Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Student Loans Draining Social Security

By Professor Doom

     I can’t emphasize strongly enough how important it is to end the student loan scam. I know, I’ve been harping on how bad this is lately, but it bears repetition. Student loans turn our kids into prostitutes. Student loans drive our kids out of the country

      And now student loans are destroying the social security safety net. I’m not a fan of social security—the whole idea of “give your money to government, and trust it to give it back to you 40 years later” strikes me as pure idiocy, but social security, a horrible government created problem, was created to help fix the horrible government created problem of Keynesian fiat currency—the latter makes it impossible for people to save, because their wealth is constantly being sucked away from them by the Fed’s printing scheme.

     Anyway, social security is supposed to help, by giving money to our citizens when they are too old, too infirm, to even work as a greeter at Wal-Mart or to pour cups of coffee.

      Trouble is, student debt is insanely high now, and all too often that debt was for “coursework” that couldn’t even theoretically result in a job that could pay well enough to pay back the debt. This scheme has been going on for decades now, and now we have elderly citizens, finally collecting their social security, who still haven’t paid off that impossible-to-pay-off student debt.

      Well, they almost get to collect that social security:

     This is becoming ever more common now: elderly citizens, finally old enough to be handed some of their own money back via social security…and not getting it because they were suckered into student loans.

Naomia Davis hasn’t been able to talk on the phone since 2004. The 80-year-old Brooklynite was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s more than 10 years ago and can no longer read.
Despite all of this, the government still expects her to pay back a federal student loan she took out in the 1980s…

     It’s so funny (in a sad way), one of my first essays compared higher education administrators to scumbags who ripped off the elderly:

If I targeted actual 8 year olds, and got them to sign contracts so that every penny they saved in their lives went right to me, I’d be considered a…fool.

If someone comes to my university, and I document they have the cognitive skills of an 8 year old, then make them check a box so that I make more money and the student will never save a penny in his life I am a…successful university administrator.

     It’s sad that the hyperbole of a few years ago is now a simple statement of fact. To take money out of the pockets of senile elderly…how can someone do this? Well, the “leaders” running higher education do this every day now. 
     Let’s see if I can say something else outrageous that nevertheless becomes truth: hey, Federal government! Instead of abusing the elderly, why don’t you just claw back the money that was illicitly transferred to the rulers of higher education? A ridiculous, outrageous, draconian idea…but so many of our schools are money laundering schemes—indebt the students through bogus coursework, take the money and stuff it into the pockets of admin because of their “leadership.” Screw that, this money was taken illicitly, and like any other fraud, the criminals should not be able to just walk away with their ill-gotten gains.

     Enough hyperbole, back to reality. While the previous story is just one person, such stories are becoming ever more common:

“…Between 2002 and 2013, the number of senior citizens losing out on a portion of their Social Security to pay back education debt soared 500% from 6,000 to 36,000..”

     Sure, 500% growth still just means 36,000 victims, but realize the student loan scam has been running for only a few decades, it really just started to become a major scam in the last 30 years. It will get much, much, worse than a measly 500% percent growth, once those former students reach that magical age of 65:

“…More than 3 million Americans ages 50 to 64 are in default on their student loans, putting them at risk of having their benefits garnished when they claim Social Security, if they don’t find a way to become current on their debt…”

     Seriously, do the math. If a 50 year old is defaulting, he’s probably not going to be able to pay back that money, ever. 50 years old, + 15 years, is the magic age of 65. So, in 15 years, we’ll go from 36,000 victims to 3,000,000 victims. That’s a 20,000% increase if these people don’t die first. Yikes. Am I really the only one able to connect the dots here? We’ll be ridiculously lucky if the problem of vanishing social security checks sticks to “only” 500% growth.

     I again come back to: claw back the money. Track down these scum who preyed on our kids so voraciously, shut down the for-profits and claim their assets. I know, most of the money has been spent and you can’t get it all back that way…but this was pure ruthless fraud.

“It’s almost predatory that they are put in these situations,” said Adam Minsky, a Boston-based attorney who specializes in student-loan issues.

      “Almost predatory”? Almost? Everyone who looks at what’s been going on in higher education comes to the conclusion that a great many of our student debtors were ripped off…and there’s never any call to de-rip that money back from the people who took it. Yes, I know, most of the folks who took the money work for the government and asking government to police itself like this is basically suicide…so just take it as a fantasy idea here.

