Weekly Education News Wrap-Up: Jan. 2nd

January 2nd, 2012 by admin

education-news-headlines-ts71086696Happy 2012, everyone! We’ll have a whole piece tomorrow on the predictions of hot careers/majors for the new year.

Middle-aged borrowers piling on student debt
While education borrowing is up across the board, a new study by Reuters shows that the student debt burden is growing fastest for those in the 35 to 49 age group. While people aged 26 to 29 still carry the largest overall debt load, the study shows a 47 percent increase in middle-aged people’s student debt, primarily because a weak economy has pushed many into mid-career training programs.

Private loan borrowers need increased protections
U.S. News & World Report
The organization Equal Justice Works takes a stand on the confusion inherent in the student loan system, especially when it comes to private lenders, and calls for the return of borrower protections like the Fairness for Struggling Students Act of 2011 and the related Private Student Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2011.

Should student loans be dischargeable in bankruptcy?
Piling on to the previous story, Forbes makes its own statement on student loans in the form of an opinion column by Peter J. Reilly. Reilly takes a look at some of the questionable politics that helped create the mess that is our current student loan system and outlines details on the steps Congress can take now to right the current wrongs and give some modicum of power back to the borrowers.

How to land a new job in 2012
U.S. News & World Report
Ben Baden compiles the top tips from six experts in job hunting, careers and hiring to help readers in their search for a new position in the new year. Tips include positioning yourself as a thought leader, letting the job come to you and bringing questions to all of your interviews.

Grad school math: Which degrees are worth the debt
Daily Finance
As many flee the tough job market by heading to grad school, Bruce Watson breaks down the numbers and weighs the costs and benefits of graduate degrees. Some surprising losers of this equation include a number of engineering degrees – like petroleum and computer engineering – and pharmaceutical sciences. Winners of the debt-to-grad-prospect ratio include social sciences and many hard sciences like biology and chemistry.

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Know Before You Owe: How one government website is trying to clear up student loan confusion

October 28th, 2011 by rebeccac


We’ve discussed the student loan forgiveness petition, and the debate rages on, especially since Wednesday, when President Barrack Obama announced a new “Know Before You Owe” plan to provide student loan relief. Through an executive order, Obama introduced an initiative that his administration claims will affect millions of borrowers and changes current federal policy in the following ways:

  • Students with more than one federal student loan – or federally backed private loan – will be allowed to consolidate their debt.
  • The current payment ceiling of 15% of borrowers’ discretionary income will be lowered to 10%.
  • All remaining loan debt will be forgiven after 20 years instead of after the current 25 years.

Supporters are saying it could save debt-ridden graduates hundreds of dollars a month. Detractors claim it’s only going to help a tiny bit and is mainly just a campaign ploy to win the vital youth vote. As per the usual, it will probably end up somewhere in between – partially successful, partially a failure – but what we’re interested in are the new additions to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Know Before You Owe website.

Started several months ago with the idea of making mortgage forms easier to understand and compare, on Wednesday they officially announced a new project in conjunction with the Department of Education: Know Before You Owe for student loans.

Like the mortgage project, this one is also aiming to make things easier to understand and allow students to better compare offers from different schools. Right now, things are still in development – or, as they term it, a “thought-starter” – but they have a couple of elements on the site.

One is a sample form that they want to refine and push out to schools through the Department of Education that would more clearly break down all of the financial information a student needs. They also have a Student Debt Repayment Assistant that can give some guidance to students about their options.

Right now, it’s just a start – but it’s a good start. Many of the indebted graduates at the Occupy rallies claim that the student loan process is so confusing that many of them weren’t entirely sure the trouble they were getting into, and a simple solution to that is the continued development of the Know Before You Owe program.

So get the word out. And even more important? Make your feedback heard on Consumer Financial Protection Bureau website. They want to know what we, the people, think is important when it comes to student loans. Maybe we can help future generations of college graduates end up in better financial situations than the current ones.

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Student loans: debts and depressions

October 14th, 2011 by rebeccac

Occupy Wall Street

Courtesy _PaulS_ via Flickr

There is a lot to say about the student loan situation in the United States – so much, in fact, that sitting down to write a post about it became a labyrinthine quagmire of articles, opinions, points, counterpoints and soapboxes, the number of which are only growing due to a few recent developments.

