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Old 05-20-2014, 11:29 AM  
KC native KC native is offline
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You can blame student debt for America’s inequality and shrinking middle class

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There is a tendency among elite opinion makers to believe that debt accrued while gaining a college degree is “good debt” that isn’t problematic because, as the thought goes, those with college degrees tend to make enough money to recoup their debt over a lifetime. Student debt is supposedly an equalizer—a way for students to gain access to credit in order to get a degree that will give them an equal chance to enter the middle class and achieve the American Dream. Sadly, like many pundit platitudes, this assertion is grounded in fantasy, not fact.

In fact, this is only true for some students—those who were fairly wealthy in the first place. College is certainly worth the cost, but that at present it is saddling poor and middle-class students with student debt is actually preventing them from participating in the wealth-building processes that previous generations have enjoyed.

The debate over student debt usually focuses on those right out of school, but that masks that a substantial portion of those with student debt struggle mightily to pay off their loans in a timely manner, delaying (sometimes in perpetuity) their entry into the middle class. Research by the US Federal Reserve Bank of New York finds that many borrowers still haven’t paid off their student loans by their 40s and 50s.



For students just out of school, upward of 15% of their federal student loans are in default within three years of students leaving school, and delinquency rates for student loans have continued to rise during and after the recession, even as delinquencies in every other form of loan—including mortgages, home equity loans, credit cards, and auto loans—have declined.

The inability to pay off debt is a really big deal, because these students are more likely to take any job that comes their way to pay off their loans than invest in themselves. Research from Demos finds that if “current borrowing patterns continue, student debt levels will reach $2 trillion sometime around 2022. Another report concludes that, “an average student debt burden for a dual-headed household with bachelors leads to a lifetime wealth loss of nearly $208,000.” Given that wealth inequality has returned to Gilded Era heights, this finding should be disturbing.

The problem is that, rather than being seen as a social investment, college education is increasingly seen as a commodity—something that is accessible for the wealthy, but out of reach for the poor, and increasingly, the middle class. Sure enough, student debt is highly correlated to income level with the wealthiest having the lowest amount of debt as a portion of their income (see table).



Poor and middle class students are much more likely to take on student loans—in fact, nearly 9 in 10 graduates who receive Pell Grants also needed to borrow to finance their degree, compared to 53% of graduates who did not receive Pell Grants. These students will spend more time paying off their debt and less time saving for retirement or other needs, creating a vicious cycle of deepening wealth inequality.

There is a more tenuous, but equally important way in which rising inequality has increased student debt among the poor and middle class – through the political system. Recently, Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page sent the internet alight with their assertion that “economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.” This finding is corroborated by Larry Bartels, Dorian Warren, Jacob Hacker, Paul Pierson and Kay Lehman Schlozman who have all recorded similar findings.

Although this elite and corporate control of the political system is bad a priori, it has particular importance in the case of education. In their study of the political attitudes of the wealthiest 1%, Larry Bartels, Benjamin Page and Jason Seawright find that the wealthiest 1% have different policy priorities than average voters. For instance, while 78% of the general public agree with the statement, “The federal government should make sure that everyone who wants to go to college can do so,” only 28% of the wealthy agree. Elites are also far less likely to agree that, “The federal government should spend whatever is necessary to ensure that all children have really good public schools they can go to,” by a margin of 35% to 87%. They also believe that cutting deficits is a more important priority than funding education, and believe that education is a lower spending priority than the middle class.

This helps explain why states have slashed spending for education while also cutting taxes—those with the most influence over policy have little to gain from public education, but much to gain from cutting taxes. It also explains why there is very little national attention paid to community colleges, which educate 4 in 10 college students, and who are disproportionately impacted by state budget cuts. Research by Greg Duncan and Richard Murnane shows that wealthy spend far more supplementing their children’s incomes than the poor, which means that state level cuts have a devastating impact on the poor (see chart).



Robert Hiltonsmith and Tamara Draut find that in the aftermath of the Great Recession, 49 states (all but North Dakota) cut spending on higher education and that state spending on higher education hit an all-time low in the wake of the recession (see chart). This, essentially, results in higher tuition. Draut and Hiltonsmith find that, “Nationally, average tuition at 4-year public universities increased by 20% in the four years since 2008 after rising 14% in the four years prior.” Tuition continues to grow as a share of the median income, which means all families but the very rich have to take out large debts to pay for their education. This, in turn, means that recent graduates are paying off loans, rather than building wealth.