It turns out the man may have actually signed Nicholson up for a loan, but she says it was without her knowledge.
Nicholson started attending classes in September of that year, and when she returned from Christmas break there was a padlock on the door of the school.

     Isn’t that great? Students get signed up for loans without even knowing about it…and 30 years down the road, get hammered, finding out they’re in debt for many multiples of a loan they never knew they had. 40% of debtors weren’t really told about the loans so…yeah, this problem will just get bigger.

      Maybe someone else can suggest clawing back the money from the crooks who stole it?


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Student Debt 2030: 17 Trillion!

By Professor Doom

      Projections of the future are always fun. My own crystal ball is pretty cloudy, and I don’t dare put dates on what predictions I make…I can figure out the inevitable, but I’ve no skill at determining the imminent.

Faculty: “How is this course accredited?”

--I heard so many faculty say something like this, that I took it upon myself to look at accreditation in detail. Despite what even people working in higher education for decades might think, accreditation has nothing to do with education. They just collect fees and look the other way…

     The student scam contributed to the bloating of our higher education system to insane proportions, to the point that, I suspect, every citizen of this country could enroll into an “institutions” of higher education, with no risk of the country running out of capacity…certainly the loan money would be available, but I must put “institution” in quotes as so many of these places that enroll students, particularly the online places (but not by any means restricted to such) really aren’t legitimate enough for such a word. All the loan money on the table, combined with the blind regulation of accreditation, means these self-called schools can spring up overnight.

     When I first started this blog, the total student loan debt was not quite $1 trillion…I remember not too long ago when we freaked out when the national debt reach $1 trillion, and now such a number doesn’t even represent the debt we’ve given to our children for their education.

     Under a trillion bucks a few years ago, and now it’s something past $1.2 trillion. Granted, the student base is larger as well, but tuition costs have skyrocketed, so that average student is now graduating with $35,000 of debt. It’s hard to believe that kind of money could buy a house outright when I was younger…and now it barely buys a diploma, a mere piece of paper that all too often represents nothing at all, even if it’s from a “real” school, whatever that qualifier means anymore.

     The student loan debt is going up, up, up, up over 500% in the last 16 years. I know such a thing cannot go on forever, but a recent chart estimates what this debt will look like in another 15 years or so: $17 trillion dollars.


     I want to highlight a few features of that chart.

     First, the rate of growth of debt is 17%, well past the “current rate of inflation.” Because of the Fed, inflation is a fact of life in America (and much of the world), so, yes, it’s important when making these types of calculations, to consider inflation. Of course, I find our government’s estimation of inflation as laughable to the point of making me hoarse from laughter. Our government claims it’s 2% or so the last few years? Har de har har. Except for gas (thanks to a short term squeeze, discussion of which is beyond the scope of this blog), every expense I have has trivially gone up more than 2% compounded annually, and I encourage the gentle reader to track his own finances with a pocket calculator and see the numbers with his own eyes.

     All that said, even if tuition is currently tracking with inflation…it’s still far too much. I mean, if accredited universities can offer 4 year degrees practically tuition free ($1,000 a year or less), why do so many schools charge $30,000 or more a year…provided the student will take on debt for it?

     Anyway, that 17% growth rate is stunning; it means that the debt will break 17 trillion by 2030, a truly awesome number, more than the national debt today (admittedly, anyone who believes that government’s numbers regarding the debt are any more accurate than government inflation numbers is, well, a fool…).

     This prediction is interesting, and I have no doubt that if things were to continue as they have been, it would come true. Unfortunately, things will not continue, at risk of asking too much of my crystal ball.

      There are three sources of this student loan debt: for-profit, public, and (private) non-profit schools. Where can this debt come from?

      As for our for-profit schools, it’s clear people are catching on. No matter how shrill the advertisements to sign up for these money-pits, there just aren’t enough suckers left to drive the debt much further. Behemoth University of Phoenix lost 50% of its student base last year, hundreds of thousands of students gone…at last, and no thanks to our pompous leaders of higher education, our kids are realizing that going ridiculously deep into debt for any ol’ degree is foolishness.  If semi-legitimate UoPhoenix can’t suck in students, other for-profits are unlikely to succeed either.

