It seems that we were just looking back at 2010….and yet another year has passed. As we get ready for a holiday vacation at Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project, we offer a few thoughts on 2011:
It was a year of ups and down in the fight against abuses in the for-profit higher education sector. Senator Harkin and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee investigated the sector and held a number of critical hearings. Senator Harkin and other policymakers focused on the targeting of military service members and veterans. There were many excellent articles on this topic, including this Huffington Post piece on the ways in which for-profit schools reap benefits from veterans. Holly Petraeus, assistant director for military affairs at the new Consumer FInancial Protection Bureau, among others, highlighted this national shame.
Christopher Beha wrote a provocative article in Harpers about his experience going undercover at a for-profit college. New America’s Stephen Burd wrote a series of articles on the job placement scandal in the for-profit industry.
We released two new reports focusing on the for-profit higher education sector, Piling It On (about institutional loans) and State Inaction (about problems with state oversight of for-profit schools).
Looking beyond for-profit industry issues, thanks in large part to the Occupy movement, student loan issues and general dissatisfaction with the outcomes (or lack of outcomes) in higher education gained national attention. Much of the media coverage focused on whether higher education is the next bubble. While this discussion raged, the amount of student loan debt surpassed credit card debt. Total student loans outstanding exceeded $1 trillion for the first time in 2011.
The cost of education kept rising in 2011 and students kept borrowing. Yet there were no serious efforts to roll back draconian student loan collection policies. Among other problems, legislation to restore bankruptcy relief for private student loan borrowers languished in Congress.
Much of the policy debate in 2011 centered around budget issues. Pell grants were no exception. The cost of preserving a minimally acceptable Pell grant level has been high as the Project on Student Debt noted in this December 2011 press release.
The new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened its doors in July 2011. Although it is currently operating without a director, the Bureau has already taken a leadership role on student loan issues. Among other actions, the CFPB released a new student loan tool for borrowers.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Education announced a new round of negotiated rulemaking for early 2012. The proposed agenda includes many issues of great concern to financially distressed borrowers. So stay tuned!