Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Women hold most of the US’s student loan debt

Debt will only go down when costs go down. And costs will only go down when "frills" such as psychiatric services are banned. Universities are there to provide an education, not free psychiatry

Stuck in a hospital office job that offered no hope of promotion and little inspiration, Ginnelle Vasquez did what she thought she was supposed to: She went back to college.

Vasquez, 38 and a mother of five, spent weekends in classes at Springfield College to finish her bachelor’s degree, and is on track to earn her master’s degree in social work through Simmons College’s online program next year.

She hopes to land a job helping families and make a bit more money to support her own. But that dream is coming at a steep price: more than $100,000 in student loans from the two schools.

Vasquez is among the millions of American women who now shoulder almost two-thirds of the $1.3 trillion in outstanding student loans, even though they account for just 57 percent of students enrolled in colleges and universities.

The student loan debt crisis has been blamed for hobbling a generation of young Americans, delaying their plans to get married, have children, and buy a house. According to a new study, that burden has disproportionately fallen on women.

Women owe $833 billion in student loans, according to the American Association of University Women, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit focused on education. That’s up from $223 billion in 2004.

The reasons women hold the bulk of student debt are varied and sometimes interrelated. Women borrow more money for college and attend more expensive private colleges. They are also more likely to enroll in for-profit schools that can be convenient for working mothers and low-income women but require large loans and don’t always provide the skills needed to climb the economic ladder.

On top of that, the persistent gap in pay between women and men leaves women struggling longer to pay off their loans, straining their finances and placing them at a greater risk of default, according to the study. Women on average earn about 10 percent less than men when differences in occupation, education, and experience are factored in.

“It’s a systemic problem,” said Kevin Miller, a senior researcher at the American Association of University Women, extending beyond the choices women make about what schools to attend and careers to enter.

For Vasquez, her student debt load means worries that much of the extra money she’ll earn from her new career will have to be plowed into paying down her loans. She knows that her plans to leave subsidized housing and one day own her own place are now further out of reach. And she wonders how she will finance her children’s college educations.

“I don’t regret it, but jeez, I wish my situation was better,” Vasquez said. “I’m trying to improve my situation. But I wonder, is it really worth it?”

The average woman also borrows more money in student loans than men do. A woman graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 2012 had about $21,000 in student loan debt, $1,500 more than a typical man, according to the study.

Why is not entirely clear.

One possibility is that more women than men opt for pricier private colleges. Yet even women in public colleges take on more debt than their male classmates, said Miller, the AAUW researcher.

Black women are especially burdened with college debt, more than $29,000 on average. Their parents may have less in income and savings to help defray the cost of college, forcing many of them to borrow larger sums to earn a degree.

In addition, women are likely borrowing additional money to help pay for other living expenses, aside from tuition, such as groceries, rent, and child care while in college, Miller said.

About a quarter of students pursuing college degrees are parents, and a vast majority of them are women.

Even women who received some financial support from their parents are being pinched by student debt.

Natalie Higgins, 28, was the first in her family to graduate from college, and later, law school.

Her parents helped her pay for her undergraduate degree. But when she graduated with a law degree from Northeastern University in 2014, the Leominster native also became the first in her family to start her professional life burdened with student loan debt — $135,000 in her case.

Those loans have dictated much of Higgins’s life since. She has cut out cable television and shelved plans to save for retirement.

She could only afford her first home because she bought it from family and avoided a down payment. She is counting down the days — still two years away — to when she will pay off one of her loans and can replace her 10-year-old Hyundai.

“That’s a hard thing,” said Higgins, who is a state legislator representing her hometown, and earns $62,000 annually. “I’m making a middle-class income and having a hard time making ends meet.”

Female students also see the wage gap come into play, researchers said.

Women who work during college are likely making less than their male counterparts, forcing them to borrow more to offset their expenses, according to AAUW.

The differences in pay for men and women kick in early on in their working lives and contribute to the increased student loan payoff time. Women are likely to take two more years than male borrowers to repay their student loans.

Just out of college, women this year made on average $17.88 an hour compared with the $20.87 that men earned, according the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute.

While all college graduates are seeing their wages climb again after the 2008 economic crisis, for women, the increase has been much slower and they are still making up lost ground. Male college graduates earn 5.4 percent more than they did in 2000, while women earn 2.2 percent less than they did at the start of this century, according to the economic group.

The wage gap has been persistent, even as more women go to college and earn advanced degrees, said Elise Gould, a senior economist at the institute.

