But It’s Not Fair: Student Loans and the Growing Demand of Debt

John McCumber

John McCumber is a cybersecurity executive, retired US Air Force officer, and former Cryptologic Fellow of the National Security Agency. In addition to his professional activities, John is a former Professorial Lecturer in Information Security at The George Washington University in Washington, DC and is currently a technical editor and columnist for Security Technology Executive magazine. John is the author of the textbook Assessing and Managing Security Risk in IT Systems: a Structured Methodology

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138 Responses

  1. InMD says:

    I agree with the basic policy analysis but don’t think it quite connects to the conclusion/theme of fairness. I too get tired of constant histrionics. We live in a histrionic age. It’s annoying.

    But per your own piece we have a poorly thought out system created by Congress that works to the benefit of bankers and university administrators of dubious value. It leaves students holding the bill with uncertain outcomes and stunts their ability to become adults participating in the economy. Yet the conclusion is that we should roll our eyes when people say that isn’t fair?Report

  2. Damon says:

    The system isn’t “fair”. Nothing is. I went to school when college was more affordable, but I had to take out loans for grad school…which I did in my own name. It took a long time to pay them off. I’ve seen folks borrow f tons of money to pursue education that could in no way generate the income needed to pay off those loans. Let’s not forget that those who take out the loans are LEGAL ADULTS capable of making these decisions. If you want to spend 100K to get a degree in pottery, find by me. Don’t expect me to support a bail out when you can’t service the loan an have to life with your parent until you’re 50 to service the debt. You want to help these people out, get to them before they become adults and teach them sound financial principles.

    My parents set me up with a bank account and checking account when I got my first real paying job. They demonstrated financial skills to me growing up and they showed me how to balance my checkbook so I knew how much money I had. When I applied for loans, I READ THE ENTIRE LOAN AGREEMENT, I just didn’t sign on the bottom line. And when I went to college for the first time, my dad gave me a credit card for emergencies only–which he was clear to define as “The car breaks down on the road” or similar. Not when you’re out parting and drinking and you don’t have cash–and if you DO charge for non emergency spending, I’m coming to see you when I get the bill for you to give me cash to pay for it.” Shesh, I know people at 45+ that are still on their parents phone plan.Report

    • Em Carpenter in reply to Damon says:

      I think it is fantastic that your parents set you up so well as far as financial literacy. I’m trying to do the same for my kids.
      My parents did no such thing. In their defense, it is really hard to be money savvy- and pass that to your kids- when you don’t have any. Minimum wage jobs meant constantly borrowing from grandparents, who barely had it to give, frequent utility shut-offs, running low on food mid-month, etc. There was no checkbook to balance because they never had enough to bother with a checking account. It was money orders for bills on payday, and the rest was cash for gas and groceries. There was no instilling the value of savings because they didn’t have anything to save. I learned nothing about credit cards because they never had any.
      I don’t fault them for not teaching me to do better than they did. It’s exhausting to live that way. There’s not a lot of energy left, physical or mental.
      What I did learn: I didn’t want to have a minimum wage job. I didn’t want to be poor. I didn’t want to live like they did. But it wasn’t financial prudence that I saw as my way out; it was college.
      Obviously, that was not going to be paid for by my parents. My FAFSA determined my expected family contribution would be zero. So, I got several grants, a few small scholarships, and yes, loans, and off to WVU, 30 miles away, I went. Did I stop to think about what kind of burden it would be to pay these loans back later? Did I read the entirety of the loan agreement? Did I even have a good grasp of how interest worked? Of course not. I was 18 years old and desperate to change my situation. Most of the loans went to tuition, books, and room and board (didn’t have a car and freshmen were required to live on campus unless they were townies), and the small bit left over was what I lived on, along with a part-time campus job.
      Of course, I didn’t get a degree in pottery. I got a degree in English, actually, but only because that was my quickest route through college and into law school. The loans for my first year of law school equaled the entirety of my undergrad debt, and increased by the same plus a few thousand each year. Even at a state school with in-state tuition, I graduated with a pretty hefty debt load. And even with a valuable degree, these loan payments hurt. I’ve spent most of my career in government law or public defense which is not the 6 figure salary people assume all lawyers make.
      Do I regret my loans? No. I’d do it again, even knowing what I know now; it was really my only option. Maybe I would not take as much, or be more careful with the extra money I lived on. (If anything, I’m more regretful of my idiocy regarding credit cards.)
      Would I like to not have to pay them anymore? Hell yes.
      Anyway, I guess my point is that not everyone has the knowledge and financial maturity your parents gave you, and not all debt is because of an insistence on going to a super expensive school for a worthless degree. I think financial literacy should be taught in high school, to the extent it is learnable other than through experience.Report

      • InMD in reply to Em Carpenter says:

        This is a good point. A person who understands the system and is lucky enough to have people who understand the system (or systems like it) is probably going to be fine no matter what we do. The question is does the system make sense, not will the best advised/situated person find a way to figure it out. Spoiler, the answer to that latter question is almost always yes.

        My folks were both the first in their families to go to college but they did it when you could get a degree from a state school working part time with no debt. They were clueless on this stuff when I needed advice. Parents aside most kids have every well-meaning adult in their lives saying ‘sign the dotted line and don’t worry about it, it will work out long term.’ Most of the time they think that’s true, and in their day a college degree was a no-brainer. Now it’s a more complex analysis and morality tales about $100k degrees in some idiotic major don’t address it.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to InMD says:

          Part of the problem with this is that it acknowledges that a huge chunk of the benefits of college/university involved confusing our inputs and outputs.

          We took our best and brightest and sent them to university and, wouldn’t you know it, the people who went to university went on to flourish!

          Holy cow! More people obviously need to go to university!Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

          Morality tales of idiotic $100K degrees are just more histrionics. Those are such a small part of the problem as to not be worth mentioning (and often enough, those are cases of privileged kids who should have known better, but trusted on their privilege to help them succeed).

          It’s the cases like the OP linked to that are the bulk of the problem, where the school fails the student, but keeps the money and suffers no consequence when the loans default.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to Em Carpenter says:

        Ditto here. My parents were horrible with money, and the public school system offered nothing with regards to financial literacy. It wasn’t until I was married that I learned things (helps when your wife has a father who was a finance manager at a car dealership and a step father who was a banker).

        I’d love for financial (and scientific) literacy to be as valued and required as reading literacy, but until they are, that is not something we can hang our hats on.Report

      • Damon in reply to Em Carpenter says:

        Basic financial understandings: how to create a budget, how to plan, balancing a checkbook, etc. aren’t taught in school anymore…or at least not in most of them. Ofc schools can’t seem to teach basic math or english either so….Report

        • Philip H in reply to Damon says:

          Basic financial understandings as you describe them have never been taught in any school system I have been in or affiliated withReport

          • Damon in reply to Philip H says:

            You didn’t go to my public high school then. We had economics (bit more dumbed down than college econ classes) as a sophomore and we had the basic financial stuff covered in “home ec”.

