THE STUDENT LOAN SCANDAL IS MORE ABOUT A SYSTEM GONE AWRY, THAN A FEW BAD APPLES IN THE BARREL

first_imgColleges who are need-blind, meaning they will admit student regardless of financial need, are increasingly blind to students’ financial need once admitted. An example of this a practice called gapping students, which leaves some of the demonstrated need unmet by the colleges. Colleges use financial aid to manage their enrollment by providing better awards to those students who they really want and by gapping those they secretly hope will go somewhere else or who they think (sometimes wrongly) are likely to go somewhere else.One of the ways they do this is by pretending that a PLUS loan (Parent Loan for Undergraduate Students) is need-based aid, when he or she isn’t. This behavior eventually turns the parents of needy students into a home-based admissions office since, in the end, it is the parent, and not the college, who has to “reject” the student’s wish to go to the school of their choice because of unexpected high college costs.While developing a code of conduct of college practices with student loan companies is a good start, what we really need is a code of conduct for the entire financial aid system.Schools should need to live up to certain expectations of providing the appropriate financial aid packages to needy students before seeing aid from the federal government. If universities want federal support, they would need to find sufficient resources at the school and state level to ensure that gapping students is no longer “necessary.”Another way to avoid student gapping would be to put more power behind schools that need more money by doubling and tripling the government support as incentives to schools to give out enough financial aid. By Paul WrubelTHE recent massive response to the now endlessly explored student loan scandal, marked by the firing of key responsible personnel and several colleges admitting to mea culpa, is not enough. In removing a few bad apples, and moving on — ergo today’s Associated Press article announcing that Catherine Thomas, chief of financial aid at University of Southern California has retired amid allegations of violating the school’s conflict of interest policies — we are overlooking the need to give the whole college financial aid system and the world of college funding in general a second look. There is more to the story than a few colleges engaging in a clumsy kickback scheme.As the New York Attorney General’s office continued the investigation, what was once misconduct of three school officials, quickly snowballed into subpoenas issued to alumni associations including UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz and San Jose State, investigations into a former senior official at the Federal Education Department and million dollar settlements between student loan companies, schools and students.We are all saddened by the realization that colleges need a code of conduct imposed by outsiders. Colleges like Columbia University, long a beacon of trust, need not only be guided by a code of conduct, but also be monitored regularly by an outside agency. Those institutions are filled with intelligent people who have been steeped in courses in ethics and moral conduct, so there is no way they can cop a plea of ignorance. The government would be able to find these funds by phasing out the benefits to more affluent schools that do not need as much financial aid from federal funds.If a school has billions of dollars in endowments, it does not need as much from the government as the university that cannot afford to supply appropriate financial aid to its students.Then there is the financial aid formula itself, one that offers clear ways to qualify for more aid. Currently, some of those strategies are nonsensical and completely counter-intuitive. For instance students who work after school in the summer and save that money for college are penalized by the financial aid formula by reducing their eligibility for financial aid by up to 50 percent of combined value of wages and savings.To discourage students from working to support their parents and put money aside for college doesn’t make sense. The federal methodology should be adjusted to correct this.As one of the last bastions of unregulated conduct proves that it does, in fact, need to be regulated, it becomes clear that we are not talking about a few bad apples spoiling a good barrel. Maybe removing them is simply treating a symptom. Maybe the real cause is not what’s in the barrel but the barrel itself.Paul Wrubel is a private practice college funding adviser and also works as a consultant with schools and service organizations wishing to create college support programs.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more