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The Ed Department Blinks on Parent PLUS Loans

August 16, 2013
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This blog post is the third part in a series that takes a look at recent changes to the credit criteria for Parent PLUS loans and the subsequent effect on colleges and universities. You can find the introductory post here and the second post here.

For nearly a year the Department of Education has been under a firestorm of criticism from the Historically Black College and University (HBCU) community and its advocates over changes to the PLUS loan program that they say reduced revenue and enrollment at these institutions.According to an article yesterday in the Chronicle of Higher Education, the Education Department finally relented and made further accommodations to help more applicants get approved, while promising to rethink the criteria as part of a rulemaking session next spring. But did loosening criteria really solve a national policy problem? Or was it a set of changes to benefit a small subset of institutions, the result of which will mean greater amounts of worse debt for families?

The Department’s changes were outlined in a letter to Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), the Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. In it Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote that, the Department would more than double the size of debt it considers to be “de minimis,” allowing rejected borrowers with larger debts of any type to be approved through an appeals process. "We believe this may help families who have relatively small adverse credit events that negatively impact their credit histories, such as unpaid medical debt, parking tickets, or cell phone bills of greater than 90 days duration,” the letter says. 

This is a huge victory for many HBCUs and for-profits, which rely heavily on PLUS loans because they charge relatively high prices, enroll large numbers of low- and moderate-income students, and lack the resources to give out much institutional aid. The losers in this battle are the low- and moderate-income families who will be allowed to borrow up to the cost of attendance of a school, with no regard to whether they have any hope of paying it back. And remember, parent PLUS loans are not eligible for any of the income-based payment plans or forgiveness options nor are they dischargeable in bankruptcy. This means a family making $30,000 a year could borrow more than their salary to send their child to school.

Here are four reasons why it’s a big mistake for the Department to weaken the adverse credit standards for the Parent PLUS loan:

  1. This “patch” fixed a problem that appears to not have existed. According to Secretary Duncan’s letter, 95 percent of students whose parents were initially denied a PLUS loan to enroll in an HBCU ended up still attending an institution of higher education. Many did so with the assistance of the additional $4,000-$5,000 in unsubsidized Stafford loans that students whose parents are denied a PLUS loan are able to borrow.  For students this fall, that additional Stafford debt will carry an interest rate that is 2.55 percentage points lower than what their parents would have paid on a PLUS loan. Losing 5 percent of applicants is not good, but it is far different from the sky is falling outcry.
     
  2. This “fix” screams institutional capture. The Department’s letter provides a possible suggestion as to why it made the change even though this doesn’t appear to be a national problem. It notes that within the 95 percent of students whose parents were denied and still enrolled, 19 percent went somewhere besides the initial HBCU. From a national picture, the story is no different—only 5 percent of students never enrolled. But from the narrow institutional perspective, one-quarter disappeared. The change thus feels less like solving a national problem but rather addressing the concerns of a small subset of institutions.

    But is that even the responsibility of the Department of Education?  Its job is to oversee the broader national interest in education and to help more individuals earn postsecondary credentials. That’s exactly why they made changes to the adverse credit standards for the Parent PLUS loan—the only proxy the Department has to ensure they aren’t saddling parents with debt they won’t be able to pay back. This move makes it seem like the Department is ignoring the broader national interest over the interest of a handful of politically powerful institutions. And what about those students who chose to go elsewhere? Wouldn’t it be worth knowing whether they are actually taking on less debt now?
     
  3. Changes to “de mimimus” credit will allow parents to borrow even though they have financial risk factors. Although we do not know what the “de minimus” amount is, the letter is not clear whether it applies only to collections or charge off or whether all debts will get this tolerance. In the latter case, a parent who is 90 days late with a large credit card charge could borrow nearly unlimited amounts under the PLUS program, even though they’re struggling with debts that never would have been approved prior to the change.
     
  4. We should be concerned about people not paying their cell phone bills. In the letter to Rep. Fudge, Secretary Duncan alluded to the fact that the Education Department wants to help families obtain loans who have small adverse credit events related to things like medical debts or cell phone bills. It’s unclear if this means special treatment for these debts or they will just be covered under the larger de minimis amount, but these types of debt are not equivalent. Unpaid medical debt is a sensible thing to consider, since we don’t want to penalize families who have suffered a sudden financial hardship due to a medical emergency out of their control. But unpaid parking tickets and cellphone bills are arguably not in the same realm of sudden, medical debt and speak to someone who is struggling to pay their regular bills.