            Of course you didn’t have to go to those classesReport

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Damon says:

      “The world would be better if everyone did the same thing as my parents did and thought like I did-a continuing series.”-I am not a crank.Report

      • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Thanks for quoting me wrong. If you’re arguing that being taught basic financial concepts as a child is wrong or a waste of time, please feel free to formulate your argument in a reply…

        Frankly I can see no good reason why it shouldn’t be taught in schools? Do you have a good reason?…..I’ll wait patiently for your response….Report

  3. Philip H says:

    Its interesting mental gymnastics to claim that addressing an allegedly perverse incentive filled system is not about fairness. Especially in an economy that thinks nothing of giving away a trillion dollars in foregone tax revenue to billionaires and corporations, who then promptly turn around and shrink their workforces through layoffs – which then shrinks the governments tax revenue stream further, which negatively and unfairly impacts the entire economy.

    There are lots of perverse economic incentives in a variety of sectors. Some were created and maintained by congress, some by market forces. The fairness ought to be applied to eliminating the perverse incentives. Seems to me that is an objective we achieve by eliminating that debt, since it will allow a vast swath of Americans to better contribute to the economy because they will no longer labor under a load of figurative and economic horse puckey.Report

    • InMD in reply to Philip H says:

      The biggest problem with the ‘write off’ idea is that it doesn’t address the underlying laws that create the situation. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem and that we shouldn’t do things like reinstate bankruptcy protection, cap interest at a very low level, allow payments to be fully tax deductible, put controls on universities, etc. But if all it does is kick the can it isn’t a solution. And that’s without getting into the executive power issues around what’s being proposed right now.Report

      • Philip H in reply to InMD says:

        Get Mitch McConnell to do the Senate’s job of legislating and you solve the executive power issues. On lots of subjects.

        That aside, we are at one of those once a century economic cross-roads, in no small part induced by the pandemic. and we have a fairly stark choice – do whats right for a lot of people now, or do what’s right for a few people now. We keep choosing the latter while being told we are choosing the former and its not working out.Report

        • Damon in reply to Philip H says:

          Mitch McConnell isn’t the source of the problem…he’s just a current example. Congress as a whole has been buck passing their responsibilities for decades–the left and right are all to blame.Report

          • Philip H in reply to Damon says:

            Historically that’s true – but he’s the person we have to deal with now. Debating the historical over-under on which side is more guilty doesn’t move the needle today on actions we need.Report

            • Damon in reply to Philip H says:

              I’m not parsing guilt…I branding the who damn institution with blame equally….They all contributed to it, they all own it.

              Anyway, not much is gonna get done until the new congress is installed anyway.Report

      • Marchmaine in reply to InMD says:

        Yeah… this is the basic point that I find un-addressed.

        As Step 4 of a 4 Step plan to address College education, it’s role and costs? Absolutely appropriate (assuming Steps 1-3 address College education’s role and costs).

        As Step 1 of a 1 Step plan via Executive Order?

        Political malpractice and it will cost the Dems electorally in ways I don’t think they’ve fully calculated. If the remedy is “blame McConnell” well, godspeed.Report

        • InMD in reply to Marchmaine says:

          Very true. We need safety valves, front end cost controls, and better apportionment of risk. A giant transfer to an already (relatively) privileged lot on the other hand would be both bad policy and terrible politics.Report

        • Philip H in reply to Marchmaine says:

          The remedy is only “blame McConnell” because he has refused since about Obama year 2 to cooperate in the legislative process. Remember when Obama created DACA because he couldn’t get the Senate to take up immigration reform even though Republican Senators claimed they wanted to? Or the 13 months of meetings with Senate Republicans on t he ACA , with 72 hours of floor debate and over 100 amendments in the Senate that garnered zero Republican votes? Merrick garland? Over 100 federal district court judges submitted and not acted on? or the over 400 bills passed by the House this term that McConnel has not taken up?

          I mean sure, more executive action is not politically or socially ideal, but unless Senate Republicans get in the game there’s not much other choice left.Report

      • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

        I’d not bother with controls on Universities, I’d simply put them on the hook for defaults. Basically demand that every university co-sign their students loans (up to the value of the tuition & fees). Not only does it help the issue, but it also acts to control costs. If tuition is $30K/yr, how many defaults can your endowment take before it’s in trouble?Report

        • InMD in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          Sure. Suffice to say I’m open minded on the subject of how, but my mind is made up on the question of whether.Report

        • Marchmaine in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          On the one hand, I agree that this would end the problem overnight. On the other hand, the shock to the existing business and operating model would would be extreme and not entirely predictable.

          Sed contra, extreme and unpredictable shocks might be necessary, but they will have predictable opposition and strange and unintended impacts.

          Which is to say, I think we need multiple steps and a bit of a rebuild/reinvest/realign approach that will alter the nature of college education and make it a shared public/private project on a different model than the current poorly aligned incentives model.Report

        • dhex in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          this would be interesting in a sort of could batman beat up superman kinda way.

          it would also immediately destroy a wide range of institutions – which may be the underlying desire.

          you’d see a lot fewer advanced degree pathways outside of corp stem. again this may be the desire, but no college on earth is going to cosign a wide range of majors with 100% liability. it would also significantly impact any of the pell-eligible/first gen/soc/etc recruitment efforts at mid and smaller institutions.

          now, if you wanted to make it interesting, you could create institutional responsibility for defaults (which isn’t a ton of total student loans) but it’d be handcuffed to a duty to pay for the major later on. for all of the dunking on lib arts stuff that people do, the lifetime earnings potential is pretty good even for theatre majors…would the 26 year old who defaults then be on the hook at 45 when their life is chumming along nicely? (obviously you wouldn’t enroll them in the first place if you were on the hook for their loan choices)

          or essentially monetary morality clauses might come into play. get a dui, lose your cosign. miss too many classes, lose your cosign. and so on.

          also would this be federal or private loans? or both? I’m assuming fed only because, like, yeah.

          anyway this is a fun beer drinking/grav bong game but it’s very, very silly as a concept.

          (and the answer to the first question is “neither, because they’re both boring characters in the eternal service of our permanent aversion to ambiguity in art and a release from all narrative consequences, which we’re suffering from to this day and not just because all beings suffer”)Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to dhex says:

            I’m fine with there being ‘out’ clauses, so the school is not on the hook for student bad behavior, as long as those clauses are limited in scope and directly related to the student bad behavior (no, Bob Jones U, you can’t kick the girl out because she got pregnant and make her foot the bill).

