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April 23, 2015

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Lurker

Steven Freedman and AnotherSeniorLawProf - this is a posting from the website "outside the law school scam." I think you should both read this and consider what the real life consequences are a very high proportion of the students recruited to law schools. This posting was made partly in response to the debate where Freedman is feigning outrage at Campos' comments and AnotherSeniorLawProf thinks is just a source of amusement. Perhaps before either of you trivialise what has happened to so many graduates you will read this. Better still you will show it to your children and say - "this is what daddy does to some people" and ask, is the outrage misplaced? I have replaced some of the profanities to make it past the filter, but they seem appropriate:

_____________________________

"Law school destroyed my life. The debt just grows, because I cannot pay it down. My situation is so untenable, I cannot even bring myself to speak about it any detail anonymously. It has not yet taken my life, but I expect it to at some point when I simply do not have yet another monumental effort left in me. What has not yet killed you does not make you stronger, it makes you tired.

A history of monumental efforts is the shared history of any poor student who has had to fight to get an education in shit public schools, fight to afford undergrad, working the whole time, and survive through all the attendant social difficulties that lands families in poverty in the first place.

These "professors" and the principals of these "schools" are F******G. SC*MB*GS.

The now-relentless targeting of the poor - because that's the common theme, not skin color, poverty - with promises of good jobs, economic safety, and power in society by these f******g evil, lying, predatory mother f*****rs, in combination with a set of carefully designed, fully intentional federal laws that are 100% punitive in the treatment of debt (that allegedly exists for the benefit of students) makes me want to see this country end.

How in god's name did we get the point of government-assisted fraud that lures POOR students with a ***hope of rising out of poverty*** through their own efforts that is guaranteed to keep the poor in poverty for the rest of their lives?

I watched the very same thing happen to my friends who were not from wealthy or even stable families, some of whom had no living parents get fucking scammed by one of the schools featured above. It destroyed their lives too.

***

Of course I'm on IBR, but I wonder why I even bother be on it as opposed to defaulting. I cannot keep the interest from growing the balance - an interest rate which per the government is negatively subsidized at 6% (meaning 6% is the profit margin).

The terms of wage garnishment in event of a default are identical to IBR - exclude poverty level from the gross, sliding, income-based scale up to 15%. Why bother anymore?

IBR is semantics. It exists to keep money flowing to schools that should not be receiving it because the default rate among their recent graduating classes is too high.

I will never be credit-worthy carrying this balance, although I have no other debt. I had a car loan once that I paid off. I never used credit cards. I've worked since I was 12 years old. My paper route was feeding my family. I have always been the working poor.

Move on to what?

A combined, state, federal, IBR tax rate of 50% which ensures I will always be the working poor? I cannot get married, because of the government moving to consider a non-debtor spouse's income in IBR. I will never be able to afford to have children. I will never own a major asset.

What am I living for?

Am I living for the consent financial stress that I have no reasonable basis to believe will ever abate? I'm unable to afford the doctor when I get sick. The government promises to garnish my SSDI should I become disabled, and my SSI should I ever retire.

So, why keep doing this?

To pay back money that flowed to a fraud outfit, at a price that was inflated and inflated under me massively over 3 years because of uncapped GradPLUS loans? To pay interest that was never lent to me that is7%+ in excess of the risk-free rate when I cannot declare bankruptcy or even default?

This is insane. Sooner or later, it's enough and you just quit."

BW

Campos needs to get out of his ivory tower in academia and out into the real world, and try to learn why his comparisons to the Holocaust and slavery are so deeply offensive. FormerEditor's earlier comment is so true. Please try to understand why.

Steven Freedman

@ Lurker

Of course I sympathize with anyone who is struggling financially due to student loans or any other kind of debt or hardship. I wish law school was a guarantee for a successful career and life, but obviously that is impossible. I've had friends like the poster for whom law school did not work out very well, with debt adding to their worries. But for every story like the poster's, I can share a far greater number of stories from alumni and friends who found success after attending law school.

Not to turn this into a debate over IBR, but I should note that this post raises a few issues, many related to a misunderstanding of IBR and how substantial the benefits are. The poster minimizes the benefits because IBR "only" reduces loan repayments to 15% of monthly income minus 150% of the poverty line. In fact, this is a huge advantage to borrowers.

For example, let's take the example of someone who borrowed $200,000 and is struggling to make it. Let's say all they've found is temp and contract work making $35,000 per year. Without IBR and without extending the loans, this person's monthly loan repayment would be an unsustainable $2,310 per month. With IBR, it's $145 per month. Let's say the person does a bit better and makes $50,000 per year. The monthly repayment would rise to $270 per month. These are hardly draconian monthly payments. (note: all these estimates were made by using the student loan calculator found on the DOE website at studentloans.gov). While underpaying will result in additional interest accruing, all principal and interest is forgiven after twenty years. Depending on the size of the loan forgiveness, there could be a substantial tax impact.

