Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Two Student Loan Stories

Knowing two workers in my department are doing the work-school combination, I decided to ask them how their schools handle financial aid.

Student 1 - 35, male, earns below average US salary but locked out of advancement due to no degree

This guy faces the HR autism wall. He has great work experience with proven reliability and aptitude, but the HR losers give him the no degree stiff arm. He takes classes slowly as he juggles family life, work and school. He goes to a brick and mortar school that caters to adults with night and weekend classes. They have online courses, but he avoids them. The university runs his numbers and says what he qualifies for in loans. They set up a document that shows course costs and then "estimated living expenses". He has the choice of taking the loans to cover courses or taking the full amount. He takes the money for courses, but definitely sees how people could abuse the offer of more money. He is tight on his loans because his wife did two years of college 15 years ago, never got her degree but took ten years to pay the loans back.

Student 2 - 34, female, earns average US salary but locked out of advancement due to no degree

Same as above for work stupidity. The company has explicitly told her that she needs a degree for any new move (how idiotic are HR departments to not say X years and/or degree). Her courses are all online. Juggling home and work, her take is if the company is going to be pedantic about any degree compared to her 10+ years of experience, she is taking the easiest path that still meets HR's rules for a degree. She does 1 course every 5 weeks. Her school handles aid loans differently. After reviewing her application and financial forms, they instruct her the loans available. They apply the loans directly to her course costs BUT they warn her about the coming overage. What happens is that the overage is then mailed to her as a check to do whatever she sees fit. She does not use that money but sees the ease at which students could use that cash for anything. No oversight. Just a blank check that shows up with each new class.

To fit into the need to expand borrowing at all costs, the university system has become a network of grey market lending to push credit into the hands of marginal borrowers. Subprime housing was not just about homes but about HELOCs and 2nd liens for bar borrowers to use their house as an ATM. Same is beign repeated with student loans. Now the originator is USG and the distributors are their pals in the eduation racket. That was the secret behind making loans non-dischargeable. Because of that feature, loan interest rates could drop which allowed for greater debt loads and more students to become acceptable risks. Treasury Secretary Rubin left the White House to become vaguely defined leader at Citigroup. Citigroup plunged into the student debt market. That is not a coincidence.

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