            You can also have ‘out’ clauses if the school is open and very honest regarding career and repayment prospects for students. If Harvard has a very honest convo with the Arts students that only 20% of the BA grads from 5 years ago are making more than $50K a year, and get them to sign that, then A) the student can’t claim that they didn’t know or they were sold a rosy picture, and B) If the school misrepresents that info, the student has it in writing and can drag the school to court.

            Still, schools have a very unique product and zero accountability for that product beyond their reputation, which doesn’t seem to be an effective means of accountability, or we wouldn’t have issues with for-profits fleecing students. I’d much rather avoid putting gobs of controls on schools and instead just make them accountable for a crap product.

            And honestly, what I suspect will really happen is that the banks will start looking at the schools and deciding if the school is a good credit risk. If the banks are not willing to accept the school as a co-signer, that’s a good bet it’s a bad school.

            PS Tying schools to outcomes is one way to probably get GOP support for reform.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to dhex says:

            PPS There absolutely are a large number of institutions I want to fold up shop post-haste, because they are doing more harm than good.

            If there are some good institutions that also fold, then perhaps they weren’t that good.Report

            • dhex in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              first off, like, a ton would die off. and not just “bad” schools. or expensive/”expensive” schools (actual cost of attendance v. sticker price issues here). but lots. the margins in the not for profit space and cost of acquisition numbers are hilariously thin at most of the schools that don’t get covered in the media.

              any school that doesn’t really control who gets in using means that don’t exist right now, and can cater to tremendous swaths of full pay families aka families that do not exist.

              and any school serving majority-minority populations, for example, will be in deep doo doo if their name isn’t howard, maybe morehouse. and even then, they’re going to have to make somewhat ugly decisions about betting on applicants on the margins (e.g. good promise, rough spots in transcripts) or juice up the philanthropy and state grant engines pretty hard. not sure these pockets exist.

              so the ivys will be fine; deep endowment schools with lots of liquidity will be fine to fine-ish. hbcu’s would be really and quickly boned without state support under this scheme. most privates under 5k students would die. most publics would also face rough waters and likely have to start underenrolling significantly or rely on state support much more fully.

              please note: i’m focusing on undergraduate because that’s what news coverage focuses on, rather than the 50% of debt held by graduate/professional school graduates.

              second off: the reason your idea is silly is because excepting fraud, it’s like suing a gym because you don’t look like the gym advertisement.

              on the plus/minus side, you’d annihilate the humanities! so if you’re into that, this is one way to do it. if you’re not into that, then start getting into it.

              Anyway, this is only 5 years old (and has a bunch of distortions built, in including issues with data collection; some of which will support your priors and some of which may not) but you may find it edifying.


              • Oscar Gordon in reply to dhex says:

                First off, thank you for the link. I’m glad to see something that is not USNWR rankings. I’ll keep the caveats in mind.

                As to my larger point, Planet Fitness isn’t advertising that I will have a god bod at the end of their fitness program. They advertise options at the facility and the rest is up to me. This is my point, that schools often make claims based upon cherry picked examples, or from massaged data, in order to sell themselves and justify the cost.

                And that’s fine, but there needs to be a counter weight to that. Ideally, the counter weight would be reputation, but to date, that’s a very unreliable counter, since schools work very hard to manage their reputations, and work very hard to discourage any kind of official sanction. And it’s easy to do when you get the money up front, you have no accountability to that money, and you can give the student a sub-par education (see my example to Pinky about the instructor who was always hungover).

                But I’m not married to any one idea, and I know you work in the field, so what would you recommend? How can we enforce some kind of accountability on schools? And keep in mind I’m not thinking about the Ivies, or the big public schools. I’m thinking about the ITTs, etc.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                BTW, I think making student loans dischargeable gets us to the same place, because if banks see a lot of defaults, and they start looking at things like “Where did this person graduate?”, you could quickly see schools where the banks won’t write loans for the tuition.Report

              • It also makes the banks much more willing to cut deals.Report

              • dhex in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                honestly, i’m not sure i understand in the framework of accountability as generally applied to the entire industry, as opposed to the for-profit implosion that rightfully followed their (general) dereliction of duty.

                and part of this is because higher education (well education in general, but let’s focus here yeesh dhex get it together) has virtually no parallels beyond, weirdly, healthcare. both are sectors that are expensive to provide, have unique entrapments with public and private funding mixes, and are both facing unique reputational hits over the next decade or so.

                but the main connection is that both make promises about a better life. which can be true! i have a better life because i didn’t die from polyps and took comp religious studies classes. but it can also be false, in that the outcomes are neither permanent nor guaranteed. and that buyer’s remorse and high costs are a common thing to both.

                the other connection is that everyone has an “easy” solution to fixing the cost issue: less administrators! fewer buildings! get rid of the [boogeyman]! etc. i even fall prey to this at times – namely permanently decoupling health insurance from employment, which could work well eventually for some aspects but whooooooo it would be a ride – and i worked in the industry for years.

                i think we’ll continue to see great shocks across the industry, and my little segment of it is going to be hit harder than some, if not most. it’s never boring! but, when your entire household is rooted to a single sector it’s a little less awesome.

                i don’t recommend that.

                long story short, i don’t think “accountability” beyond fraud is actually a useful construct. or rather, i can’t fully wrap my head around it because i cannot imagine i was owed an outcome from an input.

                this may be my own failing, however, perhaps driven somewhat by my own somewhat unique experience with the sector as as student.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to dhex says:

                Well, again, we come back to the main difference. Medical expenses are dischargeable in bankruptcy.

                And I am perfectly fine making school loans once again dischargeable.Report

              • Maybe there’s a middle ground between your view and dhex’s. Maybe there’s a sweet spot. School could be on the hook for 10% of its students’ defaults, or 20%, or whatever. That might be enough to change incentives. Or it might not, but it might not be necessary t do the full responsibility for defaults.Report

              • dhex in reply to gabriel conroy says:

                fwiw, i’m 100% in agreement on making the loans dischargeable via bankruptcy.

                but i still feel fairly confident the main impact of making schools co-sign (in some fashion) would be most places trying their best to avoid families with a low to no EFC, students on the margins (e.g. a strong “b” student applying for a reach school), and anyone whose essays or interviews smack of family turbulence.

                or you can be like grinnel’s 2 billion with a b endowment and do away with loans entirely: https://www.insidehighered.com/admissions/article/2020/11/18/grinnell-eliminates-loans-citing-coronavirusReport

              • Jaybird in reply to dhex says:

                A point Trumwill made once that seared itself into my brain is that we compare the student who goes to the U of M with the one with a high school diploma and we shouldn’t.

                We should compare the U of M to M State. We should compare M State with Compass Directional State. We should compare Compass Directional State with High School Diploma.

                By comparing no college to U of M, we’re eliding a *LOT*.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to dhex says:

                Making loans dischargeable has a similar effect, but from the banks (your ‘b’ student heading for a reach school won’t get financing because he’s too high risk).