College is an important pathway to the middle class and one of the most effective ways to fight inequality. As it becomes increasingly difficult for students to gain an education, it closes gateways to upward mobility. The effect is particularly potent for blacks. A recent study by Bhashkar Mazumder finds that, “blacks have experienced substantially less upward intergenerational mobility and substantially more downward intergenerational mobility than whites.” He finds that this gap shrinks among those with 16 years of schooling.

One simple way to move away from the debt-for-diploma system is for the government to shift from a policy of loans to a policy of grants. There is no reason why college education should primarily be funded by expensive, high interest loans. In the past, Pell Grants helped the poor and middle class attend college, but Pell Grants make up an increasingly low percentage of the cost for college (see chart).



At a bare minimum the government could allow students to refinance their debts at a lower level; most other countries have policies that allow students to pay off debts as a portion of their income and eventually allow the debts to be forgiven. In Britain, students don’t begin paying off their loans until they find stable employment, and then they pay in proportion to their earnings. Australia similarly ties the cost of paying off the loan to the income of the graduate, and loans themselves come with no interest attached. In Denmark, education is considered a right by the people and an investment by the government, and is therefore free. Some students are even offered a stipend by the government to defray costs. Norway and Sweden have similar systems of higher education. The US has attempted to implement loan repayment schemes that allow students to pay in accordance with their income, but the default repayment plan on federal student loans is still an arbitrary 10-year time period—a time when borrowers tend to make less, and when saving for retirement could benefit them the most. But enrollment in these plans have been slow, likely due to the fact that our system is needlessly complex and opaque (to wit, there are upwards of 9 different repayment plans one can choose on student loans).

Education, and especially college education is a pathway to the middle class, and most Americans think it is more important than ever. But as society becomes more unequal, access to debt-free education becomes harder and harder.
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Old 05-22-2014, 08:54 AM   #91
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Sounds like a typical whiner who can't take any personal responsibility and wants to cast blame for his situation on anyone but himself.
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:00 AM   #92
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Old 05-22-2014, 09:40 AM   #93
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Originally Posted by mr. tegu View Post
Sounds like a typical whiner who can't take any personal responsibility and wants to cast blame for his situation on anyone but himself.

Obviously he has a share of the blame, but alot of what he says is absolutely the truth.
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Old 05-22-2014, 10:11 AM   #94
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Originally Posted by Amnorix View Post
Obviously he has a share of the blame, but alot of what he says is absolutely the truth.
None of what he says that would be considered truth, has anything to do with his current situation, which is the reason for his anger.
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Old 05-22-2014, 10:32 AM   #95
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The escalating cost of a college education is off the charts and should be looked at. With that said heaven forbid I work hard and save my money and earn the right to give my child an advantage in this world. People who do that should be labeled rich and demonized.
After talking to literally thousands of college graduates out of top universities over the last two years I can tell you a much bigger problem, the vast majority have no clue what they are going to do when they graduate and are just shotgunning. There is no way I would send my child to college unless we knew exactly why he was going and what he was going to do with that education. Who would be stupid enough to burden themselves with tons of debt with no plan in place or destination?
If you think that is lame you know what is even worse? Many of them will spend their time on the internet stalking people telling everyone else how stupid they are while doing nothing to change their present situation. They must be victims.
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Old 05-22-2014, 11:41 AM   #96
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College education costs are outpacing the rate of inflation, which isn't as low as reported by our overlords.

The price of a four-year institution has soared 300% since 1990.

There is a well-kept secret to lowering the cost--testing out. Get the textbooks used at an institution, engage in self-study--then test out.
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Old 05-22-2014, 12:23 PM   #97
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Native's article proposes giving away more taxpayer dollars to students instead of guaranteeing their loans. Good grief.
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Old 05-22-2014, 12:25 PM   #98
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So that loser blames his inability to get a job on his degree?

Does he think that a degree is magic and jobs are just awarded to people that graduate? Did he try for an internship or any sort of relevant experience?

Why is it the college's fault that his family can't come up with money? Why did he choose that outrageously expensive college to begin with? If he found the price so offensive, perhaps he should have chosen a local state school.

The only problem I see with the college is that their cost is too high. However, the student is not forced to go there. All of the other problems fall on the student himself

F him and his entitled attitude.
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Old 05-23-2014, 06:46 AM   #99
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So that loser blames his inability to get a job on his degree?

