More Drama: Warren Leaks Unreleased DOE Navient Audit

More Drama: Warren Leaks Unreleased DOE Navient Audit

A secret report. Unpublished findings. Embarrassing revelations. Crime thrillers, courtroom dramas, and political intrigue often begin under similar plot devices. Unfortunately, the plot quickly becomes destructive and wearying when the dramatic players are entrusted with the welfare of millions of lives. A recent leak of a Department of Education (DOE) unreleased Navient audit appears to show that the nation’s biggest student loan servicer steered borrowers to higher-cost plans. Rather than discuss more affordable options, such as income-driven repayment plans (IDRs), Navient suggested forbearance to overwhelmed borrowers.     The Associated Press obtained a copy of the 2017 audit from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has been a critic of both Navient and the policies of DOE Secretary, Betsy DeVos. Pushing Forbearance? A Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) lawsuit against Navient prompted the DOE audit of the loan servicer’s practices. The CFPB accused Navient of pushing financially troubled borrowers into forbearance. Forbearance allows borrowers to stop making payments for up to three years. Unfortunately, interest continues to pile up, increasing the overall cost of loans to borrowers. A borrower carrying $30,000, for example, who opts for three years of forbearance, increases their loan balance by $6,742, an increase of more than 20 percent. CFPB claimed in its lawsuit that, from 2010 to 2015, Navient caused borrowers $4 billion dollars in increased balances. Navient vehemently disagrees that its practices pushed borrowers into forbearance and that it cost borrowers this amount of money. Warren may have released the document because DOE, despite federal and state lawsuits, refused to report audit findings. She claimed in a tweet, “Student loan giant Navient denied allegations that...
America Ranks 27th In Education, And May Keep Falling

America Ranks 27th In Education, And May Keep Falling

A lot of Americans think of America as the best country in the world. It certainly but depending on what someone is looking at, America may not even rank in the top 10. The United States dropped down to 27th in ranking for education and health care, a long drop from 6th place back in 1990. Based on the number of years between 20 and 64 that a person can work while achieving peak performance, that equals the “human capital” number a country has. The lowest number being less than 1.6 in Niger, America is fair ways away from the bottom, but it’s not where many would think it would be. 23 years of human capital seems low when many people think about their own time in the workforce. Many people start work well before eighteen, and retirement has been pushed out for many if they ever get to really retire at all, resulting in many years beyond twenty-three being worked. Whether they realize it or not, though, as people work over the years, they’ve felt the decrease in optimal performance. It’s a natural part of aging to some degree. But access to higher education and proper health care can extend the number of years someone can achieve peak productivity in the workplace and for themselves. Quality education starts at home with the parents and throughout the rest of their educational career. It takes responsibility on the part of the district, county, state, and nation to ensure that all people going through the system have access to the quality education. It’s the same with healthcare. When not provided, people...
Is It Time To End the Ban on Pell Grants for Prisoners?

Is It Time To End the Ban on Pell Grants for Prisoners?

According to many, the best way to make sure prisoners don’t return to prison is education. In fact, a Rand Corporation study found that inmates who participated in correctional education programs decreased their chances of returning after release by 43 percent. Once freed, participating inmates were also 13 percent more likely to find a job. Why, then, can’t prisoners receive Pell Grants? Better Outcomes There are a handful of colleges that provide post-secondary education to prisoners, including Bard College, Goucher College, and Grinnell College, among others. Bard’s Prison Initiative offers 165 courses to 300 students. Most of their students were first arrested as children and very few had completed high school. After earning their GEDs, students enroll in Bard classes as ambitious and intense as any undergraduate experience. Upon release, less than three percent of these college students return to prison. They have careers and pay taxes. They contribute. Though there is wide consensus that education builds better outcomes for convicts, one entity that is not on board is the federal government. Pell Grants are given to students with financial need, providing opportunity for those who would not otherwise be able to attend. But the federal government does not allow prisoners to receive Pell Grants. This lapse lags behind recent prison reforms. President Trump recently announced support for a bipartisan bill, the FIRST Step Act. It eliminates “stacking” provisions that stack consecutive sentences for crimes with firearms. Additionally, the bill reduces life imprisonment for convicted  “three strikes” felons to a minimum of 25 years. Further, it opens the “drug safety valve,” releasing prisoners serving mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent...
Go Ahead and Cut the Cake, It’s National Cake Day

