Summary: Guy in his 50’s takes out $550k in Parent PLUS to pay for private colleges and out-of-state public colleges. Now he’s going to pay on this until he’s dead.
Question: Are we supposed to feel sympathy for him and this case as an example of why all student loans should be forgiven? That kind of seems like the direction this article is leaning. Looks like the article should have said “Look at what this guy did. Learn a lesson. Don’t be stupid like this guy.”
It seems like there are several things that would help.
Make student loans dischargable in bankruptcy, but with a higher threshold for being unable to pay (maybe for all debt, not just student loans… not positive about that).
Lower the cost of college. At least public universities. The state should be kicking in at least as much (inflation-adjusted) per student as they did in, say, the 1970s.
Teach personal finance in high school. Have the students calculate the payback period for various college/career combinations.
The Economist’s poster child for student loans was someone who went to Sarah Lawrence for 3.5 years and dropped out. She had over half a million in student loans and was working as a barista. I think the debt was growing because she wasn’t even covering the interest with her wage garnishments.
But get this… her goal was to become a teacher. Even if she’d graduated & gotten a teaching job she wouldn’t have been able to pay those loans. Teachers really don’t make that much more than baristas.
No one should have been willing to loan her that kind of money in the first place. You don’t go to Sarah Lawrence to get a teaching degree unless you have scholarships or mommy and daddy are rich enough to pay for that.
We need to get away from this idea that anyone can go to any college for any reason. If Sarah Lawrence is going to charge what they charge then poor unscholarshipped kids simply cannot go there. Unpleasant reality, but reality nonetheless.
I should add that maybe if her plan was to become a doctor or a lawyer or heck, even an actuary… and she had the high school grades and SAT scores to suggest that this was a realistic plan, then maybe it would be reasonable to loan her the money.
The fix is easy. Stop subsidizing student loans. Things the government pays for inflate so much faster than everything else. Prices would crash by a huge amount if the student loans weren’t so ubiquitous, cheap, and no risk for the banks. Jobs that don’t need college degrees won’t demand them anymore, because fewer people will have useless degrees. The whole market is just so distorted by bad government policy, it’s going to be a nightmare to unwind, but it’s the only way out eventually.
No, they didn’t go to Ivy League schools, but 3 went to private colleges, and 2 paid out-of-state rates to go to public colleges. That’s still big dollars. Between the dad and the kids, they went into debt for an average of $130k each, and that was after financial aid. Get a job and learn a trade. If you still think college is what you need, start at a local community college if that’s all you can afford.
My concern is that this would exacerbate unequal access.
Part of the problem is that college was supposed to be the answer to lost manufacturing jobs, but this is too heavy a load for it to carry.
I could support additional state dollars with rules tying them to learning instead of hedonistic living experiences, assuming such rules are possible. However it would probably create the political temptation to micromanage universities as if they were public high schools. And it would have to improve equal access so that it wouldn’t look like a handout to the rich.
In-state tuition at the non-prestigious state universities in PA is currently running between $8k and $12k per year. You can cover that with a part-time job. Or join the National Guard. The feds pay half of your in-state tuition for whatever state you live in, and Pennsylvania is currently picking up the other half. Your duty pay should cover books and living expenses if you don’t want to live at home.
I’ve spent a lot of time on a lot of various campuses as 5 of my children visited, applied, attended, competed against, many different colleges across the country. The “price” of college has definitely escalated much more than inflation since I attended oh so many years ago. As I told my kids, I would love to go hang out in the extravagant student centers, classroom buildings, athletic complexes and apartment style dorms which are all part of college life today. I’m told they “need” these amenities in order to compete against other schools in order to attract/retain the best students (even though college attendance rates are at all-time highs). The Great Recession had minimal impact on college campuses, I watched in amazement as schools continued to erect colossal buildings while the economy as a whole was reeling in serious hardship.