                But I’m OK with that. The poor kid who can’t get financing to go to HYPS is not shut out of college, just those colleges, and only this year. Nothing wrong with attending a smaller campus for a year or two, proving yourself, and then trying for a better school.Report

        • Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

          “I’d not bother with controls on Universities, I’d simply put them on the hook for defaults.”

          I don’t get that. If universities were systematically failing to provide the opportunity for a quality education per implied contract, then fine. But a university can’t make me learn, and it can’t make me make the right decisions after college such that I’ll make enough money to pay back the loans, nor can it forecast the economy. Also, I don’t accept that the value of a college education is solely or even primarily financial.

          How about we mandate 4 90-minute sessions on financial planning, interest, prospects, et cetera, before anyone under 25 is issued a student loan?Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

            Established: The majority of student debt has two sources;
            1) Students who can’t/don’t finish school for reasons*.
            2) Students who get suckered into paying for a crap school.

            Now, 1 is a problem, but it’s one the schools could actually deal with quite intelligently, in that if a student withdraws from school, and fails to pay the bill/make payments, the school just with holds the transcript. If I, as a failed student, decide that my transcript from that school is truly without value, then I don’t pay. Sure, I got whatever education (maybe) that I completed, but no proof of it, and we all know that at the end of the day the transcript is the thing of value. The school is out some amount of money (the student did attend classes and all that), but they also retain the thing of value.

            Source 2, on the other hand, is a scourge that should be dealt with by not allowing the scam to continue.

            Upper middle class students who attend Ivy League or top tier public schools who rack up a lot of debt aren’t a major issue. And this is why I don’t think that having the schools on the hook for defaults is a bad thing.

            Perhaps it helps to think of it as Income Share Agreements, but required, rather than optional.Report

            • Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

              Is that established? Are those the sources of debt, or of debt default? Either way, I doubt they’re defined that way in any study. I’ve never researched the numbers, but I’d guess the literature doesn’t use the phrase “crap school”. My hunch is there’s a bigger problem with particular majors than particular schools.

              Your first category raises an interesting issue: what does it mean to “finish”? That is, is there value in having some college, without a degree? I’d say yes, both financially and personally. So I don’t think people should be blocked from future employment opportunities for not having completed a degree program.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

                It’s not majors, as such. Those are just the stories you hear because they play well in the media.

                It’s people who get suckered into schools with a slick sales pitch but no real cachet with employers. I mean, I found myself in such a school right after high school (early 90’s). The campus was in a strip mall, and my professors were laughable (one was pretty much hungover every damn day). Luckily I woke up to the reality and quit, but I was still on the hook for $2K. Had I completed the program, it would have been a $20K education with exactly 2 local employers willing to hire grads at a bit above minimum wage. Very few companies outside of the area had ever heard of the school, and none of the credits would transfer anywhere, despite this being a specific point in the sales pitch.

                It’s hard to imagine people getting suckered in by places like this, but there are still a lot of families that just don’t know, and the schools have good sales teams.

                As for finishing, yes, there is value in completing some classes, but at the end of the day, completing 2 years of engineering school won’t get you a job that will let you pay off those two years. Maybe there are some places that assign value to incomplete schooling, but you don’t get the actual pay bump until you have the credential.Report

              • Pinky in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                If the school claimed its credits could be transferred and they couldn’t, that’s fraud. Institutions can be held liable for that.

                I wouldn’t hire you as an engineer after two years of engineering school, but I’d trust you over a high school graduate for positions in sales, tech assistance, and anything where a starter gets trained for advancement.

                (PS – I just spelled high school “high schhol”, which is going to keep me laughing for a few days.)Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Pinky says:

                Yes, schools could be held liable for that, if it was in writing. But it’s not. You hear it at the sales pitch, but it’s not in writing.

                And maybe you would hire that partial credit kid, but a lot of places would not. Not when there are plenty of degreed candidates out there.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    While it’s certainly true that “fair” has a lot of different meanings that include “the deck isn’t stacked in *MY* favor!”, the root problem is the whole predatory thing.

    We’ve got a *HUGE* number of folks out there screaming that they paid $X for a degree that wasn’t worth $X.

    You know what? I *AGREE* that it wasn’t worth $X!

    The solution isn’t “you poor dear, we’ll make someone else pony up the $X”.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      (Though I would enthusiastically agree that the students should not be on the hook for the $X either.)Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

      Relatedly, I’m also curious about which “predatory things” we are sympathetic towards and which we aren’t. Or, I’d argue, which things we are willing to label as predatory and which we aren’t.

      Some folks argue pay day loans are predatory. Others argue they provide a necessary service to folks otherwise denied such services. Who’s right? [shrug emoji]

      Is the college loan system screwed up? Absolutely.

      But there are lots of screwed up things. Why should this be where we put our energy and funds? I’m not saying it SHOULDN’T be where we put our energy and funds… I just think the case needs to be made why we should focus here and not there (for any value of “there”… for sake of argument, I’ll pitch K-12 educational funding).

      So, why should we use billions or trillions of dollars to resolve the student loan issue instead of those same billions or trillions of dollars to address gross disparities in our K-12 educational funding?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

        I am sympathetic to all of it. I believe that we should change the system.

        When it comes to whether or not I believe that we should use tax dollars to pay for degrees, I admit to wanting to pick and choose which degrees get tax funding. (I’m a fan of, say, degrees in oncology qualifying and not a fan of Film Studies getting it.)

        I’m sure you remember this story:

        A few years ago, Joe Therrien, a graduate of the NYC Teaching Fellows program, was working as a full-time drama teacher at a public elementary school in New York City. Frustrated by huge class sizes, sparse resources and a disorganized bureaucracy, he set off to the University of Connecticut to get an MFA in his passion—puppetry. Three years and $35,000 in student loans later, he emerged with degree in hand, and because puppeteers aren’t exactly in high demand, he went looking for work at his old school. The intervening years had been brutal to the city’s school budgets—down about 14 percent on average since 2007. A virtual hiring freeze has been in place since 2009 in most subject areas, arts included, and spending on art supplies in elementary schools crashed by 73 percent between 2006 and 2009. So even though Joe’s old principal was excited to have him back, she just couldn’t afford to hire a new full-time teacher. Instead, he’s working at his old school as a full-time “substitute”; he writes his own curriculum, holds regular classes and does everything a normal teacher does. “But sub pay is about 50 percent of a full-time salaried position,” he says, “so I’m working for half as much as I did four years ago, before grad school, and I don’t have health insurance…. It’s the best-paying job I could find.”

        I’m more than willing to think “that poor guy”.

        I’m more than willing to argue that he shouldn’t be on the hook to pay off that $35,000.

