Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Continuing Tragedy of Student Loan Debt

By Professor Doom

     Bradley Ritter has a fascinating series of videos on YouTube. He’s a chemical engineer, but has many relevant things to say about higher education. He also often gives advice for kids coming out of school, though usually it’s along the lines of “study very hard and be an engineer.”

     It’s not bad advice, mind you, but my mother was no engineer, and built a very successful online business. Again, just about anyone can do this, but if you give superior service you can succeed. You also probably should stay away from e-bay (their fees seem to only head up), but if you need help, try one of the 10 best e-commerce website builders and platforms of 2019 (or so they say…the point is you don’t need a ton of money to start a business anymore).

      Some might find Bradly Ritter offensive (fair warning if you click on the link to one of his YouTube posts) but a recent video had so many cold, hard, truths in it that I feel the need to highlight them:

--I encourage the reader to check out his other videos as well.

     He in turn quotes often from an article on our generation of students trapped in student debt; it’s mostly a collection of the many, many, horror stories our higher education system and the student loan scam have inflicted on our kids as they come out of high school.

      Let me quickly go over one story, as good an example as any:

Ruiz, now 30 and living with her mother in Oak Park, is working. But she remains in default on her student loans. And that’s eating away at her.

“My mother didn’t raise me to steal, and that’s what it feels like I’m doing,” Ruiz says. “I went to school. I got my degree. I have a full-time job. But I still feel like my mom didn’t raise me to take out a loan and not pay it back.”

      Ruiz is $80,000 in debt, and thanks to an economy which pays most people very little, she just doesn’t make enough, even with her degree, to pay the interest on her loan, even if she’s still living with her mother. This is the heart of the problem of the student loan nightmare: the job you’re getting with the student loan money (for the minority that even manage a useful degree) is not enough to help pay off the loan.

      In centuries past, the real cost of higher education was simply the productive young years spent getting an education...not the tuition. It’s the first of two big reasons why higher education was “for the rich” back then, as they didn’t need to work on the farm to provide the immediate need of food. The poor simply couldn’t afford to send their young away for four years, generating nothing. Now the poor send their young away for four years, generating worse than nothing: debt.

     For the vast majority of degrees, there’s no justification for the cost, as the student primarily needs to read and study, often from books and material that haven’t changed in many decades, in buildings on land paid for decades, if not over a century, ago. It’s not supposed to be this way…but reality says it is.

Entrepreneurship needs capital, but it is impossible to self-fund when you have massive student loans to pay off.

     The above is the other reason higher education was mostly for the wealthy. They’re the ones with capital to invest, after all, and having an education goes a long way towards doing it wisely.

      Now higher education is simply a program so that our kids have a slightly better chance of getting a job, as opposed to investing capital. Imagine if instead of loaning massive amounts like this, we just gave everyone $30,000 (the average student loan debt) to start their own business. Would it be more destructive than what we have now? I doubt it.

     “She could have talked about the news on YouTube for free, instead of a degree in broadcast journalism…”

     Ridder takes many pot shots at the degrees, and he has a valid point. The money this student blew on tuition could have gone towards a fine home studio (with tens of thousands left over)…it doesn’t take that much to set up a YouTube account (although expect to be de-platformed eventually if you challenge “the narrative”).

       Many of the degrees Ridder discusses (and disses) actually sound like job training…but the cost is too high. On the other hand, the poor sod who spent $90,000 for a degree in Peace, Justice, and Conflict studies was ripped off, and Ridder laughs heartily at him.

     Here’s where I disagree with Ridder, as he often targets the fools who got these strange degrees. Yes, they’re fools, but the universities promise to act with integrity in exchange for receiving those sweet student loan checks; they know these degrees are of minimal market value, they know they’re doing wrong, they know these things, and keep on doing it.

       Keep in mind, 50 years ago, you could get a silly degree in French Literature or whatever. The wealthy could afford to spend four years of their lives on such things, and afterwards they went back to their families to build up the estate.

“I didn’t go to college to get my MRS degree…”

---a female explaining an old joke, the “Missus” degree…

      Of course, the wealthy wanted their sons to have that education, so that they could invest their capital more wisely. That was centuries ago; in more recent years, they sent their daughters to college to get a wealthy husband, and that was the main purpose of those “silly” degrees. Ridder often targets females with those silly degrees…but there was a time when such degrees weren’t so harmful, and so our universities still offer them.