     Private schools are closing down, incapable of withstanding the plundering of the administrative caste, plundering which accreditation doesn’t care about any more than it cares about education. Century-old schools are being looted, crashing and burning while administration floats away on golden parachutes. That 17 trillion won’t come from here.

     How about them public schools? Community colleges are all too often ripoffs, but mostly they steal Pell Grant money…that’s a grant, not loan, the new debt can’t come from there. Our public universities have overspent themselves to the point that they can hardly afford to be open when there are no students (too much maintenance on the buildings, too much salary to spend on a massive administrative caste). Campuses are loaded down with boondoggles and incompetent political appointees. On some campuses, students need to walk through whole subdivisions of administrative and sportsball palaces before they can even see an actual academic building. How much more of this will the state citizens take? 

      I don’t know, maybe all that debt can come from an even more grandiose growth of our public institutions, but my crystal ball says that higher education in 2030 will be a very different beast than today. Earlier I mentioned a free university, and it seems likely more of those will pop up, not less. What happens when such things become common knowledge? I suspect taxpayers will say “We refuse to pay taxes to support $1,000,000 a year Poo Bahs and hundreds of $150,000 a year Diversity Commissars when we’ll just send our kids to the $1,000 a year school!”

     Ok, that’s asking for a lot of common sense on the part of the taxpayer…but I still just don’t see higher education maintaining that 17% growth rate for another 15 years.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

CSU: No Money For Spring Break

By Professor Doom

     Prudent and wise leaders care for those that they lead. When times are lean, such leaders know to scale back, and in times of plenty, leaders might expand, but do so cautiously, being careful to set aside some of the surplus for when times become lean again.

     Our leaders in higher education boast, and brag, and boast some more about their amazing leadership. They’ve awarded themselves impressive degrees, splendiferous titles, and, of course, sickeningly large salaries and perks based on their own self-assessed impressions of their leadership skills.

     I don’t begrudge a wise king his palace, there should be rewards for doing good work, keeping honorable stewardship over those ruled.

     Our leaders in higher education insist they are great leaders, why, they even have Ph.D.s in the field of Leadership—I’m serious, type in “Leadership Ph.D.” in Google and see with your own eyes that such a field exists. It’s pretty much the degree you need to get a high-paying job in higher ed…it’s curious I never see TV ads for such degrees, even though it’s been far more a growth industry than most everything else. But I digress.

     The last decade or two has been a time of plenty in higher education, torrents of money have flowed onto campus via the student loan scam. Our rulers, for the most part, have squandered the money, building themselves ever more elaborate campus palaces, hiring ever larger legions of sycophantic deanlings under them, and well, I’ve already mentioned the kind of loot these guys personally plunder from the system.

Admin: “If we don’t keep at least 90% of our students, this school will need to shut down.”

--I’ve heard many warnings like this over the years, because even public institutions never seem to put anything aside, or have any capacity to deal with more than slight hardship. I’ve seen schools lose 10% of their students and collapse.

      I reckon the plentiful years are coming to an end, and the lean years are coming. Across the country, our states are starting to suffer badly under the Keynesian policies of our government, specifically the money-printing that transfers so much wealth to DC…transferring it away from everyone else.

     One of the first major state schools to show the true capabilities of our leaders in higher education is Chicago State University. I’ve discussed the hand-over-fist plundering of the Chicago Community College System before…but the plundering by the university leadership has also left the universities vulnerable to the slightest downturn.

      With funding being cut, the university is shutting down practically overnight—nothing was put aside during those years of plenty:

Chicago State University announced Tuesday the elimination of spring break this year to ensure its students will finish the semester before the school may be forced to close down due to a lack of state funding.

    It’s so bad that the school can’t even stay open for the length of being shut down during spring break! They literally have nothing. Ok, it isn’t as quick as all that, the school actually has gone for almost 9 months without money beyond tuition:

Illinois' public universities and community colleges haven't received state money since summer because of the budget stalemate between Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democrats who control the General Assembly.

     I grant not having money coming in is a problem, but…the leaders had to have seen it coming, and did nothing. They’re looking at solutions now, at least:

"We're looking at how to be efficient in the summer," he said. "We have a number of buildings on campus that are really minimally used, we can close those."

