Friday, April 13, 2012

Staggering law school debts will lead to exploding debt disaster for graduates and taxpayers

Federal financial aid policies have encouraged law students to borrow increasing amounts to attend law school, despite the glut of lawyers (oddly, government policies encourage more people to go to law school, driving up law school tuition, even as the Obama administration seeks to cut back on vocational education aimed at training the skilled blue-collar workers who are in desperately short supply in much of the country). The result, says law professor Brian Tamanaha, is a “Quickly Exploding Law Graduate Debt Disaster” in which most recent graduates of many law schools will never be able to pay off their staggering student loan debt. At the liberal Balkinization blog, Tamanaha notes that the average student has over $100,000 in debt just from law school at many schools:

    This year 17 law schools are above $135,000. Last year the highest average debt among graduates was $145,621 (Cal. Western); this year the highest average debt is $165,178 (John Marshall). Below are the 20 schools with the highest average law school debt among graduates (these figures do not include undergraduate debt).

    John Marshall Chicago $165,178
    California Western $153,145
    Thomas Jefferson $153,006
    American $151,318
    New York Law School $146,230
    Phoenix $145,357
    Southwestern $142,606
    Catholic (DC) $142,222
    Northwestern $139,101
    Pace University $139,007
    Whittier $138,961
    Atlanta’s John Marshall $138,819
    Pacific (McGeorge) $138,267
    St. Thomas (FL) $137,721
    Univ. San Francisco $137,234
    Vermont Law School $136,089
    Golden Gate $135,645
    Florida Coastal $134,355
    Stetson $133,082
    Syracuse $132,993

    What’s remarkable is that the majority of graduates from these law schools–with the exception of Northwestern–do not obtain jobs with salaries sufficient to make the monthly loan payments due on the average debt. At some of these schools 90% or more of graduates with debt do not earn enough to make the loan payments on this level of debt (not all indebted students will carry the average debt). . .

    Thousands of 2011 law graduates across the country will not earn enough to manage the debt they incurred to obtain their law degree. . .

    This financial insanity will not stop until significant changes are made to the federal student loan program.

As one commenter noted earlier, federal financial aid and student loans have driven up law school tuition and student loan debt: “education loans . . . often have implicit government guarantees,” even those not explicitly backed by the government. As a result, “like the GSE’s, the supply of credit for education loans has continued to expand. So in a way colleges and universities, public and private have been in a bubble akin to the housing bubble. The benefits to the institutions are irresistible and so there is no way they will try to reign in costs and thus tuition. Not as long as students are willing and able to borrow.”

When the bubble pops, taxpayers will be on the hook for countless billions of dollars (many graduates already are not repaying their student loans). “Why is college so expensive? A new study points to a disconcerting culprit: financial aid,” notes Paul Kix on page K1 of the March 25 Boston Globe. I and professors and education experts commented earlier on that study at Minding the Campus. Other studies also have concluded that increased federal financial aid, such as student loans, drives up college tuition, and you can find links to some of them here.

As the American Bar Association’s ABA Journal notes, “Law students . . . are treated generously as future professionals and able to borrow, with virtually no cap, significantly more money than undergrads. . . For several decades, most higher education loans were made by private lenders with the federal government providing guarantees against loss—and, in some cases, interest rate subsidies.” As I explained earlier, cutting law school subsidies would help the economy. Links to additional commentary about the high cost of law school can be found here.

When law school graduates are unable to pay off their student loans, lenders will come after their elderly parents who co-signed for the loans.  As the Washington Post notes, “Americans 60 and older still owe about $36 billion in student loans . . . Many have co-signed for loans with their children or grandchildren to help them afford ballooning tuition.”


Portland State University Offering ‘Revolutionary Marxism’ Course — And Wait Until You See the Syllabus‏

Portland State University is offering a number of controversial courses this semester, the likes of which include “Revolutionary Marxism: Theory and Practice,“ and ”Art Within Activism”

The “Revolutionary Marxism” course is introduced in what appears to be the syllabus:

    "The onset of the Arab Spring, revolts in European capitals against austerity, and the emergence of Occupy Wall Street here in the US have made the need for understanding revolutionary political theories [more] urgent than ever.

