Schooled Reporting on education

Unforgivable debts

Education | White House considers canceling loan cancellation
by Laura Edghill
Posted 2/19/20, 02:02 pm

As Democratic Party presidential candidates promise to cancel Americans’ $1.6 trillion in student loan debt, President Donald Trump wants to end the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and eliminate subsidized federal loans.

The president has proposed dropping the loan forgiveness program in every budget he’s submitted, including the 2021 fiscal year proposal released last week. Congress has not acted on his recommendation.

Created in 2007, the program forgives student debts once participants complete 10 years of monthly payments while employed full time as teachers, nurses, police officers, or as nonprofit or government workers. The first eligible borrowers started claiming their benefits in the last three years.

But those claims have not gone smoothly for many who say they made their 10 years or 120 payments only to learn they did not meet the program’s complex eligibility rules.

Librarian Lynn Wallace has student loan debt and complained in the Tulsa World about the program’s complex regulations: “Fraudulent information about the Public Service Loan Forgiveness has left me with five extra years in repayment status.” Only 62 of her 118 payments counted toward the required 120, she said.

Trump and other critics of the program say it unfairly favors some careers over others. This year’s budget proposal, like those in previous years, recommends closing the program to new applicants while keeping it open for current participants like Wallace.

The president’s proposed budget also calls for the elimination of federally subsidized loans, in which the government pays the loan’s interest while students with financial need attend school or qualify for grace periods. The changes would end complicated formulas that determine which type and amount of loan qualify for subsidies, but the burden for repaying the interest would shift completely to the student.

Other proposed changes would reward faithful repayment and protect students and parents from overborrowing in the first place. These changes would cut the U.S. Department of Education’s budget by 8 percent.

Borrowers shouldn’t plan for these reforms anytime soon. The president’s proposed budget is merely the first step in a lengthy process governed by competing ideologies.

Associated Press/U.S. Attorney’s Office Associated Press/U.S. Attorney’s Office Lawrence Ray

‘Unspeakable abuse’

Police last week arrested the father of a former Sarah Lawrence College student and charged him with starting a sex cult in his daughter’s dorm. The charges include nine counts of sex trafficking, extortion, forced labor, and money laundering.

Prosecutors described how 60-year-old ex-convict Lawrence “Larry” Ray convinced his sophomore-year daughter and her friends to allow him to stay in their campus housing upon his release from prison in late 2010. Ray forged relationships with the young women, allegedly taking on a “father figure” role and conducting “therapy” sessions with them.

Ray reportedly groomed and exploited five students at the private liberal arts college in Yonkers, N.Y. He allegedly abused them physically, sexually, and psychologically and claimed they owed him money. Prosecutors said Ray directed his victims to drain their parents’ bank accounts and work for no pay at his family’s property in North Carolina. He also reportedly forced one into prostitution.

“Ray subjected his victims to almost unspeakable abuse,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said, citing a time Ray reportedly tied one young woman to a chair and placed a plastic bag over her head, nearly suffocating her. —L.E.

Associated Press/Photo by David Zalubowski (file) Associated Press/Photo by David Zalubowski (file) A vigil for victims of the shooting at STEM School Highlands Ranch

Guilty as charged

The younger of the two teens charged in the May 2019 deadly shooting at a suburban Denver high school pleaded guilty earlier this month to 17 felonies, including a first-degree murder charge. The attackers at STEM School Highlands Ranch wounded eight people and killed 18-year-old student Kendrick Castillo as he rushed shooters Maya “Alec” McKinney, 16, and Devon Erickson, 19. Under Colorado juvenile sentencing rules, McKinney could be eligible for parole after 25 years.

Erickson has pleaded not guilty to the same charges. His lawyers have characterized McKinney, a girl who identifies as a boy, as the ringleader and claim the younger student pressured Erickson to participate in the deadly attack.

Castillo received wide praise for his heroic actions. Officials said he kept the assault from becoming a larger tragedy. —L.E.

Laura Edghill

Laura Edghill is a freelance writer, church communications director, and public school board member living in Clinton Township, Mich., with her engineer husband and three sons. She is a graduate of the WORLD Journalism Institute's mid-career course. Follow Laura on Twitter @LTEdghill.

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  • AlanE
    Posted: Wed, 02/19/2020 10:12 pm

    Though I have no difficulty identifying problems with Trump, we are in complete agreement on this one. The program definitely favors some careers over others. I would prefer that the market, not the government, favor some careers over others and let those priorities shift as supply and demand shift. I'm even more excited about the prospect of doing away with federally subsidized student loans altogether. There's no way the government should be underwriting this cost for schools. When the government covers these costs and guarantees these loans, schools are effectively removed from responsibility for the quality of graduates they send out. And, it tends to produce an oversupply of college students.

    Finally, why a nurse would need as much as 10 years to pay back student loans in today's market is absolutely beyond me. 

  •  CaptTee's picture
    CaptTee
    Posted: Thu, 02/20/2020 12:47 pm

    It is the govenrment making student loas so easy to get that has allowed the cost of education to grow faster than costs in other sectors.

    The government has also skewed the market by making student loans practically bankruptcy proof.

    When this country was first settled indentured servitude was limited to 7 years. That seems like a reasonable limit for student loans. Any student loan still owed after 7 years should be the responsibility fo the school as a penalty for inadequately preparing their graduates.

  • OldMike
    Posted: Thu, 02/20/2020 04:12 pm

    I think the student loan situation is just another symptom of the decline in accepting responsibility for one’s actions. 

    How is it so many people feel they should be able to borrow money but not have to repay the debt?

  • OldMike
    Posted: Thu, 02/20/2020 04:21 pm

    Larry Ray is an evil predator, but tell me how his young victims were raised without the ability to see that. 

    These young women are obviously from successful families if they can afford Sarah Lawrence College. Yet they are apparently unable to function as independent adults. Are they only intended to “grow up” to be trophy wives for wealthy men?

    Sad. 

  • My Two Cents
    Posted: Thu, 02/20/2020 04:36 pm

    My niece and nephew both went into teaching. Both of them are in a remote, rural area, including  on an Indian Reservation. I can vouch for the complexity of eligibility. Neither one was eligible. One of the loans was taken out too long ago. Another requirement was they had to be in one place for a minimum number of years--not moving to a different school in the same area. One of them had the wrong type of loan. At the time they took out the loans, it was with the understanding they would pay them back. There was no such thing as loan forgiveness, and when the forgiveness program was presented to them, they each applied. I think there should be none for anybody. Abolish FAFSA, and let the free market and banks offer private loans. Banks offer car financing, personal loans, business loans, etc. I'm sure they can come up with a competive loan agreement for college students. 

    As for the second story, how? How does an ex-convict "convince" college girls to let him shack up in their dorm room? Where were the RAs? How could this abuse go on for so long with NOBODY saying or suspecting anything? I have a hard time believing he groomed FIVE college-educated young ladies to do the things he is charged with. 

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