        Making *YOU* pay for it?

        Well, here’s where I point out that I’m sympathetic to why you shouldn’t be forced to pay for his degree.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

          ALL of it?

          Are you sympathetic to billionaires having their income taxed at onerous and unfair and predatory rates?
          Are you sympathetic to airlines and cruiselines who’ve been unfairly harmed by the pandemic?
          Are you sympathetic to single women who have 7 kids by 6 men who unfairly are forced to look for work in order to qualify for support payments?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

            I’m sympathetic to that, sure.

            But there’s sympathy that says “feeling the way that you feel sucks and here are some thoughts that can help you endure feeling that way in a more productive and happy way”, sympathy that says “this situation sucks and we should change it”, and sympathy that says “this situation sucks so much that I think that we should make Kazzy spend more money on you.”

            Saying that I only *REALLY* care if I care enough to make you open your wallet is a mug’s game.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

              Oh, I’m not saying the latter.

              I imagine you are somewhat rare in being sympathetic to all those situations.

              I think there are plenty of people who are unsympathetic regardless of who is being asked to foot any hypothetical bill.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                They should read Marcus Aurelius.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Speaking personally, there is a part of me that says, “Yea, college grads perhaps got got by the system. But so too did people who buy stuff off late night infomercials. So why should I look to address the plight of the former but not the latter?”

                And I’m not SAYING there isn’t an argument to be made there… but the argument needs to be made there. And it needs to be more than, “Well, that’s just different.”Report

              • InMD in reply to Kazzy says:

                That’s the oddest part of it though. Those people who get got by late night infomercials can at the end of the day walk away from it. Their credit will suck for awhile (which is bad but not life ruining) but the student is stuck with it forever. We actually treat the boobs being marked for their own stupidity better than the students who at least in theory made a bad call trying to do the right thing.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to InMD says:

                I assume you are talking about how bankruptcy can be used to address regular debt but not student debt. I agree that is an important difference! Arguably enough of a difference to justify treating them differently.

                But that doesn’t necessarily get us to the place of forgiving student loans. Perhaps we should just make them also eligible for bankruptcy. Which would have all SORTS of ripple effects through the system… almost bringing student debt on part with… regular debt.

                So maybe we should treat student debt like regular debt: make it eligible for bankruptcy but don’t make it the automatic, sign-on-the-dotted-line, here’s-tens-of-thousands-of-dollars, no-questions-asked-type thing that it is now.

                I can see lots of arguments in favor of forgiving student debt, in part or in whole. I’m open to the idea. I just struggle with the notion that folks with student debts are somehow uniquely deserving of sympathy when, with a few slight tweaks to how we describe their situation, many folks would instantly find them contemptible.

                I also recognize the inverse is true: many folks who aren’t sympathetic to the student debt crowd might suddenly become so by tweaking a few of the particulars.

                Ultimately, I’m not sure sympathy is what we should be using to determine what situations we address and which we don’t. Maybe that is my point? To the extent I even have a point.

                It seems to me that baked into notions of fairness are notions of desert: that person didn’t deserve that outcome based on the actions they took. The consequence is mismatched from the action. On some level, that would seem to require a level of deceit.

                I was fortunate enough to not need student loans for undergraduate: my grandmother left money when she passed that was earmarked for our education. I took out some loans for graduate school (only subsidized) and was again fortunate that the rest of my inheritance from her kicked in and was just enough to cover those loans without paying any interest. I was very, very, very fortunate.

                I paid very careful attention to the loan process for graduate school. But I was a 23-year-old college graduate at the time with an inherently good sense of planning and money. I don’t know what it is like to be 17 or 18 and signing on for student loans. Is there outright deceit? Just overpromising? Is it the sort of thing we might compare to a late night infomercial… where they don’t quite lie but they don’t quite tell the truth but if you have enough brain cells to rub together, you can know what you’re getting into? Or does it require a lawyer or financial planner or both to really have an idea of what the F is going on?Report

              • InMD in reply to Kazzy says:

                For the record I agree that the determining factor should not be sympathy. It’s more of a problem of risk allocation combined with long term economic considerations.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to InMD says:

                I agree. As I said somewhere (above? below? somewhere…?) I’m open to the idea and have shifted from an earlier perspective of, “I DIDN’T GET MY LOANS PAID OFF!!!”

                I do hope that any forgiveness plan is attached to a reform plan so we don’t end up right back where we started.Report

  5. Brandon Berg says:

    The amount of debt held by recent graduates of four-year colleges is hugely overhyped in the popular imagination. About 2/3 of recent graduates have less than $30,000 in debt, and six-figure debt for undergraduate education is rare. This is a totally reasonable amount of debt to take on in exchange for a four-year degree. The median college graduate makes $26,000 more per year than the median high school graduate; it costs about $4,000 per year to make the payments on $30,000 in student loan debt. There’s nothing predatory or unduly burdensome about this. You object to histrionics, but you’re doing a bit yourself.

    Furthermore, amount of student loan debt at beginning of repayment is negatively correlated with default rate: The people who are defaulting are defaulting not because they have too much debt, but because they have too little income to make the payments on even a very small debt. Most of these are people who dropped out or failed out of college, hence the small amount of debt.

    There are some people who have unmanageable debt, either because the debt is too high or the income is too low, but these are the exception rather than the rule, and these are personal problems, not a National Student Loan Debt Crisis, which remains a media/activist hoax.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      Then there is good news!


      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:


        Private non-federal?Report

        • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

          Everybody loves bank bailouts. Private profit with the government absorbing the risk.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

            If the bank bailouts came with the occasional extraordinary penalty for the perpetrators, I’m sure they’d be more popular among the public as well.

            Put the extraordinary penalty on PPV. Turn a little profit and start a nest egg for the next bailout.Report

            • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

              I am pretty sure that private, nonfederal student loans typically require a co-signer with good credit.

              This looks like a plan that makes almost no sense as policy, but maybe Biden can do it by executive order? Generally, Congress appropriates spending, but maybe there is a pool of bank bailout money pre-appropriated. But what about the co-signors?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Given that it’ll only apply to those who are, and I’m copying and pasting this, “economically distressed”, I imagine that it’ll apply to the lower classes more than the upper.

                (Or maybe it’ll be like the last round of aid that turned down 99% of applicants.)Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

                Do lower class people have qualifying credit scores? There is always downward mobility, the co-signer was not “economically distressed” four years ago, and now is. But what if they were “economically distressed” then and now, would the bank have given the loan?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Qualifying? I don’t know.

