For now, proposed “gainful employment” regulations are aimed at for-profit colleges and career programs at nonprofits. If too many students in a program default on loans or pile up too much debt relative to income, the feds will cut off student aid. Once the bills start coming in for income-based repayment of student loans, “the government is just going to have to shut down the free money fountain” for all of higher ed, predicts EduBubble.
Lane Community College students will lose access to federal loans and grants unless the Oregon college can cut the default rate, which is running above 30 percent. The college, which has a low graduation rate, is trying to discourage “overborrowing.”
Revisions to the Higher Education Act could hurt open-access colleges, community college leaders fear. The reauthorized law could tie federal funding to completion rates — which are hard to calculate for community colleges — and penalize high student loan default rates.
New “gainful employment” rules for student loans are “awful,” ”unfair and discriminatory,” writes Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity. The regulations apply to vocational programs at career colleges (primarily for-profit) and community colleges. If the goal is to stop wasting government money,”why not scrutinize students majoring in, for example, sociology, from Wayne State University?” he asks.
Community college students see student “loans as an easy source of money,” says Pat Hurley, a financial aid officer at Glendale Community College in California. Tuition is relatively low: Students are borrowing almost entirely to pay for living expenses.
Nationwide, community college students are more likely to borrow and default on their loans than in the past.
Student loan default rates continue to rise. After two years, 10 percent of graduates and dropouts are in default; that rises to 14.7 percent after three years. That doesn’t count borrowers who aren’t paying the full amount but are in “forbearance” or income-based repayment programs.
If President Obama really wants to “shake up” higher education, he should start by scaling back student loans, writes economist Richard Vedder. In addition, colleges should share the costs of high default rates, discouraging them from enrolling students with little chance of success, argues Vedder.
Loan default rates are higher than graduation rates at 514 colleges and universities nationwide, according to Education Sector. Nearly half of the “red flag” institutions are operated by for-profit colleges and about one-third are community colleges.
Skepticism is widening about projections of a widening job skills gap, but most think there’s a shortage of “middle-skills” workers with post-high school education and training but no bachelor’s degree.
President Obama’s new College Scorecard site, which helps students and parents evaluate a college’s cost, graduation rate and default risk, is nothing new, say critics. Some of the data is old, most has been available from other sources and college shoppers can’t factor in family income to get an accurate “sticker price,” reports the New York Times.
College loans are bankrupting parents, reports the New York Times. Colleges encourage parents to take out Parent PLUS loans, which have more than doubled since 2000, to pay their children’s tuition. Others co-sign private student loans. If parents are hit by health problems, layoffs or divorce, there’s no repayment flexibility.
“You don’t want your children, much less your neighbors and friends, knowing that even though you’re living in a nice house, and you’ve been able to hold onto your job, your retirement money’s gone, you can’t pay your debts,” said a woman in Connecticut who took out $57,000 in federal loans. Between tough times at work and a divorce, she is now teetering on default.
People over 60, the fastest growing group of debtors,owe $43 billion, up from $8 billion seven years ago. More are defaulting. The government garnishes Social Security benefits to collect on unpaid student debt.
“It makes you feel like a failure as a parent, to be unable to help your children and to have all your hard work end in a pile of debt,” said one New Jersey man, who took out a second mortgage of $280,000 to help cover his children’s college costs. “I sent my older kids to private colleges, and I was happy to do it because it’s how you help them get started off. But I can’t do it for the youngest, and I haven’t even been able to start the conversation with him.”
Start talking, Dad.
A 27-year man about to complete his second bachelor’s degree — this one’s in Russian literature — tells the Times he doesn’t know how much he and his mother owe for his years in college.