Also, the poster is wrong about how marriage will affect his or her loan payments. Since 2010, borrowers have had the option of including or excluding spousal income from the repayment calculations. So he or she should feel free to get married without worrying how this will affect his payments.

I'm not trying to minimize the poster's distress, clearly he or she is facing stress related to debt and the poster's apparent failure to find success in his or her career. I wish the poster the best of luck and am thankful IBR is there to help individuals like the poster.

Lurker

So to summarize, you don't think there is a problem because of IBR.

Let's be very clear IBR is a program that is intended to be a safety net - a poverty program. This person made this posting yesterday, but you are now explaining how their description of their situation is not valid? Moreover, up thread after saying law school could do better, you said you agreed with the "BLS reports employment" that way argument.

What has happened to far to many law graduates persuaded into law school by false promises is personal economic catastrophe. This person is suicidal and there have been suicides. Many of the victims of the "scam" write to Campos - he posts their letters. Do you think someone who receives story after story from people in this situation is not supposed to furious at the smug preaching of a Law School Admissions Dean - one who agrees that it was acceptable to search for a definition to make false information technically accurate.

Why don't you take my challenge - gather some of these stories and read them to your kids and say "this is what daddy does?" Or do you think they are fiction? You seem to.

Stan

Steven, if you knew of a degree in which 90% of the recipients become instant millionaires, but 10% become functionally disabled, never able to work again, would you recommend that now is a great time to pursue that degree?

Lets take that hypothetical further: Even if the vast majority of law students end up better off (a fantasy, but were at TFL so let us entertain it anyway), it seems extremely unethical to suggest, induce, market, or otherwise positively influence someone to pursue that degree given that a non-zero number of those people will have their lives affirmatively ruined by that choice (for the record, IBR is in no way shape or form a sufficient safety net here).

For me, the answer is absolutely not.

Finally, one interesting question that just occurred to me is in regards to reliance. With respect to the lawsuits against bottom tier schools, if the Courts are correct and statistics published by schools themselves were so vague so as to be meaningless, thereby eliminating reasonable reliance, why is there such a hubbub over what Campos and his merry band of hitler-loving scambloggers write?

I mean surely if the statistics published by the schools themselves could have no effect on prospective students, the gripings of one anti-christ Colorado professor at one school on one blog would be essentially meaningless.

Unless of course those statistics and those blogs do in fact have a very real and very substantial effect (why else make them or write them?). Well I guess if that was the case, I suppose you would need your own peer-reviewed study to tout in order to counteract that narrative, or maybe Op-Eds, or maybe admissions deans getting the word out. Any number of things really.

tl;dr: I find great irony in the academy proclaiming the overwhelming value in post-JD outcomes, as it appears the entire intent of that proclamation is to increase matriculation numbers, thereby taking great pains to avoid said positive value for themselves.

Steven Freedman

@ stan

I think your hypothetical just described the NFL. Here at KU Law we've gone several thousand work days without physically harming our students.

As for your and Lurker's other points, here's my response. I think law school is an excellent choice for a graduate program. Of course there is risk and students should consider the risk when making that decision. Even before law schools improved our employment stats reporting, I think every reasonable person could have and should have been aware that pursuing a graduate degree of any kind, including a law degree, entails significant financial risk. At the very least, bar pass rates have always been around the 85-90% range and all of my classmates knew that failing the bar was a real risk. To my knowledge, even Harvard has never reported a 100% employment rate, so I don't think anyone was misled into believing law graduates were guaranteed a job after graduation. Admissions folks aren't shy about offering positive reasons to attend law school, but I don't recall ever hearing an admissions person before or since who boasted that law school was a risk-free endeavor, prospective students shouldn't think carefully about the decision, and instead they should just jump right in.

So there's a risk in attending law school. There is also the risk of not pursuing a law degree and giving up the chance to achieve your career and personal goals. This week I spoke with the following recent KU Law alumni: a public defender in Missouri, an export compliance analyst at a major southern university, an IP law associate in Denver, and an attorney in child and family services at a Kansas state agency. I also was in touch with some older alumni, a chief general counsel at a major area corporation and two biglaw partners with health law practices. They all took risks, and they all seem happy at the outcome.

So I guess I could throw that hypothetical back at you. If you knew that 90% of people entering a program would be thankful they did, but 10% would suffer varying degrees of personal and financial distress (mitigated by IBR), would you recommend that now is a terrible time to enter law school?


BoredJD

Steven, the comment said:

"I cannot get married, because of the government moving to consider a non-debtor spouse's income in IBR."

The comment is alluding to the political headwinds, which all indicate that IBR/PAYE/PSLF are going to be scaled back for so-called "high-income" borrowers (even based on Obama's proposals, not the even more draconian proposals that will probably be put forward by the GOP). These are changes that are in no small part due to law schools touting IBR as the get out of debt free card so they can keep raising tuition. For once this isn't actually empty rhetoric- law schools were so obvious about using IBR as an enrollment tactic and telling students they could dump their debt on the taxpayer that they moved a gridlocked federal government to actually do something. In the current political climate that is truly amazing.