    This course is designed to introduce students to the basic concepts of Marxist thought with an emphasis on the practical applications of Marxist Theory in local political struggle.  We will focus on four major areas throughout the semester, including the Fundamentals of Marxist Theory, Marxism and Oppression, Revolutionary Practice, and The Future of Socialism.  In exploring these four areas of focus, the course will compare and contrast revolutionary Marxism to Stalinism, reformist socialism, leading academic interpretations of Marxism, as well as other radical leftist ideologies."

The course’s instructors, Grant Booth and Wael Elasady, are both admitted socialists.  They define the course’s goals as:

    1.  Students will learn the fundamentals of Marxist theory

    2.  Students will apply a Marxist analysis to current events

    3.  Students will apply Marxist theory to local political and community organizing

Moreover, students will seemingly be required to forge a “community connection” with a local community/political organization from a specified list.  Some of the “approved” organizations include: Occupy PSU, Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights, Occupy Portland, Portland Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions Coalition (BDS), Jobs with Justice, and the May Day Coalition.

Similarly, the “Art Within Activism” course is described:

    "Rediscover your radical imagination! This course will focus on creating art within Portland-based activist initiatives, such as marches, actions, and causes different grassroots community groups are working on, like the Occupy and Decolonize movements. We will experiment with applying diverse mediums—graphic design, social practice, printmaking, and sculpture—to actions seeking to resolve diverse problems—hegemony, biodiversity loss, immigrant detention, animal exploitation, debt, insufficient healthcare, etc."

The controversial courses are part of the Chiron Studies program, where qualified students can “propose and instruct official, for credit classes” with the university.

The Blaze attempted to contact numerous officials in charge of approving the courses, in addition to Wael Elasady (who teaches the “Revolutionary Marxism” course), in order to confirm the course details, but we did not hear back.

That leaves a lot of unanswered questions, such as: Why is the taxpayer helping pay for these courses at a public university?  With socialist professors and mandated participation with leftist groups, is the other side being presented at all?

Moreover, would Portland State University allow a “Limited Government: Theory and Practice“ course where students were forced to make a ”connection” with Tea Partiers and the NRA?

UPDATE: Wael Elasady, one of the professors of “Revolutionary Marxism: Theory and Practice,“ returned our call and wanted to clarify that students are free to ”apply a Marxist perspective” to any local community/political organization; the list of organizations on the syllabus are simply pre-approved.


London Metropolitan University mulls alcohol ban for 'conservative Muslim students'

A London University may become the first in the country to ban alcohol from part of its campus to attract more Muslim students, its Vice Chancellor has said.

London Metropolitan University is considering banning the sale of alcohol from some parts of the campus because a "high percentage" of students consider drinking "immoral," Prof Malcolm Gillies said.

One-fifth of the University's students are Muslim, and of those the majority are women. It is an issue of "cultural sensitivity" to provide drink-free areas, Prof Gillies told a conference, adding he was "not a great fan of alchol on campus".

Do you think London Met should ban alcohol at sites around campus?
No - It is wrong to pander to an extreme viewNo - It would discriminate against those who do drink alcoholYes - It is right to make Muslim students feel comfortableYes - Students drink far too much and this might encourage them to drink less

"It's a negative experience - in fact an immoral experience - for a high percentage of our students," he said.

He went on: "Many of our students do come from backgrounds where they actually look on [drinking] as a negative. And given that around our campuses you have at least half a dozen pubs within 200m, I can't see there is such a pressing reason to be cross-subsidising a student activity which is essentially the selling of alcohol."

"Because there's no majority ethnic group, I think it [selling alcohol] is playing to particular parts of our society much more [than to others]".

Professor Gillies said the University was "much more cautious" about the portrayal of sex on campus than universities had been 30 or 40 years ago, the Times Higher Education reported.

Many of its female Muslim students "can only really go to university within four miles of home and have to be delivered and picked up by a close male relative", he said.

"Now we've got a younger generation that are often exceedingly conservative, and we need to be much more cautious about [sex] too.

"Their student experience is going to be different from someone gorging out in the Chocoholics Society or someone who is there to have a...libidinous time."

London Metropolitan University was founded in 2002. It has 30,000 students from 190 countries.


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