The incredible shrinking future of college

“In four years, the number of students graduating from high schools across the country will begin a sudden and precipitous decline, due to a rolling demographic aftershock of the Great Recession. Traumatized by uncertainty and unemployment, people decided to stop having kids during that period. But even as we climbed out of the recession, the birth rate kept dropping, and we are now starting to see the consequences on campuses everywhere. Classes will shrink, year after year, for most of the next two decades. People in the higher education industry call it “the enrollment cliff.”

Among the small number of elite colleges and research universities — think the Princetons and the Penn States — the cliff will be no big deal. These institutions have their pick of applicants and can easily keep classes full.

For everyone else, the consequences could be dire.”

9 States Have Banned Affirmative Action. Here’s What That Looks Like.

“Black enrollment fell rapidly at the top schools in the University of California system. Before the ban, Black students made up 7% of the student body at UCLA. By 1998, that figure had slipped to 3.93%. By the fall of 2006, the freshman class included only 96 Black students out of nearly 5,000.
In an effort to address that gap, officials in California have spent more than $500 million in outreach to underserved minority students since 2004, lawyers for the state said in a Supreme Court brief this year.

A similar decline took place at the University of Michigan. Black undergraduate enrollment dropped to 4% in 2021 from 7% in 2006, the year the state approved a referendum banning affirmative action.

Even though a Supreme Court ruling restricting the use of race-conscious admissions is unlikely to affect their states, lawyers for Michigan and California filed briefs with the court over the summer arguing that without affirmative action, achieving racial diversity was virtually impossible.

Florida, which banned affirmative action in 2001 and where admission to the state’s flagship university is also competitive, has taken the opposite position: Racial diversity can be achieved without race-conscious admissions, it said.

A study in 2012 by liberal-leaning research group the Century Foundation found that in most states where affirmative action was prohibited, Hispanic and Black enrollment at flagship universities bounced back after an initial drop.

But the study also showed that those increases did not generally keep pace with the growing number of Hispanic and Black high school graduates.”

House Republicans Seek To Shield Kids From Talk About Gender, Sexual Orientation

“A new proposal from congressional Republicans would define sexually-oriented material as “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects.” The bill, introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (R–La.) and co-sponsored by 33 Republican members of Congress, is called the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act.”
Its purpose is to stop schools, libraries, and other institutions from exposing children under 10 years old to those topics, as well as preventing discussions or depictions of other sexually-oriented themes. It would do so by allowing civil lawsuits from parents if federal funds were used to facilitate such discussions. It would also block federal funding for “any program, event, or literature” involving such topics, whether at a school, a museum, a library, or any other institution. And it would also ban all federal funds for institutions with more than one violation in a five-year period.”

“the truly radical side here is the one that wants “any topic involving gender identity, gender dysphoria, transgenderism, sexual orientation, or related subjects” to be off limits for kids.

There are certainly inappropriate ways to discuss these issues with young people, but there are also age-appropriate ways to do so. And it’s safe to assume such subjects may come up organically, without being a part of officially sanctioned curriculum.

Some kids will have gay or transgender parents or relatives. They may even have transgender classmates. And television, movies, and, pop culture are full of depictions of same-sex couples and discussions of gender identity. Kids will have questions about these things, and what are teachers, guidance counselors, and librarians supposed to do when they come up—simply say “we don’t talk about that”?”

“Johnson’s bill would open up schools, libraries, and other institutions to a bevy of lawsuits, since it creates a private right of action for parents “against a government official, government agency, or private entity” if a child under age 10 was “exposed to sexually-oriented material funded in part or in whole by Federal funds.”

Again, there’s something of a bait and switch going on here. Republicans can claim it’s just about not funding certain activities. Meanwhile, it’s inviting parents to sue if a grade school library that has received any money from the federal government includes any books with gay or trans characters.

