December 5, 2023


Supportive Business Potential

Opinion | Let’s All Sweat Student Debt

Hey, maybe Congress could just restrict the loan forgiveness to folks who aren’t making much money.

Nah. Republicans really, really hate bills that are targeted at folks who aren’t making much money.

I’m sorry, Mr. President. These are federal loans, and you definitely gave the impression you could wipe them off the books yourself. If you weren’t sure the public wanted it to happen, you wouldn’t have mentioned the idea approximately every five minutes during the campaign.

But while we’re on the subject, let’s look at another part of the loan problem — who’s getting the money. About 12 percent of the graduates of public four-year schools still owe more than $40,000. The percentage is somewhat higher for private schools, but the real whopper is over in the for-profit sector. Nearly half of the graduates of for-profit schools are trying to live with very high debt levels, and we have not even begun to talk about the multitudinous number of poor kids who got sucked in by an ad promising to set them on a career in high-tech-something and wound up with no degree, no career and a sea of red ink.

It’s glory days for the folks who run places like Grand Canyon University or Strayer University. For-profits are reveling in the Covid culture. “I hate to call anybody a winner in this crisis,” Jeffrey M. Silber, managing director of a financial services company, told The Times. But, he added, for-profit colleges sure appear to be getting a pandemic prize.

People are trapped at home, with nothing to do but clean out closets and watch luge races. Starting on the path to an online degree and a new career must certainly sound tempting.

No, wait. Really, stick to the curling match. For-profit schools are generally a very bad plan. An estimated 43 percent of the students who started attending one in 2004 defaulted on their loans.

While the for-profits are very vocal about enrollees’ prospects, they tend to be less than forthcoming about their actual success rates. For instance, Capella University has run ads promising you can earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as a year. Alas, in the real world only 11 percent of its students manage to earn one in eight.