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The Neoliberal Myth of Meritocracy caucus99percent
I wrote this essay nearly a year ago, and I am recycling it because it explains why those in the seats of power refuse to do anything to help the average citizen. It is more than just greed. It is more like a religious belief that they are better than the rest of us. It infects both parties, but it has been exposed for the rest of the world to see just how deeply embedded this philosophy is within the Democratic party. Meritocracy forms the bedrock of neoliberalism. I hope JtC won't mind that I republish this essay with a few small updates.
As many of you may already know, Thomas Frank has a book out titled, Listen Liberal: Or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People. In this book, Frank examines how the Democratic Party abandoned its traditional commitments to the working class, the poor, and those in the greatest need.
In an April 26, 2016, New York Time book review, Beverly Gage noted that Frank's book, Listen Liberal, is a scathing indictment of the liberal class and particularly the Democratic party.
Echoing the historian Lily Geismer, Frank argues that the Democratic Party — once “the Party of the People” — now caters to the interests of a “professional-managerial class” consisting of lawyers, doctors, professors, scientists, programmers, even investment bankers. These affluent city dwellers and suburbanites believe firmly in meritocracy and individual opportunity, but shun the kind of social policies that once gave a real leg up to the working class. In the book, Frank points to the Democrats’ neglect of organized labor and support for Nafta as examples of this sensibility, in which “you get what you deserve, and what you deserve is defined by how you did in school.”
This mindset of the neoliberal class based upon meritocracy is a major contributing factor to wealth inequality in the United States and yet most Americans fail to see the linkage. As Thomas Frank so deftly pointed out in his book, there is a real arrogance of the neoliberal class toward the rest of us and such was clearly demonstrated in the words of Larry Summers who has served as Treasury Secretary, President of Harvard, and former chief economist for the World Bank.
“One of the reasons that inequality has probably gone up in our society is that people are being treated closer to the way that they’re supposed to be treated,” Summers commented early in the Obama administration.
“Remember, as you let that last sentence slide slowly down your throat, that this was a Democrat saying this,” Frank writes. From this mind-set stems everything that the Democrats have done to betray the masses, from Bill Clinton’s crime bill and welfare reform policies to Obama’s failure to rein in Wall Street, according to Frank.
This belief in "meritocracy" forms the core basis for neoliberalism. Meritocracy theoretically rewards individuals with power and wealth based upon their merit only while ignoring the structural reasons why some individuals can more easily succeed due to family wealth and or connections. Such connections can result in legacy appointments to the right schools and family connections to facilitate success. The belief in meritocracy is widely accepted in the United States despite much evidence to the contrary.
Americans are more likely to believe that people are rewarded for their intelligence and skills and are less likely to believe that family wealth plays a key role in getting ahead. And Americans’ support for meritocratic principles has remained stable over the last two decades despite growing economic inequality, recessions, and the fact that there is less mobility in the United States than in most other industrialized countries.
In a December 2015 article in the Atlantic, The False Promise of Meritocracy, author Marianne Cooper examines how skewed the idea of meritocracy is within the real world and why it has greatly contributed to the exacerbation of income inequality in the United States. Studies of hiring and promotions in companies has shown that there is nearly always a bias toward white males when compared to minorities and women.
The paradox of meritocracy builds on other research showing that those who think they are the most objective can actually exhibit the most bias in their evaluations. When people think they are objective and unbiased then they don’t monitor and scrutinize their own behavior. They just assume that they are right and that their assessments are accurate. Yet, studies repeatedly show that stereotypes of all kinds (gender, ethnicity, age, disability etc.) are filters through which we evaluate others, often in ways that advantage dominant groups and disadvantage lower-status groups. For example, studies repeatedly find that the resumes of whites and men are evaluated more positively than are the identical resumes of minorities and women.
In a recent article for In These Times, author Thomas Frank looks at the city of Boston as microcosm of neo-liberalism and the culture of meritocracy. Boston stands out as an example of a once strongly blue collar liberal city that has abandoned its working class in favor of high paying medical and academic industries. What has resulted is a class of people who are doing very well while the rest of the population is stagnating or losing ground financially.
To think about it slightly more critically, Boston is the headquarters for two industries that are steadily bankrupting middle America: big learning and big medicine, both of them imposing costs that everyone else is basically required to pay and which increase at a far more rapid pace than wages or inflation. A thousand dollars a pill, 30 grand a semester: the debts that are gradually choking the life out of people where you live are what has made this city so very rich.
Perhaps it makes sense, then, that another category in which Massachusetts ranks highly is inequality. Once the visitor leaves the brainy bustle of Boston, he discovers that this state is filled with wreckage—with former manufacturing towns in which workers watch their way of life draining away, and with cities that are little more than warehouses for people on Medicare. According to one survey, Massachusetts has the eighth-worst rate of income inequality among the states; by another metric it ranks fourth. However you choose to measure the diverging fortunes of the country’s top 10% and the rest, Massachusetts always seems to finish among the nation’s most unequal places.
The big problem here is not that income inequality is due to a myriad of neoliberal excuses such as lack of training for the new economy or that unions are the causes. But in reality, it is the greed of the rent seeking neoliberal class that is defining aspect of the neoliberal ideology and that somehow meritocracy should be rewarded when the deck is stacked against most of the American workforce.
No where did we see the way that the meritocracy thinks than in the Hillary Clinton campaign. Hillary Clinton simply could not grasp populism. Populism is for people outside her own class and it was beyond her ability to either understand it or grasp the impact of it upon the Presidential campaign.
In "Shattered," a new autopsy of Hillary Clinton's campaign, authors Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes say Clinton failed to understand the rise of populism surrounding candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
Here is a link to a short video in which the authors discuss Clinton's reaction to populism. The members of the meritocracy such as Hillary Clinton and most of those running the Democratic party are so far removed from real people, they can not even understand the electorate.
Jan 22, 2021 | www.unz.com
Curmudgeon , says: January 21, 2021 at 10:20 pm GMT • 3.7 hours ago@James Speaks rn. I'm not fine with assuming that the end product will automatically produce merit beyond what meritocracy is today – brown-nosing. True merit is you have demonstrated you can do it.Uncoy , says: Website January 21, 2021 at 10:52 pm GMT • 3.2 hours ago
The last 40+ years have seen an endless stream of "bright boys" graduating university with MBAs, getting involved in the management structure as "change agents", screwing up the business for 5 years then "taking another opportunity" to screw up a different company.
Prof. Henry Mintzberg calls them the wrong people, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason, because they don't have a clue how the real world works. But hey, they are high IQ people, so they must have merit.@Curmudgeon r medicine and sophisticated writing. The issue is that these individual were poorly educated – first and foremost in the "greed is good" school of the America. After sipping deeply of this dead-end, destructive ethical framework, these individuals were then carefully trained on how to extract value from an economy/a company rather than add value.
High IQ is still desperately needed for progress and to maintain civilisation. But put to ill-use, high IQ individuals can wreak commensurately wreak greater havoc.
Analogies could be made to guns, armies, cars. All of them can be put to exceptionally ill-use. Few would argue that a modern nation can live without automobiles or some kind of armed defence force.
Jun 18, 2020 | www.nakedcapitalism.comYves here. Meritocracy is a pet topic, or perhaps more accurately, a pet peeve. This 2007 Conference Board Review article explains why meritocracy is unattainable , so the whole idea was always problematic.
Chinese mandarins, who won their positions via performance on the imperial examination, are an early, if not the first, example of a meritocratic system. Napoleon standardized education throughout France with the explicit goal of making it possible for poor but bright boys to be identified and further schooled to become bureaucrats.
This article includes issues regularly discussed in comments, such as how higher education has come to be mainly about credentialing. It provides a high-level, accessible discussion of how whatever value the idea of meritocracy had in theory, it has become perverted in practice.
By Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a former economics professor, who was United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development, and received the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. Originally published at the Inter Press Service
How often have you heard someone lamenting or even condemning inequality in society, concluding with an appeal to meritocracy? We like to think that if only the deserving, the smart ones, those we deem competent or capable, often meaning the ones who are more like us, were in charge, things would be better, or just fine.
Since the 1960s, many institutions, the world over, have embraced the notion of meritocracy. With post-Cold War neoliberal ideologies enabling growing wealth concentration, the rich, the privileged and their apologists invoke variants of 'meritocracy' to legitimize economic inequality.
Instead, corporations and other social institutions, which used to be run by hereditary elites, increasingly recruit and promote on the bases of qualifications, ability, competence and performance. Meritocracy is thus supposed to democratize and level society.
Ironically, British sociologist Michael Young pejoratively coined the term meritocracy in his 1958 dystopian satire, The Rise of the Meritocracy. With his intended criticism rejected as no longer relevant, the term is now used in the English language without the negative connotations Young intended.
It has been uncritically embraced by supporters of a social philosophy of meritocracy in which influence is supposedly distributed according to the intellectual ability and achievement of individuals.
Many appreciate meritocracy's two core virtues. First, the meritocratic elite is presumed to be more capable and effective as their status, income and wealth are due to their ability, rather than their family connections.
Second, 'opening up' the elite supposedly on the bases of individual capacities and capabilities is believed to be consistent with and complementary to 'fair competition'. They may claim the moral high ground by invoking 'equality of opportunity', but are usually careful to stress that 'equality of outcome' is to be eschewed at all cost.
As Yale Law School Professor Daniel Markovits argues in The Meritocracy Trap, unlike the hereditary elites preceding them, meritocratic elites must often work long and hard, e.g., in medicine, finance or consulting, to enhance their own privileges, and to pass them on to their children, siblings and other close relatives, friends and allies.
Meritocracy is supposed to function best when an insecure 'middle class' constantly strives to secure, preserve and augment their income, status and other privileges by maximizing returns to their exclusive education. But access to elite education – that enables a few of modest circumstances to climb the social ladder – waxes and wanes.
Most middle class families cannot afford the privileged education that wealth can buy, while most ordinary, government financed and run schools have fallen further behind exclusive elite schools, including some funded with public money. In recent decades, the resources gap between better and poorer public schools has also been growing.
Elite universities and private schools still provide training and socialization, mainly to children of the wealthy, privileged and connected. Huge endowments, obscure admissions policies and tax exemption allow elite US private universities to spend much more than publicly funded institutions.
Meanwhile, technological and social changes have transformed the labour force and economies greatly increasing economic returns to the cognitive, ascriptive and other attributes as well as credentials of 'the best' institutions, especially universities and professional guilds, which effectively remain exclusive and elitist.
As 'meritocrats' captured growing shares of the education pies, the purported value of 'schooling' increased, legitimized by the bogus notion of 'human capital'. While meritocracy transformed elites over time, it has also increasingly inhibited, not promoted social mobility.
A Different Elite
Thus, although meritocrats like to see themselves as the antithesis of the old 'aristocratic' elite, rather than 'democratize' society through greater inclusion, meritocracy may even increase inequality and further polarize society, albeit differently.
While the old 'aristocratic' elite was often unable to ensure their own children were well educated, competent and excellent, meritocrats – who have often achieved their status and privileges with education and related credentials – have often increased their significance.
Hence, a meritocratic system – seemingly open to inclusion, ostensibly based on ability – has become the new means for exclusion, which Chicago University Professor Raghuram Rajan attributes to the digital revolution.
Meritocrats have increased the significance of schooling, with credential attainment legitimizing growing pay inequality, as they secure even better education for thus own children, thus recreating and perpetuating inequalities.
Recent public doubts about, and opposition to rising executive remuneration, MBA education, professional guild cartels and labour remuneration disparities reflect the growing delegitimization of ostensibly meritocratic hierarchies and inequalities.
High Moral Ground
To add insult to injury, meritocratic ideology suggests that those excluded are undeserving, if not contemptible. With progressive options lacking middle class and elite support, those marginalized have increasingly turned to 'ethno-populism' and other 'communal' appeals in this age of identity politics.
Unsurprisingly, their opposition to educational and economic inequalities and marginalization is typically pitted against the ethnic 'Other' – real, imagined or 'constructed' – typically seen as 'foreign', even if domestic, as the 'alien within'.
Markovits argues that meritocracy undermines not only itself, but also democratic and egalitarian ideals. He insists that meritocracy also hurts the new 'meritocratic' and 'technocratic' elite, hoping to recruit them to the anti-meritocracy cause, perhaps reflecting his appreciation of the need to build broad inclusive coalitions to bring about social transformation.
"Progressives inflame middle-class resentment, and trigger elite resistance while demagogues and charlatans monopolize and exploit meritocracy's discontents. Meritocratic inequality therefore induces not only deep discontent but also widespread pessimism, verging on despair."
Reducing Inequality Possible
In the US and elsewhere, tax policy, other incentives and even Covid-19 will encourage replacing mid-skilled workers with automation and highly skilled professionals, e.g., facilitated by the growing use of artificial intelligence applications.
One alternative is to reform labour market as well as tax policies and regulations to promote more skilled, 'middle-class' employment. Those introducing new technologies would then be motivated to enable more productive, higher income, middle-class employment.
A more open, inclusive and broader educational system would also provide the workforce needed for such technologies. Thus, the transitions from school to work, which have tended to increase inequality, can be transformed to reduce inequality.
Rather than de-skill workers to be paid less in order to become more profitable, 'up-skilling' workers to be more productive can also be profitable. For example, an Indian cardio-thoracic hospital has trained nurses for many routine medical procedures, allowing specialist doctors to focus on tasks really requiring their expertise.
At relatively lower cost, using workers who are not fully trained doctors, but are paid and treated better, can cost-effectively deliver important healthcare services at lower cost at scale. Such innovations would strengthen the middle class, rather than undermine and erode it.
Sound of the Suburbs , June 18, 2020 at 5:02 am
New Labour talked about a meritocracy. A classless society where anyone could get to the top through their own hard work, drive and ambition. In a meritocracy those at the top do get their on their own merit and deserve their rewards.
In a meritocracy those at the bottom are there through their own lack of effort and others shouldn't feel responsible for them
But what happened? We adopted meritocratic ideas, but never created a meritocracy.
What does a meritocracy look like?
1) In a meritocracy everyone succeeds on their own merit. This is obvious, but to succeed on your own merit, we need to do away the traditional mechanisms that socially stratify society due to wealth flowing down the generations. Anything that comes from your parents has nothing to do with your own effort.
2) There is no un-earned wealth or power, e.g inheritance, trust funds, hereditary titles. In a meritocracy we need equal opportunity for all. We can't have the current two tier education system with its fast track of private schools for people with wealthy parents.
3) There is a uniform schools system for everyone with no private schools.
New Labour's meritocratic vision won a landslide victory in 1997, they just never followed through to actually create that meritocratic society where everyone has equal opportunity. All we got were the meritocratic ideas.
Those at the top got there on a playing field tilted in their favour, but they swan around thinking they got to the top in a meritocracy.
The poor suffer the legacy of New Labour's meritocratic ideas with people thinking we live in a meritocracy and the poor are poor through their own lack of effort.
This is the worst of both worlds, meritocratic ideas without a meritocracy.
Sound of the Suburbs , June 18, 2020 at 5:09 am
In a proper meritocracy you wouldn't be able to use your money to ensure your children succeeded. (Even someone like Boris can become Prime Minister, if you can afford the 30k a year fees for Eton. Look at Trump, inherited wealth personified.)
When you can't guarantee your own children's success, you are going to be a lot more concerned with the well being of those lower down the scale as that is where your own children might end up.
eg , June 18, 2020 at 5:32 am
Welcome to cosmetic meritocracy to go along with your cosmetic democracy. And in America, you can have as much of either you can afford to buy
Adam Eran , June 18, 2020 at 1:14 pm
+1000! Exactly. My favorite example (from NC?) is schools. By de-funding education (55% reduction in funding for higher education since 1972), public policy has made even public universities dependent on tuition (gosh! I wonder why it's been rising) or student loans (double gosh!) for an ever-growing portion of their budgets. Professors can't flunk the incompetent with impunity, then, since it might impair the financial viability of the institution that employs them.
A sensible society understands enhancing its human capital has merit in and of itself, so directs resources to it beyond what tuition students can pay.
Meanwhile, no study validates merit pay for teachers, charter schools, and testing as ways to improve educational outcomes. What does correlate with those outcomes? Answer: childhood poverty rates.
GM , June 18, 2020 at 5:36 am
This is a lot of BS when examined outside the unquestionable assumptions of the US situation.
In the US you have locally funded and geographically segregated schools, which in a rational world should be an absolute scandal that is a topic of constant discussion until the situation gets fixed. Instead people are taking it for granted as they only way things could be.
Well, if you are only allowed to go to the school in your neighborhood, which in turn is funded by whatever the tax base is the immediate vicinity, then of course a system based on educational achievement will very quickly cement existing inequalities into inherited class differences.
A problem with a very simple solution -- fund public schools at the federal level and fund them equally, and also ban all private schools.
That is what the USSR did back in the days, and it did in fact achieve very high level of social equality and mobility. It works. All that is needed is to properly identify the problem and work toward addressing it.
Going after the idea that those who are best educated should be the ones doing the decision making in society is not going to solve the problem and will in fact hurt society in the long run.
Then there is the problem of wealth inequality, which is in fact a separate one from that of status. There is no reason why social status has to be so tightly correlated with wealth. It has not been at many times and in many places throughout history.
And we are once again fighting the wrong battle if we go after "meritocracy" instead of the more concrete mechanismS that create wealth inequality.
Again, in the USSR there was no wealth inequality because the system redistributed very effectively and prevented accumulation of excess wealth by individuals. And before someone screams "but that was communism", we only have to go back to the situation in the 1950s in the US when you had a 90% top income tax rate and the various loopholes that exist now for hiding wealth derived from the wonders of financialization did not exist.
vlade , June 18, 2020 at 6:02 am
"That is what the USSR did back in the days, and it did in fact achieve very high level of social equality and mobility. It works. "
Except that there still were better and worse schools (for various reasons), and party members were better able to place their kids. Not to mention, that being a party member meant a better post-school placement of your kids int he first place, and goign to the uni w/o party membership in family as pretty hard.
And re the wealth distribution – hahahahah. Again, if you were a high-placed party official (which was not based on meritocracy, but on massive political infighting), you did not have to worry about "official" wealth. Because a lot of "state" assets were yours to use as you wished (depending on where in the hierarchy you were).
So you had your 90% of non-communist party members (in mid 80s, party membership was about 10% of populatin), then your 10% of party members, of which you had your 1% and 0.01% respectively.
Franklin , June 18, 2020 at 1:27 pm
How does affirmative action affect meritocracy?
For every kid from the ghetto placed in a technical school, after lowering admission requirements, one fewer high testing child is placed.
U.C. Berkeley is no longer requiring SATs because they are "racist".
The affect of this is to elevate the status of the very privileged even higher and to create strife and infighting among the middle class and lower middle class.
flora , June 18, 2020 at 3:42 pm
I think several high cost colleges like U.C.Berkeley are replacing the SAT and ACT tests with the important Bank Balance test. (joke!)
flora , June 18, 2020 at 3:53 pm
more seriously: some rich people learned how to game the SAT and ACT test results. There was a huge scandal about this last year.
Left in Wisconsin , June 18, 2020 at 4:10 pm
It's not at all clear that affirmative action is at odds with merit, though it is clearly at odds with the credentialing (grade point averages, and all the resume padding) that one sees on the resumes of the PMG progeny. My neck of the academic woods is full of PMC grinders who don't really have much to offer and could use way more people with real life experience.
Which gets to the real problem with meritocracy: it is only concerned with ranking/allocation of of jobs, not the overall structure of the job market. If good jobs were less rare, there would be less infighting about who got to fill them, more social mixing, and we would all have an easier time dispatching the "meritocrats" who don't contribute.
Alex , June 18, 2020 at 7:08 am
The education system in the USSR was definitely meritocratic. There were 'special' schools with advanced curriculum (I studied in one) and you needed to pass exams to get into one. Likewise the admission to universities was also based on examinations and the alumni of these elite schools and universities were overrepresented in the Soviet and then Russian elite
GM , June 18, 2020 at 7:24 am
Yes, and it was based entirely on examinations. None of the "we ask for SAT but mostly decide based on subjective crtiria" BS that results in 75% of the undergraduate slots at the likes of Harvard going to children of alumni and the wealthy (which is mostly the same thing) BS, but a clear cutoff based on exam scores alone. I myself have passed through that exact same system too, so I know very well its virtues (and deficiencies too).
Perhaps even more importantly, kindergartens and primary schools provided as equal educational opportunities as possible. There were no private schools so when the time to pass those exams came, everyone was on as equal footing as possible, they had gone through the same classes together. Unfortunately, there was an exception -- the offspring of high party officials could bypass these barriers, which was deeply unfair and caused quite a bit of resentment, but other than that it was a true meritocracy.
Yes, it was still not a system in which where you were born played no role. The children of university professors will on average be academically far ahead of the children of agricultural workers, just by virtue of the environment they grew up in. There is no way around that other than taking kids away from their parents and raising them communally.
But it is important that everyone has the opportunity to rise through the ranks and that starts from the bottom of the educational pyramid.
We are stubbornly avoiding having that discussion though, instead we talk about how we should be giving preferential treatment to women and minorities when they are in their 20s and applying for jobs and positions. It is almost as if the latter serves the purposes of preventing us from talking about the former
vlade , June 18, 2020 at 8:25 am
That's not true. Party members had access to special schools for their own kids. Often these schools weren't "officially" special, but very often in a district there was a school that got more funding, first pick of teachers etc. and party members had preferential acceptance to those. As I say, it often might not have been an official party line (although I believe there were some schoold reserved for party member kids), but was a common local party office practice.
I say this as someone who went through the system and actually had the advantage (which I did not understand until I was much older) as a grandson of an important party functionary and anti-nazi hero. It even managed to beat the fact that my uncle (from the other side of the family) emigrated to the US, which was often a fatal hit to anyone's college/uni dreams in the rest of the family.
Kouros , June 18, 2020 at 3:34 pm
School maybe, but then admission to University was absolutely done on merit. at least where I grew up, in Romania, the admissions were based on multiple written exams, were completely anonymized, and there were two independent markers. If the grading of the two markers diverged by more than one point, another one was brought to check.
I know children of really big party wigs that couldn't get into university under these circumstances
vlade , June 18, 2020 at 8:09 am
Or you needed to be a kid of a high-enough placed party hack, although in most cases, they didn't bother to put their kids there, as they could get them a job they wanted w/o the school. I _know_ (because I have seen it first hand numerous times) that who the parents were and who they knew played an important role.
That all said, the school system was way less about credentials than the US one. And also, because hard-science schools were not seen as a way to a (guaranteed large) career advancement, the people who went there were most people who really wanted to do it, not taking it as a soft option.
The career advancement path were the various "economic" schools, as that with a right set of connections would more or less guarantee a very cushy top job.
Kurtismayfield , June 18, 2020 at 9:41 am
This country doesn't value home grown STEM graduates.. if it did it wouldn't be undercutting them with H1-B's. So you would have to start there and show kids that getting into STEM is seen as equally valuable as getting an MBA.
Ian Ollmann , June 18, 2020 at 9:19 pm
Why should we value home grown workers if it is a meritocracy?
Jesper , June 18, 2020 at 5:42 am
IP-laws are the source of some/much of current inequality, those IP-laws are most definitely a political choice and they most definitely are not automatically benefitting the meritocratic. Sometimes they do, often they don't.
But as always this is seen as the 'cure':
Rather than de-skill workers to be paid less in order to become more profitable, 'up-skilling' workers to be more productive can also be profitable.
More training, more education .. The de-skilling is done to jobs which might, but does not have to, lead to de-skilling of workers. The stage is set to reduce the work-load and share the work, the de-skilled work is designed to make workers easily replaceable so the 'skill-shortage' stopping a reduction of the hours worked is not as valid of an excuse as it was 40 years ago.
The author does acknowledge the role that governments and legislation has but for some reason reducing the hours worked by an individual and sharing the work is not seen as a valid option. But then again this kind of futurists believe that in the future then there will not be enough resources to house and feed the retired. Another view might be that in the future there will be enough resources to house and feed the retired but those resources might, due to political choices , be spent on luxury for the few leaving homelessness and starvation for the rest.
The Rev Kev , June 18, 2020 at 10:57 am
McDonalds was a pioneer at the movement for de-skilling workers. When they first opened up you actually had people at the back peeling bag after bag of potatoes. Eventually they were able to replace the potatoes with bags of frozen fries which took no skill at all to use. They actually spent a huge amount of effort at de-skilling work there so that workers could be easily replaced and had no skills that they could bargain higher wages for.
stefan , June 18, 2020 at 6:38 am
I would argue that a real education is one that liberates the student to become a free citizen, to become someone who can think for herself or himself. This is what used to be called a liberal arts education. Vocational training may certainly be important, but ought not be confused with education. Vocational training is perhaps best left to the institutions that actually will employ the individual. An education in liberal arts prepares the student to learn how to learn. But we are not the employees of society. We are citizens.
juliania , June 18, 2020 at 1:08 pm
Indeed, stefan, that is entirely the point, and ought to be the goal. Society is only as good as the quality of education given to all its members, not just the elite. This country has forgotten how important education is to the stability of the state, education from the first steps in public schools, so that when time comes to go on with that education at more sophisticated levels, all minds (all minds!) whatever the parents' station in life, have the ability to go where their talents take them. We know how to do this; it's not rocket science!!
I say we know how to do this. But it is clear – this country is not doing it. And it is not doing it on purpose.
That is something to be out on the streets protesting against. One of the many, many things.
Ian Ollmann , June 18, 2020 at 9:13 pm
Maybe, but if you could tell in advance which kids are going to need it, it would be a lot cheaper and waste less of people's time to do advanced degrees for only the best and brightest. For most people, hitting the workforce at the tender young age of 31, for example, has a certain reproductive cost, not to mention lost income. It isn't for everyone.
Also, in my experience, education just gets your foot in the door. Once you get there, it is quite likely you are the worst guy on the factory floor (for some definition of factory) -- the greenhorn -- and whether or not you do well will eventually boil down to quality of work or maybe management potential. In this regard, some will shine and other will not, and at the end of the day, in a meritocracy those are the ones that will do well. In this environment, at least in most fields, the advance degree is quickly forgotten in the absence of law enforcing strict hierarchy (e.g. medicine).
This is as it should be.
Adam Eran , June 18, 2020 at 1:17 pm
In Rome, "liberal arts" were the courses forbidden to slaves.
anon50 , June 18, 2020 at 7:11 am
Ancient Israel had a meritocracy in that those (including women, e.g. Deborah) who had exceptional ability were looked to as Judges.
Yet, every Hebrew family owned a roughly-equal-in-value plot of land they could not permanently lose regardless of their merit (Leviticus 25).
So, per the Bible, meritocracy definitely has its limits and does NOT legitimize, for example, inequality in land ownership.
Adam Eran , June 18, 2020 at 1:18 pm
I'll add that orthodox Christianity does not endorse "salvation by works" (i.e. meritocracy). The orthodox position is "salvation by grace [i.e. gift]" A wise man once told me "Christianity is just Judaism for gentiles"
Amfortas the hippie , June 18, 2020 at 7:29 am
I discovered the idea/Ideal of a Liberal Education around fifth grade. That's what I wanted, due to the influence of Jefferson, Emerson, Whitman and Nietzsche(yes, i was rather strange as a child).
But as the Schooling continued, I was continually frustrated by the all but hidden fact that this was not what American Education was for,lol.
This frustration extended all the way into the college experience I got accepted(with a GED, no less) to Oberlin, Brown, etc but was told we didn't have the money so a state school it was which turned out to be a High School with ashtrays..and an indelible focus on "Getting a Job".
Registrar actually laughed when I said i wanted to major in Philosophy ""what good is that?"
35 or so years later, and I got my Liberal Education, on my own .and it's had zero(if not a negative) effect on my work-life.
we've raised up a generation or 3 of technicians and micromanagers and ladder-climbers who don't have the smash to Think, except in very narrow terms. A favorite trope-like example: "Biology"= "specialisation", not just in Beetles or even a specific Family of Beetles but on a specific Species of Beetle with little regard for the world that Beetle is embedded in.(I knew a guy like this. knew all about June Bugs)
While i understand the utility of specialisation, this laser focus has negated the ability for so many to "Think Outside the Box" or to obtain a broader perspective of our complex world.
State College, for me, was all about "Networking" and learning how to kiss ass and say "Yes Sir" .not about becoming a Citizen let alone a Better Human
I hated it,lol.
It took a long time to be able to articulate it and that articulation is still wanting.
But the critique of "actually existing Meritocracy" is a good place to begin.
It's not really "Meritocratic", at all.
Just another justification for privilege and inequality and the status quo(world without end).
Paul Kleinman , June 18, 2020 at 4:07 pm
I don't think specialization = narrow mindedness. A long time ago at the university I made the progression from philosophy to anthropology to genetics/cell biology and of course my graduate thesis answered a very specific question (about the extracellular effects on collagen synthesis.) It is a fact that that rapidly growing knowledge requires people to specialize in deeply understanding parts of that knowlege. But I have never stopped reading philosophy (existential), Dostoevsky's novels, along with political reading. Specialization is not the reason for people's horizons to be so narrow. It's the societal shift toward disregarding anything that cannot be immediately monetized. It's also the disregard for teaching all students the tools for critical thinking.
Amfortas the hippie , June 18, 2020 at 7:38 pm
I stated that specialisation is necessary it just feels like(30 years on, mind you) that there was a narrowness that was encouraged. The opposite of a "Liberal Education", where one expands and learns to Think.
I'm also biased, because i went to two community colleges, and a state school that was famous for Criminal Justice, and for being neighbors to a bunch of prisons,lol.
I'm certainly glad, for instance, that there are people who specialise in Grasshoppers, cancer meds and soil biota.
But we long ago stopped encouraging big picture broadness .and i think that lack is rather acute, at the moment.
My Da Vincian Renaissance tendencies were quite actively discouraged, over my entire primary and secondary school experience to the point that i hated school from 3rd grade on(a remarkable achievement, in retrospect). I had, therefore, high hopes for college which were similarly dashed, due to the sort of ineffable culture of the place.
again, i admit that all this may be merely a function of place and time .as well as of my own anomalousness and expectations.
I might feel differently if i had been allowed to go to some of the real colleges i managed to get accepted to(but, Amor Fati, and all,lol would i be me without all that BS?)
jake , June 18, 2020 at 8:09 am
Forget sham meritocracy. What's the value of *actual* meritocracy, when the underlying activity -- say, investment banking -- is worthless or injurious?
Are prisons repositories of merit, because they hold the most active and determined of criminals?
CH , June 18, 2020 at 8:11 am
Running through an endless gauntlet of test-taking in order to have something approaching a stable, non-precarious life does not sound like a very pleasant society either, even if it is sufficiently "meritocratic." Neither does constantly chasing credentials. You get all these wasteful arms races. This was the type of society that the Hunger Games depicted: a never-ending, unremitting competition, with the stakes being just the ability to ensure one's basic survival. It sounds awful, even for the "winners".
MT_Bill , June 18, 2020 at 9:17 am
Life on this planet is a never-ending, unremitting competition, with the stakes being just the ability to ensure one's genes survival.
This is true across a spectrum of geographic and temporal scales. The plants in the yard? And endless evolutionary game of attracting pollinators at the expense of others while simultaneously engaging in chemical warfare with their neighbors.
The trap is the thought that we should be able to do better. I think the Romans probably showed the limit of what was possible, everything else has just been a remake with different stage props.
We've spent 2000 years or so basically knocking around the limits of what humanity is capable of achieving in terms of societal structure. Lots of technological advances made and to be discovered, but the parallel attempts on the societal side seem to end up being inherently unstable.
m sam , June 18, 2020 at 1:02 pm
I can't see how the plants in your backyard are a good model for any society. We do not need to savagely compete by starving our neighbors, for instance, to get food or shelter. Any scarcity of the basic necessities of life are pretty much induced.
Competition is instead over quality of life, social status, and most importantly, who gets to decide. It is here where so-called meritocracy is supposed to be an "objective" measure (but really, that there can be an objective measure of merit is where the idea fails, and proves itself to be a Utopian value that really only the successful "meritocrats" can embrace).
I think the real trap is in thinking we can't do any better (and your thought that we haven't progressed farther than the Romans is telling). And in in the age of falling life expectancy, incomes (for the bottom 90%), and social mobility, I would go so far as to say such an idea forecloses on the reality that shared progress has actually happened.
Off The Street , June 18, 2020 at 10:50 am
Crab-in-a-bucket scenario: other crabs prevent that venturesome one from escaping.
Meritocracy, current version scenario: escaped arthropods act as guards to let in only their own preferred candidates.