“It’s hard to not think there’s some discrimination in pay or promotion,” Gould said. “There’s a sizable gap. It’s pretty striking.”

And the disproportionate load of student loan payments is one likely side effect. Four years after graduating college in 2008, women had paid off only 31 percent of their debt, compared with men who had pared down their student loans by 38 percent, according to the AAUW study.

Still, for many women as for men, an undergraduate and advanced degree are still viewed as a ticket to a better job and greater financial security. It just requires some tough choices.

Charlotte Kelly, 23, graduated last year from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with about $30,000 in student loans. Yet she heard from recruiters that if she wanted to go into politics, she needed a master’s degree to advance in her career.

Kelly, who grew up in Medford, also knew she didn’t want to borrow anymore.

So when the University of Copenhagen offered her the chance to get her master’s degree in political science, tuition free, she packed her bags for Denmark.

Kelly said she hopes to complete her degree in a less than two years to save money. She’s also working two part-time jobs to help pay for rent and other expenses while in college.

“I miss home and miss being in the US,” said Kelly, who returned home for a few weeks this month. “But the financial side of having a free master’s degree has been hard to turn down.”


‘Free college’ shows how big ideas always get sanded down

FREE COLLEGE IS BACK from the dead. But, just like the living dead in the movies, it came back wrong. What began as Bernie Sanders’ bold proposal to reduce inequality — to equip all Americans with knowledge they need in an unforgiving economy — has itself been reduced to a proxy for real action. Boston’s new “free college” plan, Boston Bridge, will likely do much more for the reputation of Mayor Marty Walsh and Governor Charlie Baker than for the class of 2018.

Donald Trump’s election seemed to kill the dream of free college. Then New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that his state would be making the SUNY and CUNY colleges free for all New York residents with a household income less than $125,000. Tennessee made free community college universal. Rhode Island may do the same. According to researchers at Penn Ahead, which studies college promise programs, there are 219 states or municipalities that already have or have proposed some form of free two- or four-year college tuition.

Given the high sticker price of higher education, it’s no wonder that voters are drawn to the simplicity and power of universal free college. Politicians trying to capitalize on that popularity, however, are running into the hard problem of cost. As a result, they’re coming up with solutions so pared down that they make college free often in name only, for a relatively small number of students.

It’s a striking example of an all-too-common phenomenon: A grand block of idea is sanded down and sanded down in an effort to please different constituencies. Eventually, all the corners are gone, it rolls away, and little remains but the name. And yet the name alone is often enough to claim the credit for the big idea, never delivered. Arne Duncan, former secretary of education, praised Boston Bridge in a recent tweet.

Like most promise plans, the Boston Bridge program eliminates only tuition and fees; it doesn’t address the full cost of college, which also includes room, board, textbooks, and other expenses that can top $10,000 per year. At University of Massachusetts Amherst, for instance, they add up to more than $13,000 per year. Low-income students will still need to take out loans to cover these expenses, so it is inaccurate to call it free college.

It also isn’t universal, at least not in the way public K-12 education is. Boston Bridge promises two years of free school at a public college or state university to all Boston public and parochial high school students who are also eligible for Pell grants, which typically go to students whose household income is less than $50,000. They must also first attend a community college in the city and earn an associate’s degree in two and a half years while maintaining a 3.0 GPA.

Boston Bridge sets expectations higher for its beneficiaries than for paying students, which makes it a merit scholarship, not free college. Requiring an associate’s degree in two and a half years means a student will almost certainly take no remedial courses and attend school full-time, which is tricky when many students need to work while in school. Maintaining, rather than graduating with, a 3.0 means that a student lives under constant threat of losing his free tuition should he have a sub-par semester. Colleges do not remove students for having GPAs below a 3.0, nor do public high schools start charging students when they’re grades slip.

We should probably ask whether community college makes the best sense for the student who can meet the requirements of the Boston Bridge. Given the relatively low cost of Massachusetts state four-year schools, why not go straight to college and take advantage of the John and Abigail Adams scholarship, which already waives tuition for high-performing students?

That might be precisely the intention. Last year, the city’s Tuition Free Community College program covered only 50 students, although over 4,000 students were eligible. Granting that program was only in its first year, the number should be seen as discouraging, unless, that is, the city and the state want the credit for creating free college without actually paying for it.

The danger is that the voters will let them.