     Thus it is that universities offer these worthless (in terms of direct monetary value for an employer) degrees…but they should have changed things once they knew poor students were really hurting themselves on student loans.

      In any event, I disagree with Ridder for poking fun at these fools. They’ve been indoctrinated into believing a college degree is the way to a better life, to the point that they had no idea there were other options. Certainly the institutions didn’t see fit to let the fools know.

      Yes, I call them fools, but higher education promises not to take advantage even of fools, especially fools who’ve been raised from near birth to be vulnerable to the student loan scam.

“They’re in the hole, but they just keep going for it…”

       Ridders says in many cases the students should have simply walked away from college. That’s a tough decision…but he’s probably right. Too bad the schools work so hard on “student retention,” trapping them in the system long after they should move on.

“I don’t think any of these people will buy a home in their lifetime…”

     The above is key, we’re literally creating a generation of homeless people with degrees. The article he quotes from says student loans are delaying homeownership by 7 years, but I don’t know. “Bought the farm” is slang for death because that’s often more likely to happen than actually paying off the mortgage. If you tack 7 more years onto that, what is it now? “Died, lay in a casket for 7 years, then bought the farm”?

“Whenever I made a payment, I knocked the principal down…”

     Once they leave college, the fools are often tricked into payment plans which only address the interest. Even if they make regular payments for a century, they’ll still be in debt. Nobody tells them that if they just paid even $10 more than the minimum payment, it would save them thousands over the decades they’re planning to spend paying off the debt.

      Our schools make Gender Studies a mandatory course, being sure every graduate knows the pronouns for all 23 genders…but somehow doesn’t see fit to give them decent training in how loans work.

“The bank owns their womb…”

      In addition to destroying homeownership, Ridder points out how this system is destroying our female college graduates. They’re too far in debt to have a child. They basically would need permission from the bank holding the student loan before they could reproduce, as they can’t afford it otherwise.

      “Should anyone who has messed up her life like this be an agent for social change?”

        Ridder takes many shots at students, and the above both hits and misses. These kids often get heavy indoctrination in college, and so graduate with a set of social justice beliefs…and no way to pay for them. He’s right that they shouldn’t be in a position of power, but doesn’t realize how much “education” has served to make the student so unfit for the position. Again, this is warped from higher education’s goals of a long time ago, where indeed making a person fit to lead was part of the goal of education.

“She paid $6,000 in interest alone one year”

        I know the above doesn’t seem like a vast fortune for those of us in our 50s, perhaps…but it’s every year. These kids coming out of college are supposed to be building up capital, but they’re basically making an extra rent payment every month. This drain is devastating when you’re young, and completely stunts any growth of wealth that might happen…instead, you get sucked into an ever deeper debt.

       “If college provided value, it’d be a non-issue…”

      Behold the cold hard truth above: if a college degree was really worth what we’re charging, the $1.5 trillion we have in student loan debt would be a non-issue. It’s a simple observation, but a very damning one.

“…if the colleges didn’t admit deadheads.”

      Another simple truth. Colleges have no skin in the game, they make a fortune whether the students graduate or not, whether the students get a job or not. At least he points the finger at colleges sometimes. To maximize the loan revenue, colleges have annihilated entrance requirements (to get them on campus) and destroyed standards (to keep them there, they call it “improving retention”).

“Switching majors is an absolute last resort.”

     Another simple truth that wasn’t so true 30+ years ago. When you switch your major, it can add 1, 2, 3, possibly even 4 years onto your tuition costs. Debilitating debt is even worse when you increase it by 25%, 50%, 75%, or even 100%. Now, switching majors is easy, but it used to be a difficult thing, requiring signatures from the departments involved, who each would inform the student of the mistake he was making.

“Bros: do not date women with high student loan debt.”

      Ridder gives plenty of unpleasant, but valid, advice, and I’ll stop at the above (there’s much more in the video, for readers who have sons…). Why marry a woman and be instantly $50,000 or more in debt? If you can’t marry her, don’t date her.

      In times past, women went to college in large part to find a husband. Our student loan scam has warped our society in many ways, and as Ridder identifies, higher education is taking women who go to college and making them unmarriageable, or nearly so.