The latter has been in use at any number of companies, where the wrong kind of applicant just isn't acknowledged. No need to write down any rules, as those unspoken ones will do just fine. That can lead to a type of in-breeding with associated dysfunctions, and relies heavily upon the upstream provider filtering mechanisms, such as they are. Game those mechanisms in various ways and see the results populate, or pollute, the downstream pools.
rob , June 18, 2020 at 8:31 am
in the US our "meritocracy" is akin to the old saying;
"those who win in a rigged game too long ,get stupid"
We are stuck as a society because so many of the positions of authority are filled by people , who may be "smart" in some sense . but are really just stupid.
Whatever the dynamic that enables a certain type of mindset and worldview, to rise within the power structures , as they are is utterly insane and a serious flaw in the system.
the evidence of this is look who will be "running the free world" . today, and after the next election all choices point to zero.
Look at our form of capitalism . we allow banks to create our money out of nothing . then they can fund wall street speculation and corporate behemoths who dictate the playing field(through control of the political class) all business must play on. and so the lives and fortunes of the people and the planet and all of its life forms must endure.
the question of how stupid are we .. pretty damn stupid.
km , June 18, 2020 at 10:46 am
We can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism all day long – but we don't have capitalism – we have crony capitalism.
We can discuss whether or not meritocracy is a good thing – but our "meritocracy" is in fact massively rigged.
That said, a society has got to have some way to select leaders. If it doesn't select based on some kind of merit, what's the alternative? Accident of birth? Random lottery? Footraces?
CuriosityConcern , June 18, 2020 at 8:11 pm
Actually, I think random lottery of a group of citizens would be much better than a president. Make the group big enough that a citizen has a good chance of assuming office at least once in their average lifespan. Renumeration should be median of income. A democratic executive body.
This would probably make the US more agreement capable.
Polar Socialist , June 18, 2020 at 8:56 am
Having worked in academia for 25+ years (and counting), I really can't agree with equating the capability and/or competence with level of education. Just doesn't happen.
We have a rule of thumb: the more PhDs are involved in a project the more confused and messier it'll be for us to sort out and make to work. If professors are involved, even we can't sort it out.
Of course there are exceptions: some people can retain their common sense and competence regardless of higher education. They just don't tend to climb very high in the academic meritocracy.
Arizona Slim , June 18, 2020 at 3:38 pm
My father, who had a PhD, was fond of saying that a PhD was no substitute for common sense.
shinola , June 18, 2020 at 10:00 am
With the emphasis on "elite" education, I think the article is describing credentialism which is not exactly the same as actual meritocracy.
Meritocratic hierarchies have their own built-in problems – those of us of a certain age may recall "The Peter Principle."
Carolinian , June 18, 2020 at 2:11 pm
Yes but for purposes of this discussion they are the same thing since TPTP have decided that in our complicated society with so many millions of citizens credentials are a the way to separate "the wheat from the chaff." There was a time when you had a lot more self made men (and they were men) but our ossified economic system now makes that less likely. A country where individualism was once the hallmark has been turned–elite division–into a homogenized, fearful "safe space."
For the rest of us there is at least the internet where individualism can still thrive. They are trying to stamp that out.
Tom , June 18, 2020 at 10:17 am
You should have a look at the role of the meritocracy in Singapore. its amazing!
Bufeng , June 18, 2020 at 1:26 pm
We have similar problems with meritocracy as the rest of the world. "Ownership" of public housing is 80+% of citizen households, but the figure in our top school is nearer 50% (the other 50% live in private housing – they are not homeless!): https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/can-a-taxi-driver-or-hawkers-son-still-make-it-to-raffles-institution
There are many legacy "socialist era" policies (free basic education, subsidised basic healthcare, high ownership of public housing, well-functioning utilities and public transport and public services that in spite of being ostensibly privatized are actually owned by a state-owned enterprise – Temasek Holdings) that still keep things from becoming too nasty. But we've been heading the same direction as you all.
Red , June 18, 2020 at 9:35 pm
That's because despite being semi authoritarian Singapore couldn't resist marketisation. Doesn't make any sense to include market value of land in the price of public houses if the government owns that land and you essentially rent it from them. Or the recent electricity market privatisation. Just gets to show you that democratic or authoritarian, governments are out of ideas.
David , June 18, 2020 at 10:17 am
OK, but then the alternative is . not very obvious.
I think in fact that the problems people have with meritocracy are more to do with the "cracy" than the "merit" part of the term. After all, there are only three possible ways of choosing people to fill positions and run organisations. The first is patronage, favouritism, family and wealth, which has been the rule for most of human history, and was the only way to make career in Europe until relatively recently. You might accidentally get a person of ability appointed to an important job, but you obviously couldn't guarantee it. The second is selection by lot, which worked OK in Athens for certain jobs, but is hard to generalise. The only other option is competitive selection by merit, depending on the qualities needed for the job, and for promotion. All modern states have ultimately gone for the third option.
When people say that they don't approve of meritocracy, then, they don't usually mean that they want a return to the days when government positions were in the personal gift of Ministers. They mean one of two things. First, that selection by merit doesn't always work well or fairly, because the selection criteria can in practice favour candidates from wealthier or more educated backgrounds, second that meritocracies can themselves become hereditary, selecting people like themselves, just as patronage systems used to do. It's also true that success in one field can generate a sense of individual and collective arrogance and a belief that you are qualified to do anything. All of these are very valid criticisms (and all can be addressed to some extent) but none of them is an argument against the principle of merit-based selection. It's also important to remember that "merit" here really means just "most suited"; It's not a value judgement or the equivalent of the keys to a selective club.
Left in Wisconsin , June 18, 2020 at 4:49 pm
Yes, this is the key problem. But I would suggest two other possibilities that also exist: A) wide acceptance to entry-level positions, lots of training/assessment and promotions from within, and promotion by seniority (above a threshold of competence) – a scheme which has ups and downs and is probably not a good fit anymore for a world in which long term employment with one employer is not the norm; and B) democratic control with promotion determined from below (by those to be managed) rather than above. All the evidence suggests that good management is a function of getting the best out of your subordinates (true leadership), not all the fact BS around star performers.
The big problem with merit is that many jobs have no suitable pre-employment or even current employment merit indicators (think of K-12 teaching, where test scores are used to judge reading and math teachers but there are no comparable measures for teachers of any other discipline), and the ones that are used can be gamed, and so merit becomes conflated with credentials or test scores, which have limited real-world applicability. Another example: in the old days, you could become a lawyer through "apprenticeship," which allowed lots of talented people to become lawyers without the gatekeeping of law schools. It is impossible to argue that the profession is now better with than it was in those days.
Left in Wisconsin , June 18, 2020 at 4:57 pm
"fake," not "fact"
anon in so cal , June 18, 2020 at 10:27 am
Anyone familiar with the notorious Kingsley Davis and Wilbur Moore stratification theory? The theory attempted to legitimize economic and political stratification (i.e. inequality) in modern societies by using quasi-Parsonian notions of meritocracy. There are standard rebuttals to the Davis-Moore theory and this article sounds as though it has attempted to regurgitate some of those rebuttals.
anon50 , June 18, 2020 at 12:58 pm
Also, however much merit one has, that should not allow her/him to steal from the lessor-so via the use of what is, due to government privilege, the PUBLIC'S credit but for private gain.
In other words, those with merit should not have to steal from the poor, should they? Kinda of diminishes their triumph, doesn't it? Knowing their success is built on oppression?
Dave in Austin , June 18, 2020 at 2:18 pm
NFL wide receivers; NBA centers; MIT physics PHDs; University of Texas Petroleum Engineering grads.
"Meritocracy legitimizes, deepens inequality"
"Meritocracy" based on gatekeeping (lawyers, civil service rules that say "must have a a BA"; 7 years to become a physical therapist) these are, in my opinion , bad. I want to measure outputs not inputs. And that means those hardworking, always dependable high school girls who always turn in perfect homework (an input unconnected to knowledge) may have a high class rank but I'll take the kid with the bad attitude, bad clothing and lousy social skills who gets in the 98% percentile in the SAT Math exam (an output) every time (unless I'm hiring people to be TV weathermen and weather girls- I like cute too).
What would happen in the NFL if we demanded a masters degree in wide receiver studies from a state accredited university? Fewer blacks; fewer drug bust and girl friends beaten up and fewer amazing catches.
Ian Ollmann , June 18, 2020 at 8:59 pm
Some of this rings with class warfare hogwash. I am very far from a conservative, but even I must resort to that old saw in this case. Anyone who has worked in the same field or company for 20 years will eventually come to realize that in time at the workplace the academic degree is like so much kindling used to start a bonfire, and what really matters in the long run is the contribution you make in your chosen field over that time. This can hardly be lost on a bunch of academics nurturing their own career over decades so I must only conclude that such an edgy interpretation is intended to make waves. Degrees don't matter for sh__ once leadership figures out you don't know what you are doing. The best shine no matter how much muck you throw on them.
Where education matters is getting your foot in the door in the first place. If you can't manage that, then you may be a really great auto mechanic, rising to the top of your field, but failing to really make the same splash as you might have from being a mechanical engineer or chemist. Nonetheless, in almost any industry there is a need for smart competent people to help make sure the endeavor doesn't go off the rails and those will do well. Maybe they can afford to send their kids, who may be smart too probably, on to a better school.
It isn't about justifying inequality. It is about getting the best people in the right places to produce he best outcomes. Consult your Napoleon. When good outcomes are needed, and we aren't just writing papers, good people are essential.
Henry , June 18, 2020 at 10:18 pm
It depends what those meritocrats are doing. MBA s are a good example. Plus nothing original and creative comes out of a culture that prioritises corporate career building over other aspects of human beings. That's why you see the children of these meritocrats are so shallow and boring.
May 19, 2020 | www.moonofalabama.org
If it were true why would they need to repeat it again and again?
- Forbes - May 15 2012 - Meghan Casserly The American Dream Is Alive And Well... In New Jersey
- The Telegraph - August 4 2014 - Jeremy Warner The American Dream is alive and well, if you are trained for the jobs of the future
- Forbes - September 30 2015 - John Tamny - FreedomWorks Ignore The Left And Right, The American Dream Is Alive And Well
- FOX Business - August 22 2016 - Steve Tobak The American Dream Is Alive and Well
- Forbes India - November 1 2016 - Monte Burke The American dream is alive and well...
- Washington Times - June 19 2017 - Ed Feulner - Heritage Foundation The American Dream, alive and well
- KEDM - July 4 2018 - Byron Moore, Argent Advisors, Inc. The American Dream is Alive and Well
- New York Times - February 2 2019 - Samuel J. Abrams - American Enterprise Institute The American Dream Is Alive and Well
- Daily Caller - February 6 2019 - Steve Sanetti - NSSF Firearm Industry Trade Association The American Dream Is Alive And Well
- FOX Business - September 30 2019 - Julia Limitone Eric Trump: The American Dream is alive and well
- Mail Online - October 2019 - Lauren Fruen The American Dream is still alive! Children of poor immigrants still beat US-born kids up the ladder - just as they did 100 years ago - but now Chinese and Indian migrants have replaced Italian and Irish as the most successful
- CNBC - November 14 2019 Billionaire Bob Parsons: The American Dream is alive and well
- FOX News - November 26 2019 - Carol Ross Carol Roth: The American Dream is alive and well -- Let's be thankful for it
- Clarion Ledger - December 10 2019 - Lynn Evans The American Dream is alive and well, but redefined
- Wall Street Journal - January 31, 2020 - Michael R. Strain, American Enterprise Institute The American Dream Is Alive and Well
- Newsweek - February 27 2020 - Lee Habeeb The American Dream Is Alive and Well. Just Ask District Taco's Osiris Hoil
- The Independent Voice - May 7 2020 - Barbara Ball The American Dream is alive and well
- New York Times - May 18 2020 - Michael R. Strain - American Enterprise Institute The American Dream Is Alive and Well
vk , May 19 2020 13:22 utc | 21
If it were true why would they need to repeat it again and again? The American Dream died in 1969 - the last year of the post-war miracle in the USA. For the following five years, the country continued to flourish, but at a clear slower pace. With the oil crisis of 1974-5, the American Dream definitely died, albeit some indicators (e.g. real wages) still showed some improvements.
1978 was the last year real wages showed significant growth in real terms in the USA. After that, came the great stagnation of the neoliberal era (1978-2008), 30 consecutive years of frozen earns for the American working classes. This era is not marked by a slow down in consumption, though. On the contrary: consumption continued to rise, but, this time, it was mainly debt-fueled. Americans wages stagnated, but they didn't want to give up their hyperconsumption privileges, so they contracted debt after debt.
As the timeline shows, it is a myth neoliberalism begun in the USA only with Reagan's election in 1980. Most neoliberal reforms begun during Jimmy Carter's second half of his lonely term (1978-1980). It was Jimmy Carter, for example, who hired (nominated) Paul Volcker to the Fed. Other essential Acts that paved the way to neoliberalism were also passed during Jimmy Carter's later part of the reign.
Jen , May 19 2020 10:58 utc | 6Not only does the headline "The American Dream is Alive and Well" need to be repeated ad nauseam but also the narrative it promotes, of the immigrant family that succeeds through sheer hard work and dedication and nothing else - no help from government subsidies or relatives already in the country, no dependence on bank loans that help start a business or put teenagers through college, no discrimination whatsoever - has to be hammered constantly over and over, even when everyone can see that the story template no longer has any legs if it ever had any.William Gruff , May 19 2020 12:58 utc | 18
For all the sophisticated techniques and tools of propaganda that the likes of Edward Bernays and his followers in the PR industry bequeathed to the US, the elites and their mass media lackeys can't even get the repetition to look and sound more than banal and one-dimensional.Jen @6: "For all the sophisticated techniques and tools of propaganda that the likes of Edward Bernays and his followers in the PR industry bequeathed to the US, the elites and their mass media lackeys can't even get the repetition to look and sound more than banal and one-dimensional."lizard , May 19 2020 12:56 utc | 17
Nice observation that incompetence is pervasive even among the empire's most important servants. It must be asked, though, if better talent is really necessary? The propaganda and brainwashing may be ham fisted and blunt as a hammer, but it does seem to work nonetheless.
Anyway, the more sophisticated brainwashing is not in the infotainment field but rather in the supposedly pure entertainment domain. Redneck dynasties built upon the monster retail bonanza from selling duck lures, for example. Those implant "The American Dream" directly into the subconscious without the need for awkward capitalist ideological exposition, bypassing any potential bullshit filters that the typical media consumers might possess.I wonder what America would have become if sociopaths like Allen Dulles hadn't relocated to Nazi braintrust after WWII. maybe it was inevitable that we would become the 4th reich.William Gruff , May 19 2020 12:58 utc | 18
David Talbot's book The Devil's Chessboard should be required reading for all Americans.Jen @6: "For all the sophisticated techniques and tools of propaganda that the likes of Edward Bernays and his followers in the PR industry bequeathed to the US, the elites and their mass media lackeys can't even get the repetition to look and sound more than banal and one-dimensional."Linda Amick , May 19 2020 12:59 utc | 19
Nice observation that incompetence is pervasive even among the empire's most important servants. It must be asked, though, if better talent is really necessary? The propaganda and brainwashing may be ham fisted and blunt as a hammer, but it does seem to work nonetheless.
Anyway, the more sophisticated brainwashing is not in the infotainment field but rather in the supposedly pure entertainment domain. Redneck dynasties built upon the monster retail bonanza from selling duck lures, for example. Those implant "The American Dream" directly into the subconscious without the need for awkward capitalist ideological exposition, bypassing any potential bullshit filters that the typical media consumers might possess.We all know these main stream media outlets do little more than pump out propaganda to the ignorant masses who need someone to tell them what they want to hear.Christian J Chuba , May 19 2020 13:01 utc | 20May 2020, seriously???Richard Steven Hack , May 19 2020 12:02 utc | 15
Wow, those guys were phoning it in. 1. Their dreamland pieces were identical to the ones in 2015, 2. the bottom 20% who they claim either don't have it so bad or can easily improve their lot, have been gutted like a fish and left out to dry. Did people write these opinion pieces or robots, robots could easily replace their jobs, pity their jobs won't be automated but I really don't see why they couldn't be. Actually Neocons could be replaced by automatons.
Recent contributions, burger flippers => code slingers
I heard some politician suggest that while many of the jobs will never come back that people can learn to code. We need drug testing for our politicians. I 'code' and I'm wetting my pants. It's not because I think that it's so easy I an be easily replaced but but we still need demand. If everyone is losing their jobs ... terrifies me.As an aside that is nonetheless relevant, dealing as it does with issues of the responsibility that banks have for the mess in this world, I recommend watching the TV series, "Devils", described here on Wikipedia:
Devils (TV series)
London, 2011. The Italian Massimo Ruggero is the head of trading at the banking giant American New York - London Bank (NYL). While the financial crisis is raging across Europe, Massimo is making hundreds of millions thanks to speculation. His mentor is Dominic Morgan, the American CEO of NYL and the closest thing to a father Massimo has ever had. He fully supports it, the talented trader seems to be the first choice in the run for vice-CEO. But when Massimo is unwillingly involved in a scandal that sees his ex-wife implicated as an escort, Dominic denies him the promotion, instead choosing the old school banker Edward Stuart.
Massimo is amazed: his father turns his back on him. Convinced that he has been set up, Massimo is determined to bring out the truth, but when Edward suddenly dies, Massimo realizes that something bigger is at stake. With the help of his team and a group of hackers, Massimo will discover the plot hidden behind apparently unrelated events such as the Strauss-Kahn scandal, the war in Libya and the PIIGS crisis. Finding himself in front of the Devils who pull the ropes of the world, Massimo will have to choose whether to fight them or join them.
The series is well-written and well-acted. If you have access to it (I get it off the Internet, but it does not appear to be available in the US market yet), it's well worth watching. It is in some ways better than "Deep State", the spy series that was on a season or two ago. It has already been renewed for a second season.
Mar 04, 2020 | caucus99percent.com
Cant Stop the M... on Wed, 03/04/2020 - 8:28am We base our entire politics on the idea that we're living in a meritocracy. In other words, like the knights of old at a joust, we find out who is best through competition, a competition assumed to be both fair and honest. In the old days, the joust was assumed to be fair and honest because God was both omnipotent and just and therefore, obviously, would not allow a bad man to win. Nowadays, even most of us who believe in God don't believe that God controls the outcome of competitions in that way. Yet the assumption of a fair and honest competition persists, despite blatant evidence to the contrary.
In the case of U.S. elections, it is assumed, not that the will of God controls the outcome of competitions, but that the will of the people does. Voter suppression and election fraud are hand-waved away on the dubious grounds that any candidate strong enough could overcome such things. Or maybe the people are to blame. The supporters of the defeated candidate must not have worked hard enough, or maybe the people generally are to blame for not voting in large enough numbers. Those who challenge any of these assumptions are defeated, either by institutional inertia or by gaslighting.
Here's what I mean by institutional inertia.
In 2000, there was ample evidence that George W. Bush had committed fraud in the presidential election, with the help of his brother, the governor of Florida. In 2004, there was ample evidence that George W. Bush had committed fraud once again, famously in Ohio, and less famously in Florida for a second time. However, in the first case, Gore stopped fighting after an obviously partisan and corrupt Supreme Court decision, and not a single member of the U.S. Senate was willing to help the Congressional Black Caucus challenge the election. In the second case, Kerry refused to challenge the election in Congress, and the legal case he brought about election fraud, after the fact, did not even make it to the Supreme Court.
In 2016, when New Yorkers brought a case that there had been election fraud and voter suppression in the Democratic primaries, the case was thrown out on the grounds that each county in New York had to file such cases separately, and, by then, the election would be over. Pleas to delay the vote count, or to delay declaring a winner, until the voting rights of the people could be secured, were brushed aside. Much later, when a civil lawsuit was brought against the DNC, the case was once again thrown out for lack of standing, but not before the DNC lawyers had defended their client on the grounds that the DNC didn't have to provide a fair competition, or any competition at all, really, and certainly didn't have to care what the people thought.
The effect of this institutional inertia is not simply that cheaters win the day, or that the people, whose will is being suppressed, lose morale and give up. The complaint itself begins to fade from people's minds. People begin to make excuses for what happened, to justify it, to act as if there never were cheating to begin with. Even many of those who dissent find that, over time, the injustice they remember mellows: no less a person than Jimmy Dore, hardly a weak-minded hack for the establishment, talks now about Gore's "loss" in 2000 as an evil caused by the electoral college. While the electoral college is obviously a tool for elites to control American politics (and never has that been so obvious as over the past two election cycles), such a narrative ignores and erases the police checkpoints that were set up in 2000 near predominantly African American polling places in Leon county, Florida. It ignores the Republican Speaker of the House, Tom DeLay, sending Republican staffers to Dade County to break up Miami's vote count by marching into the Supervisor of Elections office and screaming at the top of their lungs so that no accurate count could take place. It ignores and erases the digital Jim Crow that purged the voter lists of African American Democrats by claiming, falsely, that they were felons. It ignores the fact that emails between the State of Florida and the company that created the Jim Crow software revealed that the company had warned that their software would draw too many false positives, and that the State of Florida had replied "That's just what we want."
Similarly, the DNC's perfidy in 2016 has been reduced to the following: 1) that they had pre-selected their candidate, and didn't provide a real or fair competition, 2) that they gave debate questions ahead of time to Hillary Clinton, 3)that they used the electoral college, most particularly superdelegates, to overwhelm the Sanders movement, and that 4) the party primaries were often closed, not allowing independents the right to vote. Left out, or forgotten, are the multiple polling places closed in states from Arizona to New York (in New York, sometimes even the open polling places had no staff or broken machines), the media calling California for Clinton before the votes were counted, the 136,000 voters purged off Brooklyn's voter rolls (no doubt because Bernie Sanders was born and grew up in Brooklyn and that might have given him an advantage there), and the much larger multi-state purge of the Democratic party through changing people's voter registration without their knowledge and consent.
I'm not bringing this up to attack Jimmy Dore, who is one of the most reliable truth-tellers in the media today, but rather to point out what people's minds do under the stress of watching the establishment normalize corruption again and again. If there is no power to challenge institutional corruption, most people, over time, make of the corruption something less unjust and outrageous. Simply smothering objections to injustice with institutional inertia, will, over time, allow the victors to erase the evidence of their crime.
Since we believe, with the faith of fanatics, that competition must be honest and fair, it's easy to gaslight the losers (or the apparent losers). The Republicans in 2000 did not need to disprove the fact that George W. Bush had committed fraud and contravened the will of the people when he climbed up a staircase of disenfranchised Black faces to become President. All the Republicans needed to do was issue tens of thousands of bumper stickers that replaced the words "Gore/Lieberman" with "Sore Loserman." The RNC was using the same argument that was bruited about in the 1980s about poverty and employment. Unemployed poor people had lost the economic competition. Therefore, there must be something wrong with them. Maybe they weren't educated enough, smart enough, clean enough, hard-working enough; maybe they were people of bad character. Bloomberg's racial profiling worked much the same way. Black people are losers in the judicial game because they commit more crimes. That's why we put more police in their neighborhoods, because there are more criminals among young Black men than anywhere else. Corruption can't bring down a meritorious man. If you're good, you'll win. If you complain about cheating or any other form of injustice, you must be a Sore Loserman, attempting to cover up your own inadequacies by whining.
It's pretty obvious that this way of thinking makes it literally impossible to stop even the most outrageous injustice, as long as the perpetrators of that injustice have enough power to spread their "Sore Loser" messaging far and wide. So if I commit identity theft today and access one of your bank accounts, I can be brought to account. But if Wall St cheats homeowners, there was probably something wrong with the homeowners, or with the government for suggesting that those homeowners should get loans. If George W. Bush cheats in an election, there was probably something wrong with the other candidate, or with the voters.
People tend to get upset when I bring this up, because they think that talking about the corruption of the system will demoralize voters, making such discussions their own form of voter suppression. But I bring this up because the worst damage that can come out of Bernie Sanders losing contests in a highly compromised electoral process is that the idea of meritocracy be preserved. There are valid reasons for voting even in a corrupted system (of the "make 'em sweat" variety). There are valid reasons for not voting in a corrupted system. But whatever a citizen chooses to do on Election Day, the idea of meritocracy must die.
Despite all the truly horrendous policies, from both the Democrats and the Republicans, that have laid our society, our people, and the world to waste, the most poisonous effect of the tyranny we live under is its fraudulence: its pretense of being a fair, accurate, and reasonable expression of the will of the people. Even the Democrats' attacks on Trump, who is supposed to be a Manchurian candidate placed in office by Russian intelligence operatives and an existential threat to our democracy, have, in the past two years, increasingly focused on the people who support Trump. It's the voters fault for supporting the bad man. So even when we are supposedly in a situation of foreign powers changing the outcome of a presidential election, it's still the people's fault. Why? Well, there was a competition, and somebody won, so the person who won must be there by the will of the people. It has to be the people's fault.
Corruption among the powerful isn't a thing.
System-wide corruption in all the various infrastructures of our country, especially the political ones, isn't a thing.
Or, if it is, you just didn't do enough lifting at the political gym to be able to fend it off.
Dec 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com
by Tyler Durden Fri, 12/20/2019 - 17:25 0 SHARES
The unjustifiably high cost of college tuition in the US has dragged a whole generation into debt slavery. The average cost of a 4-year degree in the US is 3x higher than it was in 1990. Even tuition at in-state schools is climbing more quickly than incomes.
As more people are forced to go into deep levels of debt to afford an education, more would-be students are being forced to take a hard look and reevaluate the ROI on a college degree.
And as college tuition continues to outpace wage growth, for a growing number of people, the answer to 'is college worth it?' is going to be no.
A reporter at Clever.com did some digging, and tabulated the ROI on different types of degrees: the bachelor's, master's and doctorate.
Generally speaking, people with at least a bachelor's degree typically earn more money over their lifetime than those who never attended college, and it's also easier to get a job with a degree.
But while Americans with a bachelor's degree might be on to something, those who earn a Master's and PHD-level degrees can't say the same.
While nearly half the population has a bachelor's degree, only 13% of Americans have a master's or Phd-level degree.
And according to Clever's analysis, many higher-level degrees may not be worth the time and money that students spend.
In fact, the longer someone spends in school, the more the value of their degrees diminishes.
Of course, ROI changes depending on the subject that an individual studies. Clever found that the best bachelor's degrees, unsurprisingly, tend to be in the STEM area: operations research, petroleum engineering, biological and physical sciences, biopsychology and gerontology.
Here, the data are showing us something that we find to be very interesting. Namely, that those who spend more money on a low-ROI bachelor's degree often find their careers to be more 'meaningful' than your average engineer. Does this mean there's an inverse relationship between spiritual fulfillment and monetary compensation when it comes to ones' career path? Possibly. But would like to suggest another possible explanation.
The children of America's wealthy often choose low-yield fields like journalism and English, since they don't face as much pressure to maximize earnings (their parents very often cover the cost of their education and living expenses) they can enjoy finding 'meaning' in low-paying careers like being a social media manager or writing for Gawker Media - careers that also don't require the hard work and dedication required of, say, a mechanical engineer at Boeing.
Dec 28, 2016 | www.unz.com
November 28, 2012 | The American Conservative •Just before the Labor Day weekend, a front page New York Times story broke the news of the largest cheating scandal in Harvard University history, in which nearly half the students taking a Government course on the role of Congress had plagiarized or otherwise illegally collaborated on their final exam.  Each year, Harvard admits just 1600 freshmen while almost 125 Harvard students now face possible suspension over this single incident. A Harvard dean described the situation as "unprecedented."
But should we really be so surprised at this behavior among the students at America's most prestigious academic institution? In the last generation or two, the funnel of opportunity in American society has drastically narrowed, with a greater and greater proportion of our financial, media, business, and political elites being drawn from a relatively small number of our leading universities, together with their professional schools. The rise of a Henry Ford, from farm boy mechanic to world business tycoon, seems virtually impossible today, as even America's most successful college dropouts such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg often turn out to be extremely well-connected former Harvard students. Indeed, the early success of Facebook was largely due to the powerful imprimatur it enjoyed from its exclusive availability first only at Harvard and later restricted to just the Ivy League.
During this period, we have witnessed a huge national decline in well-paid middle class jobs in the manufacturing sector and other sources of employment for those lacking college degrees, with median American wages having been stagnant or declining for the last forty years. Meanwhile, there has been an astonishing concentration of wealth at the top, with America's richest 1 percent now possessing nearly as much net wealth as the bottom 95 percent. 
This situation, sometimes described as a "winner take all society," leaves families desperate to maximize the chances that their children will reach the winners' circle, rather than risk failure and poverty or even merely a spot in the rapidly deteriorating middle class. And the best single means of becoming such an economic winner is to gain admission to a top university, which provides an easy ticket to the wealth of Wall Street or similar venues, whose leading firms increasingly restrict their hiring to graduates of the Ivy League or a tiny handful of other top colleges.  On the other side, finance remains the favored employment choice for Harvard, Yale or Princeton students after the diplomas are handed out. The Battle for Elite College Admissions
As a direct consequence, the war over college admissions has become astonishingly fierce, with many middle- or upper-middle class families investing quantities of time and money that would have seemed unimaginable a generation or more ago, leading to an all-against-all arms race that immiserates the student and exhausts the parents. The absurd parental efforts of an Amy Chua, as recounted in her 2010 bestseller Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother , were simply a much more extreme version of widespread behavior among her peer-group, which is why her story resonated so deeply among our educated elites. Over the last thirty years, America's test-prep companies have grown from almost nothing into a $5 billion annual industry, allowing the affluent to provide an admissions edge to their less able children. Similarly, the enormous annual tuition of $35,000 charged by elite private schools such as Dalton or Exeter is less for a superior high school education than for the hope of a greatly increased chance to enter the Ivy League. 
Many New York City parents even go to enormous efforts to enroll their children in the best possible pre-Kindergarten program, seeking early placement on the educational conveyer belt which eventually leads to Harvard.  Others cut corners in a more direct fashion, as revealed in the huge SAT cheating rings recently uncovered in affluent New York suburbs, in which students were paid thousands of dollars to take SAT exams for their wealthier but dimmer classmates. 
But given such massive social and economic value now concentrated in a Harvard or Yale degree, the tiny handful of elite admissions gatekeepers enjoy enormous, almost unprecedented power to shape the leadership of our society by allocating their supply of thick envelopes. Even billionaires, media barons, and U.S. Senators may weigh their words and actions more carefully as their children approach college age. And if such power is used to select our future elites in a corrupt manner, perhaps the inevitable result is the selection of corrupt elites, with terrible consequences for America. Thus, the huge Harvard cheating scandal, and perhaps also the endless series of financial, business, and political scandals which have rocked our country over the last decade or more, even while our national economy has stagnated.
Just a few years ago Pulitzer Prize-winning former Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Golden published The Price of Admission , a devastating account of the corrupt admissions practices at so many of our leading universities, in which every sort of non-academic or financial factor plays a role in privileging the privileged and thereby squeezing out those high-ability, hard-working students who lack any special hook.
In one particularly egregious case, a wealthy New Jersey real estate developer, later sent to Federal prison on political corruption charges, paid Harvard $2.5 million to help ensure admission of his completely under-qualified son.  When we consider that Harvard's existing endowment was then at $15 billion and earning almost $7 million each day in investment earnings, we see that a culture of financial corruption has developed an absurd illogic of its own, in which senior Harvard administrators sell their university's honor for just a few hours worth of its regular annual income, the equivalent of a Harvard instructor raising a grade for a hundred dollars in cash.
An admissions system based on non-academic factors often amounting to institutionalized venality would seem strange or even unthinkable among the top universities of most other advanced nations in Europe or Asia, though such practices are widespread in much of the corrupt Third World. The notion of a wealthy family buying their son his entrance into the Grandes Ecoles of France or the top Japanese universities would be an absurdity, and the academic rectitude of Europe's Nordic or Germanic nations is even more severe, with those far more egalitarian societies anyway tending to deemphasize university rankings.
EliteCommInc., November 28, 2012 at 11:09 am GMT •EliteCommInc. November 28, 2012 at 11:21 am GMT
Well, legacy programs are alive and well. According to the read, here's the problem:
"The research certainly supports the widespread perception that non-academic factors play a major role in the process, including athletic ability and "legacy" status. But as we saw earlier, even more significant are racial factors, with black ancestry being worth the equivalent of 310 points, Hispanics gaining 130 points, and Asian students being penalized by 140 points, all relative to white applicants on the 1600 point Math and Reading SAT scale."
These arbitrary point systems while well intended are not a reflection of AA design. School lawyers in a race not be penalized for past practices, implemented their own versions of AA programs. The numbers are easy to challenge because they aren't based on tangible or narrow principles. It's weakneses are almost laughable. Because there redal goal was to thwart any real challenge that institutions were idle in addressing past acts of discrimination. To boost their diversity issues, asians were heavily recruited. Since AA has been in place a lot of faulty measures were egaged in: Quotas for quotas sake. Good for PR, lousy for AA and issues it was designed to address.
I think the statistical data hides a very important factor and practice. Most jews in this country are white as such , and as such only needed to change their names and hide behaviors as a strategy of surviving the entrance gauntlet. That segregation created a black collegiate system with it's own set of elite qualifiers demonstrates that this model isn't limited to the Ivy league.