Does he think that a degree is magic and jobs are just awarded to people that graduate? Did he try for an internship or any sort of relevant experience?

Why is it the college's fault that his family can't come up with money? Why did he choose that outrageously expensive college to begin with? If he found the price so offensive, perhaps he should have chosen a local state school.

The only problem I see with the college is that their cost is too high. However, the student is not forced to go there. All of the other problems fall on the student himself

F him and his entitled attitude.
Total truth. I have two very liberal friends (one is actually a cousin) about my age. I didn't go to college, because I didn't want to. My cousin studied history and has a degree, yet I'd put my knowledge of history against hers any time. She works at a receptionist and doubles selling for Mary Kay. She always bitches about student loans and that society doesn't reward college grads properly. WHAT? You don't get a reward for going to college. That's not how it works!

How about my other super liberal friend (he even wrote a liberal newsletter column at his college) who spent NINE ****ING YEARS in college studying shit like psychology, history, philosophy... and threw a fit via facebook about his college education not paying off. Now he sells cars. He's pretty good at it. .. he's a manipulative douche.

I'm not trying to bash liberals or encourage anti-intellectualism, but it comes across that way.

People mocked me for not going to college, but I wasn't trying to be a scientist. I wasn't going to be a doctor. I wasn't entering politics. I wanted to start a business. Now I can take half of these classes online for free. Totally free. No degree... but knowledge isn't about the papers you acquire. I love to learn but hate being told HOW to learn.
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Old 05-23-2014, 06:55 AM   #100
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My cousin studied history and has a degree, yet I'd put my knowledge of history against hers any time.
Yeah.
I've got a degree in History, and it's actually, essentially, a degree in research. I love history, and took some very thorough classes, but just didn't retain a ton of details. However, i could research the shit out of a topic, given a decent library and internet connection. I don't know if her experience is the same, but I tell people every day who think I know all about history because of my degree that you could find 100 people on the street who know more historical facts than I do, by a long shot.
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Old 05-23-2014, 07:26 AM   #101
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Originally Posted by WhiteWhale View Post
Total truth. I have two very liberal friends (one is actually a cousin) about my age. I didn't go to college, because I didn't want to. My cousin studied history and has a degree, yet I'd put my knowledge of history against hers any time. She works at a receptionist and doubles selling for Mary Kay. She always bitches about student loans and that society doesn't reward college grads properly. WHAT? You don't get a reward for going to college. That's not how it works!

How about my other super liberal friend (he even wrote a liberal newsletter column at his college) who spent NINE ****ING YEARS in college studying shit like psychology, history, philosophy... and threw a fit via facebook about his college education not paying off. Now he sells cars. He's pretty good at it. .. he's a manipulative douche.

I'm not trying to bash liberals or encourage anti-intellectualism, but it comes across that way.

People mocked me for not going to college, but I wasn't trying to be a scientist. I wasn't going to be a doctor. I wasn't entering politics. I wanted to start a business. Now I can take half of these classes online for free. Totally free. No degree... but knowledge isn't about the papers you acquire. I love to learn but hate being told HOW to learn.
Why is the "liberal" qualifier important?
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Old 05-23-2014, 07:42 AM   #102
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mr. tegu View Post
Why is the "liberal" qualifier important?
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Old 05-24-2014, 03:18 AM   #103
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Why? They can just keep taking advantage of the idiots that bring in all their borrowed money. Why would they want to stop the gravy train?
It's far from a gravy train to the institutions that issue the loans when John Q. Moron can't afford to repay the loan off of his $7.25/hr job.

and

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Does he think that a degree is magic and jobs are just awarded to people that graduate
You have no idea exactly how many people think that is actually the case.
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Old 05-24-2014, 07:16 AM   #104
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You have no idea exactly how many people think that is actually the case.
A college undergraduate degree is roughly equivalent of the high school degree of 40 years ago.

The majority of entry level jobs want one.

Unfortunately, unlike a high school degree, we have placed a massive financial burden on obtaining this degree entry level jobs require.
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Old 05-24-2014, 07:20 AM   #105
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A college undergraduate degree is roughly equivalent of the high school degree of 40 years ago.
Yet, education has been in the hands of the left for decades. More shit results from their methods and policies. Plus they drive the cost of nearly everything up.
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