      End. The. Student. Loan. Scam.




Saturday, April 27, 2019

Average College Freshman Reads At 7th Grade Level

By Professor Doom

     In the old days, getting into college was a big deal—you had to be a good student, have some solid extracurricular activities and generally pass an entrance exam as well as demonstrate you can write a decent “Why I Want To Go To College” essay.

      When the Federal government decided to back student loans, giving them to every degree seeking student, it was hailed as a good thing, but a big mistake was made: the loans were for “tuition,” not for a set amount, so colleges could charge whatever they want. Eager to make ever more money, our leaders in higher ed raised tuition to whatever felt right, and “moar” always felt right.

     It didn’t take long before our leaders realized that restricting admission was a problem: it was cutting into the loan money. Turning away even one student means a loss of $25,000 or more (today), and that’s basically a free car for the Dean. Turning away 16 such students because of poor grades, a poor essay, or any reason, really, and now you can’t get even hire a $400,000 a year diversity officer.

     Now, old accreditation mandated entrance requirements, but such rules were cutting into the student loan loot, which as the gentle reader can see piles up fast. So they got rid of entrance requirements. What has that done to the quality of the average college student?

   While this is old news, it’s queer how nobody has done the math here. A student coming into college at the 7th grade level, will, assuming he theoretically graduates in 4 years, will be at the 11th level…still not a (theoretical) high school graduate.

     “We are spending billions of dollars trying to send students to college and maintain them there when, on average, they read at about the grade 6 or 7 level, according to Renaissance Learning’s latest report on what American students in grades 9-12 read, whether assigned or chosen,” said education expert Dr. Sandra Stotsky.

     Even though it’s old news, I bring it up to mention just how deep the fraud is in higher education. Our college textbooks are not written at the 7th grade level…but our students read at the 7th grade level? How is nobody seeing the problem here? The conclusion is quite straightforward: the average student has essentially no chance of getting a legitimate college degree, at least in 4 years. He’ll need a few years to catch up (5?), and then he can handle the writing in the books.

    We’ve known this for years, but nothing’s changed.

The study also found that most high school graduates don’t do much with mathematics past eighth grade…

     This is an unusual study. Most studies of this sort of thing find mathematics to lag behind more qualitative skills—usually because our students have little choice but to practice English regularly just in their daily communication (it’s not like they’ll learn it in school…). But here we have math at the 8th grade, and reading at the 7th. I guess you can quibble, but this is dismal.

     Of course, the question still remains: how are these students making it in college?

     There are two parts to the answer. The first part of the answer is “most don’t…” We talk quite a bit about how expensive a college degree is, but students are charged the same tuition whether they get a degree or not. Only about half of college students get a degree in 5 years…you can bet it’s the half that reads at better than the 7th grade level. We never seem to talk about all the dropouts, even though they represent a large percent of our citizens with unpayable debt.

    The second part of the answer is “…and many get bogus degrees.” This is the part that we read about, all the students getting their utterly worthless degrees in Gender, Sexuality, Diversity, and a host of other fields that, bottom line, won’t generate revenue enough to pay off the student debt. We read about this often in the news, but do realize for every “college graduate with worthless degree and student loan debt” horror story, there’s another “college dropout with nothing and a massive student loan debt” who never makes the news.

       While the endless personal health horrors sap my will to write, do keep in mind how trivial it is to see immense fraud in our higher education system, fraud that has been going on for years.

     Fraud paid for by the student loan scam. End it.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

State University Deliberately Failing Students?

By Professor Doom

     Time and again I’ve covered state universities where faculty were mandated to pass students in their class, regardless of student performance. Mostly these mandates are for lower level courses—nonexistent entrance requirements let hordes of kids who have no business on campus (not making judgements here!) have little choice but to take only entry-level courses. Failing these kids would get them off campus quicker (a good thing, actually), but doing so cuts into that sweet student loan money…quite often admin mandates to faculty an 80% pass rate, if not higher. Such mandates don’t come in writing but faculty “get the memo,” honest.

     A recent alleged scandal at Arizona State University is the reverse: supposedly admin wanted a certain failure rate, no more than 70% passing. ASU is denying everything, of course, but after years of denials of the bleeding obvious at other state schools like Penn State, UNC, and several others…I’m hard pressed to take a denial at face value, even if I support the “innocent until proven guilty” notion in general.

