Monday, February 7, 2011

Highlighting the Headlines: What Are The Mainstream Media Outlets Saying About Student Loan Debt?

Highlighting The Headlines is part of a new bi-monthly series at AEM that will allow readers to explore relevant links about student loan debt. This series will also cover the big players in the industry, i.e., Sallie Mae, Nelnet, the for-profits, etc. This way, readers will be able to analyze how mainstream media outlets are framing the student lending crisis. Additionally, in order to save readers time, I will provide annotations to most of the links. That way, you'll be able to quickly decide if you wish to read the entire article or not. Keep in mind that your generous contributions help keep AEM, Inc. going, and allows us to expose the truth about the student lending crisis. So instead of simply being a reader, become a reading-contributor. Make a difference today and donate (you can contribute via Paypal or send checks/money orders to All Education Matters, P.O. Box 170232 Arlington, Texas 76003). Your donations keep this fledgling non-profit alive. Thanks to those of you who continue to donate on a regular basis! 

Most of the stories about student loan debt are poorly framed and allow readers to criticize and blame the debtors. For instance, when the NYT covered a story about loan forgiveness plans being canned in several states, they highlighted a Kentucky couple. The couple both enrolled to become teachers, were promised loan forgiveness, but ended up with the bill. Luckily for the couple it was just a mere $100,000. No biggie, right? The couple wasn't alone. Nearly 8,000 people were basically misled in the fine Bluegrass State. They too were told, "oh, uh, sorry. We don't have the money to pay for the education you just received. Yeah . . . uh, so you're gonna need to pay it. Thanks!"

Chances are Kentucky grossly mishandled money, and that is why the funds behind such programs dried up. Maybe if anyone bothered to investigate (hey, Feds, where are you when we need you?), maybe some pilfering would be discovered? I also hate how this messes with my images of a bucolic state filled with horseys. Sucks.

But I digress. The point is, this article allowed readers to trash the Kentucky couple. Thanks to the f--in' NYT, they took a picture of the couple inside their house, in the living room, with a flat screen TV on the wall. Somehow they thought this was a great picture to include with the article. So you can guess what people said in response.

Let's see how the outlets have been covering student loan stories in recent days (these reporters, overall, did a good job of covering the issue): 

"Chase pulls about-face on military loans: Bank ends military deferrals on student loans, then reverses decision" (Lisa Myers and Sarah Heidapour,, February 7, 2011)

Oh, you gotta love 'em! Chase originally decided to put an end to deferring loans on student loan debt for soldiers on tour. (I recently wrote about a soldier whose loans went into default while he was at war). Luckily, they decided to can the plan and have returned to the original option. How patriotic of them! You go, Chase! Way to be a good, Amurikun company!

"For-profit colleges face federal crackdown" (Walter Hamilton, Los Angeles Times, February 6, 2011)

This piece begins with a story about a woman named Chelsi Miller. Ms. Miller is a single mother who lives near Salt Lake City. Everest University, a for-profit, was the key to entering the medical field. Or so Ms. Miller thought. A recruiter at Everest told her that the credits she earned there could later be applied to completing a four-year degree at the University of Utah. Well, that turned out to be wrong!

Miller, who now owes $30,000 in student loan debt, said "I got completely taken advantage of, and now I'm struggling to pay the bill for it . . . I got sold my degree by a used-car salesman. I got a lemon." I'd say she got more than just one lemon.

"For-profit colleges spend millions to beat regulation attempts" (Liz Goodwin, Yahoo!, February 4, 2011)

It's so hard to choose my favorite quote from this article about the for-profit poops!

Ain't it nice to know how much money these you-know-whats are spending on lobbying for the continued flow of federal funds? In 2010 the twits spent $6 million to ensure their continued rape of the poor, those with low-incomes, and minority students.  In addition, Goodwin writes, "for-profit colleges also spent millions on congressional candidates' campaigns in the 2009-2010 election cycle—with more than $100,000 going to GOP Rep. John Kline of Minnesota, who is now the chair of House Education Committee" Good for them and Mr. Kline. That's clearly money well spent.

Related Links 

"High Default Rate Prompts 'Major Shift' At Kaplan University" (Bonnie Washuk, Sun Journal, February 6, 2011)

"Professional jobs harder to get, college grads find" (Mike Kilen,, February 5, 2011)

"Sallie Mae, Our Favorite Gal" (Cryn Johannsen, AEM, January 20, 2011)

"Well, gee, you don't say? It seems there might be a student lending crisis! You're one smart dame."


Anonymous said...

