Tag Archives: Bachelor’s Degree

Hasan Minhaj Goes to Washington

“You know the student loan crisis is bad when I’m asked to testify before Congress about it,” tweeted Hasan Minhaj, the popular host of political comedy series Patriot Act, on Netflix. Minhaj was invited by the House Financial Services Committee to share his findings, after a recent episode of Patriot Act investigated and discovered that deceptive practices employed by loan servicing companies like Navient was exacerbating the student loan crisis.

In fact, the day they shot the episode says Minhaj, a poll of about 200 people in his live studio audience showed they owed an incredible six million dollars of student debt “in that room alone,” a revelation that really hit home with members of his audience.

“Absurdly tragic”

On the episode, Minhaj illustrated how students and families are taking desperate measures to pay off crippling debt. Patriot Act aired excerpts from Paid Off, a comedic game show on truTV where contestants compete for money to pay off their student debt. Contestants earn a percentage of what they owed in loans for each correct answer and could clear their entire student loan if they guessed eight answers correctly. Paid Off host Michael Torpey called the student debt crisis an “absurdly tragic”  situation that was holding back millions of people and the nation’s economy.

Debt is Stacked Against Student Borrowers

Today 44 million Americans have outstanding student loan debt, which can take decades to pay off. Estimates show the average borrower owes more than $37,000 in debt, and more than 2 million student borrowers owe over $100,000 in loans. In the US, student borrowing is expected to hit $2 trillion by 2020.

“You paid far less for your degrees!”

“We know that debt is stacked against student borrowers, in ways that it wasn’t 10 or even 15 years ago”, noted Minhaj, who had done his homework on where the 60 members of the Financial Services Committee had gone to college and what they had paid in tuition.

He told committee members “ …you have paid far less for your degrees,” pointing out that in 1971, Chairwoman Maxine Waters would have paid the equivalent of only $1000 a year at Cal State, LA, while today, Cal State costs well over “…six grand a year, …more than a 500% jump.”

Members of the committee, who on average graduated 33 years ago, paid the equivalent of $11,690 a year, said Minhaj “even adjusting for inflation.” Over that period of time, wages have increased only by 16% while tuition costs have spiked by 110%, so that, “Today the average tuition at all of your same schools is almost $25,000.”

The American dream is slipping away from millennials

“The issue is sidelining millions of Americans,” says Minhaj (33), especially with his generation, who are putting off marriage, kids, home ownership and retirement. “Growing up, it was drilled into our heads, you gotta go to college, if you want a middle class job,” something  that “we even tell kids today.”

But people aren’t making more money and college is way more expensive creating ‘a paywall for the middle class’ that Americans don’t deserve, says Minhaj. The fact is that two-thirds of all jobs in America require a bachelor’s degree, at a minimum, a standard that was not the case, “when most members of this committee were in school.”

Though average student debt hovers around $30,000, most graduates even with bachelor’s degrees barely make a wage that covers cost of living and student loan bills.

As a result, borrowers facing crushing debt can barely afford everyday necessities like rent, groceries or car payments, while repayment struggles and poor credit ratings makes it difficult for many borrowers to buy homes or cars, start a business, or begin even new employment opportunities.

The Department of Education is one of the nation’s largest creditors

Minhaj made it clear that student borrowers are trying to take responsibility for paying their loans, despite reports to the contrary. “They are investing in education and trying to pay their loans back.” It is unfair to treat many borrowers “like deadbeats,” said Minhaj, especially when the government is to blame for placing the financial futures of debt-ridden students in the hands of unscrupulous, “predatory, for-profit loan servicing companies,” like Navient.

“The worst part,” of the student loan crisis, stated Minhaj, “is that borrowers don’t even get to choose their loan servicer – the Department of Education does that for them.”

Why the math doesn’t work at Navient

Minhaj singled out Navient as a prime example of a predatory, unregulated, loan servicing company that uses deceptive loan servicing practices – like placing borrowers in high-cost repayment options known as forbearances – to boost corporate profits.

Navient misled borrowers, “…pushing them into repayment plans that in some cases, have cost individual borrowers tens of thousands of dollars,” in compound interest, collection charges and late fees, while the lack of competition, said Minhaj, allows corrupt companies like Navient to get away with sub par service.

On September 18, new court documents released by SBPC (Student Borrower Protection Center) revealed that Navient executives plotted to cheat struggling student loan borrowers of billions in extra fees, while raking in taxpayer dollars and paying shareholders huge amounts of money. Senior executives at Navient planned to deceive borrowers by placing them in ‘forbearances,’ resulting in more than $4 billion in unnecessary interest charges passed on to borrowers, according to lawsuits filed by federal and state enforcement officials.

SBPC Executive Director Seth Frotman said in a statement, “The evidence unsealed today in federal court confirms that Navient’s practices that added billions of dollars of debt to struggling borrowers emanated from the top echelon of the company. This follows a decade-long pattern of Navient ripping off service members, disabled veterans, teachers, and American taxpayers. The time has come for policymakers to admit this company’s practices are predatory and corrupt—it should not be given a single additional taxpayer dollar.”