It is clear that HBCUs and for-profits have gained inroads in ensuring the Education Department reverts back to the old credit standards for Parent PLUS loans during negotiated rulemaking this spring. Part of the problem is that the Department only has proxy measures to gauge a family’s financial health. So all they can do to ensure families aren’t taking on too much debt is to patch the credit check.

Enough with proxy measures. Instead of small tweaks to a backward-looking credit check, the parent PLUS loan application process should include a forward-looking “Ability to Pay” measure. Adding “Ability to Pay” to the credit check would help protect parents from over-borrowing at whatever cost to send their child to school by looking at parents’ indebtedness (with or without PLUS loans) relative to their earnings. In designing this metric, the Education Department could include exemptions for families who have suffered a sudden and catastrophic financial hardship, such as a medical emergency, that may have affected a parent’s debt to income ratio.

Fortunately, there will be an opportunity to take a reasoned approach to PLUS criteria at the negotiated rulemaking session that is likely to take place next spring. As that process goes on, the Department must not bend to the will of politically strong institutions and go back to where we started. Instead it should make real changes that are transparent and capture the exact financial health of families so that we make sure the very students we are looking to give access to, don’t impoverish their parents just to do so.

Stay tuned to Higher Ed Watch for the continuing coverage of the Parent PLUS loan crisis.


1In order to receive a Parent PLUS loan, applicants cannot have been through certain significant financial conditions in the past five years, such as bankruptcy, foreclosure, or a tax lien. Nor can they have any debts that are more than 90 days past due. In the fall of 2011, the Department began counting accounts whose current status was in collections or charged off as evidence of a debt more than 90 days late and thus grounds for an application being denied. This resulted in a substantial uptick in the number of denied loans, typically at high-cost low-resource institutions like HBCUs and some for-profit colleges. Read more here.

IES Report: Early Interventions and Early Childhood Education

August 7, 2013
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On July 23rd the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a report on research pertaining to early childhood education. The report describes findings supported by IES early intervention and childhood education research grants, as well as how to use these to better support improvements in early childhood education in the United States. In particular, it spotlights instructional practices and curriculum that appear to enhance young children’s development and learning and approaches for improving teachers’ and other practitioners’ instruction.

The Scariest Student Loan Figure is $14,500

August 6, 2013

This post also appeared on our sister blog, Higher Ed Watch.

Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a new set of data that give the best look to date at the repayment plans of borrowers and the status of their loans. Depending on how much you like to assert gloom and doom in the loan portfolio, the headline-grabbing figure is likely to be either: $3 out of every $10 loan dollars are in deferment, forbearance, or default or only about 20 percent of loan dollars in repayment are in income-based plans. But the figures also show how focusing on absolute debt balances to highlight struggles can be misleading and context matters when it comes to loan performance.

A general assumption in much student debt coverage is that someone with high balances is likely to struggle and default. But this chart from the CFPB suggests that narrative isn't quite so straightforward:

Average Balance By Repayment Status

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What this shows is that borrowers in default had by far the lowest debt balances of anyone who had actually entered repayment. (The in-school figure is only a bit higher, but that's also capturing everyone from the fifth-year senior with loan debt from each year and someone just starting out with a small Stafford loan.) That may seem counterintuitive, but it should not be surprising. Research shows that program completion is a major factor in whether or not a student defaults on his or her loans. And since students have annual loan limits, someone who drops out early in their college career can only accumulate so much debt. This means high-debt borrowers are more likely to have finished their programs and are thus at less risk of default. 

The low debt levels of defaulters should make us rethink the way we portray student debt in two ways. First, some people may actually be served by borrowing more, not less.* Think about a dropout who already has student loan debt. They may get a little bit of an earnings return for having completed some college, but not as much as if they'd finished. For that individual, they might actually be better served with more debt if that would help them complete.

*I'm assuming no changes to the financial aid system. In general, more grant aid that's invested more intelligently would better.

