American Elephants

There is a Higher Education Bubble. Taxpayers Beware! by The Elephant's Child

Sixty-one percent of folks with a student loan are not paying back their loans.  Many of the non-payers are still in school, but many others have long since graduated and are failing to make payments on their student loans. After the housing collapse, 28% of mortgages were underwater.  Could we be worrying about the wrong bubble?

There supposedly is $870 billion in outstanding loan balance. There is $85 billion  that is held by those who are past due. The numbers seem to be somewhat unreliable.  There’s a category defined as loans under forbearance: that’s a temporary postponement or reduction of payments for a period of time because you are experiencing financial difficulty. You can get forbearance if you are not eligible for deferment.  A deferment is a temporary suspension of loan payments for specific situations such as reenrollment in school, unemployment or economic hardship. These are for people who are not making their payments, but they are officially considered as people who are making their payments, so the “default rate” is probably not a meaningful number.  It may just be a measure of the number of students who never made any payments at all.

We have this gigantic and growing government, full of certified “experts,” and they can’t keep their numbers in some form that makes them intelligible to those who want to understand the problem. Federal loans are growing — up 25%this last year — but when people who aren’t paying are counted as paying, and over 50% of those in either forbearance or deferment end up defaulting, we don’t seem to know what is happening at all.  I just read some scary numbers about food stamp fraud. We are constantly informed that there are enormous amounts of fraud in Medicaid and Medicare. Conservatives talk about the need for an audit of the Fed, and no one seems to have a clue about the real financial state of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in terms that make it clear that everybody is scared to really ask.

Government numbers come in first guesses, then revised numbers and revised again. If it is a bad number, like unemployment, it usually gets progressively worse: if it’s a good number like new jobs created, that usually gets worse too.  Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute notes how much the Obama administrations has done to make things worse:

Although for-profit colleges have been demonized by the Obama Administration (which has forced some of them to jack up tuition through tightening of the 90-10 rule, and subjected career colleges — but not traditional colleges — to “gainful employment” rules),  education expert Richard Vedder says that “the for-profits care more for their students” and care more than other colleges about whether their students get jobs and are able to repay their student loans.

The Obama Administration has also done other things that increase college costs and drive up tuition.  It has harmed American industry and students who choose not to go to college by discouraging the vocational training needed for well-paying, skilled factory work, contributing to a severe shortage of certain types of skilled factory workers.

Government subsidies over the years have encouraged colleges to raise their tuition, and to dumb down their offerings to attract marginal students. “Thirty-six percent” of college students learn little in four years of college, and students now spend 50% less time studying compared with students of a few decades ago. Thirty-two percent never take “a course in a typical semester where they read more than 40 pages per week.” The conversation and the demand for change is increasing.

Obama wants everyone to go to college, which means the trends will increase. He wants more student loans, and more forgiveness for the defaulters. (Which means the taxpayers get to pay). He wants more control over the curriculum. (More indoctrination).  He wants to stamp out for profit schools.  And desiring to be the education president, he won’t even continue the DC Opportunity Scholarships that are such an enormous help for poor black children in the nation’s capitol.

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