When I discussed the issue with Elizabeth Donovan, Deputy Press Secretary for HELP, she indicated that there had indeed been hearings on the Establishment schools and at my request kindly sent me copies of the witness statements. It struck me as strange that all of the testimony came from representatives of public schools, even though private schools (except Hillsdale College) receive substantial federal money.
I asked Ms. Donovan why representatives of private schools were not included, but she was unwilling to answer. I then asked whether there would be any similar studies released on Establishment schools. Again, she was unwilling to reply. But on September 13, 2012, the committee held a two-hour hearing on the soaring costs of Establishment schools. They concluded that costs are escalating because states are cutting their higher education budgets, and that schools are holding committee meetings and discussions in an effort to control costs. The reaction of the Senate committee was basically – that’s cool.
To its credit, the Republican minority, headed by Senator Enzi (R-Wyoming), issued a statement denouncing the For-Profit study. While acknowledging challenges in these particular schools, they asked the big question: why is so much effort being spent on For-Profit colleges, which represents 10% of the education industry, while Establishment schools, which represent 90%, are being ignored? It’s like focusing on your child’s performance in P.E. when they are failing math, English, and social studies. The minority enumerated the many reasons why the full report had been manipulated to make the industry look bad. And it questioned why Senator Harkin is unwilling to address the main issue – Establishment schools piling huge amounts of debt onto the public without a shred of accountability.
We deserve some real answers. Young adults are told that if they want to succeed, they must graduate from college. Today, parents are breaking themselves financially and their children are piling up ridiculous levels of debt. Increasingly, students are graduating with little hope of finding a job lucrative enough to pay off their debt, or with a degree that is useless for obtaining a position. And yet nobody asks why schools are issuing degrees in silly majors or why so many schools promote majors for which there is little demand for the graduates. More important, why are costs soaring way above the inflation rate, and why are the rapidly-increasing numbers of administrators getting paid so much? How about the falsehood of “not-for-profit” schools whose “one-class-a-week” professors earn salaries as high as $300,000 and college presidents earn $500,000 and up? There is nothing “not for profit” for these schools except their misleading titles.
Richard Cordray, Elizabeth Warren’s stand-in at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, broached the subject of why student loans are excluded from bankruptcy and suggested a rule change. I suspect that President Obama may in his second term run with this proposal, which means that a large portion of another $1 trillion – as well as any debt incurred in the future – will be dumped on the shoulders of American taxpayers. The Administration bemoans the debt level, but does nothing to correct the root causes. Obama’s ally in the Senate spends his time fiddling with 10% of the schools while Rome is burning.
Then again, is anyone really surprised?