Second, flashy debt balances make for good press but not necessarily good policy. I'm just as compelled and saddened by the latest story on the New York University graduate student with $100,000 in debt as the next guy, but I'm a lot more worried about the person earning minimum wage with $5,000 in debt.  The most an undergraduate student of any type can borrow through the federal programs is $57,500, and that's as an independent; dependent students are capped at $31,000. Sure those balances can get bigger with interest, but it's unlikely to hit that magic six figures before ending up in a worse circumstance like default. But even those undergraduates with high debt balances are likely to be in four-year bachelor's degree programs where their expected returns are much higher.

Instead, we should be worrying about these low balance dropouts, such as someone who attended a certificate program for a year and did not finish. For these borrowers, even a few thousand dollars could be an economic shock they cannot recover from. 

Income-Based Repayment May Not Be Helping

Instead of defaulting, the low-debt defaulters should be taking advantage of income-based repayment. But, the debt numbers released on IBR demonstrate that the intended beneficiaries are falling through the cracks while graduate students with high debt balances are taking advantage of the program. 

Repayment Plans of Direct Loan Borrowers

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Income-based repayment is portrayed as a safety net to help low-income students manage their loan payments. Though not explicitly stated, the assumption is that these individuals are likely to be undergraduates just getting started on their careers. But the chart above suggests that the average IBR participant is likely to have graduate school debt. The roughly 900,000 borrowers with Direct Loans enrolled in IBR have an average loan balance of $55,900--a figure that's essentially impossible for undergraduate borrowers to hit. An dependent undergraduate can only borrow up to $31,000, which means someone borrowing the maximum would have to make no payments for seven years and avoid losing IBR eligibility by defaulting in order to hit that level. While an independent undergraduate student could borrow that much, in practice they tend to take out less debt than a dependent student. That leaves graduate students, who can borrow up to $138,500 in Stafford loans, plus an essentially uncapped amount in PLUS loan debt.

We can't know from these numbers, alone, exactly who these borrowers are, but here are some educated guesses as to why graduate students might be more likely to use IBR. Students selecting IBR have to navigate a multitude of repayment options and then complete paperwork that is notoriously complicated and difficult to use. This creates an immediate disposition toward not making choices and just using the standard 10-year repayment plan, which the table above shows is the  most popular option. While struggling dropouts would likely benefit from IBR, they’ve probably lost touch with their school and probably aren’t getting much support in choosing the right repayment plan. Borrowers with advanced degrees and proactive financial aid offices, on the other hand, have a significant incentive to make sure higher debt balances don’t become unmanageable. (There is evidence that graduate schools exert a significant amount of effort helping students enroll in IBR.)

Based upon Safety Net or Windfallan analysis of IBR and other repayment plans conducted by Jason Delisle and Alex Holt last year, it's likely that these high-debt borrowers in IBR are either pursuing Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) or in low-paying jobs. That's because the analysis showed that someone with high debt and moderate to high income would be better served in the extended graduated repayment plan than using IBR. (This is no longer true with the new Pay As You Earn option, which is the best deal for high debt, high income borrowers.) So someone making the best repayment plan choice here would either be trying to get the 10-year PSLF or be unable to find a high-paying job. And we know there are plenty of bad graduate schools out there with abysmal employment numbers or unemployed law students. 

The mismatch between those going into default and those in IBR suggests that the program needs to be drastically simplified, and perhaps become the default option instead of the 10-year payment plan. Alternatively, payments could be done through employer withholding, as suggested by the Petri-Polis ExCEL Act. Regardless of the exact solution, in a world where those going into default have loan balances one-quarter the size of those using income-based plans, we need to do a better job making sure the policy solution is actually helping those who need it most. 

New Data Needed Despite Survey of Early Childhood Spending Across the U.S.

August 6, 2013
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This post originally appeared on our sister blog, Early Ed Watch.

States invested slightly more money into early childhood education in 2013 compared to 2012, according to a new survey of 21 states from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That’s a reassuring trend, given that most states are still treading water after the financial recession. But it may not be the whole story.

NCSL’s survey looks at 21 regionally, politically, and financially diverse states. Twelve of them increased funding for child care in fiscal year 2013 (one, Ohio, did not provide information); 10 increased funding for pre-K (one, Illinois, didn’t respond and two, Arizona and Mississippi, don’t have state pre-K programs); and 14 increased funding for home visiting programs. Thirteen states also increased funding for other early childhood efforts, though Ohio and Georgia didn’t offer any further information beyond those categories.