Parents Horrified by Drag Queen Performance at Grade School Talent Show

Children as young as 5 years old were exposed to a man's erotic drag show performance at the end of a school district talent show. Irate parents yelled and left the auditorium, but not before a full-grown man had begun gyrating, flipping his tongue, and flashing a G-string.

"People were horrified," Raquel Morales, a mother in the audience with her 10-year-old son, told the New York Daily News. "It looked like a nightclub performance. I've been asking for an apology from the district for the last week, and they've been ignoring it."

The two-hour talent show held on May 25 in Manhattan had billed the final performance as a "Special Surprise Performance!" After parents watched endearing performances by children who played various instruments and sang, they saw a grown man take the stage — in a black sequin dress, a flaming red wig, and pumps. He grinded the stage and spread his legs up in the air.

"My first reaction was what the hell is going on," Morales told Fox News' Todd Starnes. "I saw her doing things like sticking her legs out and shaking her bottom and it felt weird," her son said. "I don't know why they would do that for an elementary school."

When the drag queen dropped to the floor, the audience erupted.

“I left the show the minute he started sticking his tongue out,” one parent told the Daily News. “I had my children with me and I wasn’t going to allow them to see that.”

Morales filmed the seven-minute routine on her cell phone and gave Starnes the video.

"Once he got to that part it was chaos," Morales recalled. "People were yelling and leaving. A lot of parents were saying had they known this was going to happen they would have taken their kids out after they had performed."

The man who performed the drag routine was identified as Public School 96 Parent Association President Frankie Quinones.

The mother explained that "the school district told me the performance was about LGBT awareness," but her problem is not with the LGBT movement.

"I'm 100 percent against discrimination," Morales told Starnes. She insisted that her complaints are not about sexuality but about age-appropriate behavior. "The superintendent was the emcee — and she has a responsibility to protect all children," she said. "That wasn't a child performing. It was an adult."

Starnes suggested a new policy for elementary school talent shows: "If a drag queen wants to spread his legs and show off his G-string he should do that at a nightclub — not a public school talent show."

But Dr. Michael Brown, founder and president of FIRE School of Ministry in North Carolina, explained this phenomenon as a result of the widespread acceptance of the LGBT movement. Brown explained that the most offensive elements of the gay community led the original movement — drag queens were on the front lines of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, out, proud, and unashamed.

In the 1980s, gay leaders altered the strategy, putting forward a more family-oriented, less promiscuous, and less bizarre image.

"But now that so many of the goals of LGBT activism have been realized, there's no reason to push some of their own to the back of the bus, so to say," Brown argued.

Drag queens put pressure on Facebook in 2014 to alter the policy that users have to use their real name, not a made-up name, like a drag queen persona. Facebook caved.

A concerned parent from Bloomington, Indiana, wrote to Brown about a summer reading program for children. There was an announcement of an event this July — specifically for kids ages 2-6 — involving drag queens. "Learn about someone new! Local drag queens present stories and encourage us all to embrace our uniqueness," the announcement reads. Yes, the event is intended for kids between 2 and 6 years old.

Brown fittingly paraphrased the event this way: "Parents, bring your toddlers and little children to the library where local homosexual men who dress up as flamboyant women will read stories to them." This is just a clearer explanation of what will happen on July 21 at the Monroe County Public Library.

When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote about the importance of "dignity" in Obergefell v. Hodges, the case that legalized gay marriage across the country, did he have this in mind? When "love is love," where does society draw the line?

Now that the LGBT movement has achieved many paramount goals, their less savory elements start to emerge. Biological boys who identify as transgender are allowed to defeat biological girls in track. Transgender 9-year-old children are put on the cover of National Geographic. "Sesame Street" brought up the issue last year.

In 2013, Slate's Jillian Keenan noted that many social conservatives warned that gay marriage is a slippery slope. "Gay marriage is a slippery slope! A gateway drug! If we legalize it, then what's next? Legalized polygamy?" she wrote. Watch what comes next: "We can only hope." Yes, people are pushing for legalized polygamy and normalized polyamory.

 Drag queens are performing in front of kids, either in reading groups or talent shows. Parents are not amused — they thought Americans can live and let live, now that gay people can get married and transgender people won't get discriminated against. Instead, they find that the LGBT narrative is totalizing — it must pervade the culture, your children's innocence be damned.

Every line must be crossed — private things being shown in public, children being exposed to adult themes, and "age appropriate" boundaries crossed in every way possible. The idea of a childhood innocent of complicated issues like sexuality, gender identity, and drag queens may be a thing of the past, unless parents speak out, yesterday.


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