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

http://qz.com/211061

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 05-25-2014, 09:25 PM   #121
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Originally Posted by Aries Walker View Post
Again, that's assuming that people only go to college for financial investment reasons.
Precisely this.

I've always vehemently objected to the idea that college needs to be a training ground for jobs. It shouldn't. A degree should signify intellectual achievement, not skills achievement.

That's not to say that some skills aren't intellectual in nature. The STEM fields are very much like this. Just because a chemical engineering degree provides a fair amount of training for jobs in that field doesn't mean it's not an intellectual pursuit that deserves further study.

No, a college degree shouldn't ever equal a job. As much as some students fail to recognize that fact, however, just as many morons fail to recognize that a job shouldn't always be preceded by proper training from a particular college major.
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:10 PM   #122
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I've told my story on here before but here is a quick recap update:

I ****ed around in H.S. - Dropped out got GED thought I would go straight to college and get on - Instead had kids /got married - ****ed around in College - was working full time... was immature

Kept trying to do some classes kept failing - kept having to work.

As I worked I eventually got into "my field" and was able to gain valuable work experience.

Now I have been back at JCCC since Spring 2013 and have raised my GPA from 1.66 to 3.48

I have not had to take any loans and my current employer is very accommodating with time.

After JCCC I hope to go to KU to get the 4yr but I will only take as many classes as I have money for - I refuse to take any loans, especially after getting on the Dave Ramsey Band wagon.

The bottom line is this:
The article just is highlighting the symptoms - they are not the cause of wealth inequality.

The problem is the self-inflated ego's and entitlement attitude. (This is the cause of the Santa Barbara shootings as well)

Enough of giving kids loans for art / history / pointless degrees - Students should be ready to work hard during and after college to avoid / stay out of debt

I know I'm rambling but You can't disagree with Dave:

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Old 05-25-2014, 11:16 PM   #123
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Originally Posted by Aries Walker View Post
Again, that's assuming that people only go to college for financial investment reasons.
Anyone not going for financial incentives certainly shouldn't complain about the debt accumulated while going. That's like complaining that the ice cream bar you are eating is making you fat.
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Old 05-25-2014, 11:56 PM   #124
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You spend a LOT of time responding to BEP.

Why don't you just ask her out already?
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Old 05-26-2014, 12:54 AM   #125
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Originally Posted by Hoopsdoc View Post
You spend a LOT of time responding to BEP.

Why don't you just ask her out already?
Oh...several reasons. I can't even make it to message-board 1st base--getting taken off ignore.
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Old 05-26-2014, 09:46 AM   #126
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Obviously he has a share of the blame, but alot of what he says is absolutely the truth.
Check you out. Are you not the same guy who supports the Federal Reserve and our current money supply system to the point that you hammer any tea drinker for even mentioning it? Are you not the same guy who supported our Commander and Queef right through the bailout of too big to fail leaving Americans out there to just fend for themselves? Now suddenly the hour of concern for the well-being of middle class Americans. Give me a break.
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Old 05-27-2014, 11:23 AM   #127
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It's interesting to me that subjects like this become a political potato. It doesn't matter if you're a complete socialist or all the way to the right. College costs have significantly increased, certainly at a much higher rate than people's salaries.
It becomes a political potato because, for the most part, liberals think the problem is that we don't have enough government involvement to prevent/mitigate the cost increase problem and conservatives think government involvement is one of the main causes.
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Old 05-27-2014, 11:34 AM   #128
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You can certainly make the argument that the system is what it is... and there is nothing wrong with our current education system, and that not everyone deserves the opportunity to go to college. If you can't afford it, then tough.

It's also a double-edged sword from the other direction. The reason my college tuition would be twice as much today as ten years ago is because the Republican-led state government cut education funding by hundreds of millions of dollars. Colleges passed those cuts onto students... and now the financial burden of a student loan is much more severe than it used to be.
That's certainly a contributor, but it's hard to justify calling it "the reason" when you see that private college tuition has also been going up much faster than the rate of inflation at the same time (not as fast as state subsidized public schools, but much faster than inflation). And tuition for both public and private schools were rising significantly faster than inflation before the budget cuts of the past 7 years too. In other words, there's more to the story than budget cuts can explain.
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Old 05-27-2014, 11:51 AM   #129
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Originally Posted by Loneiguana View Post
What you "but but government causes all this" fail to recognize, as always, is the demand side of the equation.

What happens when the price of something skyrockets? Well, demand should decrease.

Is the demand for college decreasing? No. Harvard still gets 35,000 plus applications a year and only accepts less than 6 percent with a tuition pushing 50,000 for an undergrad degree.

But But But federal loans. As if that is free money. As if students don't know they will be in debt for decades to come. As if the fact you can get a loan is somehow the big driver of demand for degrees... just the same as getting a loan for a car drives demand for cars... nope. A loan doesn't cause increases in demand.

Sky high tuition is not turning people away from getting a degree. Why is there so much demand then?

Because entry level jobs require that degree.
What you don't seem to understand is that the "but but government causes all this" people are saying that government subsidies for education distort the supply/demand balance. That's why demand can remain high while tuition skyrockets.

