Tuesday, February 4, 2014

End Student Loan Insanity




(sorry about this not being the promised sequel, but it's coming)

By Professor Doom

    “Don’t worry about the student loan, because you’ll make so much more money once you get your degree…”
--typical line from college administration when recruiting students.

     Every day I see another story on the insanity of student loan debt. They approach the madness from many different ways, but I’ll summarize: student loan debt exceeds a trillion dollars. Student loan debt exceeds credit card debt. Student loan debt can never be discharged, not even through bankruptcy. Since most degrees are worthless, the poorest (you know, the ones who think a degree will help the most) people never make enough from the degree to pay off the debt, which is why more people have student loans than there are college students.

      The data and statistics on the student loan scheme are thoroughly horrifying, but, once again, there are fixes. The obvious fix, of course, is to just stop the idiotic federal student loan program, which is responsible for the vast majority of student loan debt.

     Trouble is, people want college, so we need a replacement for the federal foolishness. I totally get that college is too expensive now for a young person to simply work his way through college (although my fixes, mostly reversions to how institutions used to work, will go some way to reverting to the usual level of cost). I totally get that some people are so disadvantaged that some sort of loan program should be available.

      Once again, there’s a stupidly simple fix that has only one explanation (lack of integrity) for why it hasn’t already been implemented.


     “Our degrees and certificates can fuel your success.”
--right from the University of Phoenix web site. I’ll grant the UoP has never claimed to be higher education in the liberal sense, but the time has come to put some of the $200,000 a day they spend on Google advertising where their mouth is. Yes, they really are that profitable, but not everyone understands where the money is from. Your tax dollars literally go from UoP to Google, for the purpose of luring suckers in for questionable degrees.


     Whether for-profit, non-profit, or state, institutions of higher education raise tuition to as much as they can get away with, to soak up that federal loan money as thoroughly as possible. Education isn’t on the agenda, taking that loan money is; plowing young people under crushing debt is just an unfortunate (and acceptable) side effect. That said, institutions justify time and again that the loans are a good idea for the suckers students, because their degrees will help them make more money.

     But wait. What if the loan money didn’t come from the federal government? The federal government only gives the loan money to accredited schools, because supposedly (and despite my thoroughly showing to the contrary) accreditation gives some sort of legitimacy to certain institutions of higher education.

     If accreditation is supposed to relate to loan money, let’s make it “accredited schools are the only institutions that can make loans to their students for tuition.”


Faculty:  “…Wouldn't presume to speak for everyone in a major. I've known smart kids from all of the disciplines…But education majors. Oh my.

I wonder what they do over there in the school of education. I've heard whispered rumors at the water-cooler of students being assigned coloring books as homework…final essay assignments about their feelings… They don't read the syllabus, or if they do, they don't understand it. I had one of them raise his hand on the fourth (the fourth!!) day of class and ask "are we supposed to be actually *doing* the reading listed on the syllabus?"

--I just had to take another shot at Education; I don’t have to rely on rumors for what goes on in education courses, as I’ve seen with my own eyes. The reason why the education major asked that question, by the way, is because education classes are often fraudulent—the syllabus is the only documentation turned into admin for accreditation, so it’s created to make it look like the class is legitimate. The education class itself usually does nothing, despite any readings given on the syllabus. We must do something about these guys, honest, as this sort of fraud really is unstoppable right now.


     Just imagine the immense prestige of an accredited school with this restriction. Now, an accredited school doesn’t just blow smoke at the students about how much money they’ll make with a degree, the school believes it to the point that it’ll make the loan money to the students. If the school, instead of the federal government/taxpayer, has to take the hit for defaults, I bet that, suddenly, the school would make pretty darn sure the students actually learn something, or at least make sure the students don’t get so far into debt that they’ll never recover. Instead of scraping the bottom of the barrel by blowing a fortune in advertising attracting suckers to sign up for the loans, schools would go back to only taking people that really are interested in studying.

      Now, I know this won’t happen, but we really need to change what’s going on. Apollo Group, owner of the biggest for-profit institutions, is making awesome profits year in and year out. I don’t have a problem with corporations making profits, per se, but all their profits come from sucking in federal loan money and screwing over young people; drug dealers who ply their trade outside high schools look saintly by comparison. 

     If Apollo really thinks their degrees are worth something, they should be more than happy to loan students the money to get the degrees. Heck, they could do that now, since nothing says a student must take only federal loans. Apollo doesn’t do that, of course, and neither does anyone else.

     The reason is simple: the answer to “do they make loans now?” is the same as the answer to “do they think their degrees are worth anything?”…namely, “hell no, they know what they sell is worthless crap for a very high price. They’d have to be freakin’ idiots to loan people money for their crap.”

     Now, in most fields where for-profits and non-profits compete, what happens in the for-profits doesn’t really hurt the non-profits (consider hospitals, restaurants/soup kitchens and private detectives/law enforcement), but it’s different in education. The problem is, the bogus accreditation system and “everyone gets a 4.0 GPA” policies have leveled all degrees, so there’s no way to distinguish sham from legitimate. The non-profit institutions are bleeding students to the for-profits, and can only keep up by making their degrees just as worthless…victimizing everyone.

      I know making institutions, instead of government, responsible for loans isn’t a realistic solution, but I still want to be a (lonely) voice for integrity in the system. On the bright side, the Federal government has serious economic issues now, and might not be able to afford to throw away money on student loans soon. It can’t happen soon enough, as I hate being in an industry that creates victims.

     Since I’m already in fantasyland with this fix, let’s consider what will happen when the federal government shuts down the student loan scam. First, most of the for-profits will close overnight. They get 86% of their revenue from tax dollars (it’s actually more, but that’s for another essay, as I’m wont to say); when that spigot shuts off, it’ll be game over for them. Granted, with the roughly 99% profit margin they have once the student signs up (they pay their teachers/adjuncts very little), they could still make money, but it probably won’t be worth it for them.

     It would be fun to see what happens to the other schools…how would they react to being the only source of tuition loans? I imagine the ones with integrity, that honestly believe their product is legitimate, will happily do so.

     Just how many schools do you think fit that description? Yeah, me too.