                It’s probably easier to get a “cannot be discharged in bankruptcy” $40,000 loan than one that can, of course.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

                I think we’re talking past each other here. In order to get a private student loan, the student needs good credit; most students don’t have good credit, particularly if they are arriving directly from high school. Nonetheless, a student can get a private student loan if somebody, probably a parent, has good credit and is willing to co-sign. Now, the student’s ability to pay the loan is secured by (probably) the parents’ commitment to pay the student loan themselves. I don’t think most of these parents would be considered lower class, though they could have fallen on hard times since the loans were taken out. See Lori Laughlin.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

                I’m literally saying “I have no idea”.

                There is this huge assumption that a college/university degree is an investment and that is what makes getting the loan worthwhile.

                Sure, you have a large debt, but you’ll graduate and make more money and, over a lifetime, you’ll not only pay off the debt but have a larger paycheck than if you didn’t get it.

                To the extent that this has been true for all kinds of folks from the 1950’s to the early oughts, it makes sense for banks to also see the loans as likely to be good loans.

                Hey, the kid is going to graduate, get a job, and pay it back. Easy peasy. Everybody wants to hire a kid with a bachelor’s. It’s literally a pre-req.

                So even without bringing the parents into it, it’s not dumb on its surface.

                And the non-dischargability makes it safe to err on the side of recklessness.Report

              • PD Shaw in reply to Jaybird says:

                I’m focused on the loans Biden wants to pay for, which you drew attention to: “Private non-federal?” Most college students don’t take out private non-federal loans. They take out government subsidized and non-subsidized loans, which have a lower interest rate and don’t require credit checks or co-signatures. I’m pretty sure he’s taking the least equitable slice to pay off with what we’ll call the Lori Laughlin executive order, because that’s the slice he sees as legally available. Not good policy, just the best policy that he doesn’t need to seek the Senate’s approval.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to PD Shaw says:

                Private, nonfederal, economically distressed.

                So, like you, I’m wondering how many people qualify.

                FedGov *HAD* a Student Loan Forgiveness program. It rejected 99% of applicants.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Brandon Berg says:

      You make a good point, that not all student debt is the same.

      A graduate from Columbia who has a great job awaiting them isn’t the same someone who attended Corinthian and has meager job prospects.

      While there are a lot of moving parts to this picture, one area that could use a lot of attention is the area of for-profit colleges which are often barely a step above scams, offering poor education while sucking up inordinate amount of government backed loans.Report

  6. Brent F says:

    Of American problems, I can’t help but feel the student loan issue is the one that gets salience due to its prevailiance amoung young media workers in major urban centres and their social networks.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Brent F says:

      An incredibly important point that gets overlooked.Report

    • Philip H in reply to Brent F says:

      It also gets prevalence because Hill staffers (who write the bills) are generally late 20’s-early 30’s and also in this boat . . . .Report

    • InMD in reply to Brent F says:

      This is true but the part that’s rarely talked about is the long term drag it creates on consumer spending by those who have been best placed to do it in the post war era.Report

      • Brent F in reply to InMD says:

        I mean, this is why the idea is so politically toxic though. It reads as massive free money to a Democratic demographicReport

        • Jaybird in reply to Brent F says:

          A Democratic demographic that is living in expensive cities, firmly established in middle-to-upper-middle class values and aspiring to upper class, and doesn’t seem to notice the three quartiles underneath it, choosing instead to look at the decile and a half above it.Report

        • InMD in reply to Brent F says:

          Oh I get that and that’s part of why I don’t think massive blanket forgiveness is the right way to deal with this. See also my comments above to March and OscarReport

          • Brent F in reply to InMD says:

            Its also the amount that will make this a vote loser. 50,000 is a years salary for a normal person. 5000 people might understand, they’d also understand a program to pay to defer payments for a year or two. But giving that much money away is going to raise some hackles.Report

            • InMD in reply to Brent F says:

              Yea, the safety valve concept I think is less likely to be politically toxic. I don’t think there’s any good reason to oppose bankruptcy protection. Maybe you do something like Oscar’s concept of a co-sign from the university. You could consider things like including milestones where the school has to pay back some or all of the loan if certain contingencies aren’t met. I don’t think that would be perceived as a give away.

              Of course again that will require Republican support which they may be too busy to provide, what with all their important work finding ways to kick people off Medicaid and cut Social Security.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Brent F says:

      This exchange illustrates the political problem, by focusing on the identity of those who would benefit.

      Is the beneficiary a white upper middle class graduate of Notre Dame?
      Or a black lower class graduate of ITT Tech?

      Identity-based politics is a powerful factor in any of our political discussions.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Watch me engage in some light editing and see if it changes anything:

        Is the beneficiary an upper middle class graduate of Notre Dame?
        Or a lower class graduate of ITT Tech?

        Class-based politics is a powerful factor in any of our political discussions.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        I think it is kind of both to be honest. The evidence shows that a lot of defaulted student debt belongs to minorities who attend (and might not graduate from) for-profit colleges where the degrees are of questionable value. But a huge amount of the really large student debt belongs to people with graduate and professional degrees because changes in the early aughts allowed 100 percent financing of graduate degrees through student loans.

        Some of this is of course well-educated professionals who will earn six figure salaries at some point, maybe accumulate seven figure wealth but it will also include a lot of people who went to get graduate degrees in the arts and humanities but discovered there are not enough positions for people with graduate degrees in the arts and the humanities. In other words, elite overproduction. Maybe it says something about my circle but I know a lot of people with significant student debt in the arts and humanities who are underemployed and probably looking down life long student debt. They are not necessarily making low salaries but they are not making enough to fully write down the debt.

        What this debate boils down to is always what kind of society we want to live in. I’ve mentioned before that I want a society and culture that respects formal education and does not think it is a waste for people to get graduate degrees in “useless” subjects. I want a society that encourages scholarship for the sake of scholarship. But there is a strong autodidact side to a lot of libertarian-conservative leaning folk that hates formal academia.
        I think it is connected to Protestant roots which I lack. Judaism always focused on formal and academic study of the religious texts and this translated into acceptance of formal study for secular subjects.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Don’t buy luxuries on credit.

          Don’t buy luxuries on credit!


          • Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

            That doesn’t address my point. We are fighting over whether a formal education, especially in the arts and humanities, should be a “luxury” or not. My point is that it does not have to be. We are wealthy enough society to make it so. But there seem to be a lot of people whose view is “Damn right, it should be a luxury and I would prefer it not to exist at all.”Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

            Nearly every luxury is brought on credit in some ways even by people that can pay in cash. If nobody purchased luxuries on credit, we would all be collectively a lot poorer in a material sense.Report

            • gabriel conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Maybe he should have said, “don’t buy luxuries on installments.” It’s one thing to make a purchase with a credit card and pay it off when the bill comes due and another to make only the minimum payment. (And of course, there are ranges between those two extremes.)Report

        • Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Both the Black man who attended Corinthian to be a medical technician and the lesbian White woman who attended Columbia for medieval poetry belong to the same class, which is deeply resented by the Trumpist class.

