Spreadin’ Love 668

I’m in between writing projects and just goofing off today. In a minute, I’m going to make a pot of chili and finish off a painting project. But first, let me post some links and photos of family adventures.

How exactly does a person ring up about $400,000 worth of college loans? Here’s how.

The Common Core and its tests are politically toxic. Oh, who started writing about this back in April? Moi.

Three higher ed articles are getting a lot of play on my Facebook page. A university president tells students that college is not daycare. Interesting back and forth about college costs.

Seven kids of an anti-vaxxer get whooping cough. Oops.

 

 

23 thoughts on “Spreadin’ Love 668

  1. “She had taken out her first student loan 25 years earlier and had yet to make a single payment.”

    Oh my goodness. Did she seriously never make a payment ever?

  2. Starting and then dropping out of law school seemed like the biggest mistake. Not really her fault, since she got sick, but it seems to me at that point you’d better stop and reassess the loan situation. And it’s great to try to support your kids, but with that kind of personal debt already? Crazy.

    I’d love to hear the sermon that the student got so upset about.

    1. af said:

      “Starting and then dropping out of law school seemed like the biggest mistake. Not really her fault, since she got sick, but it seems to me at that point you’d better stop and reassess the loan situation. And it’s great to try to support your kids, but with that kind of personal debt already? Crazy.”

      I’m not normally a big fan of “you’re on your own kids!” for college, but if there ever was a case for it, this was it.

    2. Paying tuition to go to a third tier law school (it doesn’t say where she went, but if it was in Missouri, it’s third tier, unless it was Wash. U.) is generally a mistake. English majors can get jobs as paralegals, and a degree from third tier law school doesn’t increase earnings enough to repay the tuition and lost earnings. More generally, she seems not to understand present value: taking on huge debt for small earnings increases doesn’t make sense.

      That said, she’s mostly a victim. I believe that universities, like other predatory institutions, should (i) be required to refer students mandatory independent financial counseling, at university expense, to all students prior to enrollment, where they will review reasonably expected future earnings as compared to loan costs, and (ii) be required to have risk retention, in which 50% of loan losses are charged back to the relevant university. Any college that claims that it’s not about money, it’s about learning for its own sake, should be required to accept 100% risk retention, with student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. We’d learn soon enough how much they cared about learning for its own sake.

      1. I don’t understand why that forecasting is supposed to work so well. Ten years ago, the 3rd tier law school would have seemed a very good value. Fifteen years ago, learning to code seemed like a bad idea. Two years ago, everybody was supposed to go into petroleum engineering to look for $100 barrels of oil. Now the good value is supposed to be learning to code and apparently that’s now safe as houses were before 2009.

        And the median (not mean) income for a college graduate is still about $22,000/year over that of a high school graduate. That’s the kind of thing that would support a pretty big loan. I agree that student loans should be dischargeable, at least after a certain number of years.

        But still, as I think I’ve mentioned before, I think the biggest problem is simply the huge cuts in support for the public colleges. People are taking on huge loans because the cheaper state options aren’t cheap or available.

      2. But most of this woman’s choices seem to have worked out exactly as expected; she just didn’t do a present value calculation. The bulk of her indebtedness comes from graduate school in education and deferrals of interest during that process. Graduate degrees in education increased her earnings as a teacher by a predictable amount, but the amount was apparently not enough to offset the increases in her indebtedness, i.e., her choices had negative present value when made.

        I severely question whether states should subsidize professional education. Given that state taxes are not particularly progressive, that amounts to taxing people with incomes below the mean to support those who will earn above the mean. Professional education that does not produce a net positive return should not be undertaken at all. For professional education that does produce a net positive return, the positive returns are most captured by the student, and he or she should bear the cost.

      3. This is mostly a reply to MH “..the biggest problem is simply the huge cuts in support for the public colleges. People are taking on huge loans because the cheaper state options aren’t cheap or available.”

        State colleges aren’t all that cheap. There’s been huge public investment in the campuses, and they do a lot less of the cost shifting from less-wealthy to wealthier kids which the privates do. So as a parent – particularly if you are a top-quintile income parent – you face a lower price than HYP. But those of my kids’ friends whose parents are third- or fourth-quintile income faced prices, after their kids were offered scholarships, which were nearly equal between public and private. State colleges are a huge subsidy, extracted from the pockets of state tax payers, for moderately well off kids from the, say, sixth through ninth decile, the ones whose parents cant easily face paying full tuition at HYP.