The increased funding for state pre-kindergarten is especially encouraging, given that the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER) published an updated State of Preschool report last year showing an “unprecedented funding drop” in pre-K spending. It wasn’t all good news: Minnesota decreased pre-K spending by almost 12 percent, and Colorado’s 3 percent decline in spending adds to an ongoing three-year trend. Still, New Mexico reversed its own three-year trend with a 33 percent increase in funding.

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According to the report, child care funding stabilized over the past year, too. Prior NCSL surveys from fiscal year 2010 to 2012 found that 17 of 21 states made severe cuts to child care funding. This year, 12 increased funding, and only 7 cut spending on child care. This year’s increases came in spite of a slight decline in federal child care spending, so many of the increases came from: 1) increased state spending or 2) redirecting federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) dollars to child care subsidies.

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Home visiting increases were significant, too, totaling nearly $50 million across these 21 states in 2013. But most of the increase in that category was driven by an increase in the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. MIECHV provided more money to states in 2013 ahead of its scheduled end in fiscal year 2014, though President Obama’s 2014 budget request included an extension and more funding for the program through 2025.

Unfortunately, the survey sheds no light on the effects of this year’s across-the-board federal spending cuts, known as sequestration. The report is based on a December 2012 survey of states – a full three months before sequestration was implemented in March 2013, and only three months into the 2013 federal fiscal year.

To date, there is limited information available from the White House or agencies about the systemic effects of the cuts – but it almost certainly led to declines in funding for most, if not all, of these states. It’s likely that even increases in state funding may not have been adequate to maintain their early childhood funding benchmarks for many states, especially given increasing costs in other sectors like health care. The sequester cut federal Head Start spending, home visiting funds, and the appropriations-funded portion of child care mid-year.

And this isn’t all. There are additional federal spending cuts scheduled for next year, thanks to the same law that put in place sequestration, the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). With states still struggling to recoup their recession-era revenue shortfalls, the additional $18 billion cuts to all discretionary spending mandated by the BCA next year will leave Congress with some tough choices (or with more across-the-board cuts).

For these reasons (and others), we at Ed Money Watch are looking forward to next year’s NCSL survey. It may offer the first clear picture of how budget battles on Capitol Hill are affecting the United States’ youngest children.

New Data Needed Despite Survey of Early Childhood Spending Across the U.S.

August 6, 2013
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This post also appeared on our sister blog, Ed Money Watch.

States invested slightly more money into early childhood education in 2013 compared to 2012, according to a new survey of 21 states from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). That’s a reassuring trend, given that most states are still treading water after the financial recession. But it may not be the whole story.

New Data Demonstrate Poverty Trends, Outcomes of Early Childhood Education

August 1, 2013
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Children have been hit especially hard by the economic recession that gripped the United States in late 2007. Many young children went hungry, homeless and without the educational opportunities and health care they needed as their parents struggled to find jobs and put food on the table. A new report from the Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, bolstered by new data released by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), looks at how children and families are doing today, amid the financial recovery.

Syllabus: Week of July 22, 2013

July 26, 2013
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Welcome to the Syllabus, a guide that provides insight into what’s happening in higher education.
 
Read:
 
Goldie Blumenstyk, Chronicle of Higher Education
 
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education released data indicating that more than 150 degree-granting colleges failed the department’s “financial responsibility” test for the 2011 fiscal year. Of those failing colleges, 54 nonprofits and 25 for-profits had scored so low that they are required to post letters of credit in order to continue their participation in federal student aid. The “financial responsibility” test is one of the few available indicators demonstrating the financial health of a college. The scores are calculated by analyzing such factors as a college’s debt, assets, operating surpluses, or deficits.
 
In recent years, the “financial responsibility” test has come under fire by groups like the National Association of Independent College and Universities (NAICU), claiming that the measure is calculated in an inconsistent and erroneous manner. Frustrated by the Education Department’s refusal to reform the test, NAICU is asking congress to reform the calculation as part of the next reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.  
 