That an elite system is devised and practiced in members of a certain club networks so as to maintain their elite status, networks and control, this is a human practice. And it once served as something to achieve. It was thought that the avenues of becoming an elite were there if one wanted to strive for it. Hard work, honesty, persistence, results . . . should yield X.
And while I am not as focused on the poverty ve wealth dynamic. this century has revealed something very disappointing that you address. That the elites have done a very poor job of leading the ship of state, while still remaining in leadership belies such a bold hypocrisy in accountability, it's jarring. The article could actually be titled: "The Myth of the Best and the Brightest."
I don't think it's just some vindictive intent. and while Americans have always known and to an extent accepted that for upper income citizens, normal was not the same as normal on the street. Fairness, was not the same jn practice nor sentiment. What may becoming increasing intolerant has been the obvious lack of accountability among elites. TARP looked like the elites looking out for each other as opposed the ship of state. I have read three books on the financials and they do not paint a pretty portrait of Ivy League leadership as to ethics, cheating, lying, covering up, and shamelessly passing the buck. I will be reading this again I am sure.
It's sad to think that we may be seeing te passing of an era. in which one aspired to be an elite not soley for their wealth, but the model they provided od leadership real or imagined. Perhaps, it passed long ago, and we are all not just noticing.
I appreciated you conclusions, not sure that I am comfortable with some of the solutions.Russell Seitz November 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm GMT •
Since I still hanker to be an elite in some manner, It is interesting to note my rather subdued response to the cheating. Sadly, this too may be an open secret of standard fair - and that is very very sad. And disappointing. Angering even.Sean Gillhoolley November 28, 2012 at 3:06 pm GMT •
The shifting social demography of deans, house masters and admissions committees may be a more important metric than the composition of the student body, as it determines the shape of the curriculum, and the underlying culture of the university as a legacy in itself.
If Ron harrows the literary journals of the Jackson era with equal diligence. he may well turn up an essay or two expressing deep shock at Unitarians admitting too many of the Lord's preterite sheep to Harvard, or lamenting the rise of Methodism at Yale and the College of New Jersey.Rob in CT November 28, 2012 at 4:05 pm GMT •
Harvard is a university, much like Princeton and Yale, that continues based on its reputation, something that was earned in the past. When the present catches up to them people will regard them as nepotistic cauldrons of corruption.
Look at the financial disaster that befell the USA and much of the globe back in 2008. Its genesis can be found in the clever minds of those coming out of their business schools (and, oddly enough, their Physics programs as well).
They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world .but first they must remake it.• Replies: @Part White, Part Native I agree, common people would never think of derivatives , nor make loans based on speculationBryan November 28, 2012 at 5:12 pm GMT •
First, I appreciated the length and depth of your article.
Having said that, to boil it down to its essence:
Subconcious bias/groupthink + affirmative action/diversity focus + corruption + innumeracy = student bodies at elite institutions that are wildly skewed vis-a-vis both: 1) the ethnic makeup of the general population; and 2) the makeup of our top-performing students.
Since these institutions are pipelines to power, this matters.
I rather doubt that wage stagnation (which appears to have begun in ~1970) can be pinned on this – that part stuck out, because there are far more plausible causes. To the extent you're merely arguing that our elite failed to counter the trend, ok, but I'm not sure a "better" elite would have either. The trend, after all, favored the elite.
Anyway, I find your case is plausible.
Your inner/outer circle hybrid option is interesting. One (perhaps minor) thing jumps out at me: kids talk. The innies are going to figure out who they are and who the outies are. The outies might have their arrogance tempered, but the innies? I suspect they'd be even *more* arrogant than such folks are now (all the more so because they'd have better justification for their arrogance), but I could be wrong.
Perhaps more significantly, this:
But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements
Is a very good reason for Harvard, et al. to resist the idea. I think you're right that this would be a good thing for the country, but it would be bad for Harvard. I think the odds of convincing Harvard to do it out of the goodness of their administrators hearts is unlikely. You are basically asking them to purposefully damage their brand.
All in all, I think you're on to something here. I have my quibbles (the wage stagnation thing, and the graph with Chinese vs USA per capita growth come on, apples and oranges there!), but overall I think I agree that your proposal is likely superior to the status quo.Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm GMT •
Don't forget the mess one finds after they ARE admitted to these schools. I dropped out of Columbia University in 2010.
You can "make it" on an Ivy-league campus if you are a conservative-Republican-type with all the rich country-club connections that liberals use to stereotype.
Or you can succeed if you are a poor or working-class type who is willing to toe the Affirmative Action party line and be a good "progressive" Democrat (Obama stickers, "Gay Pride" celebrations, etc.)
If you come from a poor or working-class background and are religious, or culturally conservative or libertarian in any way, you might as well save your time and money. You're not welcome, period. And if you're a military veteran you WILL be actively persecuted, no matter what the news reports claim.
It sucks. Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.Scott McConnell November 28, 2012 at 5:39 pm GMT •
Regarding the overrepresentation of Jewish students compared to their actual academic merit, I think the author overstates the role bias (subjective, or otherwise) plays in this:
1) , a likely explanation is that Jewish applicants are a step ahead in knowing how to "play the admissions game." They therefore constitute a good percentage of applicants that admission committees view as "the total package." (at least a higher percentage than scores alone would yield). Obviously money and connections plays a role in them knowing to say precisely what adcoms want to hear, but in any case, at the end of the day, if adcoms are looking for applicants with >1400 SATs, "meaningful" life experiences/accomplishments, and a personal statement that can weave it all together into a compelling narrative, the middle-upper-class east coast Jewish applicant probably constitutes a good percentage of such "total package" applicants. I will concede however that this explanation only works in explaining the prevalence of jews vs. whites in general. With respect to Asians, however, since they are likely being actively and purposefully discriminated against by adcoms, having the "complete package" would be less helpful to them.
2) Another factor is that, regardless of ethnicity, alumni children get a boost and since in the previous generation Jewish applicants were the highest achieving academic group, many of these lesser qualified jews admitted are children of alumni.
3) That ivy colleges care more about strong verbal scores than mathematics (i.e., they prefer 800V 700M over 700V 800M), and Jewish applicants make up a higher proportion of the high verbal score breakdowns.
4) Last, and perhaps more importantly we do not really know the extent of Jewish representation compared to their academic merit. Unlike admitted Asian applicants, who we know, on average, score higher than white applicants, we have no similar numbers of Jewish applicants. The PSAT numbers are helpful, but hardly dispositive considering those aren't the scores colleges use in making their decision information.HAR November 28, 2012 at 6:10 pm GMT
@Bryan– Getting accepted to Columbia was a dream come true for me. The reality broke my heart.
I'm touched by this. I've spent tons of time at Columbia, a generation ago -- and my background fit fine -- the kind of WASP background Jews found exotic and interesting. But I can see your point, sad to say. There are other great schools -- Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps - and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia.KXB November 28, 2012 at 6:18 pm GMT •
"There are other great schools–Fordham, where my wife went to law school at night, has incredible esprit de corps - and probably, person for person, has as many lawyers doing good and interesting work as Columbia."
Someone doesn't know much about the legal market.Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 6:39 pm GMT •
"Tiffany was also rejected by all her other prestigious college choices, including Yale, Penn, Duke, and Wellsley, an outcome which greatly surprised and disappointed her immigrant father.88″
In the fall of 1990, my parents had me apply to 10 colleges. I had the profile of many Indian kids at the time – ranked in the top 10 of the class, editor of school paper, Boy Scouts. SAT scores could have been better, but still strong. Over 700 in all achievement tests save Bio, which was 670.
Rejected by 5 schools, waitlisted by 3, accepted into 2 – one of them the state univ.
One of my classmates, whose family was from Thailand, wound up in the same predicament as me. His response, "Basketball was designed to keep the Asian man down."
The one black kid in our group – got into MIT, dropped out after one year because he could not hack it. The kid from our school who should have gone, from an Italian-American family, and among the few who did not embrace the guido culture, went to Rennsealer instead, and had professional success after.a November 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT •
As a University of Chicago alum, I infer that by avoiding the label "elite" on such a nifty chart we can be accurately categorized as "meritocratic" by The American Conservative.
Then again, this article doesn't even purport to ask why elite universities might be in the business of EDUCATING a wider population of students, or how that education takes place.
Perhaps, by ensuring that "the best" students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America's education system remains the envy of the world.Weighty Commentary November 28, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT •
In my high school, there were roughly 15 of us who had been advanced two years ahead in math. Of those, 10 were Jewish; only two of them had a 'Jewish' last name. In my graduate school class, half (7) are Jewish. None has a 'Jewish' last name. So I'm pretty dubious of the counting method that you use.
Also, it's clear that there are Asian quotas at these schools, but it's not clear that Intel Science Fairs, etc, are the best way to estimate what level of talent Asians have relative to other groups.
I was curious so I google High School Poetry Competition, High School Constitution Competition, High School Debating Competition. None of the winners here seem to have an especially high Asian quotient. So maybe a non-technical (liberal arts) university would settle on ~25-30% instead of ~40% asian? And perhaps a (small) part of the problem is a preponderance of Asian applicants excelling in technical fields, leading to competition against each other rather than the general population? Just wonderin'Adam November 28, 2012 at 6:49 pm GMT •
Regarding the declining Jewish achievement, it looks like it can be primarily explained through demographics: "Intermarriage rates have risen from roughly 6% in 1950 to approximately 40–50% in the year 2000. This, in combination with the comparatively low birthrate in the Jewish community, has led to a 5% decline in the Jewish population of the United States in the 1990s."
Jewish surnames don't mean what they used to. And intermarriage rates are lowest among the low-performing and highly prolific Orthodox.
Jewish birth rates have been falling faster than the white population, especially for the non-Orthodox:
"In contrast to the ongoing trends of assimilation, some communities within American Jewry, such as Orthodox Jews, have significantly higher birth rates and lower intermarriage rates, and are growing rapidly. The proportion of Jewish synagogue members who were Orthodox rose from 11% in 1971 to 21% in 2000, while the overall Jewish community declined in number.  In 2000, there were 360,000 so-called "ultra-orthodox" (Haredi) Jews in USA (7.2%). The figure for 2006 is estimated at 468,000 (9.4%)."
"a very low fertility rate of 1.9, of which 1.4 will be raised as Jews (2.15 is replacement rate)"
"As against the overall average of 1.86 children per Jewish woman, an informed estimate gives figures ranging upward from 3.3 children in "modern Orthodox" families to 6.6 in Haredi or "ultra-Orthodox" families to a whopping 7.9 in families of Hasidim."
These statistics would suggest that half or more of Jewish children are being born into these lower-performing groups. Given their very low intermarriage rates, a huge portion of the secular, Reform, and Conservative Jews must be intermarrying (more than half if the aggregate 43% intermarriage figure is right). And the high-performing groups may now be around 1 child per woman or lower, and worse for the youngest generation.
So a collapse in Jewish representation in youth science prizes can be mostly explained by the collapse of the distinct non-Orthodox Jewish youth.
Incidentally, intermarriage also produces people with Jewish ancestry who get classified as gentiles using last names or self-identification, reducing Jewish-gentile gaps by bringing up nominal gentile scores at the same time as nominal-Jewish scores are lowered.Bryan November 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm GMT •
The center of power in this country being located in the Northeast is nothing new. Whether it be in it's Ivy League schools or the ownership of natural resources located in other regions, particularly the South, the Northeast has always had a disproportionate share of influence in the power structures, particularly political and financial, of this nation. This is one of the reasons the definition of "white" when reviewing ethnicity is so laughably inaccurate. There is a huge difference in opportunity between WASP or Jewish in the Northeast, for instance, and those of Scots Irish ancestory in the mountain south. Hopefully statistical analysis such as this can break open that stranglehold, especially as it is directly impacting a minority group in a negative fashion. Doing this exercise using say, white Baptists compared to other white subgroups, while maybe equally valid in the results, would be seen as racist by the very Ivy League system that is essentially practicing a form of racism.Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 8:44 pm GMT •
Scott, thanks for your words of commiseration.
Yeah, my ultimate goal was to attend law school, and a big part of the heartbreak for me–or heartburn, the more cynical would call it–was seeing how skewed and absurd the admissions process to law school is.
I have no doubt that I could have eventually entered into a "top tier" law school, and that was a dream of mine also. I met with admissions officers from Duke, Harvard, Stanford, Fordham, etc. I was encouraged. I had the grades and background for it.
But–and I'm really not trying to sound corny 0r self-important here–what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? I really don't feel that I'm exaggerating when I say that that's exactly how it felt to me.
The best experience I had while In New York was working as an after-school programs administrator for P.S. 136, but that was only because of the kids. They'll be old and bitter and cynical soon enough.
At one point it occurred to me that I should have just started claiming "Black" as my ethnicity when I first started attending college as an adult. I never attended high-school so it couldn't have been disproved. I'm part Sicilian so I could pass for 1/4 African-American. Then I would have received the preference toward admission that, say, Michael Jordan's kids or Barack Obama's kids will receive when they claim their Ivy-league diplomas. I should have hid the "white privilege" I've enjoyed as the son of a fisherman and a waitress from one of the most economically-depressed states in America.
The bottom line is that those colleges are political brainwashing centers for a country I no longer believe in. I arrived on campus in 2009 and I'm not joking at all when I say I was actively persecuted for being a veteran and a conservative who was not drinking the Obama Kool-aid. Some big fat African-American lady, a back-room "administrator" for Columbia, straight-up threw my VA benefits certification in the garbage, so my money got delayed by almost two months. I had no idea what was going on. I had a wife and children to support.
The fact that technology has enabled us to sit here in real-time and correspond back-and-forth about the state of things doesn't really change the state of things. They are irredeemable. This country is broke and broken.
If Abraham Lincoln were born today in America he would wind up like "Uncle Teardrop" from Winter's Bone. Back then, in order to be an attorney, you simply studied law and starting trying cases. If you were good at it then you were accepted and became a lawyer. Today, something has been lost. There is no fixing it. I don't want to waste my time trying to help by being "productive" to the new tower of Babel or pretending to contribute.TM says: • Website November 28, 2012 at 9:51 pm GMT •
Perhaps only one thing you left out, which is especially important with regard to Jewish enrollment and applications at Ivy leagues, and other schools as well.
Jewish high school graduates actively look out for campuses with large Jewish populations, where they feel more comfortable.
I don't know the figures, but I believe Dartmouth, for example, has a much smaller Jewish population than Columbia, and it will stay that way because of a positive feedback loop. (i.e. Jews would rather be at Columbia than Dartmouth, or sometimes even rather be at NYU than Dartmouth). This explains some of the difference among different schools (and not solely better admission standards).
This is also especially relevant to your random lottery idea, which will inevitably lead to certain schools being overwhelmingly Asian, others being overwhelmingly Jewish, etc., because the percentage of applicants from every ethnicity is different in every school. This will necessarily eliminate any diversity which may or may not have existed until now.Luke Lea November 28, 2012 at 10:04 pm GMT •
I like the lottery admissions idea a lot but the real remedy for the US education system would be to abandon the absurd elite cult altogether. There is not a shred of evidence that graduates of so-called elite institutions make good leaders. Many of them are responsible for the economic crash and some of them have brought us the disaster of the Bush presidency.
Many better functioning countries – Germany, the Scandinavians – do not have elite higher education systems. When I enrolled to University in Germany, I showed up at the enrollment office the summer before the academic year started, filled out a form (1), and provided a certified copy of my Abitur certificate proving that I was academically competent to attend University. I never wasted a minute on any of the admissions games that American middle class teenagers and their parents are subjected to. It would surely have hurt my sense of dignity to be forced to jump through all these absurd and arbitrary hoops.
Americans, due to their ignorance of everything happening outside their borders, have no clue that a system in which a person is judged by what "school" they attended is everything but normal. It is part of the reason for American dysfunction.Jack November 28, 2012 at 10:07 pm GMT •
Since they are the pool from which tomorrow's governing elites will be chosen, I'd much rather see Ivy League student bodies which reflected the full ethnic and geographic diversity of the US. Right now rural and small town Americans and those of Catholic and Protestant descent who live in the South and Mid-West - roughly half the population - are woefully under-represented, which explains why their economic interests have been neglected over the last forty years. We live in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic representative democracy and our policy-making elites must reflect that diversity. Else the country will come apart.
Thus I recommend 'affirmative action for all' in our elite liberal arts colleges and universities (though not our technical schools). Student bodies should be represent 'the best and the brightest' of every ethnic group and geographical area of the country. Then the old school ties will truly knit our society together in a way that is simply not happening today.
A side benefit - and I mean this seriously - is that our second and third tier colleges and universities would be improved by an influx of Asian and Ashkenazi students (even though the very best would still go to Harvard).Pat Boyle November 28, 2012 at 10:30 pm GMT •
I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:
They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers.
Without actual data on the ethnicity of the applicants to these and other schools, we simply cannot rule out this simple and likely explanation.
It is quite clear that a large current of Jewish American culture places a great emphasis on elite college attendance, and among elite colleges, specifically values the Ivy League and its particular cache as opposed to other elite institutions such as MIT. Also, elite Jewish American culture, moreso than elite Asian American culture, encourages children to go far away from home for college, considering such a thing almost a right of passage, while other ethnic groups tend to encourage children to remain closer. A high performing Asian student from, say, California, is much more likely to face familial pressure to stay close to home for undergrad (Berkeley, UCLA, etc) than a high performing Jewish student from the same high school, who will likely be encouraged by his or her family to apply to many universities "back east".
Without being able to systematically compare – with real data – the ethnicities of the applicants to those offered admission, these conclusions simply cannot be accepted.Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 11:06 pm GMT •
Different expectations for different races should worry traditional Americans.
If we become comfortable with different academic standards for Asians will we soon be expected to apply different laws to them also? Will we apply different laws or at least different interpretations of the same laws to blacks?
The association of East Asians with CalTech is now as strong as the association of blacks with violent crime. Can not race conscious jurisprudence be far behind?
Around a millenium ago in England it mattered to the court if you were a commoner or a noble. Nobles could exercise 'high justice' with impunity. They were held to different standards. Their testimony counted for more in court. The law was class concious.
Then we had centuries of reform. We had 'Common Law'. By the time of our revolution the idea that all were equal before the law was a very American kind of idea. We were proud that unlike England we did not have a class system.
Today we seem to be on the threshold of a similar sytem of privileges and rights based on race. Let me give an example. If there were a domestic riot of somekind and a breakdown of public order, the authorities might very well impose a cufew. That makes good sense for black male teens but makes little or no sense for elderly Chinese women. I can envision a time when we have race specific policies for curfews and similar measures.
It seems to be starting in schools. It could be that the idea of equality before the law was an idea that only flourished between the fifteenth century and the twenty first.Kelly November 28, 2012 at 11:15 pm GMT
"But filling out a few very simple forms and having their test scores and grades scores automatically forwarded to a list of possible universities would give them at least the same chance in the lottery as any other applicant whose academic skills were adequate."
They get a lot of applications. I am guessing they chuck about 1/2 or more due to the application being incomplete, the applicant did not follow instructions, the application was sloppy, or just obviously poor grades/test scores. The interview and perhaps the essay and recommendations are necessary to chuck weirdos and psychopaths you do not want sitting next to King Fahd Jr. So the "byzantine" application process is actually necessary to reduce the number of applicants to be evaluated.Anonymous November 28, 2012 at 11:31 pm GMT •
I have a friend who went to Stanford with me in the early 80s. She has two sons who recently applied to Stanford. The older son had slightly better grades and test scores. The younger son is gay. Guess which one got in?FN November 28, 2012 at 11:44 pm GMT •
If you were in Columbia's GS school, (or even if you were CC/SEAS/Barnard) you ought to reach out to some of on-campus and alumni veteran's groups. They can help you maneuver through the school. (I know there's one that meets at a cafe on 122 and Broadway) CU can be a lonely and forbidding place for anyone and that goes double for GSers and quadruple for veterans.
You ought to give it another go. Especially if you aren't going somewhere else that's better. Reach out to your deans and make a fuss. No one in the bureaucracy wants to help but you can force them to their job.Ben K November 29, 2012 at 12:24 am GMT •
Mr. Unz, the issues of jewish/gentile intermarriage and the significance of jewish-looking names do indeed merit more consideration than they were given in this otherwise very enlightening article.
What would the percentage of jews in Ivy-League universities look like if the methodology used to determine the percentage of jewish NMS semifinalists were applied to the list of Ivy League students (or some available approximation of it)?Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 12:28 am GMT •
For background: I'm an Asian-American who worked briefly in legacy admissions at an Ivy and another non-Ivy top-tier, both while in school (work-study) and as an alum on related committees.
Mendy Finkel's observations are spot on. Re: her 1st point, personal "presentation" or "branding" is often overlooked by Asian applicants. An admission officer at another Ivy joked they drew straws to assign "Night of a 1000 Lee's", so accomplished-but-indistinguishable was that group.
A few points on the Asian analysis:
1. I think this analysis would benefit from expanding beyond HYP/Ivies when considering the broader meritocracy issue. Many Asians esteem technical-leaning schools over academically-comparable liberal arts ones, even if the student isn't a science major. When I was in college in the 90′s, most Asian parents would favor a Carnegie Mellon or Hopkins over Brown, Columbia or Dartmouth (though HYP, of course, had its magnetic appeal). The enrollment percentages reflect this, and while some of this is changing, this is a fairly persistent pattern.
2. Fundraising is crucial. The Harvard Class of '77 example isn't the most telling kind of number. In my experience, Jewish alumni provide a critical mass in both the day-to-day fundraising and the resultant dollars. And they play a key role, both as givers and getters, in the signature capital campaign commitments (univ hospitals, research centers, etc.). This isn't unique to Jewish Ivy alumni; Catholic alumni of ND or Georgetown provide similar support. But it isn't clear what the future overall Asian commitment to the Ivy "culture of fundraising" will be, which will continue to be a net negative in admissions.
Sidenote: While Asians greatly value the particular civic good, they are uneasy with it being so hinged to an opaque private sector, in this case, philanthropy. That distinction, blown out a bit, speaks to some of the Republican "Asian gap".
3. I would not place too much weight on NMS comparisons between Asians and Jews. In my experience, most Asians treat the PSAT seriously, but many established Jews do not – the potential scholarship money isn't a factor, "NMS semifinalist" isn't an admissions distinction, and as Mendy highlighted, colleges don't see the scores.
On a different note, while the "weight" of an Ivy degree is significant, it's prestige is largely concentrated in the Northeast and among some overseas. In terms of facilitating access and mobility, a USC degree might serve you better in SoCal, as would an SMU one in TX.
And like J Harlan, I also hope the recent monopoly of Harvard and Yale grads in the presidency will end. No doubt, places like Whittier College, Southwest Texas State Teachers' College, and Eureka College gave earlier presidents valuable perspectives and experience that informed their governing.
But thank you, Ron, for a great provocative piece. Very well worth the read.M_Young November 29, 2012 at 1:46 am GMT •
Hey Ron, your next article should be on the military academies, and all those legacies that go back to the Revolutionary War. How do you get into the French military academy, and do the cadets trace their family history back to the soldiers of Napoleon or Charles Martel or whatever?Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 4:04 am GMT •
"Thus, there appears to be no evidence for racial bias against Asians, even excluding the race-neutral impact of athletic recruitment, legacy admissions, and geographical diversity."
Yes, at UCLA, at least up to 2004, Asian and white admits had nearly identical SATs and GPAs.
Further, it just isn't the case that Asians are so spectacular as people seem to think. Their average on the SAT Verbal is slightly less than whites, their average on SAT Writing is slightly more. Only in math do they have a significant advantage, 59 points or .59 standard deviation. Total advantage is about .2 over the three tests. Assuming that Harvard or Yale admit students at +3 standard deviations overall, and plugging the relative group quantiles +(3, 2.8) into a normal distribution, we get that .14% of white kids would get admitted, versus .26% of Asian kids. Or, 1.85 Asian kids for every one white kid.
But, last year 4.25 times as many whites as Asians took the SAT, so there still should be about 2.28 times as many white kids being admitted as Asians (4.25/1.85).
On GPA, whites and Asians are also pretty similar on average, 3.52 for Asians who took the SAT, 3.45 for whites who took the SAT. So that shouldn't be much of a factor.Todd November 29, 2012 at 5:49 am GMT •
I am a Cadet at the US Military Academy at West Point and generally pretty familiar with trans-national Academy admissions processes. There's an excellent comparative study of worldwide military academy admissions that was done in the late '90′s you might find interesting (IIRC it was done by a group in the NATO Defence College) and I think you will find that although soldiers are often proud of their family histories to a fault, it is not what controls entrance to the officer corps in most countries.
"Legacy" is definitely meaningless in US Military Academy admissions, although can be very helpful in the separate process of securing a political appointment to attend the Academy once accepted for admission and in an Army career. West Point is not comparable to the Ivy League schools in the country, because (ironically) the admissions department that makes those comparisons lets in an inordinate number of unqualified candidates and ensures our student body includes a wide range of candidates, from people who are unquestionably "Ivy League material" to those who don't have the intellect to hack it at any "elite" institution.
Prior the changes in admissions policies and JFK ordering an doubling of the size of the Corps of Cadets in the '60′s, we didn't have this problem. But, I digress. My point is, the Academy admissions system is very meritocratic.Interesting November 29, 2012 at 7:02 am GMT •
Thank you for the great article.
I am a Jewish alum of UPenn, and graduated in the late 90s. That puts me almost a generation ago, which may be before the supposed Jewish decline you write about. I was in an 80%+ Jewish fraternity, and at least 2/3 of my overall network of friends at Penn was also Jewish. As was mentioned earlier, I have serious qualms with your methods for counting Jews based upon last name.
Based upon my admittedly non-scientific sample, the percentage of us who had traditionally Jewish last names was well under half and closer to 25%. My own last name is German, and you would never know I am Jewish based solely upon my name (nor would you based upon the surname of 3/4 of my grandparents, despite my family being 100% Jewish with no intermarriages until my sister).
By contrast, Asians are much easier to identify based upon name. You may overcount certain names like Lee that are also Caucasian, but it is highly unlikely that you will miss any Asian students when your criterion is last name.
Admittedly I skimmed parts of the article, but were other criterion used to more accurately identify the groups?A Jew November 29, 2012 at 7:44 am GMT •
The Jewish presence is definitely understated by just looking at surnames. As is the American Indian.
My maternal grandfather was Ashkenazi and his wife was 1/2 Ashkenazi and 1/4 Apache. He changed his name to a Scots surname that matched his red hair so as to get ahead as a business man in 20s due to KKK and anti-German feelings at the time. Their kids had two PHDs and a Masters between them despite their parents running a very blue collar firm.
My surname comes from my dad and its a Scottish surname although he was 1/4 Cherokee. On that side we are members of the FF of Virignia. Altogether I am more Jewish and American Indian than anything else yet would be classified as white. I could easily claim to be
Jewish or Indian on admissions forms. I always selected white. I was NMSF.
Both my sister and I have kids. Her husband is a full blood Indian with a common English surname. One of my nieces made NMSF and another might. My sisters kids do not think of themselves as any race and check other.
My wife is 1/4 Indian and 3/4 English. My kids are young yet one has tested to an IQ in the 150s.
Once you get West of the Appalachians, there are a lot of mutts in the non-gentile whites. A lot of Jews and American Indians Anglicized themselves a generation or two ago and they are lumped into that group – as well as occupy the top percentile academically.Leon November 29, 2012 at 10:24 am GMT •
Interesting article with parts I would agree with but also tinged with bias and conclusions that I would argue are not fully supported by the data.
I think more analysis is needed to confirm your conclusions. As others have mentioned there may be problems with your analysis of NMS scores. I think graduate admissions and achievements especially in the math and sciences would be a better measure of intellectual performance.
Now, I didn't attend an Ivy League school, instead a public university, mainly because I couldn't afford it or so I thought. I was also a NMS finalist.
But I always was of the opinion that except for the most exceptional students admission to the Ivies was based on the wealth of your family and as you mentioned there are quite a few affluent Jews so I imagine they do have a leg up. Harvard's endowment isn't as large as it is by accident.
It is interesting that you didn't discuss the stats for Stanford.
Lastly, I think your solution is wrong. The pure meritocracy is the only fair solution. Admissions should be based upon the entrance exams like in Asia and Europe.
There are plenty of options for those who don't want to compete and if the Asians dominate admissions at the top schools so be it.
Hopefully, all of this will be mute point n a few years as online education options become more popular with Universities specializing in graduate education and research.Weighty Commentary November 29, 2012 at 12:03 pm GMT
Ron Unz on Asians (ie Asian Americans): "many of them impoverished immigrant families"
Why do you twice repeat this assertion. Asians are the wealthiest race and most of the wealthiest ethnic groups tracked by the Census Bureau, which includes immigrants.
A potentially bigger issue completely ignored by your article is how do colleges differentiate between 'foreign' students (overwhelmingly Asian) and American students. Many students being counted as "Asian American" are in reality wealthy and elite foreign "parachute kids" (an Asian term), dropped onto the generous American education system or into boarding schools to study for US entrance exams, qualify for resident tuition rates and scholarships, and to compete for "American" admissions slots, not for the usually limited 'foreign' admission slots.
Probably people from non-Asian countries are pulling the same stunt, but it seems likely dominated by Asians. And expect many more with the passage of the various "Dream Acts"
So American kids must compete with the offspring of all the worlds corrupt elite for what should be opportunities for US Americans.
New York PSAT data:
In New York Asian-Americans make up 9.5%, whites 50.4%, Latinos 18.3% and African-Americans 15.7%.
California PSAT data:
In California Asian-Americans make up 19.7% of PSAT takers, and whites make up 31.9%, with 37% Latino and 5.7% African-American.Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 2:01 pm GMT •nooffensebut says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment November 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm GMT •
Am I the only one that finds the comparison of Asians (a race) to Jews (a religion) as basis for a case of discrimination completely flawed? I got in at Harvard and don't remember them even asking me what my religion was.
The value of diversity is absolutely key. I have a bunch of very good Asian friends and I love them dearly, but I don't believe a place like CalTech with its 40% demographics cannot truly claim to be a diverse place any more.Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm GMT •
Regarding the SAT, we do know more than just differences of averages between whites and Asians. We have some years of score distributions . As recently as 1992, 1.2% of whites and 5.1% of Asians scored between 750 and 800 on the math subtest. As recently as 1985, 0.20% of whites and 0.26% of Asians scored in that range on the verbal/critical reading subtest.
On a different form of the writing subtest than is currently used, 5.0% of whites and 3.0% of Asians scored greater than 60 in 1985. We also know that, as the white-Asian average verbal/critical reading gap shrank to almost nothing and the average math gap grew in Asians' favor, the standard deviations on both for Asians have been much higher than every other group but have stayed relatively unchanged and have become, in fact, slightly lower than in 1985.
Therefore, Asians probably greatly increased their share of top performers.Rob Schacter November 29, 2012 at 3:37 pm GMT •
@Milton F.: "Perhaps, by ensuring that "the best" students are not concentrated in only 8 universities is why the depth and quality of America's education system remains the envy of the world."
Hardly. America's education system is "the envy" because of the ability for minorities to get placement into better schools, not solely for the education they receive. Only a very select few institutions are envied for their education primarily, 90% of the colleges and universities across the country are sub-standard education providers, same with high schools.
I would imagine you're an educator at some level, more than likely, at one of the sub-standard colleges or even perhaps a high school teacher. You're attempting to be defensive of the American education system, when in reality, you're looking at the world through rose colored glasses. Working from within the system, rather than from the private sector looking back, gives you extreme tunnel vision. That, coupled with the average "closed mindedness" of educators in America is a dangerous approach to advancing the structure of the American education system. You and those like you ARE the problem and should be taken out of the equation as quickly as possible. Please retire ASAP or find another career.Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment November 29, 2012 at 5:41 pm GMT •
Aside from the complete lack of actual ivy league admission data on jewish applicants, a big problem with unz's "jewish affirmative action" claim is how difficult such a policy would be to carry out in complete secrecy.
Now, it would be one thing if Unz was claiming that jews are being admitted with similar numbers to non-jewish whites, but in close cases, admissions staff tend to favor jewish applicants. But he goes much further than that. Unz is claiming that jews, as a group, are being admitted with lower SAT scores than non-jewish whites. Not only that, but this policy is being carried out by virtually every single ivy league college and it has been going on for years. Moreover, this preference is so pervasive, that it allows jews to gain admissions at many times the rate that merit alone would yield, ultimately resulting in entering classes that are over 20% Jewish.
If a preference this deep, consistent and widespread indeed exists, there is no way it could be the result of subjective bias or intentional tribal favoritism on the part of individual decision makers. It would have to be an official, yet unstated, admissions policy in every ivy league school. Over the years, dozens (if not hundreds) of admission staff across the various ivy league colleges would be engaging in this policy, without a single peep ever leaking through about Jewish applicants getting in with subpar SAT scores. We hear insider reports all the time about one group is favored or discriminated against (we even have such an insider account in this comment thread), but we hear nothing about the largest admission preference of them all.