      In this case, despite the strangeness of the claims, I’m sensing some credibility here. The allegation comes from faculty:

     The first reason for credibility is circumstantial: the professor lost his job for making his allegation. I’ve seen many, many, professors fired for daring to tell the truth, and, ultimately, someone doesn’t make that kind of sacrifice for no reason at all. In today’s deranged world, the idea that a man might be willing to lose his job rather than support fraud might sound strange, but the alternative, losing his job to advance a lie at no benefit to himself, is even stranger.

The first accusation from Goegan is that students are forced to pay for an online service to turn in their homework so that the university could get money from the company.

      This first allegation gets a solid “And?” from me. Students are forced to pay for a wide variety of things at inflated prices (Hi textbooks! Hello dorms! Howdy recreation fees! Greetings parking tag! Goodness, this could go on for quite a while…). The university denies this allegation, of course, but it would just be business as usual if they did it. I wonder where they draw the line?

“In order to convince Cengage to give the Provost a large monetary grant, the department agreed to require all ECN 211 and 212 students use MindTap - a Cengage product. This deal requires students to pay just to turn in their homework,” wrote Goegan in his email.

     Wait, a grant? I actually have some familiarity with the company involved here, Cengage…I don’t think they work that way. I could see a bribe or kickback, mind you, but not a grant. What kind of denial does the university give?

The misinformation claims that…Cengage gave ASU a grant for using the program,  

     That denial seems….off. Did the professor really say there was a grant going to ASU? Let’s highlight the key part of the allegation again:

In order to convince Cengage to give the Provost a large monetary grant,

--emphasis added

         That’s not going to ASU, it’s going to the Provost. Reading between the lines, I can’t help but suspect ASU’s “official denial” has been carefully chosen so that when it comes time for a real court, they can say they didn’t lie…just used words to distract from the issue.

      Anyway, I’ve seen the like often enough, this allegation is hardly worth a denial, except our state schools just don’t like to admit how money-hungry admin are.

       The vast majority of admin are paid to make things worse on campus, and that often means doing harm to students. This little alleged bribe also is not much different than business as usual.

       Now to the real allegation, the one which should make students angry:

The second policy was put in place to ensure that the Provost's project was made to look good. All ECN 211, 212, and 221 courses were required to prevent at least 30% of students from passing the class. We were told that we needed to set a baseline against which the Provost's project could be compared. For many instructors, this meant setting students up to fail so it could seem like the Provost swooped in and fixed a problem that doesn't exist.

       We’re looking at 2nd year courses here, what qualifies as “advanced material” on our campuses today, which more and more focus on pre-high school level. By the second year, you’re getting “real” college students who study and care about their grades. There is an ocean of difference between 2nd year students and everyone before that level.

      To succeed as an administrator, you have to either grow the school (get more new students) or increase retention (keep students on campus).

      Trouble is, our schools have expanded to ridiculous levels, and already pull in most students right out of high school…there just isn’t more room for growth.

     To increase retention, well, the easy way is to mandate higher passing rates. But that’s what the previous Provost did, and the previous, and the previous, too. It’s why coursework has dropped to very little while the average grade has risen to A-. How to improve retention when you’ve already sold out the school every possible way? Be extra sneaky.

      So, based on this allegation, I speculate on what the Provost was doing here. He mandated a higher fail rate for a year or two. That was the start of the plan, but this professor exposed him before he could finish the rest of the plan.

     The rest of the plan? The Provost would give a speech to faculty or change the course in some way, and (off the record, of course) would eliminate the “fail 30% of students” mandate. Pass rates would rise, and the Provost could claim his “leadership and innovation” increased the pass rates. Brilliant!

      Faculty are pretty helpless against such machinations, because they know full well that if they complain, they will be fired. And, hey, this faculty member complained, and was fired.

      The university denies it all, of course, and instead says the faculty making the allegations was just a mean meanie-face. Again, I’ve heard the like many times, a faculty with a stellar record and top notch job evaluations suddenly was “a problem we worked with for years before finally letting him go,” and it always coincided with the faculty displaying integrity.

“They are blatantly lying about not requiring students to pay to turn in homework,” she said. “I have had to pay for homework for classes multiple times."

--it’s easy to find students willing to say ASU is lying. I couldn’t find any saying ASU is telling the truth, but I could have missed someone, somewhere.