Ry Rivard, Inside Higher Ed
 
After a six-month pilot, San Jose State University has decided to “pause” its work with the online provider Udacity. The university’s provost, Ellen Junn said she will do extensive research on the trial and hopes to begin working with Udacity again in the spring of 2014. Preliminary findings suggested students that participated in Udacity online courses did not fare as well as those students who attended traditional classes. This could be because many of the students enrolled in these courses were at-risk, high school students and students who have failed remedial math courses. Also, the online courses were complied at the last minute, as students were taking them.
 
San Jose State is also working with edX, which is a nonprofit MOCC provider founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The edX partnership does not replace any programs, but supplements the classroom experience by requiring students to review the material prior to arriving to class. This allows faculty to spend more time in class working with students and less time reviewing materials. Preliminary findings indicate that students participating in the program are exceeding the performance of those students not participating.
 
Lauren Ingeno, Inside Higher Ed
 
Many in the nursing community are growing concerned with the approaching retirement of nursing educations from the baby boom era. From top-ranking nursing schools like Johns Hopkins, to community colleges like Cuyahoga, qualified faculty – especially nurse preceptors and those with mater’s and doctoral degrees - are hard to find. This concern will only increase once the Affordable Health Care Act is fully in place, which will increase the amount of insured Americans by 30 million. According to a statement by Cuyahoga Community College, “The demand for nurse educators in the Northeast Ohio region will increase by 11 percent by 2010 and 2015.”
 
To help deal with the faculty shortage, programs at four-year institutions and community colleges have developed creative solutions to hire and retain new faculty. In some states, public institutions and state governments have gathered to address how the money should be allocated to improve the development of educators in the nursing profession. Other states have provided incentives to their nursing faculty to earn their doctoral degrees while learning how to teach nursing effectively. At the University of West Georgia School of Nursing, Dean Kathryn Grams stated, “We’re willing to target out young students to get them into faculty positions before they’re 35 or 40.”

Playing the Long-Game on College Financing

July 22, 2013
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Sometimes when I need to motivate myself to do something, cheesy as it may be, I think about how it will benefit "future me." "Future me" will enjoy wearing the clean clothes that "present me" washed. "Future me" will be able to get out the door faster because "present me" packed my son's daycare bag. It works because, like Michael J. Fox a la Back to the Future, I know that "future me" will someday be "present me" and it will pay off. We could use more of this thinking when it comes to federal policies that help students pay for college.

SNAP Cuts and the Classroom

July 17, 2013
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Editor's note: This post originally appeared on New America's In the Tank blog. Our managing editor, Fuzz Hogan, spoke with Aleta Sprague of the Asset Building Program and Clare McCann, with the Education Policy Program, about legislative developments affecting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, often known as food stamps).

As the Farm Bill's fate lies in a swirl of confusion and acrimony on Capitol Hill, we asked two New America experts to assess the impact of the House move to separate SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance) from the bill. Beyond all the coverage of the legislative wins and losses, the way the bill was put together could have far-ranging impact, on our economy and our schools, unless, of course, promises to take up SNAP in future legislation fund it to present levels.

Q 1 – Aleta, what does leaving SNAP out of the farm bill mean for the program?

Aleta: The House’s decision to leave SNAP out of the Farm Bill entirely sends a clear message to families in poverty: they are not Congress’ priority. It’s worth noting that of the 23 million families currently participating in SNAP, 76% include a child or elderly or disabled family member. While benefits will continue at their current levels for now, leaving SNAP out of the bill paves the way for even deeper cuts than the $20.5 billion the House proposed earlier this summer.

Q2 – Clare, how do cuts in SNAP impact education?

Clare: Almost half of SNAP recipients are children. They lack access to adequate amounts of food, and possible cuts to the program come at a time in their lives when they are extremely vulnerable to the health, cognitive, and even academic impacts of hunger. Research has demonstrated that children without adequate access to food also struggle in school.

Parent PLUS Loans: A No-Strings-Attached Revenue Source

July 17, 2013
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This blog post is the second part in a series that takes a look at recent changes to the credit criteria for Parent PLUS loans and the subsequent effect on historically black colleges and universities. You can find the introductory post here.