The first part is the Occupy Wall Street movement, which is made up of many recent college graduates who left the classroom only to be stonewalled by a stagnant economy, record unemployment rates and a tough job market.

That protest can also be loosely linked to an online petition calling for a nationwide forgiveness of student loan debt in order to stimulate the economy – a petition that has already acquired the almost 450,000 signatures that it set as its goal.

And all of this political and financial unrest is bringing up some very good questions about student debts, the cost of higher education and – most importantly – what we’re going to do about both.

The down-and-dirty truth about tuition and debt
The petitioners make a valid point – student loan debt has surpassed credit card debt as the biggest financial burden individuals face (which, hey, at least we’re going into debt for the classroom instead of couture fashions), and the nationwide college debt total is poised to surpass $1 trillion in the coming months. But their guarantee that, if freed up from all these loan payments, former students will pump that money right into consumer goods and struggling economic sectors isn’t really supported by financial history. (See: Failed 2008 and 2009 stimulus packages.)

On top of that, it doesn’t really fix the overall problem. It gives a generation or two some relief from a month-to-month bill, but what about after that? What about the students currently in college or thinking about college? Where is their federal bailout?

I pay my student loans every month, and I’m not saying I wouldn’t love to have them waived and gain a few hundred extra dollars to save or spend. Still, this petition is calling for a one-time solution instead of addressing the fact that the U.S. higher education system is not adapting fast enough.

Instead, a lot of colleges and universities – public and private – are raising tuition at rates that are more than twice as fast as the rate of inflation (CNBC MoneyContol.com). Instead of streamlining, instead of education becoming modern and available to people of all income levels (which is where you would expect the country to be heading by now), the higher education system is getting bulky and fat, more preoccupied with building shiny campus amenities than getting their budgets straight and focusing on their core purpose: providing education. Salaries for college presidents are soaring, but fewer students from the bottom quarter of the income bracket are getting degrees now than they did in 1970.

Sweeping student loan forgiveness would help some people for the moment, but it’s just treating the symptoms without looking for the disease. Unless the U.S. higher education system can get back on track, the debt problems we’re facing today will be even worse for future generations.

The future of the U.S. college degree
This is where I think colleges and universities that cater to that high school crowd can learn a thing or 50 from those that are successfully developing programs for the nontraditional sector. And, likewise, traditional students would do well to absorb some lessons from adult learners.

Because the truth is that there’s a sense of perspective that the nontraditional college student has that could benefit the higher education system. So many colleges and universities are too busy covering their walls with ivy and creating an exciting atmosphere that they’re losing sight of the actual education and those who are most in need of it. Nontraditionals, though, are focused. They have goals, and they don’t need new stadium seating to get there. They just need a good classroom, a good professor and their own drive to succeed, and that’s what adult education programs are giving them. It’s efficient, effective and not distracted by excess.

Now, I’m not knocking the “college experience”– for a lot of young people, it’s an important part of their formation and growth. Still, I know there’s a middle ground in here somewhere – a place where we can meld into a better balance between atmosphere and education, where the classroom and not Greek Week is the epicenter of the campus, where we can cut the budgetary love handles that we’re developing and give the savings back to the students. Slim it down; make it cheaper to get a college education so that students from all income brackets borrow less and graduate with smaller debts to repay.

That’s, at least, the idea that they’re working on in Texas. Governor Rick Perry has challenged state education officials to create a $10,000 bachelor’s degree. That’s $10,000 that would cover four years of tuition, books, fees – the works – and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board is running with it. Is it likely, should this degree get created, that a student enrolling in the program would get the full “college experience”? Probably not, but that’s not important to everyone. Some just want to learn, get a degree and take it out into the world to improve their lives. What’s wrong with that?

Nothing. It’s commendable, in fact. Isn’t this the goal that President Obama wants the country working toward? To be the one with the biggest college-educated populace; to be the land where everyone has a chance at higher education and the opportunities it offers. This isn’t the Middle Ages, after all, with the hallowed halls of universities withheld from all but the children of lords and ladies.

This is the modern era – we should be rocketing away from those days instead of stagnating. Traditional colleges and universities can’t expect to stay the course that they’ve been shuffling along for the past decades. They need to start adapting to this demanding, fast-paced world.

And they should start looking at adult education programs if they want some ideas on how to get it done.


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