Remember, admissions staffs usually include other ethnic minorities. I couldn't imagine them not wondering why jews need to be given such a big boost so that they make up almost a quarter of the entering class. Even if every member of every admissions committee were Jewish liberals, it would still be almost impossible to keep this under wraps.
Obviously, I have never seen actual admission numbers for Jewish applicants, so I could be wrong, and there could in fact be an unbreakable wall of secrecy regarding the largest and most pervasive affirmative action practice in the country. Or, perhaps, the ivy league application pool contains a disproportionate amount of high scoring jewish applicants.Julia November 29, 2012 at 6:13 pm GMT •
As some who is Jewish from the former Soviet Union, and who was denied even to take an entrance exam to a Moscow college, I am saddened to see that American educational admission process looks more and more "Soviet" nowadays. Kids are denied opportunities because of their ethnic or social background, in a supposedly free and fair country!
But this is just a tip of the iceberg. The American groupthink of political correctness, lowest common denominator, and political posturing toward various political/ethnic/religious/sexual orientation groups is rotting this country inside out.
Worse things are yet to come.Ben K November 29, 2012 at 6:43 pm GMT •
"Similarly, Jews were over one-quarter of the top students in the Physics Olympiad from 1986 to 1997, but have fallen to just 5 percent over the last decade, a result which must surely send Richard Feynman spinning in his grave."
Actually, Richard Feynman famously rejected genetic explanations of Jewish achievement (whether he was right or wrong to do so is another story), and aggressively resisted any attempts to list him as a "Jewish scientist" or "Jewish Nobel Prize winner." I am sure he would not cared in the slightest bit how many Jews were participating in the Physics Olympiad, as long as the quality of the students' work continued to be excellent. Here is a letter he wrote to a woman seeking to include him in a book about Jewish achievement in the sciences.
Dear Miss Levitan:
In your letter you express the theory that people of Jewish origin have inherited their valuable hereditary elements from their people. It is quite certain that many things are inherited but it is evil and dangerous to maintain, in these days of little knowledge of these matters, that there is a true Jewish race or specific Jewish hereditary character. Many races as well as cultural influences of men of all kinds have mixed into any man. To select, for approbation the peculiar elements that come from some supposedly Jewish heredity is to open the door to all kinds of nonsense on racial theory.
Such theoretical views were used by Hitler. Surely you cannot maintain on the one hand that certain valuable elements can be inherited from the "Jewish people," and deny that other elements which other people may find annoying or worse are not inherited by these same "people." Nor could you then deny that elements that others would consider valuable could be the main virtue of an "Aryan" inheritance.
It is the lesson of the last war not to think of people as having special inherited attributes simply because they are born from particular parents, but to try to teach these "valuable" elements to all men because all men can learn, no matter what their race.
It is the combination of characteristics of the culture of any father and his father plus the learning and ideas and influences of people of all races and backgrounds which make me what I am, good or bad. I appreciate the valuable (and the negative) elements of my background but I feel it to be bad taste and an insult to other peoples to call attention in any direct way to that one element in my composition.
At almost thirteen I dropped out of Sunday school just before confirmation because of differences in religious views but mainly because I suddenly saw that the picture of Jewish history that we were learning, of a marvelous and talented people surrounded by dull and evil strangers was far from the truth. The error of anti-Semitism is not that the Jews are not really bad after all, but that evil, stupidity and grossness is not a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general. Most non-Jewish people in America today have understood that. The error of pro-Semitism is not that the Jewish people or Jewish heritage is not really good, but rather the error is that intelligence, good will, and kindness is not, thank God, a monopoly of the Jewish people but a universal characteristic of mankind in general.
Therefore you see at thirteen I was not only converted to other religious views but I also stopped believing that the Jewish people are in any way "the chosen people." This is my other reason for requesting not to be included in your work.
I am expecting that you will respect my wishes.
Richard FeynmanEric Rasmusen November 29, 2012 at 7:58 pm GMT •
@Rob Schacter – your last point is basically spot-on. The Ivies are fairly unique in the high proportion of Jewish applicants. History, geographical bias, and self-selection all play a role. I think the overall preference distortion is probably not as wide as Unz claims, but you will see similar tilts at Stanford, Northwestern, etc. that reflect different preference distortions.
@Leon, two quick points.
1st – the census tracks by household, which generally overestimates Asian wealth. Many families have three generations and extended members living in one household (this reflects that many of them work together in a small family business).
2nd – most of the time, it's clear in the application (the HS, personal info, other residency info, etc.) which Asian applicants are Asian-American and which are "Parachute Kids". But the numbers are much smaller than one might think, and the implication depends on the school.
At Ivies, parachute kids (both Asian and not) tend to compete with each other in the application pool, and aren't substantially informing the broader admissions thesis in this article. I'm not saying that's right, just saying it's less material than we might think.
They more likely skew the admissions equation in great-but-not-rich liberal arts colleges (like Grinnell) and top public universities (like UCLA), which are both having budget crises and need full fare students, parachute or not. And for the publics, this includes adding more higher-tuition, out-of-state students, which further complicates assertions of just whose opportunities are being lost.
I will bring this back to fundraising and finances again, because the broader point is about who is stewarding and creating access: so long as top universities are essentially run as self-invested feedback loops, and position and resource themselves accordingly (and other universities have to compete with them), we will continue to see large, persistent discrepancies in who can participate.David in Cali November 29, 2012 at 8:16 pm GMT •
When I applied to Harvard College back in 1976, I was proud of my application essay. In it, I proposed that the US used the Israeli army as a proxy, just as the Russians were using the Cuban army at the time.
Alas, I wasn't admitted (I did get into Yale, which didn't require free-form essay like that).
This, of course, illustrates the point that coming from an Application Hell instead of from central Illinois helps a student know how to write applications. It also illustrates what might help explain the mystery of high Jewish admissions: political bias. Jews are savvier about knowing what admissions officers like to hear (including the black and Latino ones, who as a previous commentor said aren't likely to be pro-semite). They are also politically more liberal, and so don't have to fake it. And their families are more likely to read the New York Times and thus have the right "social graces" as we might call them, of this age.
It would be interesting to know how well "true WASPS" do in admissions. This could perhaps be estimated by counting Slavic and Italian names, or Puritan New England last names. I would expect this group to do almost as well as Jews (not quite as well, because their ability would be in the lower end of the Legacy group).
David in Cali November 29, 2012 at 8:19 pm GMT
The missing variable in this analysis is income/class. While Unz states that many elite colleges have the resources to fund every student's education, and in fact practice need-blind admissions, the student bodies are skewed towards the very highest percentile of the income and wealth distribution. SAT scores may also scale with parents' income as well.
Tuition and fees at these schools have nearly doubled relative to inflation in the last 25-30 years, and with home prices in desirable neighborhoods showing their own hyper-inflationary behavior over the past couple of decades (~15 yrs, especially), the income necessary to pay for these schools without burdening either the student or parents with a lot of debt has been pushed towards the top decile of earners. A big chunk of the upper middle class has been priced out. This could hit Asian professionals who may be self made harder than other groups like Jews who may be the second or third generation of relative affluence, and would thus have advantages in having less debt when starting their families and careers and be less burdened in financing their homes. Would be curious to see the same analysis if $$ could be controlled.
I would also like to add that I am a late '80′s graduate of Wesleyan who ceased his modest but annual financial contribution to the school after reading The Gatekeepers.
Rebecca November 29, 2012 at 9:33 pm GMT
If I had a penny for every Jewish American I met (including myself) whose first and last name gave no indication of his religion or ethnicity, I'd be rich. Oh–and my brother and I have four Ivy League degrees between us.
Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 10:16 pm GMT •Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm GMT •
I almost clicked on a different link the instance I came across the word "elite" , but curiosity forced my hand.
Just yesterday my mom was remarking how my cousin had gotten into MIT with an SAT score far below what I scored, and she finished by adding that I should have applied to an ivy-league college after high school. I as always, reminded her, I'm too "black for ivy games".
I always worked hard in school, participated in olympiads and symposiums, and was a star athlete. When it came to applying for college I found myself startled when forced to "quantify" my achievements in an "application package". I did not do or engage in these activities solely to boost my chances of gaining admission into some elite college over similarly-hardworking Henry Wang or Jess Steinberg. I did these things because I loved doing them.
Sports after class was almost a relaxation activity for me. Participating in math olympiads was a way for me to get a scoop on advanced mathematics. Participating in science symposiums was a chance for me to start applying my theoretical education to solve practical problems.
The moment I realized I would have to kneel down before some admissions officer and "present my case", outlining my "blackness", athleticism, hard work, curiosity, and academic ability, in that specific order I should point, in order to have a fighting chance at getting admitted; is the moment all my "black rage" came out in an internal explosion of rebellion and disapproval of "elite colleges".
I instead applied to a college that was blind to all of the above factors. I am a firm believer that hard work and demonstrated ability always win out in the end. I've come across, come up against is a better way to put it, Ivy-league competition in college competitions and applications for co-ops and internships, and despite my lack of "eliteness" I am confident that my sheer ability and track record will put me in the "interview candidate" pool.
Finally, my opinion is: let elite schools keep doing what they are doing. It isn't a problem at all, the "elite" tag has long lost its meaning.
Anonymous November 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm GMT •
The difficulty with using Jewish sounding last names to identify Jewish students works poorly in two ways today. Not only, as others have pointed out, do many Jews not have Jewish sounding last names, but there are those, my grandson for example, who have identifiably Jewish last names and not much in the way of Jewish background.
Anon November 29, 2012 at 11:50 pm GMT •
Interesting reading. The article opens a deceptively simple statistical window into a poorly understood process - a window which I would guess even the key participants have never looked through. I especially appreciated the insights provided by the author's examination of Asian surname-frequencies and their over-representation in NMS databases.
Though this is a long and meticulously argued piece, it would have benefited from a more thorough discussion of the statistical share of legacies and athletic scholarships in elite admissions.
Perhaps, though, it would be better to focus on increasing meritocracy in the broader society, which would inevitably lead to some discounting of the value of educational credentials issued by these less than meritocratic private institutions.
It is precisely because the broader society is also in many key respects non-meritocratic that the non-meritocratic admissions practices of elite institutions are sustainable.
Allan November 30, 2012 at 3:00 am GMT •
Despite the very long and detailed argument, the writer's interpretation of a pro-Jewish admissions bias at Ivy-league schools is worryingly flawed.
First, he uses two very different methods of counting Jews: name recognition for counting various "objective" measures such as NMS semifinalists and Hillel stats for those admitted to Harvard. The first is most likely an underestimate while the latter very possibly inflated (in both cases especially due to the very large numbers of partially-Jewish students, in the many interpretations that has). I wonder how much of his argument would just go away if he simply counted the number of Jews in Harvard using the same method he used to count their numbers in the other cases. Would that really be hard to do?
Second, he overlooks the obvious two sources that can lead to such Asian/Jewish relative gaps in admissions. The first is the different groups' different focus on Science/Math vs. on Writing/Culture. It is very possible that in recent years most Asians emphasize the former while Jews the latter, which would be the natural explanation to the Caltech vs Harvard racial composition (as well as to the other stats). The second is related but different and it is the different group's bias in applications: the same cultural anecdotes would explain why Asians would favor applying to Caltech and Jews to Harvard. A natural interpretation of the data would be that Jews have learned to optimize for whatever criteria the Ivy leagues are using and the Asians are doing so for the Caltech criteria.
Most strange is the author's interpretation of how a pro-Jewish bias in admissions is actually put into effect: the application packets do not have the data of whether the applicant is Jewish or not, and I doubt that most admission officers figure it out in most cases. While it could be possible for admissions officers to have a bias for or against various types of characteristics that they see in the data in front of them (say Asian/Black/White or political activity), a systematic bias on unobserved data is a much more difficult proposition to make. Indeed the author becomes rather confused here combining the low education level of admissions officers, that they are "liberal arts or ethnic-studies majors" (really?), that they are "progressive", and that there sometimes is corruption, all together presumably leading to a bias in favor of Jews?
Finally, the author's suggestion for changing admittance criteria is down-right bizarre for a conservative: The proposal is a centralized solution that he aims to force upon the various private universities, each who can only loose from implementing it.
Despite the long detailed (but extremely flawed) article, I am afraid that it is more a reflection of the author's biases than of admissions biases.
WG November 30, 2012 at 11:53 am GMT •
Both the article and the comments are illuminating. My takeaways:
1) Affirmative action in favor of blacks and Hispanics is acknowledged.
2) Admissions officers in the Ivy League appear to limit Asian admissions somewhat relative to the numbers of qualified applicants.
3) They may also admit somewhat more Jewish applicants than would be warranted relative to their comparative academic qualifications. The degree to which this is true is muddled by the difficulty of identifying Jews by surnames, by extensive intermarriage, by changing demographics within the Jewish population, by geographic factors, and by the propensity to apply in the first place.
4) (My major takeaway.) White Protestants and Catholics are almost certainly the sole groups that are greatly under-represented relative to their qualifications as well as to raw population percentages.
5) This is due partly to subtle or open discrimination.
6) I would hypothesize that a great many of the white Protestants and Catholics who are admitted are legacies, star athletes, and the progeny of celebrities in entertainment, media, politics, and high finance. White Protestant or Catholic applicants, especially from the hinterlands, who don't fit one of these special categories–though they must be a very large component of Mr Unz's pool of top talent–are out of luck.
7) And everyone seems to think this is just fine.
The inner and outer ring idea seems to me an excellent one, though the likelihood of it happening is next to nil, both because some groups would lose disproportionate access and because the schools' imprimatur would be diminished in
The larger point, made by several respondents, is that far too many institutions place far too much weight on the credentials conferred by a small group of screening institutions. The great advantage of the American system is not that it is meritocratic, either objectively or subjectively. It is that it is–or was–Protean in its flexibility. One could rise through luck or effort or brains, with credentials or without them, early in life or after false starts and setbacks. And there were regional elites or local elites rather than, as we increasingly see, a single, homogenized national elite. Success or its equivalent wasn't something institutionally conferred.
The result of the meritocratic process is that we are making a race of arrogant, entitled overlords, extremely skilled at the aggressive and assertive arts required to gain admission to, and to succeed in, a few similar and ideologically skewed universities and colleges; and who spend the remainder of their lives congratulating each other, bestowing themselves on the populace, and destroying the country.
No wonder we are where we are.
candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 1:25 pm GMT •
This article is the product of careful and thoughtful research, and it identifies a problem hiding in plain sight. As a society, we have invested great trust in higher education as a transformative institution. It is clear that we have been too trusting.
That the admissions policies of elite universities are meritocratic is hardly the only wrong idea that Americans have about higher education. Blind faith in higher education has left too many people with largely worthless degrees and crushing student-loan debt.
Of course, the problems don't end with undergraduate education. The "100 reasons NOT to go to grad school" blog offers some depressing reading:
The higher education establishment has failed to address so many longstanding internal structural problems that it's hard to imagine that much will change anytime soon.
candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 1:40 pm GMT •
Jack above makes the following point:
"I believe that this article raises – and then inappropriately immediately dismisses – the simplest and most likely reason for the over-representation of Jewish students at Ivy League Schools in the face of their declining bulk academic performance:
They apply to those schools in vastly disproportionate numbers."
Here's the problem with that point. What Ron Unz demonstrates, quite effectively, is that today's Jews simply don't measure up to either their Asian or their White Gentile counterparts in terms of actual performance when they get into, say, Harvard. The quite massive difference in the proportions of those groups who get into Phi Beta Kappa renders this quite undeniable. What is almost certain is that policies that favored Asians and White Gentiles over the current crop of Jewish students would create a class of higher caliber in terms of academic performance.
If indeed it's true that Jews apply to Harvard in greater numbers, then, if the desire is to produce a class with the greatest academic potential, some appropriate way of correcting for the consequent distortion should be introduced. Certainly when it comes to Asians, college admissions committees have found their ways of reducing the numbers of Asians admitted, despite their intense interest in the Ivies.
Howard November 30, 2012 at 5:11 pm GMT •
One way of understanding Unz's results here might be not so much that today's Jewish student is far less inclined to hard academic work than those of yesteryear, but rather that others - White Gentiles and Asians - have simply caught up in terms of motivation to get into elite schools and perform to the best of their abilities.
Certainly among members of the upper middle class, there has been great, and likely increasing, emphasis in recent years on the importance of an elite education and strong academic performance for ultimate success. This might well produce a much stronger class of students at the upper end applying to the Ivies.
It may be that not only the Asians, but upper middle class White Gentiles, are "The New Jews".
Daniel November 30, 2012 at 7:39 pm GMT •
I don't always agree with, Mr. Unz, but his expositions are always provocative and informative. As far as the criticisms of his data set go, he openly admits that they are less than ideal. However, the variances are so large that the margin of error can be excused. Jews are 40 TIMES more likely to be admitted to Harvard than Gentile whites. Asians are 10 times more likely. Of course, it could be possible that Jews, because of higher average IQs, actually produce 40 times as many members in the upper reaches of the cognitive elite.
Given Richard Lynn's various IQ studies of Jews and the relative preponderance of non-Jewish and Jewish whites in the population, however, whites ought to have a 7 to 1 representation vis-a-vis Jews in Ivy League institutions, assuming the IQ cutoff is 130. Their numbers are roughly equivalent instead.
Because Ivy League admissions have been a hotbed of ethnic nepotism in the past, it seems that special care should be taken to avoid these improprieties (or the appearance thereof) in the future. But no such safeguards have been put in place. David Brooks has also struck the alarm about the tendency of elites to shut down meritocratic institutions once they have gained a foothold: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/13/opinion/brooks-why-our-elites-stink.html?_r=1&ref=global-home
Clannish as the WASPs may have been, they were dedicated enough to ideals of fairness and equality that they opened the doors for their own dispossession. I predict that a new Asian elite will eventually eclipse our Jewish elite. Discrimination and repression can restrain a vigorously ascendant people but for so long. When they do, it will be interesting to see if this Asian cohort clings to its longstanding Confucian meritocratic traditions, embodied in the Chinese gaokao or if it too will succumb to the temptation, ever present in a multiethnic polity, of preferring ethnic kinsmen over others.
Does anyone know how a minority such as the Uighurs fares in terms of elite Chinese university admissions?
Nick November 30, 2012 at 9:06 pm GMT •
This may sound like special-pleading, but it's not clear that full-scale IQ measures are meaningful when assessing and predicting Jewish performance. Jewish deficits on g-loaded spatial reasoning task may reflect specific visuo-spatial deficits and not deficits in g. As far as I know, no one doubts that the average Jewish VIQ is at least 112 (and possibly over 120). This score may explain jewish representation which seems to exceed what would be projected by their full-scale iq scores. Despite PIQ's correllation to mathematical ability in most populations, we ought also remember that, at least on the WAIS, it is the VIQ scale that includes the only directly mathematical subtest. We should also note that Jewish mathematicians seem to use little visualization in their reasoning (cf. Seligman
That said, I basically agree that Jews are, by and large, coasting. American Jews want their children to play hockey and join 'greek life' and stuff, not sit in libraries . It's sad for those of us who value the ivory tower, but understandable given their stigmatiziation as a nerdish people.
Alex November 30, 2012 at 9:47 pm GMT •
I wonder if it would be at all possible to assess the political biases of admissions counselors at these schools by assessing the rates at which applicants from red states are admitted to the elite universities. I suppose you would have to know how many applied, and those data aren't likely to exist in the public domain.
Ben K November 30, 2012 at 11:18 pm GMT •
One major flaw with this article's method of determining Jewish representation: distinctive Jewish surnames in no way make up all Jewish surnames. Distinctive Jewish surnames happen to be held by only 10-12% of all American Jews. In fact, the third most common American Jewish surname after Cohen and Levy is Miller. Mr. Unz' methodology does not speak well for itself, given that he's comparing a limited set of last names against a far more carefully scrutinized estimate.
I'm not suggesting his estimate of national merit scholars and the like is off by a full 90%, but he's still ending up with a significant undercount, possibly close to half. That would still mean Jews may be "wrongfully" over-represented are many top colleges and universities, but the disproportion is nowhere near as nefarious as he would suggest.
candid_observer November 30, 2012 at 11:23 pm GMT •
@Nick – the "red state" application and admission rates isn't useful data.
Short answer: There are many reasons for this, but basically, historical momentum and comfort play a much bigger role in where kids apply than we think. I assure you, far more top Nebraska HS seniors want to be a Cornhusker than a Crimson, even though many would find a very receptive consideration and financial aid package.
Long answer: 1st, although this article and discussion have been framed in broad racial/cultural terms, the mechanics of college admissions are mostly local and a bit like athletic recruiting – coverage (and cultivation) of specific regions and districts, "X" high school historically deliver "X" kinds of candidates, etc. So to the degree we may see broader trends noted in the article and discussion, some of that is rooted at the HS level and lower.
2nd, in "red states", most Ivy applicants come from the few blue or neutral districts. E.g.: the only 2 Utah HS's that consistently have applicants to my Ivy alma mater are in areas that largely mirror other high-income, Dem-leaning areas nationwide rather than the rest of Utah.
3rd, but, with some variation among the schools, the Ivy student body is more politically balanced than usually assumed. Remember, most students are upper-income, Northeastern suburban and those counties' Dem/Rep ratio is often closer to 55/45 than 80/20.
But to wrap up, ideology plays a negligible role in admissions generally (there's always an exception); they have other fish to fry (see below).
@soren in Goldman's post ( http://bit.ly/TrbJSB ) and other commenters here:
"Quota against Asians" is not entirely wrong, but it's too strong because it implies the forward intent is about limiting their numbers.
Put another way, Unz believes the Ivies are failing their meritocractic mission by over-admitting a group that is neither disadvantaged nor has highest technical credentials; and this comes at the expense of a group that is more often disadvantaged and with higher technical credentials. The Ivies would likely reply, "well, we define 'meritocractic mission' differently".
That may be a legitimate counter, but it's also what needs more expansion and sunlight.
But Unz' analysis has a broader causation vs correlation gap. Just because admissions is essentially zero-sum doesn't mean every large discrepancy in it is, even after allowing for soft biases. I've mentioned these earlier in passing, but here are just a couple other factors of note:Admissions is accountable for selection AND marketing and matriculation – these are not always complementary forces. Essentially, you want to maximize both the number and distribution (racial, geographic, types of accomplishment, etc.) of qualified applicants, but also the number you can safely turn down but without discouraging future applications, upsetting certain stakeholders (specific schools, admissions counselors/consultants, etc.) or "harming" any data in the US News rankings. And you have a very finite time to do this, and – not just your competition, but the entire sector – is essentially doing this at the same time. You can see how an admissions process would develop certain biases over time to limit risks in an unpredictable, high volume market, even if rarely intended to target a specific group. Ivy fixation (but especially around HYP) is particularly concentrated in the Northeast – a sample from several top HS' across America (public and private) would show much larger application and matriculation variations among their top students than would be assumed from Unz's thesis. Different Ivies have different competitors/peers, which influences their diversity breakdowns – to some degree, they all co-compete, but just as often don't. E.g.: Princeton often overlaps with Georgetown and Duke, Columbia with NYU and Cooper Union, Cornell with SUNY honors programs because it has some "in state" public colleges, etc.
There's much more, of course, but returning to Unz's ethnographic thesis, I have this anecdote: we have two friends in finance, whose families think much of their success. The 1st is Asian, went to Carnegie Mellon, and is a big bank's trading CTO; the 2nd is Jewish, went to Wharton, and is in private equity.
Put another way, while both families shared a pretty specific vision of success, they differed a lot in the execution. The upper echelon of universities, and the kinds of elite-level mobility they offer, are much more varied than even 25 years ago. While the relative role of HYP in our country, and their soft biases in admission, are "true enough" to merit discussion, it's probably not the discussion that was in this article.
Bud Wood November 30, 2012 at 11:43 pm GMT •
While you may have a point as to the difficulty in some cases of identifying a Jewish surname, the most important thing methodologically is that the criteria be performed uniformly if one is comparing Jewish representation today vs. that of other periods. I can't think, for example, of any reason that Cohens or Levys or Golds should be any less well represented today as opposed to many years ago if indeed there has not been an underlying shift in numbers of Jews in the relevant categories. (Nor, for that matter, should issues like intermarriage affect the numbers much here - for every mother whose maiden name is Cohen who marries a non-Jew with a non-Jewish surname, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as non-Jewish, there is, on average, going to be a man named Cohen who will marry a non-Jew, and whose half Jewish child will be counted as Jewish.)
Neil Schipper December 1, 2012 at 4:54 am GMT •
One might suppose that all this "inequity" and "discrimination" matters if we're keeping score. However, seems to me that too much emphasis is typically placed on equality whereas real criteria in productive and satisfying lives are neglected. Kind'a like some people wanting bragging rights as much, if not more, than wanting positive reality.
I guess I just went about my way and lived a pretty god life (so far). Who knows?; maybe those "bragging rights" are meaningful.
Grad – Stanford Elec Engrg.
Alex December 1, 2012 at 6:12 am GMT •
Thought provoking article.
Ditto to many comments about the "last name problem", even if its correction weakens but doesn't invalidate the argument. (One imagines, chillingly, a new sub-field: "Jewish last name theory", seeking to determine proportionalities of classic names validated against member/donor lists of synagogues and other Jewish organizations.)
Regarding the 20% inner ring suggestion, it suffers from its harsh transition. Consider a randomized derating scheme: a random number between some lower bound (say 0.90) and 1.00 is applied to each score on the ranked applicant list.
The added noise provides warmth to a cold test scores list. Such an approach nicely captures the directive: "study hard, but it's not all about the grades".
By adjusting the lower bound, you can get whatever degree of representativeness relative to the application base you want.
That it's a "just a number" (rather than a complex subjectivity-laden labyrinth incessantly hacked at by consultants) could allow interesting conversations about how it could relate to the "top 1% / bottom 50%" wealth ratio. The feedback loop wants closure.
Anonymous December 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm GMT •
You missed my point, candid. A relatively small proportion of Jews, intermarried or otherwise, have distinctive Jewish names. I didn't make that 10-12% figure up. It's been cited in numerous local Jewish population studies and is used in part (but certainly far from whole) to help estimate those populations. It's also been significantly dragged down over the years as the Jewish population (and hence the surname pool) has diversified, not just from intermarriage, but in-migration from groups who often lack "distinctive Jewish surnames" such as Jews from the former Soviet Union. Consider also that for obvious reasons, Hillel, which maintains Jewish centers on most campus, has an incentive to over-report by a bit. Jewish populations on college campuses in the distant past were easier to gather, given that it was far less un-PC to simply point blank inquire what religious background applicants came from.
Again, I'm not saying there isn't a downward trend in Jewish representation among high achievers (which, even if one were to accept Unz's figures, Jews would still be triple relative to were they "should" be). But Unz has made a pretty significant oversight in doing his calculations. That may happen to further suit his personal agenda, but it's not reality.
conatus December 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm GMT •
This is interesting, but I suspect mostly bogus, based on your not having a decent algorithm for discovering if someone's Jewish.
I'm not sure what exact mechanism you're using to decide if a name is Jewish, but I'm certain it wouldn't have caught anyone, including myself, in my father's side of the family (Sephardic Jews from Turkey with Turkish surnames), nor my wife's family, an Ellis Island Anglo name. Or probably most of the people in her family. And certainly watching for "Levi, Cohen and Gold*" isn't going to do anything.
And none of us have even intermarried!
Andrew says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 1, 2012 at 6:29 pm GMT
Isn't the point about Jewish over representation in the Ivy League about absolute numbers?
Yes the Jewish demographic has a higher IQ at 115 to the Goyishe Kop 100 but Jewish people are only 2% of the population so you have 6 million Jewish people vying with 200 million white Goys for admission to the Ivy League and future control of the levers of power. That is a 33 times larger Bell curve so the right tail of the Goys' Bell curve is still much larger than the Jewish Bell curve at IQ levels of 130 and 145, supposedly there are seven times more Goys with IQs of 130 and over 4 times more Goys with IQs of 145. So why the equality of representation, one to one, Jewish to white Goy in the Ivy Leagues?
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/andrew-phu-quoc-nguyen/asian-american-students_b_2173993.html I hope everyone can participate in gaining admittance and everyone can improve the system legally. Real repair is needed.
Amanda December 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm GMT •Scott Locklin says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 1, 2012 at 10:09 pm GMT
Russell K. Nieli on study by Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Radford (mentioned by Unz):
"When lower-class whites are matched with lower-class blacks and other non-whites the degree of the non-white advantage becomes astronomical: lower-class Asian applicants are seven times as likely to be accepted to the competitive private institutions as similarly qualified whites, lower-class Hispanic applicants eight times as likely, and lower-class blacks ten times as likely. These are enormous differences and reflect the fact that lower-class whites were rarely accepted to the private institutions Espenshade and Radford surveyed. Their diversity-enhancement value was obviously rated very low."
Having worked with folks from all manner of "elite" and not so elite schools in a technical field, the main conclusion I was able to draw was folks who went to "elite" colleges had a greater degree of entitlement. And that's it.
Shlomo December 2, 2012 at 4:27 am GMT •Anonymous December 2, 2012 at 5:22 am GMT •
If all of the author's suspicions are correct, the most noteworthy takeaway would be that Jewish applicants have absolutely no idea that they are being given preferential treatment when applying to Ivys.
Not that they think they are being discriminated against or anything, but no Jewish high school student or their parents think they have any kind of advantage, let alone such a huge one. Someone should tell all these Jews that they don't need to be so anxious!
Also, I know this is purely anecdotal but having gone to an ivy and knowing the numbers of dozens of other Jews who have also gone, I don't think I have ever witnessed a "surprise" acceptance, where someone got in with a score under the median.
Anonymous December 2, 2012 at 9:16 pm GMT
I don't doubt for a minute that it's increasingly difficult for Asian students to get into so-called "elite" universities. Having grown up in that community, I know a lot of people who were pressured into applying at Harvard and Yale but ended up *gasp* going to a very good local school. My sarcasm aside, we can't really deny that having Harvard on your CV can virtually guarantee a ticket to success, regardless of whether or not you were just a C student. It happens.
But what worries me about that is the fact that I know very well how hard Asian families tend to push their children. They do, after all, have one of the highest suicide rates and that's here in the US. If by some means the Asian population at elite universities is being controlled, as I suspect it is, that's only going to make tiger mothers push their children even harder. That's not necessarily a good thing for the child's psyche, so instead of writing a novel here, I'll simply give you this link. Since the author brought up the subject of Amy Chua and her book, I think it's a pretty fitting explanation of the fears I have for my friends and their children if this trend is allowed to continue.
to respond to Alice Zindagi
Asian American does not have higher suicide rate.
Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 2, 2012 at 9:30 pm GMT •Michael O'Hearn says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 2, 2012 at 9:43 pm GMT •
As a former admissions staff person at Princeton, I always sigh when I read articles on elite college admissions processes which build cases on data analysis but which fail to consult with admissions experts on the interpretation of that data.
I am neither an expert in sociology, nor am I a statistician, but I have sat in that chair, reading thousands of essays, and I have a few observations:The most selective part of any college's admissions process is the part where students themselves decides whether or not to apply. Without data on the actual applicant sets, it is, at the least, misleading to attribute incongruities between the overall population's racial/ethnic/income/what-have-you characteristics and the student bodies' make-ups entirely to the admission decisions. The reality is that there is always a struggle in the admission offices to compensate for the inequities that the applicant pool itself delivers to their doorsteps. An experienced admission officer can tell you that applicants from cultures where academics and education are highly valued, and where the emphasis on a single test is quite high, will generally present with very high SAT scores. Race does not seem to be correlated, but immigrant status from such a culture is highly correlated. (This may partially explain Unz's observation of a "decline" in Jewish scores, although I also do not believe that the surname tool for determining which scores are "Jewish" holds much water.) One of the reasons that such students often fare less well in holistic application processes is that the same culture that produces the work ethic and study skills which benefit SAT performance and GPA can also suppress activities and achievement outside of the academic arena. Therefore, to say that these students are being discriminated against because of race is a huge assumption. The true questions is whether the students with higher test scores are presenting activity, leadership and community contributions comparable to other parts of the applicant pool which are "overrepresented". All of these articles seem to miss the point that a freshman class is a fixed size pie chart. Any piece that shrinks or grows will impact the other slices. My first thought upon reading Unz' argument that the Asian slice shrank was, "What other pieces were forced to grow?" Forced growth in another slice of the class is the more likely culprit for this effect, much more likely than the idea that all of the Ivies are systematically discriminating against the latest victim. I could go on and on, but will spare you! My last note is to educate Mr. Unz on what an "Assistant Director" is in college admissions. Generally that position is equivalent to a Senior Admission Officer (one step up from entry level Admission Officer), while the head of the office might be the Dean and the next step down from that would be Associate Deans (not Assistant Directors). So while Michelle Hernandez was an Assistant Director, she was not the second in charge of Admissions, as your article implies. A minor distinction, but one which is important to point out so that her expertise and experience, as well as my own, as AN Assistant Director of Admission at Princeton, are not overstated.