          A photo of those two sitting on the bus together would be given the meme “This is the future liberals want”.

          Because they both in their own way challenge the hegemony of the culture of the Trumpists which encompasses both the one truck contractor and the hedge fund billionaire who despite their income disparity both have the same cultural affiliation.

          The people who shrugged at the bank bailouts and farm bailouts will scream with white hot rage at any move which benefits their cultural enemy.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            Here I largely agree.Report

          • Philip H in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            The people who shrugged at the bank bailouts and farm bailouts will scream with white hot rage at any move which benefits their cultural enemy.

            Cosign completely.Report

          • Damon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            In other words….folks getting pork don’t like others horning in on their fat. That transcends everything else.Report

            • Chip Daniels in reply to Damon says:

              Except it isn’t the bankers and farmers who are doing the screaming.

              The most ferocious opposition to college debt forgiveness comes from people who really have no skin in the game; The average taxpayer will never notice the pennies they would spend for even the most lavish program.

              In other words, support or opposition has very little to do with actual standing but on perceptions of justice.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Justice is a social construct.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Careful there, because you insist an awful lot that perceptions of justice are very important to certain demographics.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                I think this very essay and the reaction from us here at OT is a good example of what I’m talking about.

                We had almost no discussions about the farm bailouts that I can recall. Certainly they weren’t a hot topic on which everyone felt the need to opine.

                Yet…this topic elicits a tremendous amount of opinion here by people who really have no more investment in the issue than we would farm bailouts or military contracting or even the emergency pandemic loans.

                Why the different level of interest, if not that our perceptions of justice are different for this class of beneficiary than for farmers, bankers and government contractors.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Sometimes it comes up in discussions of Big Agriculture and how they take advantage of illegal immigration, but that turns to discussions about immigration instead of financial policy.

                For some reason.

                People like cheap food, I guess.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                Funny thing about the farm bailout, haven’t heard much about one, beyond aid to farmers adversely impacted by Trump’s Trade War. And even that was barely a mention.

                Military contracting is rarely seen as an issue until the numbers really start to inflate (e.g. F-35), because the beneficiaries are limited and the public is getting something, usually.

                But student debt? Why would student debt be seen as not justice? Perhaps it has something to do with the stories the media chooses to tell about it? They find and tell about the people that journalists most relate to, and not people who are severely screwed and/or scammed by fraudsters or disinterested college admins.

                Hell, even my suggestion is getting a lot of pushback. All I am suggesting is that we attempt to implement a bit of ownership on the schools for the product they claim to sell, and everyone is worried about the cases where the school has to suffer the irresponsible student, as if the schools don’t have billion dollar endowments.Report

              • Chip Daniels in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

                Right, but I’m not even commenting one way or the other about your proposal, but to note that we, collectively, the American public, have grown accustomed to farm subsidies and bailouts and no-bid contracts and various and sundry forms of looting of the Treasury, to where it scarcely registers even when it amounts to hundreds of billions.

                Famers, military contractors and bankers are not viewed with nearly the amount of Calvinist scorn reserved for college students and mothers who buy candy bars with their SNAP cards.

                The identity of the recipients is the driving variable to the outrage, not the dollar amount.Report

              • Oscar Gordon in reply to Chip Daniels says:

                But it’s not the actual identity, but the perceived identity.

                Welfare is restricted because some low rent scammer might figure out how to game the system to get live their life well on taxpayer largesse (the Welfare King/Queen), even though the vast bulk of people who seek welfare truly need it, and only for a little while, to get through a crisis.

                Similarly, people resist tuition relief because the stories we hear are about privileged kids who chose useless luxury degrees over valuable practical ones, and now have $100K of debt while slinging coffee at Starbucks, instead of a six figure job as a docent at MOMA.Report

        • Oscar Gordon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Here again, putting schools on the hook for defaulted loans would help.

          Ivy league arts education is certainly a social good, but is it worth $100K? Is the graduate likely going to be able to pay that down? I see nothing wrong with a school deciding that a degree in the arts not cost as much as a degree in engineering or medicine. The tuition for such programs certainly subsidizes the more expensive programs so the school can charge a flat per-credit rate, but that is a choice the school makes. If they were on the hook, they may decide to restructure the fee system so the arts education is not as expensive.Report

        • Brent F in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          I sympathize with the argument for education for its own sake. But if its public money, I’d see the goal of and educated public to be served by a robust and affordable public system of colleges and universities. One of the consequences of elite overproduction is there are plenty of smart folks qualified to teach you Proust and Foucault, not just at the private colleges.

          America has a history of cheap mass public post secondary education that should be embraced. What shouldn’t be embraced is the playschools and elite enclaves, perpetuating another generation of elites who got made for life by attending an Ivy.Report

          • Saul Degraw in reply to Brent F says:

            I am all for enhanced funding of public universities but that is another kettle of fish. A lot of states have reduced their support since the 1980s and while tuition is still relatively low at these places, it is much higher than the tuition experienced by Old Economy Steve back in the 1960s and perhaps up to the mid-1990s. Even for public universities, we are beyond the point of people being able to pay for tuition with summer jobs and part time jobs.

            UCLA charges 13,240 for in state tuition and 42K for out of state tuition. A 15 dollar minimum wage and 40 hours a week leads to a gross income of 30K. But a person who works full-time is almost certainly not graduating in a typical time span.Report

            • Brent F in reply to Saul Degraw says:

              This is obviously a case of American decline by failure to maintain your positive traditions and strongest institutions.Report

              • Saul Degraw in reply to Brent F says:

                I think it is more about a fundamental disagreement about what the focus of society should be around. The slashing of public university budgets started with the rise of the modern right-wing but there is also a long history of seeing colleges as left-wing indoctrination centers that goes back to the 1950s if not before. I am horrible at Google image search but there is a magazine cover from some right-wing rag in the 1950s that showed a rather Jewish looking professor lecturing pure Christian American college students and it was all about drumming up fear that college will turn them communist and get them to abandon Christianity. This is evergreeen in the United States.Report

              • Damon in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                “a long history of seeing colleges as left-wing indoctrination centers that goes back to the 1950s if not before.”

                Gee, I wonder why there is that perception? Could it be true in many cases? o.0 Sure as hell seems to be in “elite universities”.Report

              • JoeSal in reply to Saul Degraw says:

                “1950s that showed a rather soviet looking professor lecturing”

                Fixed that for ya.Report

        • Brent F in reply to Saul Degraw says:

          Also, traditional American protestants love them some education. New England protestants were the most educated people in the world back in the day.

          Maybe not so much the Southerners or Scots-Irish, but its not a Calvinists are bad thing.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        My damn comment was eaten. I think both benefit for different reasons.Report

  7. Jaybird says:

    What’s weird is that if you asked about whether we, as a society, ought to devote more help to the upper middle class graduates of Notre Dame versus the lower class graduates of ITT, I’m pretty sure that you’ll get a lot of “NEITHER” answers, a lot of “Just the ITT grad!” answers, and a smattering of “HELP BOTH!” answers.

