Welcome back, college students! Always nice to see you.
Although we are sort of worried by those bleak stories about student debt, which suggest a lot of you may graduate owing a ton of money and unqualified to do anything more remunerative than selling socks.
This year, Newsweek cheerfully welcomed the Class of 2016 by asking, “Is College a Lousy Investment?” And in The Times, Andrew Martin reported that the Department of Education is paying more than $1.4 billion per annum to folks whose job it is to collect on $76 billion in defaulted student loans. “If you wait long enough, you catch people when their guard’s down,” one debt collector told Martin after garnishing the savings of a disabled carpenter.
Look on the bright side, students. Perhaps when you graduate, some of you will be able to qualify for a good job in the booming accounts receivable management industry.
Higher education is still the key to most good jobs, but the nation is starting to ask some questions about the way we finance it. Shouldn’t there be more of a match between the cost of school and the potential earning power of the graduates? Who speaks for the art history majors? And why is tuition so high, anyway? (Parents, if your kid is planning to take out student loans, you might want to avoid any college where the dorm rooms are nicer than your house.)
“People don’t believe much any more about the altruistic motives of colleges and universities,” sadly noted Pat Callan of the Higher Education Policy Institute.
Not without some reason. In his reporting, Martin uncovered a newsletter aimed at college admissions officers that advised them to avoid using “bad words” such as “cost” or “pay” in their admissions materials. Instead, it suggested: “And you get all this for …”
In Washington, Congress is holding hearings! The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee is considering a bill — co-sponsored by Democrat Al Franken and Republican Charles Grassley — that would require all schools to fill out the same form telling the student loan applicants useful facts like exactly how much per month they’ll be forking over when they start paying.
That would be the superminimum, right? How amazed are you that this isn’t happening already?
“Some of the packages don’t delineate what’s a grant, what’s a scholarship, what’s a loan,” said Franken. “And the information all comes in an award letter, so you’re thinking: Award!”