Go Ahead and Cut the Cake, It’s National Cake Day

You can’t spend all your time figuring out how to deal with your student loan debt. Sometimes you just have to eat cake. Especially today, because it’s National Cake Day. So you go ahead and nibble away at that sweet, fluffy slice of sugar, flour, butter, and eggs while we take a cake walk. History It’s a little hard to pin down exactly when cake was invented. The ancient Egyptians had honey sweetened dessert breads, though they would be unrecognizable at birthday parties today. They were flat and hard and made with a variety of grains and added ingredients like fruit, seeds, and even wine. Most likely, there were no candles. The Romans may have perfected the practice of making cake by introducing yeast. Adding air to the dough gave a light, delicate texture to the sweetness. In the 16th century, Italians developed leavening by whipping eggs into the batter. In the final major bend along the arc of cake history, Eben Norton Horsford created and patented the first modern baking powder at Harvard University in the mid-1800s. Though ten years earlier, Alfred Bird of England concocted a less stable version of baking powder (and should be awarded a consolation cake.) Baking powder made the whole procedure easier to manage since you didn’t need to be a master baker. Soon, you only had to buy a box of cake mix from Betty Crocker. Actually, that’s untrue. There never was a Betty Crocker to buy from. She was herself an invention of American advertising, a General Mills campaign that became wildly successful, with “Betty” becoming the Dear Abby of baking....
Bloomberg Donates $1.8 Billion to Aid Low- and Middle-Income Students

Bloomberg Donates $1.8 Billion to Aid Low- and Middle-Income Students

Students are always looking for ways to make college more affordable. Michael Bloomberg just helped. At least if you go to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. After already donating $1.5 billion to support research, instruction, and financial aid, Bloomberg just gave another $1.8 billion to be used for qualified low- and middle-income students. Bloomberg’s goal is to allow the school to admit every talented student, despite their financial situation. He sees this money as being “need blind,” admitting students solely based on merit. Johns Hopkins will be able to offer much more generous student aid, replacing student loans with scholarship grants. The goal is to ease the debt burden on students and to make the campus more socioeconomically diverse. Bloomberg From Humble Beginnings Bloomberg’s grandparents were immigrants from Russia, and his father was an accountant for a dairy company. His folks didn’t have a lot of money, but he was able to make it through college in the early 1960s on a small National Defense student loan and an on-campus job. He credits this accessibility to college with allowing him to live the American dream. Bloomberg notes that colleges now regularly bypass highly qualified applicants because of their ability to pay. At elite colleges, more students come from the top one percent of income brackets than the bottom 60 percent. This “perpetuates intergenerational poverty,” according to Bloomberg. He is committed to an America in which “every person, from every community, has the chance to rise based on merit.” Bloomberg also points to studies that suggest that half of high-performing low- and middle-income students do not apply...
Will a Decrease in International Students Increase Student Loan Debt?

Will a Decrease in International Students Increase Student Loan Debt?

For a decade, international student enrollment had steadily risen. After a smaller drop in 2016-2017, international student enrollment in 2017-2018 fell steeply, by 6.6 percent. What gives? And what does this mean for college tuition and U.S. students and families? The decline is meaningful for colleges because international students pay more than their in-state peers. These funds often subsidize school budgets and institutional grants. One college, Wright State University, lost more than $10 million dollars in revenue, mostly because 800 fewer international students enrolled. Another college, The University of Central Missouri, forfeited $14 million in revenue after it witnessed a drop of more 1,500 international students in 2017-2018. Why Are There Fewer International Students? There are many reasons for the decline. According to PEW, the declines are greatest in the Midwest and Texas, possibly because midwestern colleges are less well known and Texas has an international reputation for allowing guns on campus.   Outside reasons include a decrease in Saudi and Brazilian international scholarship programs that have supported international study for tens of thousands of students. Other countries, such as Australia, Canada, and Germany, have upped their game, making it easier and more attractive for international students. The current administration, with its strong anti-illegal immigration policies and pronouncements, has also made students cautious about coming to the U.S. Many international students come to the U.S. with dreams of making new lives for themselves. But in January, the Trump administration limited the Optional Practical Training program to exclude temporary workers, making them less desirable to employers. Homeland Security also announced increased prosecutions for students who overstay their visas.   Cutting...