      It’d be nice if, instead of their weird denials, ASU produced real evidence, such as widespread students saying the guy was terrible (ASU could find some unhappy customers if they existed in any numbers), or produced evidence that classes were not being forced to use Cengage product (via course syllabi, submitted to admin every semester), or produced evidence that pass rates didn’t mysteriously drop to 70% when this Provost came on board (pass rates are tracked very closely every semester, easy to track them down).

      All of the previous evidence should be easy to produce, if the faculty were lying and ASU was telling the truth. Instead, they’re going with:

We generally do not comment on the details of disciplinary matters related to faculty, and there are many reasons that a faculty member's contract might not be renewed, including when a faculty member resists course-correction of multiple shortcomings despite supervisory intervention.

     I’m not buying ASU’s denial here. They could easily produce evidence showing he’s lying, and instead are going with blanket denial and a firing, actions which will only prolong the scandal, instead of snuffing it out.

      I remind the gentle reader every other state school has treated faculty with integrity in this manner, forcing the truth to come out only after years of investigation, investigation against schools far too willing to use cover-ups and retaliation (like blanket denials and firings…) to prevent revelation of the truth.

      I don’t think this particular kind of scandal goes on at many schools, but the bottom line, our plundering administrators are running out of illicit ways to make themselves look “excellent.” I can’t help but suspect we’re going to see ever more imaginative plans, like the one alleged above, in the future.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Children’s Games Of Yesteryear Prove Our Enstupidation

By Professor Doom

     “Enstupidation,” the act of making someone stupid, is an actual word. I remember, years ago, explaining to a group of Leftists how the process works. I got nowhere, of course—they couldn’t stop laughing at the word “enstupidation,” to learn anything. It’s sad that so many of our youth are so damaged they’d rather hoot and throw poo than learn.

     There have been many claims that we’ve been “dumbed down,” i.e., enstupidated, but I’m in the mood to talk about how we can tell that this activity isn’t simply the rant of an online conspiracy theorist…something has gone wrong here. Allow me to show it unarguably.

     When I was a kid, I loved board games. Computers, much less “computer games” hardly existed, and the early computer games were rudimentary, with line graphics and LEDs at best…I’m pretty sure I could sit down and code some of the ones I played as a kid, in a single afternoon.

       One game I played often was Code Name: Sector. A quick pic of the game:

--a laminate board, crayons, blinking lights, and some plastic bits. The slot at the left? That’s where you put the bits.

     The whole “computer” is about the size of a pocket calculator, but with a smaller display. The basic purpose of the computer is it kept track of a submarine’s hidden position (the plastic subs in the game are “trophies” which you don’t really use or need for the game…but look cool!). As the player, you controlled imaginary destroyers, whose location you plotted on the grid, with the crayons (you could have up to 4 destroyers at once, hence 4 different colored crayons). As you moved the destroyer, you’d get rough information on the sub’s location; if you got close enough, you could drop a depth charge and, hopefully, sink the sub, ending the game. It’s basically a solitaire game, but you could play with “up to 4” players if you really wanted to, all competing to sink the sub first.

     Certainly a fun game for its time, and quite cutting edge for 1977 when it came out. A key part of the game is plotting your ship’s location, inputting your speed and direction, and having the computer “calculate” your new location after a move. Then you’d plot the new location, and connect the two plots.

      This is the “hard” part of the game, where you plot two points and connect the dots. Now, the gentle reader might recognize “plot two points and connect the dots” as the key concept in graphing a line.

      So, what’s the recommended age for this game where the player would have to be able to graph a line? Ages 12 and up. I want to hammer this point home:

     In 1977, it was understood that a 12-year-old was quite capable of learning how to graph a line, simply by reading the game rules. Corporate America seldom over-estimates consumer intelligence, so they figured any 12-year-old could do it, and probably younger children as well. Twelve years of age is “definitely old enough to understand how to play,” and I point out again this is basically a solitaire game.

     Flash forward a generation, to 2019 (although what I say next has applied for at least a decade)…now how old do you need to be to understand how to graph a line? Well, let’s look at college, and find out. Here’s an excerpt from a typical college algebra course:

Recognize the equations and sketch the graphs of the following: Lines,…

     I assure the gentle reader, every college algebra course covers lines, I’m not cherry-picking here. But the point is, it’s understood that a college freshman, definitely a high school graduate and probably 18 years old (or older), will not only not know how to graph a line, but will need instruction by a professional with an advanced degree before he could possibly figure it out.