Last Tuesday, the Congressional Black Caucus met with President Obama and reportedly the first agenda item was the change to the Parent PLUS loan that has resulted in widespread denials. “We believe the criteria ought to be more lenient,” said Representative Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), “If you have 100,000 students and families that can’t get Parent PLUS loans, that’s a problem for us.” While much of the public conversation around PLUS loans has been the result of vocal HBCUs talking about how the changes have hurt not only their students but their bottom lines, there’s been no consideration given to how changing the credit screen for PLUS loans protected parents from taking on high-interest, non-dischargeable, unlimited debt they cannot afford.

But what if institutions are not just protesting the tighter credit criteria because of its effect on their bottom line, but also because excessive reliance on these expensive debts is a way to evade meaningful federal accountability? At a public Education Department hearing recently held in Atlanta, there's evidence that some colleges and universities might be steering students away from other, better federal student loans and toward Parent PLUS to avoid penalties associated with high student loan default rates. According to testimony from Everette Freeman, the president of Albany State University, an HBCU in Georgia:

Now the federal Parent PLUS loan has at least one feature that helps students and at the same time it hurts students. A student who is denied a federal Parent PLUS is able to apply for a federal Stafford loan. The federal Stafford loan program, if it is not repaid, has a direct and negative impact on the institution’s ability to draw down federal funding. (Emphasis added.)

He’s right. When a parent is rejected for a Parent PLUS loan, students are allowed to borrow an additional $4-$5,000 in Stafford loans to make up the difference. Since Stafford loans are included in the official federal default rate and Parent PLUS loans are not, if students from a particular institution default at high rates, the institutions face penalties. The Cohort Default Rate (CDR) holds institutions accountable for whether their students default on their loans within three years of leaving college and entering repayment. A CDR of 30 percent or more comes with various sanctions including losing eligibility for Title IV financial aid funds.  This would be a huge blow since federal student aid is the lifeblood for many colleges and universities.

But it was what President Freeman said next that was truly alarming:

Our institutions as a group have been trying to move away from Stafford loans, to the degree that we have been able to. And with the changes that were wrought last year, that has allowed us, unfortunately, prompted us to increase the number of applications for Stafford loans. We are worried about this.

If that statement doesn’t make you nervous, it should. It suggests that institutions are skirting accountability meant to protect students, families, and taxpayers.

President Freeman’s conclusion illustrates this point exactly:

We know that the federal government monitors our default rate. We certainly monitor our default rate, and this is one of those canaries in the mines, that if we do not return to provisions that allow for a credit formula that makes sense, we will, indeed, find an increase in the Stafford loan and the corresponding negative impacts that defaults will create.

But what he neglects to mention is that while shifting the debt burden onto parents through PLUS loans is easy for the institution, it may not be easy for struggling parents who are unable to discharge PLUS loans through bankruptcy.

What he also neglects to mention is that shifting debt from Stafford to Parent PLUS loans is costly for families. If a student borrowed the full amount of Unsubsidized Stafford loans available to him over four years for a bachelor’s degree, he would borrow $27,000. Under the standard 10-year repayment plan, that equates to approximately $323 per month, or $38,725 total. But under PLUS loans, that same debt would cost approximately $387 a month, or $46,468 total. So the parent would have to pay nearly 20 percent more for the same debt—an extra $64 more per month and more than $8,000 more over the lifetime of the loan. Not only that, but struggling parents would not be able to take advantage of the income-based repayment plans that the student would have qualified for with a Stafford loan.

Colleges and universities are using Parent PLUS loans like their own slush fund because there’s no reason not to. If you were a university facing tough economic times while trying to remain competitive and attract students, you would jump at the chance to get ahold of a nearly no-strings-attached source of revenue. But at the end of the day, parents are the ones on the hook for these loans. For this reason, at minimum, the Education Department should publish PLUS loan default rates by institution and close any loopholes that would discourage the use of cheaper Stafford loans by colleges and universities. Protecting families should come first and foremost when making changes to federal student aid—that’s why the Department of Education was right to make the changes it did to the PLUS credit check, and that’s why the Department must do more as it considers future changes to the program.

Stay tuned to Higher Ed Watch for the continuing coverage of the Parent PLUS loan crisis at HBCUs.
Thanks to Clare McCann for calculating the total amount repaid in Stafford and PLUS. 

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