers? (off-Air), or best bet would be sports betting - at least there real numbers are used.

DIsclosures only work if students or their parents understand them. Maybe we need to write “Disclosures on Student Loans for Dummies” (no offense intended)

@ Richard

Bingo. Ms. Wang completely misses the issue and instead focuses on a syptom. We need to get budgeting and financial literacy in our grade schools. Our HS kids take Calculus courses and can find second and third derivatives but can’t balance a checkbook or understand the concept of present value or how interest compounds.

Our school system purposely is designed to produce financially iliterate graduates who then become financially illeterate adults and parents. This is the 800 pound gorrilla in the room that no one wants to talk about.

“I can’t help but be amused when a comment that introduces proof of criminal wrongdoing on the part of the financial industry and legislative attempts to prevent future wrongdoing results in a flurry of activity on a thread that was otherwise just idling - more or less - along.”
“Do you suppose that has anything to do with why I post so information?  Both to point out who works for who, and to make such individuals earn their money?”

ibsteve2u: At least in the public sector, none of us in the financial aid world are becoming rich through our jobs.  I would actually earn more as a public school teacher (a career well known for low pay rates) than I do as the head of the scholarship department at a large public university.  (And we work long hours—I average 50 a week year-round and up to 80 a week in particularly busy times of the year—with no overtime compensation, despite our low pay.)  Most financial aid professionals are in the job because of their love for students and their belief in the importance of higher education, not because they are trying to make money!

I do agree that certain schools abuse the system.  Some (but not all) for-profit proprietary schools lead students to sign up for extensive loans without making sure they understand the nature of the funding, and might even deliberately mislead students, making them think they received scholarships rather than loans.  However, we’re talking about a small, specific segment of the higher education institution population.

National Center on Education & the Economy
http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Executive-Summary.pdf

Tough Choices or Tough Times
Earlier, almost all the jobs subject to automation were low-skill jobs. That is no longer true. Now it is more accurate to say that the jobs that are most vulnerable are the jobs involving routine work. If someone can figure out the algorithm for a routine job, chances are that it is economical to automate it.
Many good, well-paying, middle-class jobs involve routine work of this kind and are rapidly being automated…

Today, Indian engineers make $7,500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications. If we succeed in matching the very high levels of mastery of mathematics and science of these Indian engineers — an enormous challenge for this country — why would the world’s employers pay us more than they have to pay the Indians to do their work?

@William McClain, re:  “Also, not to downplay your contributions, but I think you’ll find that RealClearPolicy linked this article yesterday.”

While you may think my ego is severely and permanently damaged beyond all hope of repair, again I’ve seen it enough - a flurry of activity in response to the introduction of evidence unfavorable to Big [enter sector here] - to be willing to risk the assumption; to find out that I might have been wrong in making the assumption…well, such is the risk of making a public assumption.  Perhaps a coincidence, in this case.

But the publishing of ProPublica’s investigation by Real Clear Policy?  I find that “other” than reassuring…Forbes Media owns 51% of Real Clear Politics, and Real Clear Policy is a sister site of same.  Steve Forbes hasn’t developed a reputation for involvement in anything that, to quote the Constitution, promotes the general Welfare.  I.e., I would not risk assuming that those who show up because of something they read on Real Clear Policy would be biased in favor of the American public…or America’s students, in this particular case.

Not that I am suggesting that you, William McClain, have any such bias - anymore than I am suggesting that every single comment made since I made my comment linking the information about the New York State Attorney’s action is the direct result of the fact that this article was linked to by Real Clear Policy.  That would be two more assumptions.

Speaking of which, the latter observes that California has approved open-source, digital textbooks for state schools “for the 50 most popular lower-division college courses”.  That is “progress” - unless it spreads to public schools at the pre-college levels, where it will further bind parents into paying private internet service providers a monthly fee so that their children can receive a public education.  Which is already a problem, given that even homework assignments and answers are given via the internet, these days.

@Bonnie, who said “However, we’re talking about a small, specific segment of the higher education institution population.

So you’re saying that “a small, specific segment of the higher education institution population” is behind practices that have grown so common that, to quote ProPublica, total outstanding college debt is estimated at $1 trillion dollars???

It would seem to me that that the practices that drive the cost of a college education so very high that it yields so very much debt would have to be…pervasive…across all of higher education or that debt could never have reached such an astounding number.

That supply and demand thing, you know; if terribly over-priced college educations were the exceptions rather than the rule, then that debt figure would be far lower.

And it is a supply and demand thing…the Republicans and the neoliberals passed voodoo economics which said the more you take, the more you can keep…that incentivized the few to look at “labor” - the American people - as a cost…something to be eliminated.

Then the Republicans and the neoliberals passed inequitable free trade…and people like Jack Welch said “Our duty is to the shareholder today - not the corporation’s or the nation’s tomorrow!”.  And cutting costs became getting rid of American “labor” - that is, offshoring…aided and abetted by Walmart’s demands that American manufacturing meet or beat the prices Walmart could get from communist manufacturers or Walmart would take away their shelf space.