And yes, loans are a big part of the problem. If people were just as rational about what they can afford when they pay with credit as they are when they pay with cash, we wouldn't have so many people who get in over their heads with credit cards.
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Old 05-27-2014, 06:55 PM   #130
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
What you don't seem to understand is that the "but but government causes all this" people are saying that government subsidies for education distort the supply/demand balance. That's why demand can remain high while tuition skyrockets.

And yes, loans are a big part of the problem. If people were just as rational about what they can afford when they pay with credit as they are when they pay with cash, we wouldn't have so many people who get in over their heads with credit cards.
People don't go to college because there is a government loan available. Loans are not spurring demand. Loans are used to meet demand. Not causing.

And guess what, despite the cost, everyone is still told College is worth the money.

The question is, at what price will demand decrease? and do we really want college to be priced that high?
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Old 05-28-2014, 08:40 AM   #131
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Originally Posted by Loneiguana View Post
People don't go to college because there is a government loan available. Loans are not spurring demand. Loans are used to meet demand. Not causing.

And guess what, despite the cost, everyone is still told College is worth the money.

The question is, at what price will demand decrease? and do we really want college to be priced that high?
Easy access to loan money reduces the barrier to college so that tepid demand is indistinguishable from burning demand. There are definitely people who would choose another path if not for easy access to loan money. And that's not because college would be unaffordable without loans, it's because college would require too much effort (working, saving, deferring gratification, etc.).
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Old 05-28-2014, 08:50 AM   #132
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Originally Posted by Loneiguana View Post
People don't go to college because there is a government loan available. Loans are not spurring demand. Loans are used to meet demand. Not causing.

Well, by definition this is wrong, right? By "demand" I mean demand in the economics sense. If loans make college more affordable (they do) then more people go to college, who otherwise wouldn't (they do), and therefore demand is higher.

You may mean it in the sense of "want". But that is irrelevant. I want alot of things I can't have or afford or whatever. My wanting them doesn't increase demand for them.

BECAUSE more people go to because BECAUSE it is "more affordable" due to government financing, demand is increased, and so are prices. Add to that the fact that colleges have no risk in the transaction, and they can charge prices that are absurdly out of proportion to the actual costs for them to provide such education, and to continue increasing that cost at rates massively disproportionate to inflation.

This increase also means that those who PREVIOUSLY could pay their own way (either through parents help or working), no longer can, because it's no longer remotely possible to "work your way through college" because of the growing disconnect between college costs and wages.

Or, phrased differently, the graph below is bullshit.



Quote:
And guess what, despite the cost, everyone is still told College is worth the money.
What people are told and what the truth is are two different things. I honestly think we'd be better off if all of America didn't think that college was an absolutely prerequisite to being a member of civilized society. We're at the point now where a college degree is what a high school degree USED to be. And there is a VERY serious question as to whether the mountains of debt that people take out to get those degrees is worth it in all instances.

Quote:
The question is, at what price will demand decrease? and do we really want college to be priced that high?
A better question would be why are we underwriting many relatively worthless college degrees if it doesn't help our economy or help citizens into a better career path. Getting a degree just for personal growth is NOT worth taxpayer funding, nor is it likely worth mountains of debt that haunt you for the first 15 or whatever years of your working life.
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Old 05-28-2014, 08:55 AM   #133
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Originally Posted by BIG_DADDY View Post
Check you out. Are you not the same guy who supports the Federal Reserve and our current money supply system to the point that you hammer any tea drinker for even mentioning it? Are you not the same guy who supported our Commander and Queef right through the bailout of too big to fail leaving Americans out there to just fend for themselves? Now suddenly the hour of concern for the well-being of middle class Americans. Give me a break.

I haven't changed my positions on those other items. The federal reserve isn't the one giving taxpayer backed loans to go to college, are they? And I don't believe bailing out GM had much to do with college tuition either.
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Old 05-28-2014, 09:11 AM   #134
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Originally Posted by Loneiguana View Post
People don't go to college because there is a government loan available. Loans are not spurring demand. Loans are used to meet demand. Not causing.

And guess what, despite the cost, everyone is still told College is worth the money.

The question is, at what price will demand decrease? and do we really want college to be priced that high?
Govt policy, such as easy student loans, perverts market incentives and creates moral hazard.
It's not that people go because they can get a loan per se. Each individual goes for their own reasons--but survey's show most, today, think it leads to a better job and more money. Or some see it as a ticket to the middle-class. Some may still go to get an education.

However, the loans still make it easier as it lowers the barriers. That is a govt stimulus which distorts the pricing mechanism.
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Old 05-28-2014, 10:04 AM   #135
BIG_DADDY BIG_DADDY is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amnorix View Post
I haven't changed my positions on those other items. The federal reserve isn't the one giving taxpayer backed loans to go to college, are they? And I don't believe bailing out GM had much to do with college tuition either.
Yea, the bailing out of the financial institutions and others while leaving citizens to fend for themselves through the mortgage crisis and the Fed robbing the purchasing power of savers had no impact on middle class Americans. Ignore all that and lets talk about these loans and pretend for two seconds you give a rats ass about the middle class. I gotta hand it to you, you make a great Democrat. You should run for office.
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