      I’ve taught college algebra many times, and I assure the gentle reader that I rarely managed to get much past 50% of the class to understand the concept of how to graph a line, at least when I was at open admissions schools. I would spend about a week on the concept, incidentally…and nobody spends a week learning how to play a board game.

     Now, anyone could buy that game, just as anyone could stumble onto campus. So, in 1977, any 12 year old could figure out how to graph a line on his own in a few minutes, while in 2019, much of our population can’t figure out how to graph a line with professional help and a week of effort.

     We’ve been enstupidated, clearly. But perhaps I’m using too obscure a game to make this point.

     A game everyone knows about is Monopoly, which has a fascinating history. Most people find the game incredibly complicated, particularly two calculations: the penalty for un-mortgaging a property, and the cost of income tax (the latter dreaded both for the penalty, and for the “work” of calculating it!).

     “Income tax” in Monopoly is either 10% of all you have, or $200. Most folks just pay the $200, because they can’t figure out how much to pay in the former option. There’s a page explaining how to do it, and there are even special Monopoly calculators just for folks who need additional help.

      But...the hardest calculation in Monopoly involves calculating 10% of a number. Now, Monopoly was patented in 1904 (although versions existed in the 19th century)…well before the age of calculators.

      It’s for ages 8 and up—they clearly haven’t updated their age scale to account for the enstupidation of our citizens, or just assumed even little kids can use cell phones for the Monopoly calculation app.

     What has happened to us as a people, that a century ago it was understood that even a child could, say, calculate 10% of $200 without much effort, but now adults use hundreds of dollars of electronics to do such a thing because they just don’t know how?

    There was a time when a child could graph a line or calculate 10% of a number, as these games show. But now we cannot expect such of our kids. There’s one obvious explanation:

     We’ve been enstupidated. Clearly.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Penalize Colleges For Bad Student Loans?

By Professor Doom

     One of the biggest problems with the student loan scam is colleges have no skin in the game—the schools can suck the student in, drain all the student loan money, and spit the student out with no penalty to themselves. That’s pretty much the business plan of half or more of colleges in our country today, and it’s often suggested that we should penalize the schools who engage in this exploitative business practice.

     For the most part, I think risk-sharing between the college and student is a good idea, but a recent article argues against it:

     Strangely enough the author isn’t a college administrator (i.e., of the caste who’ve profited mightily from the student loan scam), but a professor, in philosophy, no less. Philosophers don’t merely question the nature of reality, sometimes they handle more prosaic issues:

Risk-sharing has the potential to improve the outcomes of students from schools, typically for-profit institutions, that fail to help students graduate and find viable careers. However, as a researcher who studies the ethics of debt, I also see significant limitations.

     Absolutely, there are moral concerns with debt, but our current situation where fifty million people have student debt, and many millions of those have utterly no hope of paying it off (and most have little hope), I sure hope her concerns about possible risk-sharing are weighed against the problem we definitely have right now.

      There are a few ways to handle risk-sharing. Let’s start with the first:

In the simplest versions, all colleges and universities would be required to pay a penalty when former students default in order to help offset the cost of that default to the government.

     This is utterly stupid. We already have a similar penalty with the Pell Grant scam—if the school admits too many fake students, it has to pay a penalty. The problem is, this fraud is most heavily practiced at state community colleges. So, here’s the basic structure:

1.    Admin admits a huge number of fake students.

2.    Admin gets massive pay raises and bonuses for “growing the school,” while punishing any faculty who try to stop the fraud.

3.    The school gets caught, and pays a fine. This fine comes from tax dollars; the admin walk away free—their salary won’t even be reduced, though it was raised via fraud.

4.    Faculty are denied pay raises…no money, you see, because the tax dollars were spent to pay the fines.

       Now the more expensive schools don’t really use the Pell Grant scam, but they’ll do something similar. At best, they’ll just raise tuition to cover the “penalty” if the student can’t pay it back.

