Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ruminations on Sallie Mae's recent survey

Many of you have probably seen the recent stories in the mainstream press about a really, I mean, really (ahem) "reliable" survey  that claims borrowing for college is purportedly down and that most families, as one blogger claimed, are "paying for [it] just fine." Well guess who put out that survey? That's right! You guess it . . . good ol' Sallie Mae!

In a word, these "news" stories are based upon a shallow survey that Sallie Mae put out (they hired Gallup to carry it out). Here they are:

a) NYT  put out "Survey Finds that Many Families Don't Borrow For College" - http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/survey-finds-that-many-families-dont-borrow-for-college/#comment-16123

b) NPR's "Fewer Students Borrow for College? Those Who Do Spend More" - http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2009/08/college_students_borrowing.html

c) Chronicle of Higher Education (hereafter I will refer to it as CHE) - "Fewer Than Half of Families Paid for Undergraduate Education with Loan This Past Year, Survey Finds." - http://thechoice.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/08/24/survey-finds-that-many-families-dont-borrow-for-college/#comment-16123

Here are my questions to these reporters and their media outlets:

1) Why are you being used for ulterior motives?

2) Why won't you reveal sources?  Don't you owe that to your readers?

3) Why are these major news outlets just putting out self-serving information that protects the interests of Sallie Mae and other lenders? This survey is weak, and Tim Ranzetta, who researches and writes for Student Lending Analytics, provides an excellent explanation about its faults here. (Just one little piece of information - the survey had 800 students and 804 parents who participated. I know - silly me! And here I was also trained to be a social scientist - that's a large pool of people and you can therefore make some solid conclusions about trends).

4) I brought up a similar question here, when Ms. Kim Clark wrote an article about the College Board in U.S. News & World Report. Ms. Clark described the College Board as "an organization for colleges," but I later told my readers that that was not entirely accurate. So, I wish to ask Ms. Clark :why didn't she inform her readers that the College Board had been a lender until 2007? (Ms. Clark doesn't care what her readers post, and I have not heard back from her yet - I sent her an email about a week ago).

5) Why aren't these media outlets referring to reliable sources like TICAS?

If this student loan situation isn't really a problem, then answer this question: why does it resonate with hundreds of thousands of people? If the critics don't like our approach and our proposal, I ask them then: what would you suggest we change? How can we meet and discuss this in order to protect those who matter most - the students?

A single woman like Gina Moss should not have to be kicked out of her small and rented apartment, WITH A YOUNG CHILD, in order to pay loans back to Sallie Mae.Gina Moss is not alone. Her story is one that is being experienced over and over and over again in this country. That's why we MUST ask for real change NOW!

More on Gina Moss, the Dept. of Education, and the Obama Administration later . . .

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