Students deserve better service, not bankruptcy

In his closing statement Minhaj reminded Congress that “students deserve better” from a government “we know is capable of stepping in during a financial crisis – so really all I’m asking today is why can’t we treat our student borrowers the way we treat our banks?”.

Students borrowers deserve some basic protections, Minhaj concluded, so that “Americans should not have to go bankrupt pursuing higher education.”

Meera Kymal is a Contributing Editor at India Currents.

Resources for student borrowers:
https://www.bankrate.com/loans/student-loans/how-fed-rate-cut-impacts-student-loans/

Community Colleges: A Well-Kept Secret

Community colleges are the often-overlooked institutions of learning, that are hidden gems in one’s backyard.

In India, the system of community colleges is seen as an alternative system of education that can be used to acquire trade skills, but not as a conduit to institutions of higher learning.  In the United States, on the other hand, community colleges are seen as junior colleges giving a leg up to those that need one, in climbing into the four-year college system. If the student so desires, he or she could earn college credits at the local community college and then transfer to a four-year educational institution in the United States. By completing two years worth of credits at a community college the student then needs to spend only two years at a University school like UCLA to earn a Bachelors degree. 

The aim of both the Indian and American systems, however, is to empower the disadvantaged and the underprivileged through appropriate skills-development, leading to gainful employment.  

The booming popularity of community colleges could also be attributed to President Obama, who was hailed as the “Community College President”, for funding and supporting these educational institutions.  During his campaign, Obama spoke regularly of the importance of community colleges in keeping America economically and educationally competitive in the 21st century.

The Evergreen Valley College (E.V.C.), located on a sprawling 175 acres in the eastern foothills of San Jose, California, is just such an institution that prepares students to transfer to four-year college systems, such as those of the Universities of California and California State Universities.  It has transfer agreements with all 23 California State Universities, 6 of the Universities of California, and some private universities. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges – a national accrediting body – the E.V.C. is the largest feeder community college to the San Jose State University.

Community colleges are especially attractive as stepping-stones to international students who need to improve key academic skills, including language skills, before obtaining admission to a Bachelor’s level program.  The credits earned at the community college help complete university education in a time- and cost-effective manner.

The Evergreen Valley College has a large number of international students from India.  Elizabeth Tyrrell, Director of the International Student Program, travels to India and meets high school students in order to explain the American community college system:  

“We have the 2 + 2 system.  At the end, students receive their Bachelor’s Degree from the 4-year institution (from which they graduate).  Almost all of E.V.C.’s international students transfer to accredited 4-year institutions.  94% of E.V.C.’s transfer-ready students do, in fact, transfer.  Students can apply and transfer beyond California and go to any university or college in the U.S.”

Evergreen Valley College is S.E.V.I.S. certified and approved by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to issue the I-20 Form, which is required to apply for a visa to study in the U.S.

Students from India do not need to take the S.A.T. or the T.O.E.F.L. exam, as long as their high school transcript is in English, and they come from an English medium high school.

The application process is more relaxed as well.  Students may apply for admission till as late as June 30, 2018 for the Fall semester that begins on 4 September, 2018, or apply between October 15 2018 and December 1, 2018, for the Winter session that starts on 28 January, 2019.

There is no question that the savings are significant when it comes to tuition. While the annual tuition at a Universityof California would cost approximately $41,000, a student would only pay $6748 at the Evergreen Valley College – a savings of nearly $35,000.  However, taking into account the cost of living – housing, transport, fun-money, books and supplies – students would be well-advised to budget for $21,500 for the year, per E.V.C.

In addition to the compelling financial savings, students also step into a learning environment akin to that of a University.  While at the beginning of each semester, students are responsible for signing up for classes, maintaining attendance, completing course work and submitting assignments, they have the added advantage of having Counselors on hand, to guide them in the choice of courses and help them meet the necessary pre-requisites for their Major.  

The average class size in community colleges is typically smaller.  While the student-teacher ratio at E.V.C. is only 28 – 45 students to 1 teacher, the class size at a U.C. can sometimes run to over 300 students.  Additionally, students in community colleges have Professors teaching the course themselves, while in large universities, the course may be taught by a Teaching Assistant.

The 2015 enrollment statistics published by the American Association of Community Colleges, reveal that 46%, of all the U.S. undergraduates, are community college students.  Of the 12 million students who go to community college in the U.S. every year, 2.1 million choose California community colleges.

Community colleges cater to the needs of the local job market and have professors who work closely with the students to groom them not only for the needs of the local area, but also equip them with skills that are transferrable beyond.  With the voracious appetite for new talent and the ever-changing skills needed in the Silicon Valley, community colleges provide an alluring and viable solution.

Says Michael Riordan, a tax accountant and teacher at a local Bay Area community college, of the merits of community colleges “This is a win-win situation.  Save your money for (the students’) Masters.”

For queries please contact: Elizabeth Tyrrell, Evergreen Valley College, 3095 Yerba Buena Road, San Jose, CA 95135 E-mail: International@evc.edu Phone: +1 (408) 270-6453

 

Ritu Marwah is the Features Editor at India Currents and is an avid student of educational systems.