The bottom line is that the “Stop the Sexualization of Children Act” is being promoted as a way to ensure federal money isn’t funding nude drag queen shows for kids, or programs centered on sexually-oriented content for children. But it’s actually broad enough to ban funds and allow lawsuits for a range of programs—like school libraries or age-appropriate sex education curriculum—that acknowledge sexual orientation or gender identity at all.”

Average ACT Scores Drop to Their Lowest Point in Three Decades

“According to a recent report examining national ACT scores, American high school students’ ACT scores have dropped dramatically in the past year. The released data highlights the staggering fact that few high school students, even before the pandemic, are academically prepared to attend college. While the most recent decline shows the impact of COVID-era school closures on students’ learning, consistently low scores draw attention to the fundamental flaws at the core of many of America’s government-run schools.”

New Data Show COVID School Closures Contributed to Largest Learning Loss in Decades

“the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) released new data showing a dramatic decline in test scores among American 9-year-olds since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The data indicate a devastating learning loss among American schoolchildren, marking the largest decline in reading scores since 1990, and the first ever recorded drop in mathematics scores.”

Forgiving Student Debt Without Abolishing the Federal Loan Program Is Morally Wrong

“colleges and universities will have even less incentive to lower costs. Economic researchers have often found that the government’s subsidized student loans cause educational institutions to jack up their prices for obvious reasons: If the feds cover the cost on the front end, no matter what it is, universities have every incentive to raise the sticker price. Forgiving student loan debt exacerbates this problem since it encourages more reckless borrowing. Indeed, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates the cumulative student debt level will return to current levels in just a few years.

There are structural incentives that push students to borrow money that they can never hope to pay back, and the fact that so many people have fallen into crippling debt is a compelling reason to change these incentives. No rule says the federal government must lure people down a path that leads to financial ruin with some frequency. Congress can sharply limit, or even end, this practice.

A one-off cancelation of some level of debt held by borrowers who happen to be in dire straits at this specific moment does nothing to fix the underlying problems; on the contrary, it exacerbates them. It is a slap in the face to everyone who either paid down their college debt or made different educational choices to avoid accruing it.
If Biden wanted to make the strongest conceivable case for forgiving some college debt, this course of action needed to be paired with serious changes to the entire higher education system. Otherwise, he is simply engaged in a vast transfer of wealth, taking hard-earned money from those who did not fall prey to the federal government’s scam and awarding it to those who did.”

Biden’s Income-Driven Repayment Plan Will Make College Much More Expensive

“President Joe Biden announced that the federal government would forgive between $10,000 and $20,000 of student loan debt for qualifying borrowers who make less than $125,000 per year. But that wasn’t all: Biden also said that he would create a new income-driven repayment (IDR) system for college borrowers.
The IDR aspect of Biden’s plan attracted less scrutiny than the direct forgiveness aspect, which will cost at least $300 billion (and probably much, much more) in the immediate future. But in the long-term, this aggressive move toward an income-driven model of repaying college loans will probably have a bigger impact—and that impact will be catastrophic. In fact, unless the government does something to constrain colleges’ ability to set their own prices, IDR could break the entire higher education financing system and lead to skyrocketing costs for taxpayers.

There are some IDR programs available right now, but Biden’s approach would vastly expand this option. The existing plans require borrowers to pay 10, 15, or 20 percent of their income for two decades, at which point the rest of the loan is forgiven. Biden would make IDR much more appealing than it is currently; according to the Biden-Harris debt relief plan, borrowers will pay just 5 percent of their income (or 10 percent if they took out graduate student loans) for either 10 or 20 years depending on how much money they owe. The income threshold will be raised from 150 percent above the poverty line to 225 percent, and punitive interest rates will be eliminated.

All in all, this IDR model will be extremely appealing for a large number of borrowers, and we should expect the percentage of borrowers who are repaying via IDR to increase substantially in the coming years. But without further changes to the federal student loan program, this is going to be a huge problem.