More complex versions would require that such penalties only be paid after a college’s graduation rate falls below a certain level, or if the student loan repayment rate among former students falls below a certain threshold. There could be a sliding scale, so that lower graduation and repayment rates trigger higher penalties. Some versions would even give bonuses to schools for enrolling needy students and improving completion rates.

     I’m not a big fan of adding complexity but I concede that schools aren’t always 100% responsible for a student being unable to pay back the loan, so allowing some small percentage of students to default without penalty to the school is fine. And, sure, if the school serves the needy, that percentage could be raised although…why not just give the needy scholarships and eliminate the complexity?

      “Improving completion rates” is irrelevant, what matters is paying back the loan money. Any school can just print degrees, after all, it’s part of what got us into this problem in the first place.

If implemented well, risk-sharing could…

     Yes, under the assumption it’s implemented well, it could work well. That’s…a bit circular, eh? So what’s the problem, exactly?

While risk-sharing would shift some of the costs of providing student loans from the government onto colleges and universities, it’s not known whether and how much risk-sharing would lower overall debt levels – or individual debts of borrowers who default – and ultimately lessen the negative impacts of that debt upon borrowers and the economy.

     Yes, we don’t know how much this will lower debt levels, because it hasn’t been tried on anything resembling a large scale. We have a huge problem right now, and risk-sharing or otherwise holding schools responsible for burdening students with unpayable debt has a decent chance of reducing that problem. “We don’t know the full effects…” isn’t a counter-argument, the author needs to indicate why risk-sharing would make the problem worse.

Some economists have suggested that the revenue from risk-sharing be used to give bonuses to institutions that do a good job of serving low-income students. On the other hand, a student advocacy group has recommended that a portion of the revenue be used to provide “much needed and justified borrower relief.

    Wow they’re already looking to spend the “revenue” that hasn’t even arrived from the risk-sharing programs which haven’t even started yet! It’s this kind of thinking which got us so deep into debt in the first place. Economists clearly aren’t educators, so of course they’d want that money to go to “the institutions” (more accurately, the administrators); an educator will immediately tell you this money should go to debt relief. Period.

      I’m still waiting to hear what the problem is with risk-sharing…

Seventy-four percent of millennials with student loans experience elevated anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and other symptoms linked to the persistent stress of carrying high levels of student debt specifically. And the weight of student debt is preventing more young adults from taking risks and pursuing dreams, for example by starting new businesses. Student debt even contributes to the problem of rural “brain drain,” because many recent graduates find that they must move far away from their preferred communities in order to find jobs that pay enough to enable them to pay off the debt.

      The above are certainly all problems with the current system. Only in the very last paragraph of this essay is “the problem” finally addressed:

These harms, to individual borrowers and ultimately the economy, are not addressed by risk-sharing proposals.

      Um, what? If we stop slamming every deadhead into college debt—the primary benefit of risk-sharing--we’ll have far fewer of the problems addressed above, because we’ll have far fewer kids with student debt. I’m scratching my head at why this isn’t obvious here, though I concede philosophy isn’t my best subject (though I have covered a few courses when the professor had a heart attack).


Monday, April 15, 2019

The Collapse of America’s Largest University Isn’t Good…It’s Great!

By Professor Doom

     It really is a wonder what makes a news cycle. A few dozen Muslims get killed by a Leftist lunatic in New Zealand, and it’s all over the US news, and they can’t even get the political affiliation of the self-proclaimed terrorist right. Meanwhile, about a dozen Christians are killed every day just for being Christians…and not a peep.

     Stumbling over to higher ed, I want to talk about the nation’s largest university: University of Phoenix. These guys used to be relentless with their ads, although they still advertise on TV quite a bit (as an aside, I wonder if the next generation will even know what “TV” stands for…”a streaming service where you can’t completely control what you watch or when you watch it? No way it existed!”).

     College enrollments have been falling nationwide. Most of this drop is at the for-profit schools, and for good reason: while degrees in general are grotesquely overpriced, for-profit degrees are extra excessively expensive. Revenues at UoPhoenix are down about 60%, leading to many firings of teachers and staff (unlike state schools, a for-profit will actually fire staff when revenues fall).        

      Before moving back to the media silence on this “catastrophe,” I want to explain a bit what’s happening at University of P.