And as an admissions counselor, if you are currently pitching PSLF or PAYE, you need to disclose to students that the current terms of the program may not be around when they graduate or even when they enroll. Otherwise, your sales tactics haven't changed a whit from the old days of 2009.

BoredJD

For clarification, when I said "your sales tactics haven't changed a whit from the old days of 2009" I was referring to law schools generally, not to you or KU personally.

Stan

Absolutely not. In fact, unless someone gets into HSY, I go out of my way to dissuade them. I talk to everyone that I can about the unmitigated disaster that is my post-graduation life in an effort to open their eyes.

Probably because, unlike you, I view $200k of un-repayable and unforgivable debt as about as close to "physical harm" as one can get. I do not believe that I am alone either. Far from it. Honest to god if I could trade a finger or two for debt forgiveness I'd at least look at the knife.

From above, you seem to think the risk is akin to not passing the bar. I seem to think the risk is a colossal, inescapable financial black hole from which twenty-somethings can never recover.

Face it, in today's economy, law school is no different than gambling. If you want to work for the casino, that is ok. I hold no ill will towards you (in fact, I would imagine that many of you and many of your colleagues recognize the outcomes of their students, but are faced with the same choice many undergrads do when considering whether or not to enroll in the first place: "If not this, then what else is there?"

But when you go beyond mere employment, and actively try to get more people in the door, that is where I lose my mind with fury. These are real people with real lives, and for the ones that don't make it, there is no recourse of any kind. There is no "start over."

I don't expect or even ask you to be part of the solution. Just don't make it worse.


Jojo

Steve,

But do you consider law to be an excellent grad program AT CURRENT PRICES? And if so, for how many students per year is it an excellent grad program? 30,000 grads? 45,000 grads? 60,000? 100,000? And if so, should Uncle Sam be backstopping it for full cost?

CHS

Stan, when you say "HYS" are you speaking metaphorically? You mean that you would tell someone not to go to Columbia or the University of Chicago?

Stan

Correct. In my experience, HYS alone offer the prestige and connections sufficient to outweigh the price of admission. UoC and Columbia are obviously fine institutions with very bright people. But I have to draw the line somewhere, and that is where I personally draw it.

---
One interesting thing about this entire debate is the relative prestige of different actors. That Leiter - a professor at Chicago and, all evidence to the contrary, likely a very bright man - continuously defends law schools as a whole astonishes me, as he is not at a school that really is a problem. Overall, Chicago kids do just fine for themselves.

Meanwhile, Campos / DJM / Brian T all teach at State schools, while still full of bright and competent people, are far less prestigious. Yet they continually advocate for reform, against their own self interest (which is why they probably garner the support that they do on the interweb). To Diamond's credit, his views are consistent with his institution. But even SCU probably avoids the label "diploma mill."

What I really cannot understand is why there is not widespread condemnation of truly predatory institutions (Infinilaw, Cooley, etc). You would think that all parties could at least agree that these places should be shut down immediately.

Steven Freedman

@ mack

I deleted your last post as it contains a number of personal attacks. Feel free to re-post the other parts, but without the attacks.

Steven Freedman

@ truthseeker

Whoa, slow down there. I've removed your post because it's bizarrely aggressive. I encourage you to re-post your comment without the attacks or the attitude. My understanding based on attending financial aid sessions from experts is that if married couples file separately, the IBR calculation is done separately. Here's a website that sums this up. Tell me if filing separately does or doesn't solve the problem. Please do so in a calm, non-threatening manner. I'm genuinely interested in the response because it is my understanding that IBR recipients can exclude spousal income if they file separately.

Steven Freedman

Here's the link:
http://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/should-married-borrowers-file-joint-or-separate-federal-income-tax-returns-with-income-based-repayment

Observer

Read Ursula Le Guin's short story "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas".

To what extent is this story a metaphor for the modern American law school?

CHS

Interesting perspective, Stan. I don't agree, but that's okay. As for Leiter, I know he is a bête-noire on these threads--any one that goes past a few posts will almost invariably contain some reference to him---but he was actually a critic of law schools' reporting statistics before Campos et.al. I think it grew, in part, out of his attempt to create an alternative ranking system to U.S. News.

Steven Freedman

I have good news for TruthSeeker, who became very upset because he or she thought I had provided misinformation regarding the effects of marriage on IBR. Truthseeker's concern was that in community property states, AGI is split between husbands and wives. This would negatively affect a borrower's IBR repayment obligation. Well, with a h/t to Heather Jarvis, I can offer some truth to Mr. or Ms. Seeker.

Per DOE regs, the DOE permits IBR borrowers to submit evidence of a borrower's actual income so that the IBR payment will be based solely on the borrower's income, and not the combined income of the spouses. I've closed comments, so I'm going to accept an apology on the assumption TS would have posted one if comments were open.

For those interested in the CFR cites provided by Heather Jarvis, here's the weblink: http://askheatherjarvis.com/forums/viewthread/8534.

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