--like most campuses, this place is hugely overbuilt. Despite the unused buildings, here’s a 4 page list of construction projects for this campus, with tens of millions budgeted…

      Read that administrative plan again: they’re going to close the unused buildings. Gee, you really needed a Ph.D. in Leadership and 8 months to come up with that plan? These guys get paid hundreds of thousands a year for this level of acumen…

     I’m not merely criticizing the leadership of CSU here. Across the country, campuses have been choking on the dust of construction for years. Even as on-campus student numbers have been falling (due to far more profitable online coursework being offered), even as class sizes have been doubled-and-doubled-and-doubled again, and faculty positions have been cut, more and more and more administrative palaces were erected. I haven’t been on a major university campus yet that doesn’t have buildings that are basically empty, even during peak operating hours on campuses with nothing but growth.

     Our leaders have taken that loan money, turned our campuses into amusement parks for the students, and built palaces for themselves. They can’t even sell these useless buildings, merely shut them down for lack of funds.

      Truth be told, the money is still available, but the politicians just don’t want to budget it, for reasons that, well, seem credible to be me:

“Chicago State has a history of financial mismanagement, including state audits in recent years that found the school to be a financial wreck. A state audit in December, though, found relatively few problems.

Rauner's office has also criticized what it called "waste," ''cronyism" and lavish administrator perks in Illinois' other public universities…”

     Again, read between the lines. The school was a financial wreck, but once admin had no choice but to show a little integrity and responsibility, then there were few problems. Hey, leaders, maybe you could have behaved with integrity when you weren’t put up against a wall?

      As far as assertions of waste, cronyism (I see no need for quotes for these), and lavish administrator perks --so blatantly lavish that the paper saw no need to put quotes around this phrase!--well, yeah, no kidding, I’ve shown many times in this blog that waste, cronyism, and lavish perks for the administration are part and parcel in higher education today.

     Of course, the gentle reader needs to understand that if this school shuts down, it’s the students and faculty who will pay the price. It’s always a disaster for students when their school closes, as transferring more than a few credits is usually problematic and not every student is in a position to go to another university. Faculty have been reduced to adjuncthood; when the school closes, they’ll just be fired without benefits.

      Ah, but admin? Those are still full time public employees. You can believe there will be plenty of golden parachutes to go around…

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Retaliation Against Prof For Disagreeing

By Professor Doom

     I want to talk some more about this tenured philosophy professor who was fired, because it isn’t just the firing, it’s the overkill that is truly amazing here. While in the “normal” world a pink slip is usually enough, the rulers in higher education revel in displays of power over their underlings.

    There’s a powerful culture of fear on campus now, especially when it comes to dealing with admin. These guys are, all too often, nuts, mad with power, and with no respect for any rules of decency or common sense.

     Seriously, even tenured faculty find themselves keeping their mouths shut now. This poor fool spoke up, and the petulant rage flowed:

"Further, because of your conduct and its impact on the university, you have been designated persona non grata," the letter continued. "As such, you are not welcome to visit the university’s campus or to attend any university activities or sporting events on the university’s property. Failure to comply with this directive will result in legal proceedings."

      Persona non grata? Seriously? For disagreeing with the Poo Bah? Much as ancient Egyptian pharaohs would obliterate all traces of their enemies, to the point of scraping faces off of statues, the same fate awaits those who dare resist the Poo Bah’s authoritah:

Their profile pages had been scrubbed from the university’s website by Monday afternoon.

     It’s not over, of course, as the Poo Bah (justifiably) sees enemies everywhere:

"…found incontrovertible evidence of the existence of an organized, small group of faculty and recent alums working to undermine and ultimately cause the exit of President Newman." He added that the university would "hold those individuals accountable for these actions."

     Seriously, faculty have been working in the culture of fear in higher education for many years now…if we’re going to change things, we know we need to work clandestinely. What other possible result could come of severe punishments for those that speak publicly?

     For what it’s worth, I really doubt the Poo Bah is pushing this new plan out of integrity. The bottom line is our schools have been focused on growth to an obscene level, to the point that graduation rates are ridiculously low. Up until now, a school with a 0.6% graduation rate would be rewarded for having good growth (even if much of that growth was through fraud), but it’s possible these days are finally coming to an end, and the new definition of “retention” is just focusing on future measures of school success besides growth.