        Since as MH notes, the price is rising to match the cost of provision for public colleges (tuition the state flagship U I went to, Berkeley, is now 14000, up from 750 when I attended, out of state is another 24000 and they are trying hard to boost their out of state numbers) we could certainly solve the problem for the individual students by paying more of the cost of the university through taxes, but it’s not clear to me that we ought to prioritize soon-to-be prosperous college students over elementary students, state parks, roads, etc. for a bigger share of general revenue.

  3. For your Christmas shopping!

    There’s a new book out entitled Hitler at Home. From the summary at Amazon:

    “Adolf Hitler’s makeover from rabble-rouser to statesman coincided with a series of dramatic home renovations he undertook during the mid-1930s.”

  4. I don’t think the problem is that it costs $14,000 or whatever to go to Berkeley. Close to everybody who can get in and graduate from Berkeley will have enough of an increased income to offset any loans on that. The problem isn’t the flagships, but the schools turning out teachers, HR people, and whatever. It now costs $10,000 a year (tuition alone) to go second tier public universities here. That’s in-state.

    1. MH, totally off topic question… I’m working on a piece on academic publishing. As I recall, you pointed out that science journals work differently from the social science journals. In the social sciences, academics do all the work for free, except for laying out the material and putting the info in a searchable database with tags. But the science journals do more than that. Can you tell me about it?

      1. Did I? I’ve never actually published in or reviewed for a social science journal. I do remember talking with the graduate students who were working for the editor as a GA, but all that is hearsay.

        The better journals in medicine (I’m not at all familiar with all non-applied science journals) will do copy editing. I admit to not being good enough at copy editing to tell if they are doing a good job. There have never been more than a few marks on anything I did. I think they’re mainly worried about authors who aren’t working in English-speaking countries. Some of the journals will also make your graphs and figures look nicer, unless my boss’s secretary was doing that behind my back. I don’t know who puts on the tags, but I think the authors usually suggest them. If there was government funding, the articles also have to be made free to all U.S. readers one year after publication. Usually, the journals will make a separate, uglier (because capitalism), version for that.

        The biggest difference is the payment model (the author pays a fee for every page printed*) and the staff involved in overseeing the peer review (because of the far higher volume of articles). I don’t know how that works exactly, but it’s been all web-based since I’ve had anything to do with it.

        * This is usually paid by grant money and most journals say they will waive it if you plead that you are unfunded but I have no direct experience of that because if you are unfunded you also won’t have a dedicated analyst. Which is maybe an even bigger difference. Nobody is doing anything for free.** The grants all have requirements for dissemination.

        ** Maybe a few people trying to start out and build a vita aren’t paying themselves for their own time, but they aren’t working alone and nearly always need to find a way to pay somebody to get or analyze the data. This can be indirect and informal, as if your mentor gives you access to resources, or come out of a small, open-ended grant designed for that purpose.

      2. The peer review article in your twitter bar reminded me of another difference between fields. I had thought that in the social sciences everything (or nearly everything) submitted went out for peer review. It’s not at all like that in medicine. I don’t have a percentage, but huge numbers (a big majority at the prestigious journals) get tossed without peer reviewed. The editor makes a decision about submitting to peer review based on whether it is interesting or not.

        That sort of judgement is why I’m not at all surprised that resubmitting 3 year old papers to the same journal gets most of them rejected. There are many, many problems with peer review, but I think that illustrates it doing what it was designed to do. Methodology is only part of the criteria for publication. Importance of the question matters too. Reviewers are supposed to be up on the field and active researchers themselves. And where I am, the journals run about two or three years behind the leading edge of public knowledge (which comes out at conferences). If you submit an article with something the reviewer has “known” for three or five years (that is, same question and the same conclusion as the author has been reading for several years) to a high-level journal, they’re going to reject it every time if they are following their instructions. The journals are judged by their impact factor and that requires the articles being cited and that happens more with new findings. Rejecting replications is what keep first-tier journals in the first tier. If the paper covers well-trod ground, it will only be accepted at the less prestigious journals.