    But very, very, very few “Just the Notre Dame!” answers.

    Except, of course, inside the halls of power among the kids writing the bills about to get voted on.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Jaybird says:

      This is why most media and political centers tend to be structurally conservative, in that the journalism and political administration are skilled jobs which tend to pay well.

      So the practitioners tend to view policy through this lens of people who benefit from the current system.
      They aren’t consciously writing “just Notre Dame” into law, but constructing a system which addresses primarily their concerns.

      What is interesting to me is the collapse of journalism and the increasing economic precarity of the profession and how that might change how they write.Report

  8. JoeSal says:

    The problem with most social constructs is they require the right people doing the right thing.

    Reality will get better when we run under assumptions that the right people don’t exist within social constructs.Report

  9. KenB says:

    Rather than making any substantive comment (I don’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said either on this post or previous ones on the same topic), I’ll just post this video:


    • Kazzy in reply to KenB says:

      That’s good stuff!

      And now, if I can almost 180 from what I said above…

      In college, I took an adolescent psych class. The professor had studied under Jeffrey Arnett, who pioneered the theory of “emerging adulthood”, a new and distinct developmental stage that came between adolescence and (young) adulthood. It seemed a little funky and at the time was a fringe theory; in fact, I’m still not sure I buy the idea that human development can change so radically so quickly.

      But… you read his research on the topic… and it does really seem to capture some of the ideas expressed in that song. Here is a summary of the book: https://www.apa.org/monitor/jun06/emerging

      Now, if this is what is going on — or at least part of what is going on — than it is a much broader social thing and we’re just focusing on the tip of the spear with the young people for whom it is manifesting most obviously. But they (we? I’m of this generation but on the older side and for various reasons don’t have most of the markings) didn’t just come out of the womb one way or wake up one day and decide to exist as such. Society shifted in some ways and sort of molded this. And now we’re all acting like, “Gah! Where’d that come from?!”

      Anyway, I’m kind of rambling here without saying much but I’d encourage you to read the link. It helps show that some of the mindsets/behaviors we’re seeing and are troubled by didn’t just come out of nowhere. As much as I cringe at words like “adulting”…Report

      • KenB in reply to Kazzy says:

        Thanks for sharing the link — it’s interesting to consider the impact of these social changes on both the children and the parents. There’s always going to be a tug-of-war between the canonical “mothering” and “fathering” approaches; my own inclination is to think that as a society we’ve veered too much to the former, but if that’s true, it’s not any particular person’s fault.

        The “emerging adulthood” concept seems pretty obviously a real phenomenon, so I’m wondering what would make it a fringe theory — maybe just the act of separating it into its own stage rather than as an early phase of the “adult” stage?Report

        • Kazzy in reply to KenB says:

          Perhaps “fringe theory” was the wrong term. I took the class back in ’03 or ’04. Re-reading that links shows me that is when the initial work was being published by Arnett. And I was exposed early to it because the co-editor mentioned there (Tanner) was my professor. So probably better to say it was a new and not-yet-widely explored or accepted theory. I haven’t studied adolescent psych since then (I work in Early Childhood so have focused most of my time/energy on the younger end) so can’t speak to how the theory has evolved since then. I think I was also reacting to a bit of prosthelytizing from the professor — which would make sense on her part — but always makes me look a little side-eyed at things.

          All-in-all though, it definitely jibes with observed reality so whatever we may call it, it is real.

          Parenting — like most social trends — tends to ebb and flow between extremes. And we are definitely at or near an extreme. But we’re starting to see voices emerge to push us the other way. Wendy Mogel wrote “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” which is probably the best/most accessible discussion of the counter perspective out there right now.

          What I increasingly see as an educator is that much of this form of parenting is really not about the child but about the parent. “*I* don’t want to see my child suffering.” It isn’t the child’s suffering that is the problem… it is the parent’s response and seeming inability to manage their own suffering as a result that is the driving factor. So this is really pretty deeply steeped and not something we’re going to “solve” by yelling at Millennials about avocado toast on Twitter. We need to look more deeply at what trends took us to this place and, more importantly, what direction we want to go in. There is value in both (all?) ends of the spectrum so it is determining which values we want to pursue.Report

  10. Swami says:

    “The organizations that benefit the most from student loans are the banks and the colleges.”

    Great post, but I have a question.

    I can see how colleges have benefitted by inflating their administrations and building superfluous buildings and services and lowering standards.

    But how exactly have banks benefitted? I understand they are getting a source for revenue with loans which would not have been offered without public backing, but I assume that banks are competing for these loans in a reasonably free market and are thus making fair and reasonable returns somewhat equal to the cost of money adjusted for risk. IOW, I assume the return on a dollar invested in college loans, is roughly similar to the expected return in any other field adjusted for risk. Maybe another way of saying this is that banks may be benefitting, but they are not unfairly benefitting. I could be wrong here though.

    “The consumer is left powerless to seek redress for a failure to provide the necessary education to repay the loan. Simply shifting the burden to taxpayers doesn’t address the perverse incentives of a broken system of higher education.”

    Seems the real reform should be on validating that colleges are being good stewards of these loans. This could be on the expense side (ensuring the money goes to real efficient education not admin, pretty campuses, party life and sports teams) and the outcome side (graduates actually learned and or got jobs).Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to Swami says:

      I assume that banks are competing for these loans in a reasonably free market and are thus making fair and reasonable returns somewhat equal to the cost of money adjusted for risk.

      What risk is there, though? The loans can’t be discharged through bankruptcy and are covered by the taxpayers in the event of inability to recover.
      It seems to me that these loans are the closest thing to zero risk.Report

      • Swami in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        And thus in a competitive market — assuming there is competition — the rates should be extremely low and the profit similar to other similarly risk free investments. Lot of assumptions there, admitted.Report

  11. Tom says:

    Can somebody see what’s going on with Koz’s comments?Report

  12. Tom says:

    Well, something is sending my comments to spam, and I think it’s being triggered by commenting as Koz. They seem to register if I change my username.Report

  13. Tom says:

    this is a testReport

  14. Saul Degraw says:

    Turns out those guys in Michigan had a plan B to take over the Capitol and stage a week long event of televised executions: https://twitter.com/jo_mendelson/status/1329325952233394176?s=20Report

  15. Saul Degraw says:

    It also looks like Republican Michigan lawmakers are flying to D.C. tomorrow to meet with Trump tomorrow at the toddler in chief’s request. Please tell me why we should not call what Trump is doing a legal coup? https://twitter.com/chrislhayes/status/1329474707184361473?s=20Report