Archive for September, 2012

College student debt (most of it owed directly to the federal government) continues to grow and has now put its grip on almost 20 percent of American households.

A recent study by the Pew Research Center has found that 22.4 million households, or almost 20 percent of American families, had college debt in 2010. That rate is double the share back in 1989, and up from 15 percent in pre-recession 2007. This number of student debtholders represents the biggest three-year increase in student debt in more than two decades.

According to the report, “the debt burden was the greatest for the poorest 20 percent of households, or those making less than $21,044. In all, 40 percent of U.S. households headed by someone younger than age 35 owed college debt, the highest share of any age group.”

The Pew report also noted that the richest 20 percent of households, with annual income of $97,586 or higher, owed the greatest share of outstanding student debt, 31 percent. That is a 3 percent increase since 2007. The student debt among the poorest 20 percent of households grew to 13 percent or up 2 percent since 2007.

See the Associated Press story on the Pew Research Center report here.


The long suspected left-tilting biases of a Harvard law journal editorial board turned out to be more than conservative paranoia or speculation.  David Lat reports in an article in Above the Law that a Harvard law journal’s editorial team had its electronic deliberations go public accidentally this past summer. Much to the embarrassment of the Harvard Law School Human Rights Journal, that brief glimpse behind its editorial curtain showed that the editors’ scholarly judgment was hardly, well, scholarly.  Instead, correspondence between editors revealed an unabashed bias against legal and political conservatives. It also exposed a clear prejudice by the editors toward snob appeal over more fair, scholarly integrity.

As Lat reports, the correspondence included clear evidence of ideological bias against conservatives, such as these gems:

“In addition, I am a little concerned based upon [Author D]’s CV. He is incredibly conservative, clerked for [Conservative Justice A], worked in the White House under Bush, questioned [Liberal Justice B] during her confirmation hearings in Congress, and has written critically on [Liberal Justice C] in the wall street journal. Maybe that background isn’t important to all of you and I understand the need to have HHRJ be open-minded buuuuuuut, yeah, doesn’t make me want to take this article.”

A fellow editor replied to that message with the following thoughts:

“ok i trust [Editor Y]’s judgment — those all sound like major concerns and are enough to reject the article. i’m fine with rejection based on that — we really need to act quickly on all this. other thoughts?”

The article was rejected.

For more on this story, see “A Look Inside the Law Review Sausage Factory–and Possible Evidence of Bias Against Conservatives.”

From the New York Times comes this stunning report:  One in every six student borrowers is now in default to the tune of $76 billion–that’s with a “B”–which is more than annual tuition bill for all students at public 2- and 4-year colleges and universities.  Federal student financial aid has become the path to debt slavery.
As the Times reports, “As the number of people taking out government-backed student loans has exploded, so has the number who have fallen at least 12 months behind in making payments — about 5.9 million people nationwide, up about a third in the last five years.”In all, nearly one in every six borrowers with a loan balance is in default. The amount of defaulted loans — $76 billion — is greater than the yearly tuition bill for all students at public two- and four-year colleges and universities, according to a survey of state education officials.”

See more at “Once a Student, Now Dogged by Collection Agencies” in the New York Times.
HT:  Jess Monnette

Anyone who has worked in higher education for any length of time is familiar with the temptation to confuse the crude accumulation of credit hours with discerning actual learning. The temptation has been almost irresistible to students and universities alike. For decades, students, colleges, and employers have been more than happy to trade in the abiguity. Far easier to count credits than determine actual competence or depth of learning. It is one of the major broken elements  in our national higher education system. It’s time to retire the credit hour as the dominant measure of academic learning.

According to Inside Higher Ed,  “Andrew Carnegie never intended for the time-based credit hour to be used to measure student learning. A new report from the New America Foundation and Education Sector, which tracks the standard’s history, says the credit hour has become a measure and a proxy for what students are supposedly learning. ” And that’s a misuse of the measure.

“An over-reliance on the credit hour, which links the awarding of academic credit to hours of contact between professors and students, has led to many of higher education’s problems, according to the report,” Inside Higher Ed reports.

“There is pretty compelling evidence that what we have right now isn’t working,” said Amy Laitinen, deputy director for higher education at the New America Foundation and the report’s author.

One obvious concern is that colleges often reject transfer credits, wasting students’ money and time, in part because they don’t trust what constitutes a credit hour at another institution, according to the report.

Read more at Inside Higher Ed.