A last personal note: During Princeton's four month reading season, I worked 7 days a week, usually for about 14 hours a day, in order to give the fullest, most human and considerate reading of each and every applicant that I could give. I am sure that the admission profession has its share of incompetents, corruptible people and just plain jerks, and apparently some of us are not intelligent enough to judge the superior applicants . . . . But most of us did it for love of the kids at that age (they are all superstars!), for love of our alma maters and what they did for us, and because we believed in the fairness of our process and the dignity with which we tried to do it.
The sheer numbers of applicants and the fatigue of the long winters lend themselves to making poor jokes such as the "Night of 1000 Lee's", but a good dean of admission will police such disrespect, and encourage the staff, as mine did, to read the last applicant of the day with the same effort, energy and attention paid to the first. We admission folk have our honor, despite being underpaid and playing in a no-win game with regard to media coverage of our activities. I am happy to be able to speak up for the integrity of my former colleagues and the rest of the profession.
Michael O'Hearn says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 3, 2012 at 3:09 am GMT
My own position has always been strongly in the former camp, supporting meritocracy over diversity in elite admissions.
When these Ivy League institutions were first begun in the colonial period, they were not strictly speaking meritocratic. The prevailing idea was that Christocentric education is the right way to go, both from an eschatological and a temporal perspective, and the central focus was on building and strengthening family ties. The Catholic institutions of higher learning took on the vital role of preserving Church tradition from apostolic times and were thus more egalitarian and universalist. The results went far beyond all expectations.
Nothing lasts forever. Your premise misses the essential point that the economy is for man and not vice-versa.
Perhaps this should have been titled The Reality of American Mediocrity ?
Janet Mertz December 4, 2012 at 12:56 am GMT •mannning December 4, 2012 at 6:28 am GMT •
Many of the statements in this article relating to Jews are rather misleading: for while the Hillel data regarding percentage of students who self-identify as Jews may be fairly accurate, the numbers the author cites based upon "likely Jewish names" are a gross under-count of the real numbers, leading to the appearance of a large disparity between the two which, in reality, does not exist. The reason for the under-count is that a large percentage of American Jews have either Anglicized their family name or intermarried, resulting in their being mistaken for non-Hispanic whites. Thus, one ends up with incorrect statements such as "since 2000, the percentage (of Jewish Putnam Fellows) has dropped to under 10 percent, without a single likely Jewish name in the last seven years". The reality is that Jews, by Hillel's definition of self-identified students, have continued to be prominent among the Putnam Fellows, US IMO team members, and high scorers in the USA Mathematical Olympiad. I have published a careful analysis of the true ethnic/racial composition of the very top-performing students in these math competitions from recent years (see, Andreescu et al. Notices of the AMS 2008; http://www.ams.org/notices/200810/fea-gallian.pdf ). For example, Daniel Kane, a Putnam Fellow in 2002-2006, is 100% of Jewish ancestry; his family name had been Cohen before it was changed. Brian Lawrence was a Putnam Fellow in 2007, 2008, 2010, and 2011; his mother is Jewish. Furthermore, many of the non-Jewish Putnam Fellows in recent years are Eastern European or East-Asian foreigners who matriculated to college in the US; they were not US citizen non-Jewish whites or Asian-Americans, respectively. Rather, my data indicate that in recent years both Jews and Asians have been 10- to 20-over-represented in proportion to their percentage of the US population among the students who excel at the highest level in these math competitions. The authors conclusions based upon data from other types of competitions is likely similarly flawed.
Eric Rasmusen December 4, 2012 at 4:45 pm GMT •
The title of this piece captured me to read what it was all about. What was discussed was admissions into elite colleges as the only focus on "meritocracy" in America. That leaves the tail of the distribution of high IQ people in America, minus those that make it into elite colleges, to be ignored, especially those that managed to be admitted to Cal Tech, or MIT, or a number of other universities where significant intellectual power is admitted and fostered. this seems to further the meme that only the elite graduates run the nation. They may have an early advantage through connections, but I believe that the Fortune 400 CEO's are fairly evenly spread across the university world.
MEH 0910 December 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm GMT •
A couple more thoughts:
(1) Jews are better at verbal IQ, Asians at math. Your measures are all math. That woudl be OK if all else were equal across time, but especially because Jews care a lot about admissions to Ivies, what we'd expect is that with growing Asian competition in math/science, Jews would give up and focus their energy on drama/writing/service. I wonder if Jewish kids are doing worse in music competitions too? Or rather- not even entering any more.
(2) For college numbers, adjustment for US/foreign is essential. How many Asians at Yale are foreign? It could well be that Asian-Americans are far more under-represented than it seems, because they face quota competition from a billion Chinese and a billion Indians. Cal Tech might show the same result as the Ivies.
(3) A separate but interesting study would be of humanities and science PhD programs. Different things are going on there, and the contrast with undergrads and with each other might be interseting.biaknabato December 6, 2012 at 12:59 am GMT •
Half Sigma wrote about this Ron Unz article :
I also learned that Jews are no longer as prominent in math and science achievement, and that's not surprising to me at all, because everyone in the elite knows that STEM is for Asians and middle-class kids. Jewish parents have learned that colleges value sports and "leadership" activities more than raw academic achievement and nerdy activities like math olympiads, and that the most prestigious careers are value transference activities which don't require science or high-level math.
You should re-read my critique of Amy Chua's parenting advice . Jews have figured out that's crappy advice for 21st century America.Eric Rasmusen December 7, 2012 at 4:16 pm GMT •
The higher representation of Jews in the Ivies compared to Asians who have better average academic records compared to Jews (applicants that is ) in the Ivies is due to the greater eligibility of Jews for preferences of every kind in the Ivies. In a typical Ivy school like Harvard, at least 60% of the freshman class will disappear because of the vast system of preferences that exists. There is no doubt that there is racial animus involved despite the denials of the Ivies and other private universities despite the constant denials involved like that of Rosovsky who happens to be a historian by training. Jews are classified as white in this country, hence there would presumably greater affinity for them among the white Board of Trustees and the adcom staff. This is in contrast to Asians who do not share the same culture or body physiogonomy as whites do.
I had read the Unz article and the Andrew Goldman response to it. I just do not agree with Unz with his solutions to this problem. First of all private schools are not going to give legacy preferences and other kinds of preferences for the simple reason that it provides a revenue stream. Harvard is nothing but a business just like your Starbucks or Mcdonald's on the corner.
Around the world private universities regarded as nothing but the dumping ground of the children of the wealthy, the famous and those with connections who cannot compete with others with regards to their talent and ability regardless of what anyone will say from abroad about the private universities in their own country. Bottomline is in other countries , the privates simply do not get the top students in the country, the top public school does. People in other countries will simply look askance at the nonsensical admissions process of the Ivies and other private schools, the system that the Ivies use for admission does not produce more creative people contrary to its claims.
The Goldman response has more to do with the humanities versus math . My simple response to Andrew Goldman would be this : a grade of A in Korean history is different from a grade of A in Jewish history, it is like comparing kiwis and bananas. The fast and decisive way of dealing with this problem is simply to deprive private schools of every single cent of tax money that practices legacy preferences and other kinds repugnant preferences be it for student aid or for research and I had been saying that for a long time. I would like to comment on the many points that had been raised here but I have no time.Anonymous December 8, 2012 at 12:29 am GMT •
The solution to a lot of problems would be transparency. I'd love to see the admissions and grade data of even one major university. Public universities should be required to post publicly the names, SAT scores, and transcripts of every student. Allowing such posting should be a requirement for admission.
The public could then investigate further if, for example, it turned out that children of state senators had lower SAT scores. Scholars could then analyze the effect of diversity on student performance.
Of course, already many public universities (including my own, Indiana), post the salaries of their professors on the web, and I haven't seen much analysis or muckraking come out of that.Anonymous says: • Website December 9, 2012 at 12:44 am GMT
One factor hinted at in the article, but really needing to be addressed is the "school" that is being attended.
By this, I mean, you need philosophy students to keep the philosophy department going. When I was in college 20 years ago, I was a humanities major. I took 1 class in 4 years with an Asian American student. 1 class. When I walked through the business building, it was about 50% Asian.
Could Asian-American students only wanting to go to Harvard to go into business, science, or math be skewing those numbers? I don't know, but it's just a thought to put out there.
You are preaching to the choir! I blog on this extensively on my Asian Blog: JadeLuckClub. This has been going on for the last 30 years or more! All my posts are here under Don't ID as Asian When Applying to College:
http://jadeluckclub.com/category/asian-in-america/dont-id-as-asian-when-applying-to-college/biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 7:42 am GMT •
All private schools basically practice legacy prefrences and other kinds of preferences and this practice has been going on in the Ivies since time immemorial. The income revenue from these gallery of preferences will certainly not encourage the Ivies to give them up.
In many countries around the world, private universiites are basically the dumping ground for the children of the wealthy , the famous and the well connected who could not get into the top public university of their choice in their own country. This no different from the Ivies in this country where these Ivies and other private universities are just a corral or holding pen for the children of the wealthy, the famous and the well connected and the famous who could not compete with others based on their won talent or ability.
Abroad you have basically 3 choices if you could not get into the top public university of that country , they are:
- Go to a less competetive public university
- Go to a private university
- or go abroad to schools like the Ivies or in other countries where the entrance requirements to a public or private university are less competetive compared to the top public universities in your own home country.
You can easily tell a top student from another country, he is the guy who is studying in this country under a government scholarship ( unless of course it was wrangled through corruption ). the one who is studying here through his own funds or through private means is likely to be the one who is a reject from the top public university in his own country. That is how life works.
I am generally satisfied with the data that Ron provided about Jews compared to Asians where Jews are lagging behind Asians at least in grades and SAT scores in the high school level, from the data I had seen posted by specialized schools in NY like Stuy , Bronx Sci, Brook Tech, Lowell (Frisco ) etc.
Ron is correct in asserting that the Ivies little represents the top students in this country. Compare UCLA and for example. For the fall 2011 entering freshman class at UCLA , there were 2391 domestic students at UCLA compared to 1148 at Harvard who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT and there were 439 domestic students who scored a perfect 800 in the Math portion of the SAT at UCLA, more than Harvard or MIT certainly. For the fall 2012 freshman classs at UCLA the figure was 2409 and 447 respectively.
We can devise a freshman class that will use only income, SATS,grades as a basis of admissions that will have many top students like UCLA has using only algorithms.
The central test of fairness in any admissions system is to ask this simple question. Was there anyone admitted under that system admitted over someone else who was denied admission and with better grades and SAT scores and poorer ? If the answer is in the affirmative, then that system is unfair , if it is in the negative then the system is fair.Anonymous December 12, 2012 at 7:20 pm GMT •biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm GMT •
I like the comments from Chales Hale. (Nov. 30, 2012) He says: "Welcome to China". It said all in three words. All of these have been experienced in China. They said there is no new things under the sun. History are nothing but repeated, China with its 5000 years experienced them all.biaknabato December 12, 2012 at 11:32 pm GMT •
I meant that there were 439 domestic students in the fall 2011 freshman class at UCLA and 447 domestic students in the fall 2012 freshman class at UCLA who scored a perfect score of 800 in the Math portion of the SAT. In either case it is bigger than what Harvard or MIT has got.
In fact for the fall 2011 of the entire UC system there were more students in the the freshman class of the entire UC system who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT than the entire fall 2011 freshman of the Ivy League (Cornell not included since it is both a public and a private school )'
As I mentioned earlier there were 2409 domestic students in the fall 2012 UCLA freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT. We know that Harvard had only 1148 domestic students in its fall 2011 freshman class who scored above 700 in the Math portion of the SAT, why would Harvard ever want to have that many top students like Berkeley or UCLA have ? The answer to that is simple , it has to do with money. For every additional student that Harvard will enroll it would mean money being taken out of the endowment .
Since the endowment needs constant replenishment. Where would these replenishment funds come from ? From legacies,from the children of the wealthy and the famous etc. of course . It would mean more legacy admits, more children of the wealthy admitted etc.
That would mean that the admission rate at Harvard will rise, the mean SAT score of the entering class will be no different from the mean SAT scores of the entering freshman classes of Boston University and Boston College
down the road. With rising admission rates and lower mean SAT scores for the entering freshman class that prospect will not prove appetizing or appealing to the applicant pool.
Harvard ranks only 8th after Penn State in the production of undergrads who eventually get Doctorates in Science and Engineering. Of course Berkeley has the bragging rights for that kind of attribute.Been there December 13, 2012 at 5:32 am GMT •
In the scenario I had outlined above, it would mean that the mean SAT score of the Harvard freshman class will actually go down if it tried to increase the size of its freshman class and that kind of prospect ia unpalatable to Harvard and that is the reason as to why it wants to maintain its current " air of exclusivity ".
There is another way of looking at the quality of the Harvard student body. The ACM ICPC computer programming competition is regarded as the best known college competition among students around the world , it is a grueling programming marathon for 2 or 3 days presumably. Teams from universities around the world vie to win the contest that is dubbed the "Battle of the Brains " What is arguably sad is that Ivy schools, Stanford and other private schools teams fielded in the finals of the competition are basically composed of foreign students or foreign born students and foreign born coaches.
The University of Southern California team in this competition in its finals section was made up of nothing but foreign Chinese students and a Chinese coach. The USC team won the Southern California competition to win a slot in the finals. Apparently they could not find a domestic student who could fill the bill. However the USC team was roundly beaten by teams from China and Asia,Russia and Eastern Europe. The last time a US team won this competition was in 1999 by Harvey Mudd, ever since the US had gone downhill in the competition with the competition being dominated by China and Asia and by countries from Eastern Europe and Russia. Well I guess USC's strategy was trying to fight fire with fire (Chinese students studying in the US versus Chinese students from the Mainland ), and it failed.Anonymous December 13, 2012 at 6:39 pm GMT •
Thank you Mr. Unz for scratching the surface of the various forms of corruption surrounding elite college admissions. I hope that your next article further discusses the Harvard Price (and Yale Price and Brown Price etc). The recent press surrounding the Hong Kong couple suing the person they had retained to pave their children's way into Harvard indicates the extent of the problem. This Hong Kong couple just were not savvy enough to lay their money down where it would produce results.
Additionally, a discussion of how at least some North Eastern private schools facilitate the corrupt process would be illuminating.
Finally, a more thorough discussion of whether the Asian students being admitted are US residents or nationals or whether they are foreign citizens would also be worth while and reveal. I suspect, an even lower admit percentage for US resident citizens of Asian ethnicity.
For these schools to state that their acceptances are need blind is patently untrue and further complicates the admissions process for students who are naive enough to believe that. These schools should come clean and just say that after the development admits and the wealthy legacy admits spots are purchased, the remaining few admits are handed out in a need blind fashion remembering that many of admit pools will already be filled by the development and wealthy legacy admits resulting in extraordinarily low rates for certain non-URM type candidates (I estimate in the 1% range).Larry Long says: • Website December 14, 2012 at 4:33 am GMT •
"By contrast, a similarly overwhelming domination by a tiny segment of America's current population, one which is completely misaligned in all these respects, seems far less inherently stable, especially when the institutional roots of such domination have continually increased despite the collapse of the supposedly meritocratic justification. This does not seem like a recipe for a healthy and successful society, nor one which will even long survive in anything like its current form."
I completely agree that it is not healthy for one tiny segment of our population to basically hold all the key positions in every major industry in this country. If Asians or Blacks (who look foreign) all of a sudden ran education, media, government, and finance in this country, there would be uproar and resistance. But because Jewish people look like the majority (whites), they've risen to the top without the masses noticing.
But Jewish people consider themselves a minority just like blacks and Asians. They have a tribal mentality that causes stronger ethnic nepotism than most other minority groups. And they can get away with it because no one can say anything to them lest they be branded "jew-hunters" or "anti-semists."
The question is, "where do we go from here?" True race-blind meritocracy will never be instituted on a grand scale in this country both in education and in the work force. One group currently controls most industries and the only way this country will see more balance is if other groups take more control. But if one group already controls them all and controls succession plans, how will there ever be more balance?Anonymous December 14, 2012 at 3:00 pm GMT
If Jews become presidents or regents of universities, that's a credit to their ability. Nothing sinister there.
But when Jews (or anyone) buy into an institution to create the 'Goldman School of Business', or when they give large donations, that is not a credit to anyone's ability and there may well be something sinister there.
It is no secret that corporations and individuals look for influence, if not control, in return for cash. The same thinking can easily affect admissions policy.
It's always the same. In spite of all the jingoism about "democracy" and "freedoms" and the "free market capitalist system", the trail of money obfuscates and corrupts. It is still very true that whoever pays the piper, calls the tune. And naive to believe otherwise.
How recent was it that Princeton cancelled its anti-Semitism classes for lack of participation, and at least one Jewish organisation was screaming that Princeton would never get another penny from any Jew, ever.
That is close to absolute control of a curriculum. I give you money, and you teach what I want you to teach.
How far is that from I give you money and you admit whom I want you to admit? Or from I give you money and you hire whom I want?
A university that is properly funded by the government – "the people" – doesn't have these issues because there is nothing you can buy.
Operating educational institutions as a business, just like charities and health care, will always produce this kind of corruption.
Two other points:
1. It occurred to me that the lowly-paid underachiever admissions officers might well have been mostly Jewish, and hired for that reason, and that in itself could skew the results in a desired manner.
2. I think this is a serious criticism of the othewise excellent article:
At the end, Ron Unz wants us to believe that a $30-billion institution, the finest of its kind in the world, the envy of the known universe and beyond, the prime educator of the world's most prime elites, completely abandons its entire admissions procedures, without oversight or supervision, to a bunch of dim-witted losers of "poor human quality" who will now choose the entire next generation of the nation's elites. And may even take cash payments to do so.
Come on. Who are you kidding? Even McDonald's is smarter than this.Anonymous December 14, 2012 at 7:54 pm GMT
Some of the comments suggest major problems with estimating who is Jewish. But the authors information is underpinned by data collected by Jewish pressure groups for the purpose of ensuring the gravy train keeps flowing. It's either their numbers, or the numbers are consistent with their numbers.Achaean December 15, 2012 at 12:50 pm GMT
This article, to me, is shocking and groundbreaking. I don't think anyone has gone this in-depth into this biased and un-meritocratic system. This is real analysis based on real numbers.
Why is this not getting more coverage in the media? Why are people so afraid to talk about this?
There is an excellent analysis of this article at The Occidental Observer by Kevin MacDonald, "Ron Unz on the Illusory American Meritocracy". The MSM is ignoring Unz's article for obvious reasons.tomo December 15, 2012 at 10:46 pm GMT •
I don't know if there's any truth behind the idea that Japanese Americans have become lazy relative to their Korean and Chinese counterparts. I've grew up in Southern California, a part of the country with a relatively high percentage of Japanese Americans, yet I've know very few other Japanese Americans in my life. I can recall one Japanese American classmate in jr. high, and one Japanese classmate in my high school (who returned to Japan upon graduating). Even at the UC school I attended for undergrad, I was always the only Japanese person in the every class, and the Japanese Student Association, already meager in numbers, was almost entirely made up of Japanese International students who were only here for school.
If, in fact, 1% of California is made up of Japanese Americans, I suspect they are an aging population. I also think many 2nd and 3rd generation Japanese Americans are only partially Japanese, since, out of necessity, Japanese Americans have a very high rate of out marriage.Anonymous December 20, 2012 at 5:04 pm GMT •Lynn December 20, 2012 at 6:37 pm GMT •
The carefully researched article makes a strong case that there is some discrimination against Asian-Americans at the Ivy League schools.
On the other hand, I don't see how a percentage of 40-60% Asian-Americans at the selective UC schools, even given the higher percentage of Asian-Americans in California, does not perhaps reflect reverse discrimation, or at least affirmative action on their behalf. To be sure one way or the other, we would have to see their test scores AND GPA, apparently the criteria that the UC schools use for admission, considered as well in the normalization of this statistical data.Titanium Dragon December 20, 2012 at 9:59 pm GMT •
The replies to date make some good points but also reflect precisely the biases pointed out in the article as likely causing the discussed distortions.
1) use of name data in achievement vs use of Hillel data for Ivy admits: definitely an issue but is this only one of the measures used in this study. Focusing only on this obscures the fact that Jewish enrollment as measured over time by Hillel numbers (apples to apples) increased significantly over the past decade while the percent of Jewish high school age students relative to other groups declined. One explanation for this surge could be that Jewish students became even more academically successful than they have been in the past. The achievement data using Jewish surnames is used to assess this thesis in the absence of other better data. Rejecting the surname achievement data still leaves a huge enrollment surge over time in Jewish attendance at the Ivies relative to their percentage of the population.
2) many comments accept that the numbers show disproportionate acceptance and enrollment growth but simply then go on to assert that Jewish students really are smarter (absolutely or in gaming the system) relying on anecdotal evidence that is not at all compelling. All definitions of "smarter" contain value judgments". Back in the '20s the argument was that the Ivies should rely more on objective testing to remove bias against the then high testing Jewish students; now the writers argue conveniently wthat the new subjective tests that are applied to disproportionately admit Jewish students over higher scoring Asians and non-Jewish Caucasians are better measures. In both cases, there is still an issue of using a set of factors that disproportionately favors one group. In all such cases of significant disproportionate admits, the choice of the factors used to definemmerit and their application should be carefully evaluated for bias. The burden of proof should shift to those defending the status quo in this situation. In any event, it is clear that given the large applicant pool, there is no shortage of non-Jewish caucasians and Asians who are fully qualified, so if the desire was there for a balanced entering class, the students are available to make it happen
3) the numbers don't break down admissions between men and women. When my child was an athletic recruit to Harvard, we received an ethnic breakdown of the prior year's entering class. I was surprised to discover that the Caucasian population skewed heavily male and the non-white/Asian population skewed heavily female. It seemed that Harvard achieved most of its ethnic diversity that year by admitting female URMs, which made being a Caucasian female the single most underrepresented group relative to its percentage in the school age population. I'm curious if this was an anomaly or another element of bias in the admissions process.
I will note that there is one flaw in this whole argument, and that flaw is thus:
Harvard and Yale aren't the best universities in the country. As someone who went to Vanderbilt, I knew people who had been to those universities, and their evaluation was that they were no better – and perhaps actually worse – than Vanderbilt, which is "merely" a top 25 university.
While there is a great deal of, shall we say, "insider trading" amongst graduates of those universities, in actuality they aren't actually the best universities in the country today. That honor probably goes to MIT and Caltech, which you note are far more meritocratic. But most of the other best universities are probably very close in overall level, and some of them might have a lot of advantages over those top flight universities.
Or to put it simply, the Ivy League ain't what it used to be. Yeah, it includes some of the best universities in the country, but there are numerous non-Ivy League universities that are probably on par with them. This may indeed be in part a consequence of some of what you have described in the article, as well as a sense of complacency.
I suspect that in twenty or thirty years a lot of Ivy League graduates are going to feel a lot less entitled simply because there has been an expansion of the top while they weren't paying attention.Anonymous December 21, 2012 at 9:06 am GMT •McRoss December 22, 2012 at 12:49 am GMT •
I'm against the Ivies going up to 30-50% Asian but I'm also against the over-representation of a tiny minority group. This country is going to go downhill if we continue to let one group skirt a fair application process just because they possess money and influence. Who will stand up for fairness and equality?Anonymous December 22, 2012 at 4:11 am GMT •
Many of those commenting above don't seem to be picking up on Unz's evidence of bias against white Gentiles, which by meritocratic measures is far worse than the bias against Asian Americans.
A drop of 70 PERCENT??? What's going on? Why is so much of the discussion that this article has spawned focused only on Asian Americans and (secondarily) Jews?Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 3:22 am GMT •
National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.
What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group's demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.
Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn't fatal to his argumentsAnonymous December 25, 2012 at 9:12 am GMT •
Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with "Jewish" names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with "Gold". Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua's daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who.
I am an elementary school teacher at a Title One school in northern California. I supported your "English for the Children" initiative when it was introduced.
However, the law of unintended consequences has kicked in, and what exists now is not at all what you (or anyone else, for that matter) had intended.
The school day was not lengthened to create a time slot for English language instruction. Instead, history and science classes were elbowed aside to make way for mediocre English language instruction. These usually worthless classes have crowded out valuable core academic instruction for English language learners.
To make matters worse, while English language learners are in ESL classes, no academic instruction in science or history can be given to "regular" students because that would lead to issues of "academic inequity." In other words, if the Hispanic kids are missing out on history, the black kids have to miss out on it, too.
As a teacher, I hope you will once again consider bringing your considerable talents to focus on the education of low-income minority children in California.
Shelly MooreAnonymous December 25, 2012 at 4:50 pm GMT •Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 7:18 pm GMT •
Fascinating and disturbing article.
Could it be that the goal of financial, rather than academic, achievement, makes many young people uninterested in competing in the science and math competitions sought out by the Asian students? I wonder about the different percentages of applicants to medical school versus law or business.
I must also add that I am surprised that the author used the word "data" as singular, rather than plural. Shouldn't he be stating that the data ARE, not IS; or SHOW, not SHOWS.Anonymous says: • Website December 25, 2012 at 8:23 pm GMT •
The author perhaps pays an incredible amount of attention to those with strengths in STEM fields (Science, technology, engineering, and math), even though the proportion of all native-born white students majoring in these fields has plummetted in recent decades. That means that he overlooks a shift in what kinds of training is considered "prestigious," and that this might be reflected in the pursuits of students in high school. Perhaps there is a movement away from Jewish students' focus on Math Olympiad because they are in no way interested in majoring in math or engineering fields, instead preferring economics or business. Is that the fault of the students, or of the rewards system that corporate America has set up?
Jobs in STEM fields pay considerably less than do jobs in numerous professions - investment banking and law. So that is why ~ 40% of the Harvard graduating class - including many of its Jewish students - pursue that route. But to rely on various assessments of math/science/computing as the measure of intelligence fails to incorporate how the rewards structure in our society has changed over time.
I teach at an Ivy League university, and believe that many of the authors' arguments have merit, but there are also many weaknesses in his argument. He sneers at Steinberg and the other sociologists he cites for not quite getting how society has changed - but he clearly doesn' tunderstand how other aspects of our society have changed. Many of our most talented undergrads have no desire to pursue careers in STEM fields. Entrance into STEM jobs even among those who majored in those fields is low, and there is very high attrition from those fields, among both men and women. Young adults and young professionals are voting with their feet. While our society might be better off with more Caltech grads and students interested in creating our way to a better future rather than pursuing riches on wall street, one cannot fault students for seeking to maximize their returns on their expensive education. That's the system we have presented them with, at considerable cost to the students and their families.
Personally, what I found profoundly disturbing is not the overrepresentation of Jewish students or the large presence of Asians who feel they are discriminated against, but the fact that Ivy League schools have not managed to increase their representation of Blacks for the last 3 decades. We all compete for the same talent pool. And until the K-12 system is improved, Black representation won't increase without others screaming favoritism. The other groups - high performing Asians, middle class Jews - will do fine, even if they don't get into Ivy League schools but have to "settle" for elite private schools. But if the Ivy Leagues are the pathway to prestige and power, than we're not broadening our power base enough to adequately reprewsent the demographic shifts reshaping our nation. more focus on that, please.Dismalist December 25, 2012 at 10:49 pm GMT •
I've been an SAT tutor for a long time in West Los Angeles (a heavily Asian city), and I feel that at least some of Asians' over-representation in SAT scores and NMS finalists is due to Asian parents putting massive time and money into driving their children's success in those very statistics.
In my experience, Asian parents are more likely than other parents to attempt to ramrod their kids through test prep in order to increase their scores. For example, the few students I've ever had preparing for the PSAT - most students prepare only for the SAT - were all Asian.
Naturally, because it's so strange to be preparing for what is supposed to be a practice test, I asked these parents why their 9th or 10th grade child was in this class, and the answer was that they wanted to do well on the PSAT because of its use in the NMS! Similarly, many Asian immigrants send their children to "cram school" every day after regular school lets out (and I myself have taught SAT at one of these institutions), essentially having their students tutored in every academic subject year-round from early in elementary school.
Because whites are unlikely to do this, it would seem to me that the resulting Asian academic achievement is analogous to baseball players who use steroids having better stats than baseball players who do not.
It seems reasonable that the "merit" in "meritocracy" need not be based solely on test scores and grades, and that therefore a race-based quota system is not the only conclusion that one can draw from a decrease in the attendance rate of hard-driving test-preppers. Maybe the university didn't want to fill its dorms with grade-grubbers who are never seen because they're holed up in the library 20 hours a day, and grade-grubbers just happen to be over-represented in the Asian population?
Unz's piece analyzes only the data that lead up to college - when the Asian parents' academic influence over their children is absolute - whereas the Ivy League schools he criticizes are most concerned with what their students do during and after college. Is the kid who went to cram school his entire life as likely to join student organizations? To continue practicing his four instruments once his mom isn't forcing him to take lessons 4 days a week? To start companies and give money to his university? Or did he just peak early because his parents were working him so hard in order to get him into that college?
That's an article I'd like to read.Anonymous December 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm GMT •
The analysis is a tour de force!
However, the remedies considered are not. It is silly to believe that all abilities can be distilled into a small set of numbers, and anyway, no one knows what abilities will succeed in marketplaces. The source of the problem is the lack of competition in education, including higher education, a situation written in stone by current accreditation procedures. The solution to the problem is entry. Remember Brandeis U? With sufficient competition, colleges could take whomever they pleased, on whatever grounds, and everyone would get a chance.Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 12:18 am GMT •
Concerning the drop in non-Jewish white enrollment:
I am a recent graduate of a top public high school, where I was a NMS, individual state champion in Academic Decathlon, perfect ACT score, National AP Scholar, etc. etc. Many of my friends – almost exclusively white and Asian – had similar backgrounds and were eminently qualified for Ivy. None of us even applied Ivy, let alone considered going there. Why? At $60,000/yr, the cost is simply not worth it, since none of us would have been offered anything close to substantial financial aid and our parents were unable/unwilling to fully fund our educations. Meanwhile, my Asian friends applied to as many Ivies as they could because it was understood that (a) their parents would foot the bill if they got in or (b) they would take on a large debt load in order to do it.
This article discounts financial self-selection, which (at least based on my own, anecdotal evidence) is more prevalent than we tend to think.Simon December 26, 2012 at 2:35 am GMT •
- The author ignores the role that class plays in setting kids up for success. At one point he notes, "Given that Asians accounted for just 1.5 percent of the population in 1980 and often lived in relatively impoverished immigrant families. . ." When I was at Harvard in the mid-1980s, there were two distinct groups of Asian students: children of doctors, academics, scientists and businesspeople who came from educated families in China, Korea and Vietnam, and therefore grew up with both strong educational values and parental resources to push them; and a much smaller group of kids from Chinatown and Southeast Asian communities, whose parents were usually working class and uneducated. The second group were at a severe disadvantage to the first, who were able to claim "diversity" without really having to suffer for it.
- I would expect you'd see the same difference among higher-caste educated South Asian Brahmins and Indians from middle and lower castes or from places like Guyana. It is ridiculous to put South Asians and East Asians in the same category as "Asian." They have different cultural traditions and immigration histories. Ask any Indian parent what race they are and they'll answer "Caucasian." Grouping them without any kind of assessment of how they might be different undermines the credibility of the author.
- The takeaway is not that affirmative action is damaging opportunities for whites, but that whites are losing against Asians. The percentage of Hispanic and Black students at leading schools is still tiny. Hence, if invisible quotas for Asians are lifted, there will be far fewer white students at these schools. This isn't because of any conspiracy, but because white students are scoring lower than the competition on the relevant entry requirements. I would love to see an article in this publication titled, "Why White Students Are Deficient." How about some more writing about "The White Student Achievement Gap?"Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 2:42 am GMT •
As parents of 2 HYP grads, We can tell you from experience that Asian students are not under-represented in the Ivies today. (In fact, I think they are slightly over represented, for the same reasons and stats the author cited).
True, if one looks at stats, such as SAT, scientific competition awards etc, it seems to imply that a +35% enrollment of Asian students is warranted. However, these indicators are just a small part of a "holistc" approach in predicting the success of a candidate not only in the next 4 years, but the individual's success in life and be able to impact and contribute to society later.
I have seen candidates of Asian background, who score almost full mark in SAT but was less than satisfactory in all other aspects of being a potential achiever in life.
Granted, if one wants to be an achiever in science and technology, by all means go with Caltech and MIT. But if one wants an real "education" and be a leader later on in life, one has to have other qualities as well (skin color is NOT one of them). Of course, history, and current cultural and political climate may influence the assessment of such qualities because it is highly subjective. (Is is unfair to pick a pleasant looking candidate over a lesser one, if the rest are the same?)