That’s because both the borrowers and the universities will have increased incentive to bilk the people who actually make the loan: the taxpayers.

Under the current system, a prospective student needs a certain amount of money to pay for tuition at a university—say, $50,000—and borrows that sum from the government (i.e., the taxpayers). Later, the borrower pays it back, with interest. The university’s incentives are less than ideal; it might feel free to raise the price of tuition to $60,000, satisfied that the student really wants the degree, and will thus borrow more money, and deal with the consequences afterward. To the extent that the government loan program disguises upfront costs, it arguably contributes to rising tuition rates.

Under IDR, this situation gets much worse because the university and the borrowers have incentive to cooperate and screw the taxpayers. For the borrower, it doesn’t matter if tuition costs $50,000 or $5 million: The borrower will be repaying the same amount, 5 percent of income for 10 years, regardless of the size of the loan or the cost of tuition. Since it makes no difference to the borrower, the university might as well raise prices. This way, the university pockets more money, and the borrower doesn’t even have to pay it back.

Something close to this scheme already exists in law schools, which have Loan Repayment Assistance Programs (LRAPS). According to leftist writer Matt Bruenig, the arrangement is very likely to produce increased tuition as universities and students figure out that they can essentially cooperate in this game to beat the house”

“Bruenig notes that Australia also uses IDR, but in Australia, the government prohibits universities from charging obscenely high tuition rates.

“If we are going to make the leap into an IDR-dominant college financing system, then we may need the government to also play a much bigger role in setting college prices, something it probably should have been doing even before the Biden policy change,” writes Bruenig. “Otherwise, we may very well see more unwanted cost bloat beyond what we already have.””

“One solution would be for the government, at a minimum, to set tuition prices for public, state universities—which, after all, are public and paid for by taxpayers. If the state is going to confiscate wealth from taxpayers in order to maintain public educational institutions, those institutions should be generally affordable to those same taxpayers.

Another idea would be to move to a system in which students don’t take out loans at all; instead of paying tuition, they agree to pay a percentage of their income to the university for some length of time after graduation. This would be like IDR, but it would cut out the government as the middleman, and thus get taxpayers off the hook. Purdue University President Mitch Daniels experimented with such a system, though it was paused earlier this year due to implementation difficulties.

By encouraging students to take on even more debt, and then never expecting them to repay it, the Biden administration is creating a system where everyone involved in higher education has incentive to fleece the American people.”

Opinion | Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness is Wrong. Here’s How to Handle College Debt Instead.

“President Joe Biden made millions of Americans up to $20,000 richer by excusing them from repayment of money they had borrowed, costing taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.
The recipients aren’t the poorest Americans, the neediest, the unluckiest, the most indebted or those serving our nation most nobly. They qualify, rather, because they borrowed money for college.”

“many of those receiving relief borrowed to finance graduate degrees like JDs and MBAs — a group hardly in need of financial help, but one that will remember this giveaway come November. But from afar, this choice looks absurd. As of June, American households held more than $4.5 trillion in consumer debt (excluding home mortgages), most of which was not student loans. According to the Federal Reserve, fewer than 1 in 4 households have student-loan debt, and it is more common among those with higher incomes. By what logic is “borrowed money for college” a sensible standard for selecting the recipients of unprecedented public beneficence?

The logic is uniquely American, and incredibly harmful. It is captured well in the familiar Hollywood trope of a teenager, discovering his family’s financial troubles, conceding gloomily that he can abandon his first-choice school and attend the state university nearby, only for a determined parent to insist: No, we will find a way.

In America, this is meant to be inspiring. But the statistics suggest it’s more likely to be a tragic mistake.”

“Students who enroll in college are more likely to drop out or graduate into jobs that don’t require their degrees than they are to travel the expected college-to-career path. Research also suggests that what school you attend just doesn’t matter all that much: For men, school selectivity has no effect on future earnings; for women, more selective schools lead to more hours worked and lower marriage rates.”