Next thing you know, no manufacturing jobs…America became, in fact, Mao’s “paper tiger”.  And Wall Street and the banks laughed and laughed, because the destruction of the rest of the economy - for the internet made the offshoring of our service sector possible, too - made them top dog.  Next thing you know, Wall Street it telling the remaining American corporations to cut costs - that is, offshore - or they’d badmouth their corporations…and since some evil geniuses had started paying America’s CEOs in stocks, making Ayn Rand displace God and Jesus Christ as Corporate America and the right’s new Divinity…

Anyway, before you know it the only way to even pretend you could have a future was with a college degree; demand outpaced supply, so of course higher education started raping America’s youth…and of course the banks and Wall Street wanted a piece of the action…and of course Congress - properly bribed - let ‘em all have a slice of the American Pie…

And here we are…a $1 trillion-and-expanding student debt bubble that I think the right wants to intentionally burst.  I think those rightie buggers are hoping to make a new class of Americans…a rehash of America’s past:  Indentured students. 

But before they do that, they want to use those students to take down America’s old folks; hence advertising like “voteourfuture” and all of that whining from the right about accumulating debt that America’s young are going to have to pay off on top of their student debt.

The right/Republicans are some mean, sadistic blankety-blanks.  I hope they don’t win any more elections, because if they do, they have America’s students/kids and America’s grandmas and grandpas right where they want ‘em:  In their gunsights.

America’s right is really predictable, people:  What are they going to do?  It’s a priority thing….whatever will make the few who control them richer faster while hurting the most Americans possible.

When I post something like my preceding comment, I think “There are people who are going to read that and think me a radical”.  But all I am doing is stating the obvious; the weird thing is so few people are outraged over it, because this decay…this intentional destruction of the ‘American Dream’...this war upon the American people launched by the right/Republicans has been underway for 40 years!  Every chart and number - every result - out there shows it!

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2011/02/income-inequality-in-america-chart-graph

www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html

visualizingeconomics.com/2007/08/11/united-states-poverty-map/

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/09/map-us-ranks-near-bottom-on-income-inequality/245315/

http://www.businessinsider.com/15-charts-about-wealth-and-inequality-in-america-2010-4#the-gap-between-the-top-1-and-everyone-else-hasnt-been-this-bad-since-the-roaring-twenties-1

I’m not a radical…I just love American and her people - and I know how earlier empires died:  They were destroyed from within by the greed and sadism of a few.  Have you been reading the newspapers?  Watching TV?  Listening to the radio?  Our right - our Republicans/Tea Party/Libertarians/[insert latest misleading name here] - are growing Neros and Caligulas faster and faster…like slimy fungus crawling on rotting logs in a dank and creepy swamp.

They’re puttin’ a hurtin’ on America for certain, and they’re doing it in the worst, most evil way possible:  By telling Americans that other Americans are “OK” to look down upon/despise/hate/leave to die/force to die.

We can’t do that, and call ourselves Americans…or even humans.  So stop enabling the Republicans already!  You’re not a bad person, are you?  If you help them, you become them; it’s one of those inescapable rules.

National Center on Education & the Economy
http://www.ncee.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/Executive-Summary.pdf
Tough Choices or Tough Times Executive Summary
2007

“The Executive Summary of Tough Choices or Tough Times by the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce explains how the dynamics of the global economy will lead to a steady decline in the American standard of living if this country does not undertake the first thorough overhaul of its education system in a century.”

Take a good look at the graphic on p. 6 of this executive summary. American exceptionalism at its very best!

With the real truth…

“Earlier, almost all the jobs subject to automation were low-skill jobs. That is no longer true. Now it is more accurate to say that the jobs that are most vulnerable are the jobs involving routine work. If someone can figure out the algorithm for a routine job, chances are that it is economical to automate it. Many good, well-paying, middle-class jobs involve routine work of this kind and are rapidly being automated… “

“Today, Indian engineers make $7,500 a year against $45,000 for an American engineer with the same qualifications. If we succeed in matching the very high levels of mastery of mathematics and science of these Indian engineers — an enormous challenge for this country — why would the world’s employers pay us more than they have to pay the Indians to do their work?”

ibsteve2u: “So you’re saying that ‘a small, specific segment of the higher education institution population’ is behind practices that have grown so common that, to quote ProPublica, total outstanding college debt is estimated at $1 trillion dollars???”

No, I’m simply saying that *most* schools are not artificially increasing costs just to make more money, and that *most* schools are not misleading students regarding the loans they are borrowing.  The majority of higher education institutions are following the correct procedure of letting students know of available resources (including student loans) and allowing them to make the choice of whether to borrow. 

I’d like to make one other point: Before the existence of student loan programs, a post-secondary education was often too expensive for the average person.  Unless a student was exceptional and received scholarship support, a higher education was generally limited to families that had significant financial resources.  The student loan programs made education more universally available.  People who feel they can’t afford a college education without borrowing but who do not wish to borrow are in no different a situation than if they’d lived a hundred years ago.  That is, nothing has really changed over time; the cost of a higher education has always been out of reach for most people.  The availability of loans makes a college education more accessible to the masses, but the downside that those folks who need to borrow then have some debt.

This article is part of an ongoing investigation:
College Debt

College Debt

Total outstanding college debt is estimated at $1 trillion dollars – and with costs still soaring, the burden on students and their families shows no signs of abating. We're examining how the complicated system of college debt is putting the squeeze on families.

Contact Us

Blair Hickman, Community Manager
@amandablair
Blair.Hickman@propublica.org

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