That is why an interview with the candidates is a good way to assess a potential applicant. I always encourage my children to conduct interviews locally for their alma mater.
I just hope that the Ivies do not use this holistic approach to practice quota policies.
Oh btw I am Asian.
SAnonymous December 26, 2012 at 2:53 am GMT •
Here's a quote from a friend just today about this related topic: "Just like the Catholic church in the middle ages recruited the smartest peasants in order to forestall revolutionary potential, and to learn mind bending religious dogma to befuddle the remaining peasants, current practice is much the same. To twist Billy Clinton's mantra, "its the economy stupid", No ,"its the co opted brains"! "
We can substitute economics dogma to the befuddlement mix. The bottom line is every ruling elite has co-opted the top 1%-5% of high wage earners, to make the pyramid work. Sociology writing is all over this. Veblen, Weber, etc. We can see this little group created everywhere minerals or natural resources are coveted by private empires.
The universities are doing exactly what they are supposed to do to protect the interests of the Trustees and Donors who run them for a reason. They are a tool of, not a cause of, the inequality and over-concentration. It is interesting how the story goes into hairsplitting and comparing Asians to others, etc. But, the real story is a well understood sociology story. This article explains why Napoleon established free public education after the French Revolution.Anonymous December 26, 2012 at 4:19 am GMT
This is a fascinating article. So much data. So many inferences. It's hardly surprising to any parent of high school students that college admissions are only marginally meritocratic. Whether that's a good a thing or a bad thing is an open question. I think meritocracy has a place in college admissions. But not the only place. Consider athletics, which are themselves almost exclusively meritocratic. Only the best among the best are offered Division I scholarships. The same, I think, applies to engineering schools, the physical sciences, and (to a lesser degree), elite law schools. It also applies to auto-mechanics, plumbers, and electricians. Regarding the humanities (a field in which I hold a PhD), not so much. I think Unz's beef is less with admissions policies per se (which I agree are mind-bogglingly opaque) than with the status of elite institutions. I also think, and I may be wrong, that Unz appears heading down the Bobby Fisher highway, intimating that those pesky Jews are
America never promised success through merit or equality. That is the American "dream." America promises freedom of religious belief and the right to carry a gun.Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm GMT •Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 27, 2012 at 4:48 am GMT •
This is a fascinating and extremely important article which I am very eager to discuss privately with the author, having spent my whole life in higher education, albeit with a unique perspective. I was flabbergasted the findings about Jewish and non-Jewish white representation, and intrigued, all the more so since my own ancestry is evenly divided between those two groups. I do want to make one criticism, however of something the author said about the 1950s which I do not think is correct.
At one point in the article the author makes the claim that the breakdown of Ivy League Jewish quotas in the 1950s reflected the power of Jews in the media and Hollywood. The statistics he gives about their representation there may be correct, but the inference, I believe, is unsustainable. The Proquest historical database includes the Washington Post, New York Times, and many other major newspapers. I did a search for "Harvard AND Jewish AND quota" for the whole period 1945-65 and it turned up only 20 articles, not one of which specifically addressed the issue of Jewish quotas at Harvard and other Ivy League schools. The powerful Jews of that era had reached their positions by downplaying their origins–often including changes in their last names–and they were not about to use their positions overtly on behalf of their ethnic group. (This could be, incidentally, another parallel with today's Asians.) Those quotas were broken down, in my opinion, because of a general emphasis on real equality among Americans in those decades, which also produced the civil rights movement. The Second World War had been fought on those principles.
I could not agree more that the admissions policies of the last 30 years have produced a pathetic and self-centered elite that has done little if any good for the country as a whole.Jordan December 27, 2012 at 5:12 am GMT •
It is really refreshing to see in print what we all know by experience, but I have to wonder out loud, what is our higher purpose? Surely, you have a largely goal than merely exposing corruption in the academy. Lastly, I have to wonder out loud, how would the predicament of the working class fit into your analysis? I thank you for this scathing indictment of higher ed that has the potential to offer us a chillingly sobering assessment.Anonymous December 27, 2012 at 9:09 pm GMT •
This is why we need to reinstate a robust estate tax or "death tax" as conservatives derisively call it. To break the aristocracy described in this article. No less than Alexis de Tocqueville said that the estate tax is what made America great and created a meritocracy (which now is weaker and riddled with loopholes, thus the decline of America). Aristocracies dominated Europe for centuries because they did not tax the inheritance.Peter December 28, 2012 at 3:37 am GMT •
The day when I learned so many Chinese ruling class' offspring are either alumni or current students of Harvard (the latest example being Bo GuaGua), it was clear to me Harvard's admission process is corrupt. How would any ivy college determine "leadership" quality? Does growing up in a leader's family give you more innate leadership skills? Harvard obviously thinks so.
Therefore, it's not surprising that Ron said the following on this subject. " so many sons and daughters of top Chinese leaders attend college in the West ..while our own corrupt admissions practices get them an easy spot at Harvard or Stanford, sitting side by side with the children of Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and George W. Bush." I hope world peace will be obtained within reach in this approach.
The chilling factor is a hardworking Chinese immigrant's child in the U.S. would have less chance of getting into ivies than these children of privileged.
It was also very disappointing to see another Asian parent whose children are HYP alumni saying too many Asians in ivies, despite the overwhelming evidence showing otherwise.Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 5:30 pm GMT •
Perhaps it's to be expected given the length of the article (over 22,000 words), but so many of the objections and "oversights" raised in the comments are in fact dealt with – in detail and with a great deal of respect – by Unz in the article itself.
For example, this:
National Merit Scholarship semifinalists are chosen based on per-state percentiles.
What this means is that NMS semifinalist numbers would be skewed _against_ a high-performing demographic group to the extent that group's demographics concentrate geographically. Mr. Unz acknowledges that geographical skewing of Jewish populations is huge. However, he ignores its effect on the NMS semifinalist numbers he uses as a proxy for academic performance on a _national_ level to predict equitable distributions at _national_ universities.
Please somebody explain to me how this oversight isn't fatal to his argument
because geographical skewing of Asian populations is also huge, yet we don't witness the same patterning in admissions data pertaining to Asian students. As the article states: "Geographical diversity would certainly hurt Asian chances since nearly half their population lives in just the three states of California, New York, and Texas."
Unz goes on to note: "Both groups [Jews and Asians] are highly urbanized, generally affluent, and geographically concentrated within a few states, so the 'diversity' factors considered above would hardly seem to apply; yet Jews seem to fare much better at the admissions office."
So there's your answer.
And aside from the fact that your "basic question" has a very simple answer, it's just ludicrous in any case to suggest that the validity of the entire article rests on a single data point.Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 7:47 pm GMT •
There is no doubt this is more of a political issue than the academic one. If only merit is considered then asian american would constitute as much as 50% of the student population in elite universities. Politically and socially this is not a desired outcome. Rationale for affirmative action for the african americans and hispanics is same – leaving a large population is in elite institution is not desired, it smacks of segregation.
But the core issue remains unsolved. Affirmative action resulted in higher representation but not the competitiveness of the blacks. I am afraid whites are going the similar path.Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 2:31 am GMT •
Anyone famliar with sociology and the research on social stratification knows that meritocracy is a myth; for example, if one's parents are in the bottom decile of the the income scale, the child has only a 3% chance to reach the top decile in his or her lifetime. In fact, in contrast to the Horatio Alger ideology, the U.S. has lower rates of upward mobility than almost any other developed country. Social classses exist and they tend to reproduce themselves.
The rigid class structure of the the U.S. is one of the reasons I support progressive taxation; wealth may not always be inherited, but life outcomes are largely determined by the class position of one's parents. In this manner, it is also a myth to believe that wealth is an individual creation;most financially successful individuals have enjoyed the benefits of class privilege: good and safe schools, two-parent families, tutors, and perhaps most important of all, high expecatations and positive peer socialization (Unz never mentions the importants of peeer groups, which data show exert a strong causal unfluence on academic performance).
And I would challenge Unz's assertion that many high-performing Asians come from impovershed backgrounds: many of them may undereport their income as small business owners. I believe that Asian success derives not only from their class background but their culture in which the parents have authority and the success of the child is crucual to the honor of the family. As they assimilate to the more individualist American ethos, I predict that their academic success will level off just as it has with Jews.Rosell December 29, 2012 at 8:00 am GMT •
1. HYP are private universities: the success of their alumni verifies the astuteness of their admissions policies.
2. Mr. Unz equates "merit" with "academic". I wonder how many CalTech undergrads would be, or were, admitted, to HYP (and vice-versa).
3. I would like ethnic or racial stats on, for several examples, class officers, first chair musicians*, job holders, actors^, team captains, and other equally valuable (in the sense of contributing to an entering freshman class) high-school pursuits.*By 17, I had been a union trombonist for three years; at Princeton, I played in the concert band, the marching band, the concert orchestra, several jazz ensembles, and the Triangle Club orchestra.^A high school classmate was John Lithgow, the superb Hollywood character actor. Harvard gave him a full scholarship – and they should have.Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 12:31 pm GMT •
What if we were one homogeneous ethnic group? What dynamic would we set up then?
I suggest taking the top 20% on straight merit, based on SAT scores, whether they crammed for them or not, and take the next 50% from the economically poorest of the qualified applicants (1500 – 1600 on the SAT?) by straight ethnicity percentages to directly reflect population diversity, and 30% at random to promote some humility, and try that for 20 years and see what effects are produced in the quality of our economic and political leadership. And of course, keep them all in the dark as to how they actually got admitted.
Maybe one effect is that more non-ivy league schools will be tapped by the top recruiters.Anonymous December 29, 2012 at 6:23 pm GMT •
"Surely the author must be aware that approximately half the children with "Jewish" names are not fully Jewish. Over half of the marriages west of the Mississippi are reportedly mixed. Many non-Jews have last names that start with "Gold". Just these two facts make the entire analysis ridiculous. Hillel does not keep statistics on how Jewish a student is, while many of Levys and Cohens are not actually Jewish. What would we call Amy Chua's daughters? Jewish or Asian? It is therefore impossible to tease out in a multi-racial society who is who."
Well, there are several arguments to be made. First, unless you are advocating that there has been a mass adoption of words like "Gold" in non-Jewish last names these past 10, 15 years, that argument sinks like a stone. Second, by selecting for specifically Jewish last names, intermarriage can be minimized but not eliminated. How many kids with the lastname "Goldstein" was a non-Jew in the last NMS? Not likely a lot of them.
Intermarriage can account for some fog, but not all, not by a longshot. Your entire argument reeks of bitter defensiveness. You have to come to grips that Jews have become like the old WASPs, rich, not too clever anymore, and blocking the path forward for brighter, underrepresented groups.
Sucks to be you.Jewess December 30, 2012 at 2:02 am GMT •
With all due respect, I was worried that I would get an answer that lazily points to the part of the essay that glosses over this point (which mind you I had combed through carefully before posting my question). However, I was hoping that in response someone might respond who had thought a little more carefully about the statistical fallacy in Unz's essay: that far-reaching statements about nation-wide academic performance can be drawn directly from per-state-percentiles.
Yes, Asian Americans, like Jews, have concentrations. But their geographical distributions differ. Yes, it might be possible that upon careful analysis of relative distributions of populations and NMS semifinalists in each state Unz might be able to draw a robust comparison: he might even come up with the same answer. The point that I made is that he doesn't even try.
Given the lengths Unz goes to calculate and re-calculate figures _based_on_ the assumption of _equal_ geographic distributions among Asians and Jews, it is - and I stand by this - a disservice to the reader that no effort (beyond hand-waving) is made to quantitatively show the assumption is at all justified.Anonymous January 2, 2013 at 2:49 am GMT •
The statistical analysis used in this article is flawed. The author uses last names to identify the religion (or birth heritage) of NMS semifinalists? Are you serious? My son was a (recent) National Merit Finalist and graduated from an ivy league university. His mother is Jewish; his father is not, thus he has a decidedly WASP surname and according to the author's methods he would have been classified as WASP. With the growing numbers of interfaith and mixed-race children how can anyone draw conclusions about race and religion in the meritocracy or even "IQ" argument? Anecdotally, my son reported that nearly half his classmates at his ivy league were at least one-quarter Jewish (one or more parents or one grandparent). To use last names (in lieu of actual demographic data) to make the conclusion that Jews are being admitted to ivies at higher rates than similarly qualified Asians is irresponsible.Anonymous January 11, 2013 at 4:40 pm GMT •
Essentially, the leftist forces in this country are trying to put the squeeze on white gentiles from both directions.
Affirmative action for underachieving minorities to take the place of white applicants.
Meritocracy for highly achieving Asians to push down white applicants, while never mentioning that full meritocracy would push out other minorities as well (that's not politically correct).
The whole thing has become more about political narrative than actual concern for justice. I want you to know that as an Asian man who graduated from Brown, I sympathize with you.Anonymous January 14, 2013 at 3:30 pm GMT •
Very interesting article. The case that East Asian students are significantly underrepresented and Jewish students overrepresented at Ivy League schools is persuasive, although not dispositive. The most glaring flaw in the analysis is the heavy reliance on performance on the PSAT (the discussion of the winners of the various Olympiad and Putnam contests has little informational value relevant to admissions, since those winners are the outliers on the tail of the distribution), which is a test that can be prepped for quite easily. Another flaw is the reliance on last names to determine ethnicity, which I doubt works well for Jews, although it probably works reasonably well for East Asians.
Unfortunately, the article is also peppered with (very) thinly supported (and implausible) claims like Asians are better at visuospatial skills, worse at verbal skills, and that the situation is reversed for Jews. This kind of claim strikes me as racial gobbledygook, and at least anecdotally belied if one considers the overrepresentation of Jews among elite chess players, both in the US and worldwide.
In any event, the fundamental point is that the PSAT (as is the case with all standardized tests) is a fixed target that can be studied for. Whether one chooses to put in 100s of hours studying for the PSAT is not, and should not be, the only criterion used for admissions.
I find the relative percentage of East Asians and Jews at schools like MIT (and also Caltech and Berkeley, although obviously those are in part distorted by the heavy concentration of East Asians in California) as compared to HYP as strong evidence that the admissions process at HYP advantages Jews and disadvantages East Asians.
I suspect, though, that the advantages Jews enjoy in the admissions process are unconscious and unintentional, whereas the disadvantages suffered by East Asians are quite conscious and intentional.Anonymous says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment January 21, 2013 at 5:03 am GMT •
The graph entitled "Asians Age 18-21 and Elite College Enrollment Trends, 1990-2011″ is misleading. It contrasts percentage of enrolled Asian students vs. the total number of the eligible Asian applicants. Therefore, it led to a flawed argument when comfusing number vs. percentage . For proof, if a similar graph of Hispanic student percentage vs. eligible applicants were drawn, it would appear that they were discriminated against as well. So would be the Black!Anonymous January 24, 2013 at 1:21 am GMT •
well, even a fair and objective admission criteria can have devastating consequences. here at IIT, we admit about 1 in 100. this has the same effect on student ethics, career options and so on. in fact, even worse, since IIT is an engineering college, the very definition of engineering in India has now distorted as serving international finance or distant masters in a globalized world. our own development problems remain unattended.
also, the above is a part of the current trend of knowledge concentration, i.e., a belief that only a few universities can impart us "true" knowledge or conduct "true" research.
regs, milind.Thos. January 27, 2013 at 3:39 am GMT
This is a very valuable article. It deals with a subject that has received too little attention. I believe that cultural bias in many cases outweighs the racial bias in the selection program. Time and again, I have seen young people with great potential being selected against because they are culturally different from what the selectors are looking for (often people who are like them culturally). The article's mentioning that students who participated in R.O.T.C., F.F.A. and/or 4H are often passed over is a good illustration.
It was interesting to note that the girl who wrote an essay on how she dealt with being caught in a drug violation found acceptance. I suspect that a student with similar academic qualifications who wrote an essay on the negative aspects of drug use would not be so lucky.
LMMJF January 29, 2013 at 10:36 am GMT •
comes news that Yale President Levin's successor will be Peter Salovey, tending to confirm Unz's observations regarding the grossly disproportionate number of Jewish presidents at Ivy League schools.Raymond February 4, 2013 at 4:43 pm GMT •
All very interesting but I am among the National Merit Scholars from California who has a not obviously Jewish name despite having two Jewish parents. It was changed in the 1950s due to anti-Semitism and an urge to assimilate. A lot of other names can be German or Jewish for example. I suspect in light of that and intermarriage cases where the mom is Jewish and the dad is not, not to mention a lot of Russian names, you may be undercounting Jews among other things. Although to be fair, you are probably also undercounting some half-Asians given most of those marriages have a white husband and Asian wife.Anonymous February 8, 2013 at 4:47 am GMT •
I'm an Asian HYP grad. I applaud this article for being so extremely well researched and insightful. It's an excellent indictment of the arbitrariness and cultural favoritism concentrated in the hands of a very small group of unqualified and ideologically driven admissions officers. And I hasten to add that I am a liberal Democratic, an avid Obama supporter, and a strong proponent of correcting income inequality and combating discrimination in the workplace.
To me, the most compelling exhibit was the one towards the end which showed the % relative representation of enrolled students to highly-qualified students (I wish the article labeled the exhibits). This chart shows that in the Ivies, which administer highly subjective admission criteria, Jews are overrepresented by 3-4x, but in the California schools and MIT, which administer more objective criteria, Jews are overrepresented by only 0-50%, a range that can easily be explained by methodology or randomness.
This single exhibit is unequivocal evidence to me of systematic bias in the Ivy League selection process, with Jews as the primary beneficiary. I tend to agree with the author this this bias is unlikely to be explicit, but likely the result of cultural favoritism, with a decision-making body that is heavily Jewish tending to favor the activities, accomplishments, personalities, etc. of Jewish applicants.
The author has effectively endorsed one of the core tenets of modern liberalism – that human beings tend to favor people who look and act like themselves. It's why institutions dominated by white males tend to have pro-white male biases. The only twist here is that the decision-making body in this instance (Ivy League admissions committees) is white-Jewish, not white-Gentile.
So if you're a liberal like me, let's acknowledge that everyone is racist and sexist toward their own group, and what we have here is Jews favoring Jews. We can say that without being anti-semitic, just like we can say that men favor men without being anti-male, or whites favor whites without being anti-white.Anonymous February 14, 2013 at 12:29 am GMT •
Just some puzzling statistics: In p. 32, second paragraph, it is mentioned "The Asian ratio is 63% slightly above the white ratio of 61 percent", then in the third paragraph "However, if we separate out the Jewish students, their
ratio turns out to be 435 percent, while the residual ratio for non-Jewish whites drops to just 28 percent, less than half of even the Asian figure", leading to the conclusion that "As a consequence, Asians appear under-represented relative to Jews by a factor of seven, while non-Jewish whites are by far the most under-represented group of all". Not very clear on the analysis!
Let me try to make a guess on the calculation of this statistics ratio: Assume that all groups in NMS will apply, with mA=Asians, mJ=Jews, mW=Whites be the respective numbers in NMS. Suppose that nA, nJ, and nW are those Asians, Jews, and Whites finally admitted. Then if the statistics ratio for G means ((nG)/(mG))/(mG/mNMS), where mNMS is the total number in the NMS, then the ratio will amplify the admission rate (nG/mG) by (mNMS/mG) times and becomes very large or very small for small group size. For example, for a single person group, being admitted will give a ratio as large as mNMS, and a zero for not being admitted. Why can this ratio be used for comparing under-representation between different groups?Al February 23, 2013 at 3:13 pm GMT •
Very well. Loved the fact that the author put a lot into reseaching this piece. But i would like to know how many asians who manage to attend this ivy schools end up as nobel leaurets and professors?? This demonstrates the driving force behind the testscore prowess of the asians-financial motivation. The author talks about asians being under-represented in the ivies but even though they manage to attend then what?? do they eventually become eintiens and great nobel leurets or great cheese players. Also what is the stats like for asian poets, novelist, actors.etc Pls focus should be given on improving other non-ivy schools since we have a lots of high SAT test scores than high running universities.Fred February 24, 2013 at 7:11 pm GMT •
Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application.Anonymous February 26, 2013 at 8:09 pm GMT •
Loved all the research in the article and I am on board with the idea that moving in the tiger mother direction will kill creativity in young people. And I agree with the observation that our country's top leadership since 1970 or so has been underwhelming and dishonest especially in the financial services industry which draws almost entirely from the Ivies.
However, I am not so convinced that the over representation of Jewish students in the Ivy league is created by intentional bias on the part of Jewish professors or administrators at these institutions. Is it possible that admissions officers select Jewish applicants at such a high rate because they are more likely to actually attend? Once a family of four's income exceeds $160k the net price calculation for a year at Harvard jumps up pretty quickly. By the time you hit annual income of $200k you are looking at $43k/yr or $172k for 4 years. And at the lower income levels, even if a family has to pay just $15k a year, how will they do that if they are struggling to make it as it is? Do they want/does their student want to graduate with $60k worth of debt? Why not choose a great scholarship offer from a state university to pay nothing at all or go to community college for 2 years and then on to the state public institution?
There are many options for top students who can compete at the Ivy level. If I am an admissions officer looking to fill slots left over after minority admissions (ones poor enough to get the education for free and thus to say yes), legacies, athletic recruits, and the few super special candidates, wouldn't I choose those most likely to take me up on the admissions offer and protect my yield number? Might an easy way to get this done be to consult a demographic tool showing net worth by zip code? And to stack the yield odds a little more in my favor might I also choose families with Jewish appearing last names knowing they would be extremely likely to accept my offer since I obviously have recent history to show me that these families say yes to our prices? I think this is a much more plausible explanation then assuming some secret quota in force at these schools.
I am a conservative but I cannot believe Jewish liberals would go that far just to ensure more Jewish liberals attend their institutions or to keep conservative white non Jewish middle income students out. Dollars and cents and the perception a yield number conveys about the desirability of a school are what is at work here in my humble opinion.Anonymous March 1, 2013 at 7:13 pm GMT •
There is a very simple solution. There is no legal definition of race. Simply check the "Negro" (or "African-American" or whatever it is called today) box on the application form. You don't look it? Neither do many others, because your ancestry is really mixed. This may get you in. It won't hurt your chances, which are essentially zero before you check that box. At the very least, it will make it harder for the bigots in the admissions office to exercise their bigotry.Doom March 12, 2013 at 8:45 pm GMT •
"Look at Nobel prizes, field medals and all kind of prizes and awards that recognize lifetime original academic contributions. Not many asians there yet. Perfect grades or SAT scores does not guarantee creativity, original thinking, intelectual curiosity or leadership. The problem is that those things are hard to measure and very easy to fake in an application."
Last year, 75% of Ph.D candidates where foreign born, most of which were either Indian or Chinese. You should rely on statistics that are more current and relevant.Anonymous March 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm GMT •
Wow, another article on how corrupt higher eduation is.
Folks, open your eyes a bit. Online education is growing massively; sharing this growth are websites that write academic papers (even Ph.D. theses) on demands .these websites in toto have nearly as many customers as there are online students.
Harvard is unusual in that they actually banned students for cheating. Every investigation of cheating on campus shows it exists on a massive scale, and reports of half or more of a class cheating are quite common in the news.
The reason for this is simple: administrators care about retention, nothing else. Faculty have long since gotten the message. I've taught in higher education for nearly 25 years now, and I've seen many faculty punished for catching cheaters; not once has there been any reward.
Over 90% of remedial students fail to get a 2-year degree in three years, yet administration sees no issue with talking them into loans that will keep them in debt forever. Admin sees no issue with exploiting the vulnerable for personal gain, of course.
Here's what higher education is today: desperate people take out loans to go to college. They use the money to pay the tuition, and they use the money to buy academic papers because they really aren't there for college, they're there for the checks. Their courses are graded by poorly paid faculty (mostly adjuncts), again paid by those checks. The facutly are watched over by administrators to make sure there is no integrity to the system and again, admin is paid by those checks (in fact, most of the tuition money goes to administrators).
Hmm, what part of this could be changed that would put integrity back into the system?Bobby March 13, 2013 at 1:57 am GMT •
I think your sources who claim to be familiar with China are very wrong concerning entrance into Chinese universities, especially those so-called upper tier unis. It is well known amongst most Chinese students who take the gaokao, the all-or-nothing university entrance examination, bribes, guanxi (connections) and just being local, are often better indicators of who will be accepted.• Replies: @KA Same and some more in India.
In India it is politics of the gutter. Someone can get to medical school and engineering school even if he or she did not qualify,if scored say 3 points out of 1000 points as long as he or she belonged to lower caste of Hindu. The minimum requirements they have to fulfill is to pass the school leaving examinations with science subjects .A passing level is all that matters . The process then continues (in further education -master , training, post doctoral, and in job and in promotion)
While upper caste Hindu or Christian or Muslim may not be allowed despite scoring 999 out of 1000. It is possible and has happened.
Unfortunately the lower caste has not progressed much. Upper caste Hindus have misused this on many occasions and continue to do do by selling themselves as lower caste with legal loopholes .Muslim or Christians can't do that for they can't claim to be HinduThom March 13, 2013 at 7:04 pm GMT •
Ron Unz is a brilliant man. He created software that made him rich, and has written articles on all kinds of subjects. But apparently, Ron shares a problem with a very tiny number of humanity. Ron is one of those oddball characters, that, no matter where the truth leads him, he simply has to express it, regardless of political correctness. He did this in California with the debate on English,etc.
Compared to the administrators of these Ivy League Institutions, Ron is a mental giant, not even near being in the same class as these supposedly important but in reality, worthless beurocrats.Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 4:39 pm GMT •
If ten million Gentile whites and Asians changed their surname to Kaplan, Levy, Golden, Goldstein, Goldman, it obviously would throw a monkey wrench into the process of ethnic favoritism.
To paraphrase Unz - the "shared group biases" of Ivy League college admission officers that have "extreme flexibility and subjectivity", does harm white Gentiles and Asians, but only because the process lacks objective, meritocratic decision making, and in its place is a vile form of corrupt cronyism and favoritism.Michael N Moore March 28, 2013 at 7:52 pm GMT •
An Asian speaking here, I agree that America isn't a meritocracy, but has it ever been? It seems like this article's falling for the oldest trick in the book - looking back at the "good old days". I'd argue that now more than ever, the barrier to entry is lower than ever, and that every individual can rise to the occasion and innovate for the better. Places like Exeter (my alma mater) aren't just playgrounds for the rich - I'm not extremely wealthy, and neither were my classmates. Most of us were even on financial aid. Don't just point fingers at institutions to account for shortcomings - if you had the stroke of fortune to be born in a nation with such opportunity, with hard work and CREATIVITY and INNOVATION, anything is possible.
Has anyone thought about why the test-prep business has expanded so much? It's to feed into the very same system that you're complaining about. Be the change you wish to see in the world, not a victim of it. To many of the Asians out there, I'd say get over your 4.0 GPA and 2400 SAT score and be unique for once.marc April 7, 2013 at 4:12 pm GMT •
To put Unz's findings in social and historical perspective, it is important to understand where Jewish academics come from. The Eastern European Jews who immigrated to Northeast US in the Twentieth Century ran into an immigrant world dominated by Catholics and particularly Irish Catholics. The Irish, who were as "hungry" as the Jews got control over government and its ancillary economic benefits. I wasn't there at the time, but I imagine we Irish did not do much to help Jewish immigrants compared with Catholic immigrants.
One area abandoned by the Catholic Church was public and secular education. The Church formed its own educational Catholic ghetto. Jewish immigrants adopted the public-secular educational world as their own and became strong adherents of education as the key to Americanization. Education became their small piece of turf. The only memorable political conflict between Jews and AfricanAmericans in New York City was over control of the public schools.
Just as the Irish react against affirmative action for non-Irish in government jobs, the descendants of these Jewish immigrants react to the plagiarism of their assimilation plan by the Chinese/Koreans. When you have de facto Irish affirmative action you don't want de jure African American affirmative action. When you have Jewish "meritocracy" you don't want Asian meritocracy.
The result is what you see today. The Irish still have a stranglehold on government related jobs in the Northeast with a smattering of minorities ("New Irish") and the Jews try to protect their secular education turf from the "New Jews". It's just business. Don't take it personally.Anonymous April 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm GMT •
All I can say is see a book: "Ivy League Fools and Felons"' by Mack Roth. Lots of them are kids of corrupt people in all fields.
But I disagree that opportunity is being closed off to most Americans. Here in North Dakota I work for a high school graduate, self made trucking millionaire. Five years ago she was a secretary in Iowa. But she got off her butt and went to where the money is circulating. Just my 2 centsRand April 7, 2013 at 10:27 pm GMT •
Sorry, but quick correction regarding rankings (and I only have to say this because I go to MIT). Technically, MIT and Caltech are *both* ranked the same. The only reason why Caltech appears on the list before MIT is because it come before it alphabetically to suggest otherwise would be untrue. When you look at individual departments, you'll find that MIT consistently ranks higher than that of Caltech in all engineering disciplines and most scientific disciplines. Also, personally speaking, MIT has a far better humanities program that Caltech (especially in the fields of economics, political science, philosophy, and linguisitics). We do have a number of Pulitizer Prize winners who teach here.
Also generally, in academic circle, MIT is usually viewed with higher regard than Caltech, although that isn't to say Caltech isn't a fantastic school (it really and truly is–I loved it there and I wish more people knew more about it)NotAmerican April 15, 2013 at 4:56 pm GMT •
One observation about methodology that struck me while reading this:
The Jewish population of universities is being evaluated based on Hillel statistics, with the "Non-Jewish white" population being based on the white population minus the Jewish population.
This can be problematic when you consider that these population are merging at a pretty high rate. (I don't have much information here, but this is from the header of the wikipedia article: "The 1990 National Jewish Population Survey reported an intermarriage rate of 52 percent among American Jews.")
What percentage of partially Jewish students identify as "Jewish" or does Hillel identify as Jewish? If you're taking a population that would have once identified as "white" and now identifying them as Jewish, obviously you'll see some Jewish inflation, and white deflation. And when a large percentage of this population bears the names "Smith", "Jones", "Roberts" etc., you're obviously not going to see a corresponding increase in NMS scores evaluated on the basis of last names.
Of course, I have no idea what methodology Hillel is using, but I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it's an inflated one.NotAmerican April 15, 2013 at 5:01 pm GMT
Thank you Mr. Unz for this provocative article. It isn't the author's first one on Jewish & Asian enrollment at Ivy League colleges. I remember another one, in the 1990s I believe.
According to what I read, less and less American Jews apply for medical school nationwide, and Jewish women are very educated, but it comes also with a low birthrate and high median age. It makes the recent spike in Jewish admissions at Harvard College all the more curious, intriguing.
This month, the NY Times published a list of the highest earners in the hedge fund industry in 2012, and 8 out of 10 were Jewish. Are certain universities aggressively seeking donations from this super rich demographic since the 2000s?
History has a way of repeating itself.Ira April 21, 2013 at 2:12 pm GMT •
I'm referring to HYP(Harvard-Yale-Princeton)'s history, during the Gilded Age for example.N. Joseph Potts April 29, 2013 at 7:43 pm GMT •
The young American Jew is not like his grandparents. They are just as fun loving and lazy as any other. This is the result of a lack of perceived persecution that use to keep the group together. In the major cities, half of the young people leave the tribe through intermarriage. This is human nature. The Rabbis changed the rules some time ago to define a Jew as coming from the mother, so the Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman, instead of a woman outside of the tribe. Read the Bible. In David's time, the men had an eye for good looking women outside of the tribe(like all men). Now days, the young people just laugh at the Rabbi's words.
Instead of the old folks liberal ideas of race and ethnic divisions, let us change it to go by economic class. According to liberal thought, intelligence is equally distributed throughout all economic classes, so higher education admissions should be by economic class, and not the old divisive ideas of race and ethnic background. After all, affirmative action programs are institutionalized racism and racial profiling.• Replies: @KA Yes . You have points . This is one of the fears that drove the Zionist to plan of Israel in 1880 . It was the fear of secular life free from religious persecution and freedom to enjoy life to its fullest in the post industrial non religious Europe guided by enlightenment that drove them embrace the religious ethnic mix concept of statehood.Clark Coleman May 14, 2013 at 4:13 am GMT •
These and many other ills would be alleviated if government would stop: (a) banning aptitude tests or even outright discrimination as determinants of employment; (b) subsidizing private institutions such as Harvard; and (c) close down all government schools, starting with state institutions of "higher learning."
I know, pie in the sky. But the author's suggestions by comparison are mere Band-Aids.Anonymous May 23, 2013 at 4:00 am GMT •
Great analysis, but pie-in-the-sky prescription, which was presumably just intended to be thought provoking. If you want to know why Harvard would never adopt the author's recommendation, just read what he wrote:
"But if it were explicitly known that the vast majority of Harvard students had merely been winners in the application lottery, top businesses would begin to cast a much wider net in their employment outreach, and while the average Harvard student would probably be academically stronger than the average graduate of a state college, the gap would no longer be seen as so enormous, with individuals being judged more on their own merits and actual achievements. A Harvard student who graduated magna cum laude would surely have many doors open before him, but not one who graduated in the bottom half of his class."