        * Also, even if the reviewer doesn’t recognize the paper exactly, they’ll almost certainly recognize the shop it came from. My first thought on reading a paper like that probably would be that somebody is trying to be an asshole and pad their vita by publishing a barely-changed version of what they already did.

    2. Well, Berkeley graduates people in Gender Studies and Sociology and Art, so they face similar wage packages as do grads from Chico State and Savannah College of Art and Design. College costs a lot, only some majors and some grads have supercharged earning ability after, the rest are truly hosed. Or the rest of us are, if somehow the taxpayer is on the hook. It’s nice if we can get the price of college down, but if we do it by sticking Soros, or Kochs, or Bill Gates, to pay for it, we haven’t lessened its cost. Nor do we fix the problem that kids have lost four years of income while playing beer pong. We’ve gone overboard for college.

      1. MH writes: “The problem isn’t the flagships, but the schools turning out teachers, HR people, and whatever. It now costs $10,000 a year (tuition alone) to go second tier public universities here. That’s in-state.” This is exactly it. Most of my students – future nurses, accountants, cops, hotel managers, social workers, nutritionists, etc. – are focused on their practical major, and getting a little bit of general education as well. (I teach some of these courses, and they are usually the most writing-intensive – often one of few classes they’re doing that kind of work. Of course I also think history, literature, and art are subjects that benefit nurses, accountants, and cops, just like everybody else.)

        Because the state doesn’t want to support their education, they are paying more and more. Sometimes this involves taking on more debt, sometimes they work more hours (it’s not uncommon for a full-time student here to work 20, 30, or even 40 hours a week). As a guess, I’d say fewer than 20-25% of them are slackers who spend more time on beer pong than their classes.

  5. MH said:

    “That sort of judgement is why I’m not at all surprised that resubmitting 3 year old papers to the same journal gets most of them rejected. There are many, many problems with peer review, but I think that illustrates it doing what it was designed to do.”

    Yeah.

    That was a really dumb experiment.

  6. Gossip for the die-hard readers… It’s really frustrating to write about the problems with higher ed, because there is no organized constituency who can put a link on their Facebook page. Well, adjuncts are organized. If I write about them, I get hits. Higher ed isn’t like other education sub-areas. If I write about autism education, Autism Speaks will link to it on Facebook and send over their readers. Autism Speaks has as many Facebook followers as the Atlantic. And the Autism Speaks people are highly likely to “like” the article. Same goes for K-12 stuff.

    A few months ago, I wrote about the problems with public colleges. Now, the article got kinda mangled in the editting process, but there was still enough there about the changing admission practices that make it harder for kids to get a low priced college education. It should have been of interest to nearly all parents, but it didn’t get much love. My theory is that parents only care about college for four years. Before that, they think their kids are geniuses, who will get a free ride to Harvard. After the four years, they’ve retired to Florida and don’t care any more.

    1. I don’t know many parents who are at the stage where they actively think about college costs, but I do people really do seem to move to Florida specifically to not have to give a shit. It’s just the worst state ever.

      But, wouldn’t your readers be relatively wealthy? (I mean at The Atlantic, not here.) They might view the greater acceptance of out of state students at prestigious state universities as a how-to guide for buying their kids’ way into a better school than they could get just on their test scores and grades. $28k a year Wisconsin is probably much less than whatever kind of donations it takes to get a moderate SAT score into even a lower-level Ivy.

      1. As I understand–and I really do know people who have made this happen, though I feel constrained from mentioning names–the cost of buying a child’s college admission is low seven figures at HYP, middle six figures at the other Ivies. (Those numbers are four years old, since Miss Y81 graduated high school in 2013). So yes, Wisconsin is much cheaper.

      2. That’s only for the kids of alumni or can anybody do that? Assuming SAT scores of, say, 1300. Asking for a friend.

      3. Not just for alumni, but I think there are limits on permissible crassness. It’s like dating a demi-mondaine. You can’t just cold call the admissions office and ask for a price. If you’ve focused on Penn, for instance, identify friends on the board or the alumni council or whatever, reach out to one of them, and explain little Johnnie’s lifelong dream of attending Penn. Ask how you could “help” the school. Presumably your friend knows just how “helpful” you could be. He’ll hook you up with someone with the development office.

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