      One of the problems of schools of this size is the economy of scale when it comes to cheating. Back when classes were small, it was tough to find someone to do your homework for you, particularly in the advanced courses. I mean, sure, you could someone to do “College Algebra” easily enough, and Calculus 1 wasn’t so bad…but by the time you get to multivariate calculus or third year statistics? Well, the people that could be tutors for that are either teaching, or working jobs in the real world. To hire them to do your work, you’d have to pay real money and plenty of it, because the work your class has assigned only applies to the people in your class…labor intensive for an already established professional, and he’ll charge for it.

     But UoPhoenix standardizes everything, so now you’ve got a thousand or more people taking a class, the same class every semester with the same assignments. One guy can do the work, and sell it to dozens of students, lowering the cost…assuming it’s not just PowerPoint/multiple choice stuff. I’ve seen sites selling the answers/coursework for the entire UoPheonix catalogue for amazingly low prices.

      And here’s what happened: the whole point of UoPhoenix was to supply degrees so people could get better jobs. Noble enough, and it happened. But now management, with such degrees, knows those degrees are bogus, and warns their own employees away from them, as well as doesn’t hire such degrees.

      University of Phoenix made quick, massive, bucks from the student loan scam, but because they prioritized profits over integrity, quantity over quality, they’re now imploding, bringing down other “for-profit” schools with them.

But there is no story, so far, in the news about the collapse of America's largest university, because confirmable information is difficult to obtain. The University of Phoenix media room does not return calls or emails. And the culture of silence at the school prohibits the truth from coming out.

      To be fair, the “culture of silence” is hardly unique to University of Phoenix, as the constant stream of scandals from our other universities, revealed after years of protection via silence, indicates.

     But in any event, this is our nation’s biggest university, and it’s failing, failing hard. It was founded in 1976, before the student loan scam became integral to higher ed, but once that student loan money became available it engorged itself more than any other school (and that’s not a low bar by any means!). It’s now dying, and the gluttony which allowed it to reach such size is as much a factor here as it is for a 600lb human dying of heart disease.


     It wasn’t just the fraud which killed it, as the very loose rules which allowed student loans permitted the school to enroll basically anyone with opposable thumbs, raking in the student loan money from “students” who had no interest in academics and no chance of ever completing a degree program.

In a scheme called “The Matrix”, enrollment representatives were rewarded for meeting enrollment numbers. And with that, enrollment representatives would do almost anything to get asses in classes.  Apollo Group’s CEO Todd Nelson took the school to its highest numbers. But these numbers would come at a cost. The school faced enormous pressure from federal and state agencies.

     I again point out UoPhoenix is hardly alone in such a business model.

     The Federal government is now dimly aware that there’s something wrong with the student loan scam, and I’m confident it will soon be squinting at quite a few other schools with identical business practices.

     This is what worries me about the media silence here. Yes, University of Phoenix was the 600lb gorilla, and it’s now dying. But across the country we have plenty of schools, not just for-profits, not just for-profits disguising themselves as non-profits (an ever more common tactic…I don’t think it’ll work), but even state-run schools, which did and do many of the same things University of Phoenix did and does.

      If there was a bit more coverage of this collapse, perhaps they’d have more chance to straighten up their act. I know, that’s foolish, as the people looting our schools and student loans will probably just take golden parachutes rather than suddenly develop integrity…but I think the effort should be made, nonetheless.

I got an Associates Degree in IT, focusing in Web Design, through their Online classes. My degree isn't worth the paper it is printed on. I didn't learn anything really useful, and when I got my degree is when GoDaddy got really big within the next year, so I wasn't able to get a job making websites.

I wondered why some of my classmates were still in school. I had one group project where one group member literally copied and pasted his entire section. He didn't see anything wrong with that. The other group members said to leave it even though it was a group grade. I redid his section before submitting it, letting the teacher know what happened. The student was not kicked out or even suffered anything more than a bad grade on that one assignment. Many classmates couldn't use the spell check built into the class board, even though the first class, which was mandatory, was showing how to use everything including the spell checker.

      Yes, the above comes from a ‘Phoenix student but…plenty of students at other schools can tell similar stories, and I’ve been at schools where, absolutely a student who cheated at this level would barely have a penalty for being caught. The reason of course, is teachers who punish cheaters get penalized, as I’ve documented before.

     When America’s largest university shutters its doors, we’ll have yet another big mess…why does it need to be such a surprise to the American people when this happens?