I wonder why Harvard officials would desire this outcome?foo May 31, 2013 at 5:31 am GMT
So a lot of ivy league presidents with Jewish-sounding names somehow influence admissions staff who may not have Jewish-sounding names to favor undeserving applicants because they also have Jewish-sounding names? And this is because of some secret ethnic pride thing going on? And nobody's leaked this conspiracy to the outside world until our whistle blowing author? The guy's a nut job.Anonymous July 27, 2013 at 5:04 pm GMT •
Benj Pollock says: [...stuf...]
What a weird ad-hominem attack! One of the weakest I have seen..you should really be calling the author an "anti-semite" shouldn't you ?NB says: • Website Show Comment Next New Comment December 5, 2013 at 7:52 pm GMT •
All of your statistics are highly suspect due to the enormous, and rapid annual increase in Jewish intermarriage. I do not have the statistics, but over many years, it certainly appears that Jewish men are far more likely to intermarry than Jewish women (the lure of the antithesis to their Jewish mother??) and to complicate matters further, Jewish men seem to have a predilection for Asian women, at least in the greater NY Metro Area. But that still does not represent the majority of Jewish men marrying Christians. QED. More Jewish last names, for children who are DNA wise only half Jewish than non Jewish names for the intermarried. And if one wanted to get really specific, the rapidly rising intermarriage is diluting the "Jewish" genetic pool's previously demonstrable intelligence superiority., strengthened by the fact that most couples use the Jewish fathers last name.
These observations are in no way associated with how the various Jewish denominations define 'Jewish"
Methinks the statistics are highly flawed.Walter Sobchak December 11, 2013 at 3:43 am GMT •
I have posted a critique of Unz's article here: http://alum.mit.edu/www/nurit
Columbia statistician Andrew Gelman discusses it here: http://andrewgelman.com/2013/10/22/ivy-jew-update/
In short: Unz substantially overestimated the percentage of Jews at Harvard while grossly underestimating the percentage of Jews among high academic achievers, when, in fact, there is no discrepancy.
In addition, Unz's arguments have proven to be untenable in light of a recent survey of incoming Harvard freshmen conducted by The Harvard Crimson, which found that students who identified as Jewish reported a mean SAT score of 2289, 56 points higher than the average SAT score of white respondents.
I have a couple of thoughts about this article:
First. I was thrilled to see your advocacy of admissions by lottery. I have advocated such a plan on various websites that I participate in, but you have written the first major article advocating it that I have seen. Congratulations.
Just a small quibble with your plan, I would not allow the schools any running room for any alternatives to the lottery. They have not demonstrated any willingness to administer such a system fairly. After a few years of pure lottery it would be time to evaluate it and see if they should be allowed any leeway, but I wouldn't allow any variation before that.
I would hypothesize that one effect of a lottery admissions plan would be a return to more stringent grading in the class rooms. It would be useful to the faculty to weed out the poor performers more quickly, and the students might have less of an attitude of entitlement.
Second, I am glad that you raised the issue of corruption of the admissions staffs. It would be a new chapter in human history if there was no straight out bribe taking of by functionaries in their positions. My guess is that the bag men are the "high priced consultants". Pay them a years worth of tuition money and a sufficient amount will flow to the right places to get your kid in to wherever you want him to go.
Third, three observations about Jewish Students.
First, Jews are subject to mean reversion just like everybody else.
Second, the kids in the millennial generation were, for the most part, born into comfortable middle class and upper class homes. The simply do not have the drive that their immigrant grandparents and great-grandparents had. I see this in my own family. My wife and I had immigrant parents, and we were pretty driven academically (6 degrees between us). Our kids, who are just as bright as we were, did not show that same edge, and it was quite frustrating to us. None of them have gone to a graduate or professional school. They are all working and are happy, but driven they aren't.
Third, Hillel's numbers of Jewish students on their website should be taken cum grano salis. All three of our kids went to Northwestern U. (Evanston, IL) which Hillel claimed was 20% Jewish. Based on our personal observations of kids in their dorms and among their friends, I think the number is probably 10% or less.
Finally, the side bar on Paying Tuition to a Hedge Fund. I too am frustrated with the current situation among the wealthy institutions. I think that it deserves a lot more attention from policy makers than it has received. The Universities have received massive benefits from the government (Federal and state) - not just tax exemptions, but grants for research and to students, subsidized loans, tax deductions for contributions, and on, and on. They have responded to this largess by raising salaries, hiring more administrators, spending billions on construction, and continually raising tuitions far faster than the rate of inflation. I really do not think the tax payers should be carrying this much of a burden at a time when deficits are mounting without limit.
Henry VIII solved a similar problem by confiscating assets. We have constitutional limits on that sort of activity, but I think there a lot of constitutional steps that should be considered. Here a few:
1. There is ample reason to tax the the investment gains of the endowments as "unrelated business taxable income" (UBTI, see IRS Pub 598 and IRC §§ 511-515) defined as income from a business conducted by an exempt organization that is not substantially related to the performance of its exempt purpose. If they do not want to pay tax on their investments, they should purchase treasuries and municipals, and hold them to maturity.
2. The definition of an exempt organization could be narrowed to exclude schools that charge tuition. Charging $50,000/yr and sitting on 30G$ of assets looks a lot more like a business than a charity.
3. Donations to overly rich institutions should be non deductible to the donors. Overly rich should be defined in terms of working capital needs and reserves for depreciation of physical assets.jholloway August 23, 2014 at 4:40 am GMT •
Is the proposed mechanism that Jewish university presidents create a bias in the admissions department?
That could be tested by comparing Jewish student percentages between schools with Christian and Jewish presidents. If Christian presidents produce student bodies with a high proportion of Jews, then Jewish ethnocentrism is not the cause. (We'd have to find a way to control for presidents' politics.)
If admissions departments are discriminating in favor of liberals, that will boost the proportion of all liberals, including many Jews, but it will be political discrimination, not ethnic discrimination. (Both are bad, but we should be accurate.)
Liberals see a discrepancy in ethnic outcomes and consider it proof of ethnic discrimination. Are we doing the same thing?KA October 12, 2014 at 2:34 pm GMT •KA October 12, 2014 at 2:41 pm GMT •
After Russian emancipation, the Jews from Pale settlement spread out and took up jobs in government services, secured admissions in technical and medical schools, and established positions in trade in just two decades. Then they started interconnecting and networking more aggressively to eliminate competition and deny the non-Jews the opportunities that the non Jews rightfully claimed. This pattern was also evident in Germany after 1880 and in Poland between interwars .
The anti-Jewish sentiment seen in pre revolutionary Russia was the product of this ethnic exclusivisity and of the tremendous in-group behaviors .@Ira The young American Jew is not like his grandparents. They are just as fun loving and lazy as any other. This is the result of a lack of perceived persecution that use to keep the group together. In the major cities, half of the young people leave the tribe through intermarriage. This is human nature. The Rabbis changed the rules some time ago to define a Jew as coming from the mother, so the Jewish man would marry a Jewish woman, instead of a woman outside of the tribe. Read the Bible. In David's time, the men had an eye for good looking women outside of the tribe(like all men). Now days, the young people just laugh at the Rabbi's words.KA October 12, 2014 at 2:59 pm GMT •
Instead of the old folks liberal ideas of race and ethnic divisions, let us change it to go by economic class. According to liberal thought, intelligence is equally distributed throughout all economic classes, so higher education admissions should be by economic class, and not the old divisive ideas of race and ethnic background. After all, affirmative action programs are institutionalized racism and racial profiling.
Yes . You have points . This is one of the fears that drove the Zionist to plan of Israel in 1880 . It was the fear of secular life free from religious persecution and freedom to enjoy life to its fullest in the post industrial non religious Europe guided by enlightenment that drove them embrace the religious ethnic mix concept of statehood.
@Anonymous I think your sources who claim to be familiar with China are very wrong concerning entrance into Chinese universities, especially those so-called upper tier unis. It is well known amongst most Chinese students who take the gaokao, the all-or-nothing university entrance examination, bribes, guanxi (connections) and just being local, are often better indicators of who will be accepted.Ivy October 16, 2014 at 3:20 am GMT •
Same and some more in India. In India it is politics of the gutter. Someone can get to medical school and engineering school even if he or she did not qualify, if scored say 3 points out of 1000 points as long as he or she belonged to lower caste of Hindu. The minimum requirements they have to fulfill is to pass the school leaving examinations with science subjects .A passing level is all that matters . The process then continues (in further education -master , training, post doctoral, and in job and in promotion)
While upper caste Hindu or Christian or Muslim may not be allowed despite scoring 999 out of 1000. It is possible and has happened. Unfortunately the lower caste has not progressed much. Upper caste Hindus have misused this on many occasions and continue to do do by selling themselves as lower caste with legal loopholes .Muslim or Christians can't do that for they can't claim to be HinduAnonymous November 26, 2014 at 5:06 pm GMT •
Jews are really good at networking and in-group activity. They have centuries of practice, and lived a meritocratic existence of self-sorting in the Pale and elsewhere.
That is evident to all who look.
Other groups have different approaches, and different organizational or affiliation bonds, based on their history, culture and other factors.
NE Asians share some traits, and both value education as a way to improve themselves and to some extent their groups.
S Asians will demonstrate their own approach, focusing heavily on STEM.
Expect demographics to win out, given 2.5B Asians versus a smaller NAM or NE European-base populace.Truth December 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm GMT •
Thanks for the informative article. Your proposal sounds reasonable. Another option would be to attempt to vastly decrease the significance of these elite private schools. Why should we allow undemocratic little fiefdoms to largely control entry into our country's ruling class? It would probably be considerably more fair, more transparent and more efficient to pour a lot of resources into our public universities. If Berkeley, Michigan, UVA, UMass, etc. were completely free, for instance–or if they provided students with living expenses as well as free tuition, the quality of their students would conceivably surpass that of the Ivy League's, and over time the importance and prestige of Harvard, Stanford, etc. would diminish. Instead, we are subsidizing students at elite private colleges more than those at public colleges–an absurd state of affairs (see this article, whose author is a bit of an ideologue but who is right on this issue: http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Robert-Reich/2014/1014/How-the-government-spends-more-per-student-at-elite-private-universities-than-public ).Anonymous March 11, 2015 at 3:34 am GMT •
Mr. Unz; thank you for the long, informational and scholarly article. I read the whole thing, and from Sailer I am familiar with your reputation as a certified genius. I must admit however, after the 5-10,000 words you had written, I was a bit shocked that your answer to how to improve elite University enrollment, was to FLIP A FIGURATIVE COIN.
I expected some chart with differential equations that I would have to consult my much more intelligent brother, the electrical engineer to explain to me. Not that it does not make a lot of sense.
The issue with your solution is that you go from a three class university:
1) Legacy Admits
2) Non athletic, black admits
3) everyone else
to a much-more rigid, two class university:
1) academic admits
2) coin-flip admits
One tier being one of the smartest 15-18 year olds in the world, the other being "somewhat better than good student at Kansas State."
Talk about a hierarchy!Joe Franklin August 20, 2015 at 8:25 pm GMT •
My brother works at a little ivy league school. Well endowed because the parents Dun and Bradstreet reports are at the top of the selection sheets with parents jobs also. Extra points for finance and government jobs at executive levels.
This article was excellent and reinforced everything he has told me over the years. One thing he did mention i would like to add. Asians, which for years were their choice for filling minority quotas, are horrible when it comes to supporting the alma mater financially during the fund drives. This information was confirmed by several other schools in the area when they tried a multi-school drive in the far east and south east asia to canvas funds and returned with a pitiful sum.Joe Franklin August 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm GMT
Diversity is a scheme that is the opposite of a meritocracy. Diversity is a national victim cult that generally demonizes gentiles, and more specifically demonizes people that conform to a jewish concocted profile of a nazi.
Why would anyone use the word diversity in the same sentence as the word meritocracy?Part White, Part Native September 1, 2015 at 6:45 am GMT
"Are elite university admissions based on meritocracy and diversity as claimed?" Why would anybody claiming to be intelligent include meritocracy and diversity in the same sentence?Gandydancer December 26, 2015 at 1:43 am GMT •
@Sean Gillhoolley Harvard is a university, much like Princeton and Yale, that continues based on its reputation, something that was earned in the past. When the present catches up to them people will regard them as nepotistic cauldrons of corruption.
Look at the financial disaster that befell the USA and much of the globe back in 2008. Its genesis can be found in the clever minds of those coming out of their business schools (and, oddly enough, their Physics programs as well). They are teaching the elite how to drain all value from American companies, as the rich plan their move to China, the new land of opportunity. When 1% of the population controls such a huge portion of the wealth, patriotism becomes a loadstone to them. The elite are global. Places like Harvard cater to them, help train them to rule the world....but first they must remake it.
I agree, common people would never think of derivatives , nor make loans based on speculation .
"Tiffany Wang['s] SAT scores were over 100 points above the Wesleyan average, and she ranked as a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist "
"Julianna Bentes her SAT scores were somewhat higher than Tiffany's "
Did Ms. Wang underperform on her SATs? NMS semifinalist status depends purely on the score on a very SAT-like test being at a 99.5 percentile level, as I understand it (and I was one, albeit a very long time ago) and I gather from the above that her SAT scores did not correspond to the PSAT one. That is, merely " 100 points above the Wesleyan average" doesn't seem all that exceptional. Or am I wrong?
Mr. Unz several times conflates NMS semifinalist status with being a top student. Which I most definitely was not. It's rather an IQ test. As was the SAT.
Oct 15, 2019 | economistsview.typepad.com
Fred C. Dobbs , October 13, 2019 at 05:47 AMContrived generational wars disguise the failure of the American Dream https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2019/10/11/beware-labels-contrived-generational-wars-disguise-failure-american-dream/BwpcAnlGfHVsctTkpCX8tK/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobeFred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , October 13, 2019 at 06:04 AM
Margaret Morganroth Gullette -October 11
In a nation grappling with growing inequality, stagnating social mobility, crushing personal debt, and crumbling job security, efforts to set America's generations against one another persist. Don't blame the system, blame the "greedy" boomers. Or the "slacker" Gen Xers. Or "entitled" millennials. But who gains from such discourses?
Efforts to foment that warfare, intentionally or not, serve specific agendas. Numerous writers warn that age-group hostilities are "coming." And then, pitting generations against one another, aside from their war metaphors, writers reach for doomsday predictions, lachrymose empathy for "our kids," and questionable data. All this relies on the invention of mendacious attributes, conferring on millions of diverse people implausible character flaws or virtues. Karl Mannheim, the 20th-century sociologist known for explaining the uses of generational units, would be rolling over in his grave.
Here is the hidden history of a perverse political discourse: It started with the so-called boomers. As they aged toward peak midlife wages in the 1980s, they got saddled with a reputation for being rich and greedy. The media concocted a lie that made it seem as if they wouldn't ever need Social Security.
Bill Gates was born in 1955. That makes him what is commonly called a boomer. Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston's homeless shelters. According to the principal investigator of a recent study, Dennis Culhane, many people of Lavoie's age are indeed part of a boom -- "a boom in aging homeless people." They were "less well educated people who faced economic challenges in their youth -- falling wages and rising housing costs -- and never recovered financially. ... Now in their 50s and 60s, they are biologically older than most people their age. ... The average lifespan for a homeless person is 64."
Unlike Gates's co-billionaires in the .01 percent, 29 percent of people 55 and over have nothing at all saved for retirement, according to the Government Accountability Office, and many of the rest have little. Ageism in the workforce is one reason they lose a job and then can't find an equally good one -- or find any work at all. Boomers are often treated as "deadwood." Corporations drop them by the thousands. Even Xers are now old enough to be at risk of having their resumes discarded. When people suffering from middle ageism stop looking for work they are omitted from the unemployment data. At midlife, some submit to deaths of despair.
Succeeding cohorts (all containing the same disparities -- of class, race, gender, and education) have also been treated as if they were a single human with a character flaw. During the 1990s recessions, when the so-called Xers couldn't find work, they too were branded with a slur -- "slackers" -- while boomers were represented as the horde bullies who held onto all the good jobs.
The baleful technique is still at work today. Given the same problem -- lack of decent jobs for all ages, especially people without college degrees and people over 50 -- it's the turn of the millennials. One of them complains about the stereotypes, defensively, in Vox: "We demand participation trophies, can't find jobs, and live with our parents until we're 30." His response is to bash -- you guessed it -- the boomers, who "have a ton of maladaptive personality characteristics."
In the Atlantic, pundits Niall Ferguson, from the Hoover Institution, and Eyck Freymann defend millennials because their "early working lives were blighted by the financial crisis" -- but ignore how home foreclosures, sluggish growth, and job losses also blighted people around Ferguson's own age (55).
Millennials are supposed to be so ignorant and cruel that they would dismiss old people's needs because of the boomers' alleged wealth. "Cutting old-age benefits for boomers would be an easy call if millennials are anywhere on the line of fire," write the original concoctors of the age-war distraction, Neil Howe and William Strauss, in their latest pandering assault, "Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation."
We frequently hear that our elders' retirement needs will "break the bank" despite their lifelong pay-ins. If Republicans manage to destroy the whole system of social trust, cutting Social Security could indeed be one of the dire outcomes of the lies of generational warfare. Otherwise, experts say, its financial failure is not remotely in the cards. For families it has always been the most popular government program, because it provides a measure of dignified independence for older people and a measure of relief for their adult children.
Younger people should support the expansion of Social Security for another reason, writes one millennial who doesn't take the bait. Nick Guthman argues in The Hill that because of student debt, "Millennials and Generation Z will need Social Security even more than our parents and grandparents do."
The 2100 Act, now before Congress, would raise the cap on taxable-wage contributions. Conservatives reject this easy fix, but it is overwhelmingly popular with the public.
Manipulating cohort characteristics damages far more than attitudes toward Social Security, bad as the effect of that contrived skepticism could be. Blaming an older generation that is already maligned allows many real perpetrators to smugly hide from their irresponsibility. Will the climate movement find youngsters blaming the boomers for ecological destruction, because some drove big cars? Wouldn't it be better to turn on the CEOs of Exxon, who hid the dangers of burning fossil fuels that their scientists discovered so thoroughly that few of us knew to stop flying?
Persistent precarity is indeed the historical issue that is obscured by these discourses. The fact of American decline is this: Most people in each generation have had it worse than their parents. According to a report on The State of Working America, the United States lags behind its peer countries in the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) in measurements of father-son mobility. In the United States, the "sons" have been receiving stagnant wages, fewer benefits, jobs in the insecure gig economy. Many women too have lost the progress narrative of rising expectations. That progress narrative, when upward mobility was more widespread, supported the American Dream. It gave hope that democracy would work for increasing numbers.
Don't blame your parents. Every article manipulating cohort stereotypes lets the government and corporations off the hook for outsourcing abroad, the crash of rust-belt industries, de-unionization, and the decades of cascading downward mobility we now endure. You can't even want to get justice until you know the true sources of injustice.
How do imaginary reputations and hostile emotions get nailed onto struggling groups, decade after decade, in this pernicious way? Naming each imagined age cohort makes it possible. The process is called reification. Naming makes vague temporal proximity into a thing.
Only the name baby boomers had an adequate demographic and historical reason to exist. These millions were born (from 1946 to 1964) of the relative affluence that spread after World War II. Their numbers did give them unifying experiences as they grew up -- made their elders build new schools for them, made their working lives more competitive. Now they are confronted by a president who, after promising not to, is cutting their security and health care in devious ways.
But, even undergoing historical events together, age-peers don't build the same memories, share the same beliefs, behave uniformly. During Vietnam, some young men were conscripted into the war while others fought to end it. Stark differences likewise mark the current group of young people (unimaginatively called "post-millennials"). Some of them are woke and ready to take on racism, sexism, homophobia, gun control, global warming. At the same age, neo-Nazis are setting fire to synagogues.
Once cohorts are reified by name, the labels become dog-whistles. Envy and fear can divide a nation and abet destructive political changes. Malice can turn one generation against another.
We could mitigate the divisiveness. Editors could stop soliciting age-war articles by second-rate phrasemakers. We ordinary people need to defy the lies, and build intergenerational bonds. Let us understand that capitalist and neoliberal choices have worsened life, for decades, for every later, unequal subculture. And a comforting, unifying cross-age coalition should eject politicians unwilling to maintain and repair our precious communal institutions.The Social Security 2100 ActFred C. Dobbs said in reply to Fred C. Dobbs... , October 13, 2019 at 06:17 AM
Social Security isn't in
crisis. It just needs a tune-up
LA Times - Nancy Altman - August 14
This bill could extend Social
Security's solvency for the rest
of this century. Here's what stands
in its way https://cnb.cx/2XRluSu
CNBC - June 1
The Personal and Fiscal
Impact of the Social Security 2100 Act https://www.heritage.org/budget-and-spending/report/the-personal-and-fiscal-impact-the-social-security-2100-act via @
Heritage Society - June 11
Eight Revealing Numbers
from the Social Security 2100 Act
Manhattan Institute - July 22Rene Lavoie was also born in 1955. The Globe recently recounted the problems that led this white Army vet to spend time in Boston's homeless shelters.
Once on the street,
1,000 vets have found a home
https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/05/26/once-street-vets-have-found-home-according-walsh/DteN0irryyLA3Acd3EII6J/story.html?event=event25 via @BostonGlobe
Sep 16, 2019 | www.theamericanconservative.com
When Students Melt Down Over a 'B' Rampant grade anxiety is a reflection of deeper American social dysfunction, with our children the biggest victims. By David Masciotra • September 17, 2019
By Marjan Apostolovic /Shutterstock The library on campus of a small Catholic university in Illinois was largely empty. Since the administrators had replaced most of the bookshelves with plush furniture, conference tables, and chairs, it better resembled an airport terminal just before a redeye. A handful of students were staring intensely into computer screens, while another pair talked loudly -- no more than 10 feet from the silent, visibly demoralized librarian -- about the rap song that one of them had just played moments earlier. Not one student was near a book. There wasn't a single newspaper or journal in sight. The university had canceled its subscriptions and removed the periodical section a few semesters earlier.
I was making my way toward the front door when one of the students from my Intro to Literature course stopped me, tears rolling down her cheeks, her body nearly convulsing as she attempted to suppress her sobs. Because any human contact is potentially criminal, I ignored my impulse to offer a consoling hand to the shoulder, and asked what was wrong. Expecting her to tell me about a personal tragedy -- perhaps the terminal diagnosis of a loved one -- I almost began to weep myself when she said, "You gave me a 'B' on the paper."
Her crying made the harangue that followed difficult to fully comprehend, but it seemed that she must maintain a certain GPA to remain in athletics. When I countered that a "B" is a good grade and that she would have plenty of time to aspire towards an "A" on other assignments, she began pleading with me for opportunities to "bring up the grade." I declined, and asked if some other, more personal factor was contributing to her stress over a passing grade on one paper in a course entirely unrelated to her major. She insisted that there was not. Helpless and baffled, I wished her well, offered her reassurance, and proceeded out of the library and into the parking lot.
Fielding an existential meltdown, complete with a crying jag, is not part of my professional training. Yet rarely does a semester go by without some kind of grade-related complaint, appeal for mercy, and panic attack. When a student appears as if he has just undergone a life-altering trauma because he's realized he is hanging over the edge of a "C," I think of my father, who at around the same age was in Vietnam. We all have our crosses to bear, whether surviving guerrilla warfare or dealing with a professor who will not give extra credit.Advertisement
"Grade anxiety," to use the more popular term, is not unique to my students or school of employment. Studies from Penn State and reports from Psychology Today , Boston University , and many other sources have confirmed that debilitating anxiety is now the leading mental health problem for college students. A quick Google search of "grade anxiety" reveals endless pages of advice to students apoplectic about their exam scores, the professors on the receiving end of their complaints and concerns, and the parents who cannot cope with anything other than perfection.
In all fairness, contemporary college students, contrary to Baby Boomer sanctimony, do have a tougher task than their predecessors. More of them work, often full-time, while completing their degree requirements, and must shoulder heavy financial burdens to acquire their education -- which they understand they will carry, in the form of student debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy, for the majority of their working lives.
Yet even acknowledging the peculiar injustice that exists in American higher education, there is no avoiding the conclusion that 20-year-old adults obsessing and crying over their grades is not a sign of societal health. It's a tornado siren blasting 100 yards away from a trailer park.
As tempting as it is to ridicule the students for their inability to put their lives in mature perspective, it's more instructive to recognize that they are products of American families, institutions, and culture. The overwhelming prevalence of severe grade anxiety indicts a society that is failing to strengthen children into thoughtful and resilient adults. As Gore Vidal once quipped, "I've never met a boring six-year-old in America, and I've never met an interesting 16-year-old."
Even before reaching the age of six, children are under the constant influence of their families. Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff document in their important book The Coddling of the American Mind how "helicopter parenting" has weakened us all. Paranoid about safety, aggressively committed to their children's achievement, parents aspire to protect their sons and daughters from all potential hardship, pushing them into closely monitored extracurricular activities. They treat school work as an accountant treats an actuarial table. The wealthier the parents, the more likely they are to enter their children into the vigilant competition of meritocracy. Some families even send their kids to elite preschools, believing that failure to do so will keep them off the Ivy League university trajectory.
The self-esteem movement has ensured that children will not only aspire to the materialistic measurement of the "best," but believe that they are innately worthy of it. Hearing for their entire lives that they are flawless specimens of Da Vinci-esque brilliance and creativity leaves them unprepared for even the mildest form of criticism. One of the most common rebuttals to a low grade from a student is an indignant "I think I did a great job," spoken as if the teacher should receive a pupil's opinion about his own work as a Catholic priest receives a papal encyclical.
Since the move toward standardized testing as the ultimate metric for student and school success, educational institutions in both rich and poor neighborhoods have relegated the learning experience to high stakes exam preparation, indoctrinating children to believe that they can reduce the value of their intellectual pursuits to a number on a results sheet. The testing model of education complements the American adult's inevitable entrance into a consumer culture with a hierarchy of social status and purchasing power. The earning power of the Kardashians or Waltons allows them to accrue more political influence and cultural value than the typical family in a city without a "Real Housewives" franchise.
Too many conservatives insist on demoting education to nothing more than job training, encouraging the prevalent anti-intellectualism in the United States with suspicion, or outright derision, towards the "impractical" liberal arts. Liberals don't help matters by too often transforming the humanities into conduits of leftist social theory, and before that making elementary and secondary schools too bureaucratic. Formulaic lesson plans and mechanical approaches to pedagogy prevent teachers from developing fruitful bonds with their students, or adjusting their class agendas according to student need and interest.
The Atlantic has run informative but also demoralizing reports on how elementary schools in Finland allow children plenty of free time for play, while also encouraging them to indulge their curiosities in the classroom. In the United States, organic and unrestrained learning is a privilege for children whose parents pay the high prices of a Montessori school. An American kindergartener has an average of 30 minutes of homework per night.
One of my favorite assignments as a child, at the Lutheran elementary school I attended from first through eighth grade, was the book report. Our teacher would walk us to the library and tell us to pick any book, read it, and write a page on it. Depriving children of choice robs them of any joy they might associate with learning. I now teach students in perpetual panic over their grades, and more times than not, the only questions I receive after attempting to facilitate a discussion on a masterpiece of literature is "Will this be on the test?" or "How long does the paper have to be?"
Standards of evaluation are necessary. But I often try to inculcate in my students the knowledge that, in any walk of life and in comparison with the development of passions and the need to sharpen one's ability to look at a complex world, grades are not that important.
This is a tough sell -- pun intended -- in a country that has so thoroughly degraded its public vision of life to an endless quest for wealth and power. There is now a handy measurement of everything. Are you successful? Check your bank account. Are you important? Check your social media followers. Are you attractive? Check the likes on your latest profile picture.
Grades, with the weight of an institution behind them, act as a final judgment in the minds of too many students. They equate A's not only with immediate academic success, but also the chance of having a successful life. Anything less than the optimum might lead to unhappiness.
All lives have moments of failure, pain, and agony. Real adversity is not a "B" on a paper, but your best friend in a coffin, your child's frightening medical condition, your injury that leads to a permanent disability. Education at its best can bequeath what Albert Murray called "equipment for living."
Students who panic and cry over less than perfect grades demonstrate that America has not given them equipment that is helpful and durable. America, in that respect, is worthy of an "F."
David Masciotra is the author of four books, including Mellencamp: American Troubadour (University Press of Kentucky) and Barack Obama: Invisible Man (Eyewear Publishing).
Sep 10, 2019 | portside.org
Originally from: The Sunset of Neoliberalism
When the issues of poverty and inequality came up, a common neoliberal dodge was to invoke the Horatio Alger myth -- that in America, with hard work one can, or should be able to, raise oneself up by one' bootstraps. This switches the question from security made possible by the public sector to an individual responsibility for economic mobility.
As it happens, mobility has declined over the long term in the United States, but that aside, it's a two-way street. The escalator of life runs in both directions. Moreover, it's a separate issue from that of poverty or inequality. One can have more mobility and the same or worse poverty or inequality. The rising tide goes out as well as in.
The neoliberal remedy for poverty and inequality is commonly held to be education, because workers lack the requisite skills to earn a living wage. It's kind of their fault. All that's needed is some reasonable public expenditure. No deeper structural factors are at issue. This mindset is contradicted now in two ways.First, the idea of education as an essential, missing ingredient is being supplanted by the idea that what's at issue is power , both political and economic . The wealthy control streams of income and institutions of credentialization that could be rerouted, via taxation, to finance education ("free college") that has an equalizing effect on wealth and enhances economic security..
Aug 23, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
This is a clear lack of up mobility. In other words American Dream is now a fake for all but extremely talented or extremely lucky. .Class Warfare
"6 findings that show the dire state of America's middle class" [ Business Insider ] (From May, still germane). "Nearly 60% of those who said they grew up affluent now consider themselves to be in a lower class -- about half of this group said they're middle-class or upper-middle-class, while the other half said they're poor or working-class. Nearly 60% of those who said they had an upper-middle-class upbringing identified with a lower class -- half of this group said they're middle-class, while the remaining half said they're poor or working-class. And while half of those who said they grew up in the middle class said they're still in it today, more than one-third identified with a lower class. Only about 12% said they're now part of a higher class." • Lover
Aug 17, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
https://acdn.adnxs.com/ib/static/usersync/v3/async_usersync.html <img src="http://b.scorecardresearch.com/p?c1=2&c2=16807273&cv=2.0&cj=1" /> By Natalia Abrams, the Executive Director of Student Debt Crisis, and Cody Hounanian, the Program Director of Student Debt Crisis. Originally published at openDemocracy
Student debt has been solely responsible for the majority of my decision-making as an adult
(Erin – Portland, Maine)
The student debt crisis is not the burden of a single generation. It impacts Baby Boomers in their 60s and 70s; Gen Xers in their 40s and 50s; Millennials in their 20s and 30s – as well as Gen Z high school students still planning for college. Thus it's a grave mistake to frame student loan debt as exclusively or even primarily a "Millennial problem." At the same time, Millennials have borne the brunt of the astounding rise in college costs. They are the first generation to experience a life shaped by the near-certainty of student debt.
Weighted for inflation, college costs (including tuition and fees) rose 81% between 2001 and 2009 – the decade when well over half of Millennials graduated high school.
Traditionally, when the price of a commodity rises rapidly, demand for that commodity drops. Necessities like food and shelter are usually exempt from that general rule. However, college has become one of those essentials, with the perceived cost of not attending growing at least as fast as the actual costs themselves. As a result, student loans make the essential, attainable.
Not everyone saddled with a tremendous debt burden ends up with a degree. Whether a borrower receives a degree or not, few are in a position to rapidly repay their student loans. While a college degree may or may not expand opportunities; as we're finding, student loan debt absolutely shuts doors that might have otherwise remained open.
Lower Homeownership rates
Growing up I was told by my parents, teachers, and guidance counselors to go to college because it would give me a better life. I graduated in 2013 with a Master's Degree in English with the hopes of being a teacher myself. There are no teaching jobs in high schools or colleges and I owe over $100,000 in student debt. I now work a job that doesn't even require a degree, and was turned down for a mortgage because my debt to income ratio was too high. Not a day goes by where I don't think about my debt
(Danielle – Roseville, California)
If homeownership is fundamental to the 'American dream', then student loan debt puts that dream out of reach for millions of Americans. After years of growth, homeownership rates noticeably declined in 2017. While partly due to factors unrelated to student debt (such as rising housing prices , particularly in urban areas), the rate of Millennial homeownership has fallen faster than that of the general population.