      But perhaps I’m being cynical here, and the Poo Bah is honestly a decent person trying to help students. Are the actions of the Poo Bah so far, namely petty and vicious retaliation, those of an honest and upright man? No, they are not. Thus I conclude this plan has nothing to do with integrity, nor a belief in education, because our leaders in higher education care and know nothing of such things…the Poo Bah has his marching orders, and he’s just executing anyone who won’t follow along what is, coincidentally, a more honorable plan than taking advantage of our kids as they stumble out of high school.

      The executions include getting rid of tenured faculty, “job for life” rubbish be damned.

     So, I again maintain tenure is nowhere near as great as people outside of academia think. In theory, you can only be fired from tenure after a due process is followed. Time and again, of course, I’ve seen administration casually disregard due process…you have to fight, and fight hard, to get admin to follow the rules, because they’re so untouchable that they see no need to follow the rules.

      The fired tenured professor lacks my experience (probably because he hasn’t spent time at a questionable community college), and is stunned at the blatant misbehavior of the Poo Bah and admin. He at least was spared more gravedancing by the Poo Bah, who wanted to call him back to campus (despite the persona non grata designation) for some extra browbeating:

“…the letter, obtained by The Chronicle, also said that as a tenured faculty member, he had the right to attend "an initial in-person meeting to advise you of the reasons behind the decision" and to invoke a "notice and appeal" process. It then asserted that Mr. Naberhaus had declined to participate in such a meeting on Monday, an accusation that he disputes.

"The due process is supposed to occur before someone is terminated" if they have tenure, he said. "You’re going to fire me first and then have talks about whether the firing was justified or not? That is crazy."

--you can see the referenced letter here; I have similar documentation of how pinheaded confused admin at a community college is regarding the concept of due process.

     At first I thought this the old “you missed the secret meeting nobody told you about, so we’ll hold that against you too” ploy…admin has a large playbook of dirty moves, but I’ve had the displeasure of seeing most of them firsthand. Actually, there was a different reason the professor didn’t go to the meeting:

He also challenged the administration’s claim that he had refused to attend the meeting this week to discuss his firing. He said he had decided not to attend after he was told that he could not record the meeting, nor could he have legal counsel present.

     So many of our “leaders” in higher education act like criminals, it’s reasonable to conjecture that they may well be criminals. It’s a safe bet the Poo Bah had legal counsel available, and would have had such at the meeting…why wouldn’t he want the (formerly) tenured professor to have the same? Knowing that administrators lie so readily, I can understand why the admin didn’t want the meeting recorded, at least…

      Luckily, the fired faculty is at a school with a tradition of honor and integrity. Thus, he’s not alone, and other faculty are willing to speak up at this inappropriate treatment of one of their own. I’m glad to see there are still some schools with faculty like this:

“They also passed a resolution with near-unanimous support calling for Mr. Naberhaus and Mr. Egan to be reinstated.

Mr. Naberhaus said he was pleased to see such a movement growing among the faculty. The local AAUP chapter, created just last week,…” 

--note: “near-unanimous” support from the faculty. The gentle reader should consider the treatment this tenured philosopher received, and weigh it against my claim that there are sycophants in the faculty. When the kangaroo court is set up, wonder who will be on the committee? If the gentle reader cannot guess, allow me to remind the reader that administrators get to pick who is on committees…

     I’ve mentioned the AAUP before, a union of faculty. I have some qualms about unions, but considered them all the same (and received much smackdown at my community college for even mentioning them). I still feel they can only make a real difference if accreditation mandates institutions to allow unions, but until then, the fired faculty is getting what should happen at every institution: the faculty standing together for integrity, instead of fracturing into factions representing the standards of integrity, sycophancy, and incompetence…integrity being the smallest faction by far at too many campuses.

      I wish him luck. I grant that having tenure does give him some protections: he gets fired first, and then gets to talk about the firing with the Poo Bah who fired him. Even if he gets his job back, other tenured faculty are definitely taking notice here, and dropping their heads even lower. Tenure doesn’t mean much against an overnight declaration of persona non grata and having one’s face scrubbed off, after all…