“It’s high time to hold institutions accountable for learning, completion, affordability, equity, student satisfaction and program outcomes.”
By Steven Mintz
Some of higher education’s worst scandals take place in clear sight and aren’t perpetrated by shady, sleazy for-profits but by some of the nation’s highest-profile universities—Columbia, Harvard, USC among them.
A colleague directed me to one of the latest examples: “NYU Is Top-Ranked—In Loans That Alumni and Parents Struggle to Repay.”
As The Wall Street Journal explains:
- New York University parents and graduate students borrowed $3.4 billion in federal Plus loans over the past decade, more than at any other university.
- NYU skimped on scholarships for needy undergraduates, covering just 62 percent of need, the lowest percentage of any private school with at least a $1 billion endowment.
- NYU also had more graduate programs with high debt loads—40 of 49—than any other university.
Congress, for reasons that don’t bear scrutiny, has refused to cap Parent Plus loans, even though the program has derailed many families’ retirement plans and has left many parents struggling with debts they can’t repay. Apparently, senators and representatives have no interest in angering universities that benefit from unrestricted loans to parents to cover the cost of tuition or in limiting low-income students’ access to funds, especially when the program, in the past, made money for the government.
But where are the faculty and other watchdogs?
I beg to ask: How can faculty and administrators sleep at night knowing the predatory nature of all too many graduate programs? What has happened to their sense of mission and purpose? Gentlemen, have you no shame or sense of decency?
And why haven’t accreditors sanctioned universities that offer predatory program that encourage enrollees and their parents to take out loans that will eventually fall into default? Why not require admissions offices, at a minimum, to inform prospective students that they will be unable to repay their loans—and require them to acknowledge this information in writing?
This does not mean that students will be shut out from opportunity. There are more affordable options, even at elite private research universities. For example, a student can spend $10,000 on Columbia’s prestigious summer program in publishing, which has a job placement rate of roughly 95 percent—or expend 10 times that amount on the school’s one-year publishing master’s program.
The time has come to require institutions to claw back their marketing and become much more transparent about programs’ likely financial outcomes…
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