I began attending online university in the fall. I responded to an emailed ad (to indicate that I was interested). Probably the very next day, a very aggressive and of course, ostensibly, charismatic admissions (?) officer spent hours, getting me quickly enrolled. Then immediately, the university's financial aid department set up a hefty package including loans, grants, stipends (subsidized and unsubsidized). They labored tirelessly until I was enrolled. Despite being skeptical, I signed on. I, most certainly, had the sense of buying a used car. I verified, online, that the college is accredited and established over a hundred years ago. My stipend checks come from Sally Mae. I have attended "regular" college numerous times in the past until a decade ago. An interesting observation is, in critiquing the work of fellow students (a proviso and important aspect of our grade on each assignment), I have noticed that
MANY of the submissions have a junior high/middle-high school quality. For instance, albeit we are instructed to use proper grammar and spelling, many students often do not incorporate sentence form or seemingly understand that "I", as a word, is capitalized, etc. We DID have to take an entrance exam for qualification, but it seemed like more of a formality and I'm guessing a fifth grader would have passed it. I realize part of this is that "kids" have learned cyberese, but I'm also wondering if they're extending loans to students who are not equipped for college and may not pass/graduate or be enhanced by work they don't yet grasp. I am envisioning them (and this is rampant) being ill-equipped, failing out or being graduated unscrupulously and with reams of debt. I've suspected something shady. Although, I have to say, the professors do present us with college level assignments.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Thanks for your post. Rest assured, I do not question the quality of the education - in many cases, one can find outstanding instructors at for-profits - but rather the way in which they function. The fact that they are for-profit troubles me greatly.

Anonymous said...

That young fellow with the newspaper has a very arch expression, rendered distressingly moreso by that roughish pompadour and crooked grin!

"Gee" is bad enough, but simply based on his picture, I would't put it past him to slip in a "So's your old man!" once in a while.


Anonymous said...

^^^Oops, spelled it wrong. It's "roguish"

Anonymous said...

Ms. Johannsen:

I must confess that I applaud the perspicacity of the anonymous poster at 6:16 PM

My chivalrous impulses, and a general respect for womankind the world over, will not allow me to stand idly by, and refrain from remarking upon how truly indignant I feel when beholding the saucy expression on the face of the young "knave" depicted above.

The sauciness of his demeanor, and his pool-hall vocabulary betray his attitude, and his ill-designs.

Is there anyone here who would not agree, that addressing a woman as: "one smart dame" is monstrously condescending, and displays a degree of disrespect of unfathomable proportions?

And the audacity of....the mere thought of.....pointed sideburns is, well............


Cryn Johannsen said...

@Feb. 7 9:38 That's the point. Think about what kind of person he might be. What does he potentially represent?

Liz said...

You know, Sallie Mae has screwed up repeatedly, and it always seems to be in the benefit of the company. It's seeming less and less coincidental.

Most recently, I downloaded and mailed the paperwork to enroll in the federal IBR program. And somehow they applied my loans for forbearance, and sent me paperwork saying my payments are zero for a year, but will DOUBLE after 12 months.

I called them, with copies of my paperwork applying for the federal program in hand, and the customer service rep just kept repeating they'd enrolled me as "a courtesy", and I don't have to make payments "to help you out." I could NOT make her understand that I DON'T WANT FORBEARANCE. I want the federal IBR program. I signed up for the federal IBR program. But somehow, I'm enrolled instead in the program that benefits Sallie Mae and could cost me tens of thousands of dollars.

It really makes me wonder how many times Sallie Mae has made this "mistake" and how many people didn't read the paperwork carefully. Now I have to spend however many days straightening it all out, and my first phone call was NOT promising.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree with the two Anonymous posters.

I've a good mind to tip him out of that chair, and then challenge him to a round or two of fisticuffs. (Marcus of Queensbury Rules of course)

And after I box his ears a little, we'll see just how inclined he will be to leisurely cross his legs, and stare at people so!

Anonymous said...


That's par for the course. I sent in paperwork before while on deferral and they refused to enroll me in IBR saying I was on deferral. They are banking on my defaulting instead.

This is why you should never take out loans and engage in a prolonged transaction with any company. They are all out to screw you over.

Your best bet is to consolidate through the education department, just google student loan consolidation and it'll be the first option. They will pay off Sallie Mae and give you a consolidated loan, which you should enroll in IBR for.

I wish I had gone on IBR a long time ago, my loans have ballooned since then. I now owe $16k more than when I graduated. I personally feel these rates are usurious and I understand now why once you're in debt you're finished, there is no way you can pay anything off because it just keeps getting bigger and bigger.

I personally think credit should be abolished.

Liz said...

Thanks! The federal loans were consolidated, and it took three tries, but as of yesterday the website says I'm in the federal IBR program now. I just can't get over the fear that the company will do SOMETHING else to me and I won't be able to dig out from under.

A friend of mine warned me Sallie Mae was awful about the IBR program, but it's one thing to hear about it, and another to see your payments scheduled to DOUBLE - and then have the phone answered by a person who is obviously trained to keep you from complaining and otherwise doesn't really know how to do anything. "But Miss, Miss, higher payments are what you can expect after your payments have been lowered for a period of time." "But I DON'T WANT THIS PROGRAM." "But that's how it works." And on and on.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Liz, I know someone here already helped you out about IBR. I also am aware - through conversations I had with people on the Hill - that it's a challenge getting people signed up. Oftentimes, lenders don't even bring it up or they just prefer to put a loan in forbearance, because it's easier when it comes to the paperwork. Rest assured, those who have backed IBR want the process to be easier for borrowers.

Just wanted to add that point.