“On average, colleges in America consume more than $25,000 per student per year — second only to Luxembourg among developed economies and more than twice the spending in countries like Denmark, France and Germany. The focus on elite private colleges is especially harmful: While we constantly conflate the cost of the “college experience” with affording an “Ivy League education,” median tuition for an in-state, four-year public university is still only $8,300 per year. Every child in America can pay his or her own way at a perfectly good college for about half the income from a part-time, minimum-wage job.”

“America should embrace the banality of the student loan as just one form of debt among many — chosen by some for purposes of investment, and by others for what amounts to conspicuous consumption, exploited by sellers of a product with variable quality. As luck would have it, America has a very good legal system for governing regular debt, complete with structures for managing risk on all sides, options for sellers to provide credit themselves if no one else will, and equitable relief for those who make commitments they cannot keep.

The keystone is our uniquely lenient bankruptcy system. Unlike in most other countries, the typical American can go to court, declare himself insolvent, hand over some remaining assets, default on his remaining debts and return home to a house exempted from the proceedings. This choice is by no means an easy one — his credit score plummets and borrowing becomes more difficult and costly; friends and neighbors are likely to notice, along with anyone who runs a background check in the future; feelings of failure and accompanying shame are common. Thus, while Americans file for bankruptcy far more frequently than Europeans, the occurrence is sufficiently rare that consumer credit remains widely available and affordable. The cost of bankruptcy is low enough to encourage risk taking and ensure that someone who truly needs a fresh start can get one, but high enough that most who can avoid it will do what they can to steer clear.

This is the option that should be available to all student-loan holders.

Continuing the desacralization of student debt, we should eliminate the labyrinth of government grants, loans, subsidies and guarantees that assert an open-ended public commitment to financing anything a university can think to charge for. Public support should come at the state level through funding of state university systems and at the federal level through a simple, means-tested grant that covers, say, 50 percent of the median state’s four-year public university tuition. Tying the grant value to the median state would prevent individual schools from extracting more money by raising tuition. Costs of room and board would be excluded. Young adults not enrolled in college do not expect the public to pay for their housing or food; neither should those enrolled.”

“Where would students find additional funding for more expensive options? A private loan market would likely exist but, absent the guarantees and subsidies, credit would be scarce and expensive. Borrowers would tend to have limited credit history and few assets. Lenders would be poorly positioned to evaluate the likelihood of successful repayment. The prospect of discharge in bankruptcy would add further risk. These obstacles are features, not bugs. Loaning large amounts of money to teenagers with uncertain prospects and no collateral is a bad idea for lenders because it is a bad idea, period. Finding ways to make it sufficiently attractive to saddle those teenagers with the loans does no one (besides college administrators) any favors.

Fortunately, institutions exist with the capital to finance all the necessary borrowing, the information to assess the wisdom of borrowing to enroll, the resources to help students succeed and the incentives to make the system work. Those institutions, of course, are the colleges themselves. Just as sellers provide financing for cars, capital goods and sometimes real estate, colleges should be expected to finance the education they provide. Instead of cashing tuition checks before freshman orientation has begun, and leaving the student to someday pay back a third-party lender, colleges should receive tuition from their students after the fact, when those students have been launched into careers that allow them to afford the payments.

This shift would initially require institutions without large endowments to borrow working capital for providing today an education that would be paid for tomorrow. But most institutions will have sufficient fixed assets to secure the loans, and the federal government could play a role if needed in guaranteeing that financing — with default leading promptly to liquidation.

Meanwhile, students who made the choice to borrow under the old system would continue to repay those debts if they can, and would have the option to declare bankruptcy if they cannot. Such bankruptcies would cost the federal government much less than Biden’s broad-based loan forgiveness, and would help the transition to a better system and mindset rather than Biden’s doubling down on the broken one.

Colleges dependent on their own alumni’s future earnings to fund their operations would face a radically different set of incentives than today’s.”