Yes, the astute literati amongst my half-dozens of readers will note that I stole the title for this post. The relationship between the novel in which it appears and the next paragraphs will at least be spurious, I hope.
I spent the day in a hospital waiting room while my wife had her foot rebuilt. I followed much of the conversation on Twitter and elsewhere about student debt, particularly as it relates to justifications for the Gainful Employment rule and today’s article in the Chronicle of Higher Education. There were also pieces on Vox and the New York Times (which, based on its treatment of Abramson is not quite as liberal as some have thought).
One Twitter conversation focused on an article at the Daily Kos that started with this paragraph, which really tells you all you need to know:
I have $170,000 in student loan debt from what’s known as a for-profit college. Schools like mine bill themselves as “career” colleges. But after borrowing mind-numbing sums to attend Florida Coastal School of Law, I’m drowning in debt, and working at a non-profit making $30,000 a year. Not a lawyer’s salary, barely enough to make ends meet, and nothing extra to keep up with my massive monthly payments.
Andrew Kelly did some checking:
@SmithZakiya @delislealleges median private loan debt at the alma mater is $0, according to website. So all is on fed tab, I assume.
— Andrew P. Kelly (@AndrewPKelly) May 14, 2014
- the author of the piece likely has no private loans (if so, they did not go through the school);
- the entire $170,000 is federal loan debt;
- the author is probably eligible for Income Contingent Repayment (ICR), Income-Based Repayment (IBR), or Pay As You Earn (PAYE), meaning his payment should be much lower than “massive”;
- If working for an eligible noprofit and continues to do that for 10 years, he is quite likely eligible for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), even with reduced payments;
We find out further down that the author did not even complete the degree as he got scared off by the debt he was accumulating. In reality, there is rarely payoff for an unfinished degree. At any level.
If one knows going into any program that they will have to fund in its entirety with debt, they really need to understand that there is no value to dropping out unless they are Tiger Woods or Bill Gates, or one of the other very lucky (and talented), and very few. In this case, I think blaming his situation on the tax status of the institution is just politics to support Gainful Employment. The author made choices, got cold feet two-thirds of the way through, dropped out, can’t find a job as a lawyer, and is blaming the school.
The school may well be crappy. They may have a slick advertising and recruitment division. That does not absolve him of responsibility.
The article was written to support the efforts of the Young Invincibles(YI) in advocating for Gainful Employment (GE). I’m all for GE and expanding its coverage for the sake of transparency, but I think focusing overmuch on law students not only reminds folks like me that YI is a creation of a bunch of law students and illustrates a lack of awareness of the fact that the current, and eternal focus,of USED and most federal and state policymakers is on undergraduate education. YI is trying to do some good work, but they need to rethink this approach.
From the article:
I’m not a lawyer. But I do know how to make a case.
But for whom? Can you make a case that you made a smart decision to attend law school with NO ranking in US News & World Report, placing it outside the top 150? Did you check the rankings?
For the record, in Virginia, of the graduates with first professional degrees statewide (law, medicine, veterinary), only 22% had student debt greater than $150,000 for the first professional program.
For undergraduates it was only 0.02% – eight students.
Find more here…there are comparable national charts, at least for undergraduate debt, I just didn’t feel like looking it up. Let’s simply drop the rhetoric and horror stories. Let’s focus on the needs of most the students.
Oh, about those nameless things? Really not nameless – debt, cluelessness, responsibility.