In a January 2019 study, the Federal Reserve revealed the connection between lower homeownership rates and the Millennial generation most burdened by student debt: "our estimates suggest that increases in student loan debt are an important factor in explaining (young people's) lowered homeownership rates." The study went on to conclude that "a little over 20 percent of the overall decline in homeownership among the young can be attributed to the rise in student loan debt. This represents over 400,000 young individuals who would have owned a home in 2014 had it not been for the rise in debt."
While the Federal Reserve study focused on the decade between 2005-2014, a 2019 survey by Bankrate of nearly 4,000 American borrowers found that 31% of Millennial respondents postponed buying a home because of student loan debt. By comparison, when the Baby Boomers were entering the housing market 40 years ago, only 15% delayed a purchase because of student loan debt.
It's also worth noting that the real number of Millennials unable to purchase a home because of student debt is likely much higher. While 31% of Millennial respondents reported that student debt directly delayed homeownership, this figure only accounts for potential buyers who still consider future homeownership a real possibility. Thus it does not reflect the unknown number of those whose debt to income ratio is so high that they don't expect to ever afford a home. As Forbes noted in 2019, "no matter how many possible solutions are tossed around Washington and beyond on reducing the crushing burden of student loan debt, it remains one of the top reasons millennials are putting off buying a home."
Historically, home mortgages defined middle-class debt. Yet due to pre-existing debt, student loan borrowers face difficulty qualifying for a mortgage. In tandem with rising housing prices, and stringent mortgage qualification requirements adopted in the wake of the 2008 economic crisis, those with already exorbitant levels of student debt face a near-perfect storm for obtaining a mortgage: placing a key component of the 'American dream' out of reach for millions of young Americans.
A 2018 study by Summer and Student Debt Crisis found that 56% of respondents reported that student loan debt made it more difficult to buy a home. That figure excludes those who consider homeownership so unattainable that they have preemptively "given up." The same study notes that 58% of those surveyed experienced a decline in their credit score as a direct result of their student debt. Credit scores, based on past payment habits as well as debt-to-income ratios, are pivotal to mortgage qualification. Even borrowers who haven't yet considered buying a home are keenly aware that their student-debt-burdened credit scores have put a mortgage out of reach.
I have put off having children, marrying, or purchasing a home due to the high costs of student debt repayment. Regularly, I contemplate selling everything and living in my car to help free up money to pay off the debt sooner.
(Melissa – Granbury, Texas)
Homeownership is not the only dream deferred, or abandoned altogether, because of crushing student loan debt.
One theme in the stories we've collected – and in our studies – is that student debt is an overwhelming factor in declining marriage and birth rates. Millennial borrowers like Melissa, regularly told us that there were three central dreams that debt had put out of reach: buying a home, getting married, and having children.
In 1990, 26% of adults under 65 were never married – by 2018, that number rose to 36%. Today, only one in five adults are married before the age of 30 – and the average age of first marriage has risen by more than six years since 1960. There are a host of factors that have driven the marriage rate to record lows – and we do not suggest that student debt is the sole (or even primary) driver of delayed marriage. Evolving and elevated expectations for romantic partnership, economic shifts, greater equality for women and increased acceptance of premarital sex all play critical roles in changing marriage habits. One cause of social transformation however, doesn't negate the impact of another.
Student loan debt delays marriage in several ways. One way is through a sheer misunderstanding of the law regarding debt. Several borrowers told us they were reluctant to marry and "make my spouse responsible for my debt." Though the laws concerning spousal responsibility vary by state, the fears of saddling a partner with one's debts are not unfounded. Similarly, if a spouse with pre-existing debt returns to school after marriage, both the debt incurred before and during marriage gets lumped together as a shared liability.
Practically, the legal responsibility for the liability is a nominal matter. Most couples cannot simply isolate one partner's debt. The money spent each month on student loans could be collectively used for other essentials, like rent, car repairs, or childcare.
A study released in June 2019 by the think-tank Demos showed that those who start college after age twenty (or go back to college following a break) have a particularly hard time paying off loans. Twelve years after leaving school, the average borrower (who started college after the age of twenty) will have paid off only 5% of their student debt. If a borrower is determined not to bring their student debt into a marriage, research suggest that they will have to wait a very long before they wed.
Media coverage tends to ignore that finances, rather than changing social mores, are the primary driver of diminishing marriage rates. For every young person who "never wants to marry", statistics suggest there are far more who would like to wed someday but can't imagine ever being able to afford to do so. A Pew Organization study in 2017 found that nearly six out of ten unmarried American adults hope to marry someday. That same report noted that unmarried Millennials cited "not being financially stable" as one of the chief reasons why they haven't yet wed. 41% of those unmarried cited financial instability as a primary reason for remaining single, while 28% described it as a "secondary" reason. (By comparison, only 24% of young adults named "not being ready to settle down" as the primary explanation for not being married.)
The research is clear: the primary reason why Americans delay wedlock, or forego it altogether, is financial insecurity. Debt is reshaping our most intimate relationships, putting a profound source of happiness further and further out of reach.
My wife and I have been married 3 years and she desperately wants kids. But paying out $350 a month to pay off my 45k in loans has shattered our dreams of family. We both work but it's not enough. I've paid my loans since 2004 and I'm not getting ahead.
(James – Kansas City, Missouri)
With less homeownership, along with fewer marriages – it's hardly surprising that the most debt-laden generation in history is also having far fewer babies than their parents and grandparents. Millennials are on track to have a lower birth rate than any generation in American history. In 2018, the overall birth rate in the United States fell to 59 births per 1000 women, the lowest on record and a 2% drop from the previous year.
The birth rate has fallen steadily since the start of the Great Recession in 2008. Yet even after the recovery, the birth-rate continued to decline.
There's a disagreement as to whether the birthrate decline can be attributed to women wanting fewer babies (or wanting them later), versus women being unable to afford children. Yet the survey data is fairly compelling: most young people have had (or expect to have) fewer children than they consider ideal. In a 2018 New York Times/Morning Consult survey , four of the top five reasons respondents cited for not having as many children as they wanted focused on financial concerns:Child care is too expensive (64% of respondents) Want more time for the children I have (54%) Worried about the economy (49%) Can't afford more children (44%) Waited because of financial instability (43%)
Furthermore, a 2015 study by the National Institutes of Health examined the impact of debt on the decision to have children. The results were stunning. While mortgage holders were more likely than renters to have children, and credit-card debt had no impact among debtors, the study found that "holding student loans more significantly affects fertility at higher levels of indebtedness." Low levels of student loan debt reduced fertility only slightly; high levels of student debt sharply reduced the chances of having a baby.
Every generation reassesses priorities. Some pundits look at the lives of Millennials and conclude that they're simply less interested in homeownership, simply more suspicious of enduring monogamy, simply less interested in having children. The evidence shows that's a false narrative.
The research in fact reveals that a high percentage of Millennials want homeownership, marriage, and children. The chief obstacle is not the timeless problem of finding the right person, but financial insecurity. Student loan debt is a central driver behind this precarity – affecting the fundamental milestones of our lives.
Freshstart , August 16, 2019 at 6:05 am
I hear the phrase "student loan forgiveness " quite often these days. "Forgiveness" for being a victim of financial predators and a failed leadership class? No, that's not forgiveness. That's justice. Forgiveness comes from the victims, not the perpetrators. Personally, I'm not forgiving anybody involved. Politicians, schools, the "financial industry", etc. These are the folks that should be begging for forgiveness from the borrowers, not the other way around. These policies have destroyed lives. They then try to frame any corrective action as doing the victims a favor, "forgiveness", rescuing the borrowers from their own failures and poor choices. Right. This is basically a war on the poor. I wonder if it isn't a way to curb greenhouse emissions without inconveniencing the wealthy.
Carla , August 16, 2019 at 6:18 am
Excellent comment -- thank you! Let us never let our fellow Americans forget Joe Biden's central role in killing bankruptcy protection for student debtors.
Michael Fiorillo , August 16, 2019 at 7:27 am
Extremely perceptive and wise comment.
I also think your final point is very important, as I am increasingly convinced that "environmental footprint reduction" is likely to be used as a pretext for further austerity for the working class. Environmentalism has always been a mostly elite and middle class phenomena, and working class interests are often unmindfully ignored or disregarded. In fact, I don't think it's unduly paranoid to anticipate ostensibly radical environmentalists (Extinction Rebellion and the like) being used as cat's paws to extend Overclass policies of extraction and control.
Bugs Bunny , August 16, 2019 at 8:35 am
It's already happened in France – the Gilets Jaunes movement was a direct result of the radical neoliberal Macron government putting higher taxes on diesel – a regressive tax on the poor and rural working class.
Michael Fiorillo , August 16, 2019 at 9:14 am
Yes, of course: thanks for pointing that out.
bmeisen , August 16, 2019 at 10:27 am
No, penury and exploitation as a result of educational debt is not a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions without inconveniencing the wealthy. It's just another example of Americans being suckered by their own delusions and ignorance, just another example of wealthy Americans, many of whom are rich without being educated, ripping off poorer Americans, many of whom ernestly believe that going into long-term crippling debt in order to pay for a college degree is a good way to get up and out of living from week to week with maxed out credit cards.
The typical American university/college student has drunk the kool-aid. She believes that higher education is a personal choice, freely made, to invest in earning potential. The possibility that this is not necessarily the case apparently does not occur to her. She genuinely believes, or sometimes she is compelled to believe, that it makes sense to take on for example 100k in educational debt because the degree that should follow will allow her to earn a hopefully large multiple of that number. Such students and their parents are apparently blind to the fact that a country that struggles to defend a primitive form of democracy is doomed to dystopic horrors without an educated population. Education, including higher education, is not a personal choice alone – much more it is a national mission that compels the government to provide instruction to qualified candidates at a minimal cost to candidates. This is a not a utopian vision – this is reality in democracies that are not as primitive as the American.
The attempt to associate the diesel tax with French educational policy needs clarification: The French have free public higher education. Their free public higher education consists of institutions that are selective, some highly selective, as well as institutions that are not selective. The selective institutions are intended to provide a nominally meritocratic elite-building function at the service of both public and private beneficieries. Public transport infrasturcture is weak in the country, and the Gilets Jaunes (GJ) argue that that's becasue administrators and mangers, many of whom are graduates of tuition-free elite universities, have not only failed to improve it: they threw salt in GJ wounds by attempting to impose a diesel tax. Though for many the tax is a tax-deductable expense, there are enough economically non-rural residents of rural areas in France to make the salt really sting. The GJ should more aggressively criticize the meritocratic fallacy of (highly) selective public institutions and bring attention to the phenomenon of economically non-rural residents of rural areas. They are relatively heavy polluters (lots of driving, single-family homes). I wonder if public transport infrastructure in rural areas could be expanded or if economically non-rural residents of rural areas could be compelled to live in less isolation.
Keith Newman , August 16, 2019 at 12:27 pm
For bmeisen: Thanks for the interesting insights on the Gilets jaunes.
juliania , August 16, 2019 at 9:25 am
The most repressive and draconian indebtedness has been thrust upon the youth of America by its government. I say 'youth' because many of those suffering under this burden were young once but have struggled long enough to be middle aged and even beyond in the search for a quality education, not only so they could have a good job but also in order to develop their minds. This was not a foolish pursuit – – until it was.
Something has to be done about this. And if it has to be done, it will be done, to paraphrase what Professor Hudson has said: if a debt can't be paid it won't be paid. And also lest we forget, these neoliberal shenanigans came about as financiers figured they could layer everything into juicy offerings for the players on Wall Street. Tranches or trenches as with mortgages – you know, like layers of filo dough with yummy stuff sandwiched in between. (Hah, my spellcheck doesn't like the word 'neoliberal'. Phooey on you, spellcheck; it's a word!)
Thank you, Yves.
bmeisen , August 16, 2019 at 11:01 am
Hasn't been thrust upon the youth of America by its government – the student debt crisis is a result of predatory financial interests consorting with ignorant, anti-government ideologues to corrupt the wise support of state and federal governments for public education. Private non-profit as well as private for-profit "educators" have lobbied lobbied lobbied for example to expand government lending facilities for students while doing little to regulate the "institutions" that were convincing candidates to use the facilities to borrow funds to pay for the questionable degrees that the "institutions" were awarding. There should have been a major cultural effort to convince Americans that we need public education including virtually free higher education and to contradict the delusion that an investment in higher education was essentially an investment in earning potential. Free public education including effectively free public higher education is essential for the success of democracy. Sadly many Americans have forgotten a fundamental aspect of the American Way of Life.
JohnnySacks , August 16, 2019 at 10:09 am
Brother in law couldn't make the payments, went underground and worked for cash, then ultimately committed suicide in his 50's. Not saying he wasn't unstable to begin with, but will say that having a mountain of debt he was never going to be able to get out from under certainly was a major factor.
With an 81% increase adjusted for inflation in under a decade, why aren't schools being penalized? Why not stop writing any and all loans for those schools?
polecat , August 16, 2019 at 12:37 pm
Schools WILL be penalized, by going out of business .. as many surely will !! .. especially the ones specializing in SJW studies
Medbh , August 16, 2019 at 9:11 am
That's an excellent point. I had burdensome student loans and eventually paid them off, but I support student loan forgiveness. However, from a political standpoint, I understand why some people are angry about the concept. They think they were smart and chose not to go to college because of the financial danger, and if loans are forgiven, they're being "punished" in the housing and job market for being "responsible."
Your "justice" framing could address both of these interest groups. Instead of just looking at the student loans alone, we'd consider all the ways in which the loans and the degrees have influenced people's lives. Maybe everyone could have access to "educational credit," which could be used to directly pay off existing loans, allow people to enroll in a degree program now, or be credited towards a new or existing mortgage. The program becomes a universal benefit, and depending upon one's situation, the money could be used in different, socially beneficial ways.
The main point is I like the "justice" framing, and it should be used to create a program that benefits everyone. Then the messaging is more about rectifying a dysfunctional system, then bailing out irresponsible spendthrifts (I don't believe this is true, but that is how loan forgiveness is framed).
Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 10:32 am
How about the government takes over all consumer debt and charges only the Fed rate in interest? And writes down any amount considered unpayable? Would anyone not connected to the financial industry be opposed?
Big River Bandido , August 16, 2019 at 5:05 pm
The arguments against student loan forgiveness on the basis of "I paid mine off, why can't you?" are short-sighted and ultimately injure the person making them.
Everyone is harmed by the toxic environment of debt that we're living in -- even those of us who never had student loans and those of you who paid them off. We are all suffering under a regime that has paralyzed people economically. The act of debt cancellation, as those whose incomes were locked up now get a little piece of it back to spend on other things, would have a stimulative effect on the economy.
Tyronius , August 16, 2019 at 11:50 am
We can start holding those responsible accountable by refusing to support Joe Biden for office!
The key is to tell everyone, including poll takers, the reason why we won't vote for him.
I graduated in 1995 and I'm still over $65k in debt. I'll vote for any politician who will fight to redress this injustice.
It's time Washington fights for We the People instead of the already outrageously wealthy.
Carla , August 16, 2019 at 2:40 pm
timbers , August 16, 2019 at 8:26 am
I work with a lady who's only child entered college last year, and was exposed at work to her discussions with her daughter over the phone and with co workers what is on the list she choose for her student loans. Things like room and board/rent, etc. This lady has a killer personality that works smashingly well in corporate offices – only positive things may be talked about and she juggles her aging, ailing mom, her daughter off to college, and work quite well.
It wasn't my place to offer advice, but I got a bad feeling listening to the load up of student loan debt. Then I overhead her advice to her mother regarding what package from Comcast to get. She recommended the package for seniors with insurance that protects seniors from phishing and that sort of thing. I don't recall the fee, but she also has insurance for her smart phone screen.
The $$$ signs of how I could manager their budget and save them some money where dancing in my head.
I guess they call that being a Financial Advisor today. It used to be called common sense.
When I was with my former, much younger partner, I told him he would live free with me on condition he cut back his 60+hrs/week working at multiple Dunkin Donuts and go to school, take NO school debt and pay everything with his paycheck. He did, and got tax credits on top of that. He choose medical billing and coding at a school that has since gone bankrupt. But it got him in the door. He is now supervisor in the billing department at Boston Children's Hospital and they told him they are sending him to management training at their expense.
He too has a killer personality. Perfect for Facebook where only positive things are said. He will do well but I worry he will later be not so well off because he doesn't save, he spends everything he has.
My first year at University of Chicago undergrad was $4,000. Second year $5,000. Then I moved to Boston and my employer paid most of my school expense while I finished up at Northeastern University. Peanuts compared to today.
I would never pay for College education at todays prices. I'd take that same money and buy a house.
Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 8:57 am
Insurance for a smartphone screen? Yeesh!
And I say that as someone who just dropped a smartphone face-down on a hardwood floor.
I'm here to say that my screen protector, which cost something like 30 bucks, did its job. It took one for the Arizona Slim team and cracked in several places. The screen was intact. Hooray!
However, the replacement protector doesn't stick, so back to the phone repair shop I go. While I'm there, I think I'll strike up a conversation about the right to repair. Hey, I might just be able to turn another person on to Naked Capitalism.
Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 12:09 pm
Indeed I did. The phone repair guy was very interested in NC.
Matter of fact, I showed him how to pull up the site and read that recent article about Apple. Link:
And then I went down the street to a state senator's office. Said senator is very interested in fracking issues. So, another recruit to our site.
JohnnySacks , August 16, 2019 at 10:49 am
I'd say that a robust course in home economics would be valuable in public schools. But I'm guessing our owners would heavily attack that effort.
Fact is, if you want to have any professional career, an education is mandatory. I don't want my nurse practitioner or doctor to be the likes of the Trump children simply because they're the only ones who will be able to afford the education, same as all economics, political science, law etc. workers to only be the ones who can afford it. Sort of insures that our future leaders won't have any clue whatsoever about the lives of the 90% they'll be claiming to support. A crappy situation made even worse.
Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 8:44 am
The author claims that college costs (that term is not defined) rose 80% from 2001 to 2009. That is far higher than any figure I have seen. According to National Center for Education Satistics, the figure for tuition+fees is closer to 30% which is still outrageous. If the descrepancy means that aid is being cut back more or non-tuition/fee costs are increasing faster, that would be good to know. Defenders of high prices claim that aid is increasing (I doubt that but do not have figures).
Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 8:53 am
Good discussion topic. Permit me to share a little tale from the Arizona Slim file:
As mentioned here before, I am learning the Russian language. After completing all 30 lessons in Mark Thompson's "Russian Made Easy" video series on YouTube, I decided that it was time for some classroom training.
So, off to look at the University of Arizona website. I couldn't easily find any information about enrolling as a non-degree student, so I sent an email to the department where I'd be taking an intro Russian class.
Reply: In order to become a UA non-degree student, I would have to complete an online application. And pay a $45 application fee.
Instead of paying the UA 45 bucks just to apply, I could spend that same money on a vocabulary builder course, which is taught by a native Russian speaker. From her home in Moscow, she has built a global business as a language teacher. So, look out, Real Russian Club, here I come. Link:
anonymous , August 16, 2019 at 10:23 am
Arizona Slim, take a look at the free Russian language courses on Coursera.org. I've taken excellent Italian courses on EdX, but Coursera looks better now for conversational Russian. (EdX has a couple of classes on Russian for scientific work.) With foreign languages, the more practice and exposure, the better, so maybe Coursera could be useful in addition to your vocabulary builder course.
Arizona Slim , August 16, 2019 at 12:10 pm
David Carl Grimes , August 16, 2019 at 11:48 am
I was wondering about the kids and parents who pay full freight for college. Can that cost ever be recouped? Even for top colleges? For instance, financial aid at Harvard maxes out at $110K in household income. So a high income family will have to pay full sticker price every year. Tuition and living expenses could be $70K per year or more. So a four year education could cost $280K to $350K. It's like buying a house in many parts of the country without buying a house. Yet the median salary for a Harvard graduate is $90K ten years after entering school (six years after graduation). If college costs are paid back in ten years, the college graduate will have to pay back $30K every year, on top of everything else. Not much left for savings, retirement, or a house. Even for Harvard College graduates.
Shiloh1 , August 16, 2019 at 12:01 pm
I love these articles. At no point is it ever questioned or addressed why cost of college has gone exponential relative to the real economy (taking out real estate and healthcare) since the late 1970s,
It is because "financial aid", especially loans, spends the same as cash. The colleges will charge what the market will bear, Econ 101,taking account the new money those loans bring into the picture, driving up the price. Colleges have no skin in the game for repayment / default of loans.
Sorry, but I am cool with the whole system collapsing into itself and my bank account sitting this one out.
Please spare me the club med, lazy river, climbing wall stories. FULL DISCLOSURE: I went to Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, a garden spot of the city between 31st and 35th and State Street off the Dan Ryan Expressway in the late 70s. The place is a bigger dump now when I went there, full salute to the Mies Van Der Rohe flat roof glass shoe boxes and the post WWII housing project-like dorms.
polecat , August 16, 2019 at 12:50 pm
Campus pizza and beer ain't cheap you know ..
Eudora Welty , August 16, 2019 at 9:39 pm
A friend invited me to lunch at the cafeteria in the university dorm building. Lunch was $11 50, but all-you-can-eat with a gourmet style, nice China tableware. I had pizza, hamburger , pasta al fredo, pudding, cookies, salad, soft drinks. Great opportunity to gain weight & spend $$$!
jrs , August 16, 2019 at 2:45 pm
well also probably due to both the decimation of the non-college job market, and credential inflation (a degree now being required for jobs it didn't use to be). of course college grads are now overproduced relative to demand as well.
Synoia , August 16, 2019 at 12:38 pm
I have some advice for the young with Student debt, as I have some acquaintances whose children have huge debts $400,000 to $600,000..
Emigrate. Don't look back.
polecat , August 16, 2019 at 12:58 pm
Here's an educational experiance one can endeavor : Enter your local thrift/antique establishment/yard sale/dump, etc. and pick an item – any item .. and figure out how to rebuild/repair/make serviceable said item. Presto ! THERE'S your future, waiting in the wings of regression !
Not a bad place to be actually .. beats high penury, no ?
inode_buddha , August 16, 2019 at 1:30 pm
My paleo-conservative dad likes to point out that student loans existed before the government started backing them. He took out a very large loan in 1950 to attend MIT in got his Masters there, PhD at SUNY Buffalo in 1970. He paid it off in 1985. Back then lending standards were based on reality and job market projections. When I went to school, all you had to do was fog a mirror Then in the 1990s prices started doubling and tripling, etcetc . Answer is to ban the government from backing loans, full stop.
Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 2:21 pm
Or we could do what many other countries do and abolish tuition and fees.
chuck roast , August 16, 2019 at 1:39 pm
I have a bunch of hoops to jump through for that!
Here's what my hoops look like:
One of them cancels $50,000 in student loan debt for every person with household income under $100,000.
Another hoop provides substantial debt cancellation for every person with household income between $100,000 and $250,000. The $50,000 cancellation amount phases out by $1 for every $3 in income above $100,000, so, for example, a person with household income of $130,000 gets $40,000 in cancellation, while a person with household income of $160,000 gets $30,000 in cancellation. Pick you hoop!
I also have a non-hoop, hoop that offers no debt cancellation to people with household income above $250,000 (the top 5%).
For most Americans, cancellation will take place automatically using data already available to the federal government about income and outstanding student loan debt.
We also have a moving hoop private student loan debt is also eligible for cancellation, and the federal government will work with borrowers and the holders of this debt to provide relief.
And our final hoop. Canceled debt will not be taxed as income.
E. Warren (the Hoop Queen)
Joe Well , August 16, 2019 at 2:19 pm
Does anyone else find the idea that parents should pay for, and therefore have veto over, their adult children's college, offensively infantilizing?
jrs , August 16, 2019 at 2:26 pm
Well unless full room and board is paid for, that's how it ends up being though? I mean free tuition is simply not going to solve this, because how to pay for a roof over one's head while going to school?
1) live at the parents home and go to a nearby school, sure a bit infantalizing 2) get the bank of mom and dad to foot the dorm costs again mom and dad paying 3) take out debt for living expenses.
Haha, no you usually can't afford housing on or off campus (renting a room) with some low wage job!!! And if you had the capacity to get a well paying job without a degree (or other training) you might not be pursuing one anyway. Since a large number of students are homeless (actually true here, shocking numbers), I guess that's also an option.
shinola , August 16, 2019 at 3:31 pm
I'm surprised, this being NC, that no one has mentioned this yet – student debt is a modern form of indentured servitude.
While it does not directly tie the indebted (former) student to a single employer, it provides potential employers with leverage in regard to wages & working conditions. Quite simply, someone with a large debt hanging over their head is more likely to accept a job with lower pay, fewer raises and/or benefits than some someone who is debt-free and therefore can afford to be more picky, more demanding to be paid & treated decently.
Get 'em in more debt at an earlier age so they will be more docile and accepting of neoliberal crapification.
Anthony G Stegman , August 16, 2019 at 6:18 pm
At the same time it has become vastly more expensive a college degree has also become watered down and of less value. That is the true injustice. Many jobs that once required only a high school education now require a college degree. This is not because the job requirements have changed. This is due to the simple fact that many more people possess college diplomas, so employers now demand them for a greater number of occupations. However, the pay for these occupations has not risen to be commensurate with the additional costs incurred to gain the newly required credentials. Now these holders of costly credentials find themselves in a real bind. The author of this article offered no solutions.
May 02, 2019 | dissidentvoice.orgIn 2017, Sociology Professor Rachel Sherman wrote Uneasy Street: The Anxiety of Affluence , a book which drew upon 50 in-depth interviews with Uber-wealthy New Yorkers in order to obtain a picture of just how they perceived their status.
Sherman found that her interviewees, all in the top 1-2 percent of income or wealth or both, had thoroughly imbibed the narrative of meritocracy to rationalize their affluence and immense privileges. That is, they believed they deserved all their money because of hard work and individual effort. Most identified themselves as socially and political liberal and took pains to distinguish themselves from "bad" rich people who flaunt their wealth. Although one unselfconsciously acknowledged "I used to say I was going to be a revolutionary but then I had my first massage."
One striking characteristic was that these folks never talk about money and obsess over the "stigma of privilege." One typical respondent whose wealth exceeded $50 million told Sherman, "There's nobody who knows how much money we spend. You're the only person I've ever said the numbers to out-loud." Another couple who had inherited $50 million and lived in a penthouse had the post office change their mailing address to the floor number because PH sounded "elite and snobby." Another common trait was removing the price tags from items entering the house so the housekeeper and and staff didn't see them. As if the nanny didn't know
Her subjects (who remained anonymous) readily acknowledged being extremely advantaged but remained "good people, normal people," who work hard, are careful about ostentatious consumption, and above all, "give back." They spend considerable time trying to legitimate inequality and Sherman concludes they've largely succeeded in feeling "morally worthy."
As a follow-up to this study, Prof. Sherman has been conducting similar in-depth interviews with young people whose parents or ancestors accumulated sizable fortunes, wealth they now have or will soon inherit. Sherman's recent piece, "The Rich Kid Revolution," ( The New York Times , 4/28/19) reveals a stark contrast in self-perception from her earlier findings.
First, her interviewees totally "get" the lie of meritocracy as they ruefully skewer family myths about individual effort, scrimping and saving and the origins of wealth. One young woman who's in line to inherit a considerable fortune told Sherman, "My dad has always been a CEO, and it was clear to me that he spent a lot of time at work, but it has never been clear to me that he worked a lot harder than a domestic worker, for example. I will never believe that."
Sherman discovered that whether the immense fortunes came from "the direct dispossession of indigenous people, enslavement of African-Americans, production of fossil fuels or obvious exploitation of workers, they often express especially acute guilt." One response has been that some wealthy people under age 35 have formed organizations to fund social justice initiatives.
Second, many of her respondents have read about racialized capitalism and harbor no illusions about their own success. From access to the "right" schools and acquiring cultural capital to social networking and good, high paying jobs, they readily acknowledged that it's all derived from their class (and race) privilege. Third, they are convinced the economic system is "immoral," equality of opportunity does not exist and their wealth and privileges are absolutely "unearned." Finally, they grasp, often from personal observation, that traditional philanthropy is primarily about keeping those at the top in place, obtaining generous tax breaks and treating symptoms while ignoring the causes rooted in the very social structures from which they benefit.
Beyond the article's hyperbolic title and a certain vagueness about where this new consciousness may lead, the piece -- whether intentionally or not -- does raise issues that demand much wider public discussion.
First, a note about philanthro-capitalism or as Peter Buffet (Warren Buffet's son) terms it, "conscience laundering." In Chris Rock's pithy phrase, "Behind every fortune is a great crime" and given what we know about the sources of great wealth -- the collectivity -- these monies should be supporting public needs that are democratically determined not the cherry-picked, pet projects of billionaires. And this reveals another motive behind private charity: the desire to stifle any enthusiasm for an activist government responsible to the public will.
I should add that whenever I hear a philanthropist piously proclaim, "I just wanted to give something back," my first impulse is to shout "Why not give it all back?" That is, I've always been partial to the moral injunction, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required" (Luke 12:48). And although I won't attempt to improve on scripture, I might suggest "From whom much is taken, much is owed."
Second, one might ask about the case where a person of modest means succeeds at something and accumulates a fortune? We've all heard or read ad infinitum, someone exclaim, "Damn it! Nobody even handed me anything. I did it all on my own. I'm entirely self-made." Isn't that evidence of individual merit? No. For starters, as Chuck Collins, heir to the Oscar Mayer fortune, once put it, "Where would wealthy entrepreneurs be without taxpayer investments in the Internet, transportation, public education, the legal system, the human genome project and so on?" Herbert Simon, a Nobel Prize winner in Economics, has calculated the societal contribution at ninety percent of what people earn in Northwest Europe and the United States.
In addition to the sources mentioned above, just off the top of my head I can list many other factors that belie this powerfully seductive but wholly fictional narrative, one that's also touted to and embraced by many members of the working class: Child labor, Chinese and Irish immigrant labor (railroads), eminent domain, massacres of striking workers, state repression of unions, Immigration Act of 1864, public land grabs, corporate welfare, installing foreign dictators to guarantee cheap labor and resources, inheritance laws, public schools and universities, public expense mail systems, property and contract laws, government tax breaks incentives to business, Securities and Exchange Commission to ensure trust in the stock market, the U.S. military, and a police state to keep the rabble from picking up pitchforks. Another factor that almost merits its own paragraphs is pure luck. By any objective criteria, we can conclude that absent this arrangement there would be no accumulation of private wealth.
Finally, meritocracy is the classic American foundation myth and provides the basis for an entire array of other fairy tales. Foremost, this illusion serves to justify policies that foster economic inequality and hinder the development of social movements. After so many decades of neoliberal ideology, this lie is now firmly lodged in the public's collective consciousness but I'm convinced that with effort and relying on the evidence, it can be expunged.
Gary Olson is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Moravian College, Bethlehem, PA. He can be reached at: email@example.com . Read other articles by Gary .
This article was posted on Thursday, May 2nd, 2019 at 2:22pm and is filed under Economic Inequality , Meritocracy , Opinion .
Nov 05, 2017 | www.zerohedge.com
Authored by Matt Taibbi via RollingStone.com,
How universities, banks and the government turned student debt into America's next financial black hole...
On a wind-swept, frigid night in February 2009, a 37-year-old schoolteacher named Scott Nailor parked his rusted '92 Toyota Tercel in the parking lot of a Fireside Inn in Auburn, Maine. He picked this spot to have a final reckoning with himself. He was going to end his life.
Beaten down after more than a decade of struggle with student debt, after years of taking false doors and slipping into various puddles of bureaucratic quicksand, he was giving up the fight. "This is it, I'm done," he remembers thinking. "I sat there and just sort of felt like I'm going to take my life. I'm going to find a way to park this car in the garage, with it running or whatever."
Nailor's problems began at 19 years old, when he borrowed for tuition so that he could pursue a bachelor's degree at the University of Southern Maine. He graduated summa cum laude four years later and immediately got a job in his field, as an English teacher.
Bu t he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher's $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan "rehabilitation" program that added to his overall balance. "That's when the noose began to tighten," he says.
The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. "In the middle of class too, while I was teaching," he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward "rehabilitation," and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. "Not one dollar of it goes to principal," says Nailor. "I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die."
After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. "At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching," he says.
Nailor had more than once reached the stage in his thoughts where he was thinking about how to physically pull off his suicide. "I'd been there before, that just was the worst of it," he says. "It scared me, bad."
He had a young son and a younger daughter, but Nailor had been so broken by the experience of financial failure that he managed to convince himself they would be better off without him. What saved him is that he called his wife to say goodbye. "I don't know why I called my wife. I'm glad I did," he says. "I just wanted her or someone to tell me to pick it up, keep fighting, it's going to be all right. And she did."
From that moment, Nailor managed to focus on his family. Still, the core problem – the spiraling debt that has taken over his life, as it has for millions of other Americans – remains.
Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry – from Donald Trump himself to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who sets much of the federal loan policy, to Julian Schmoke, onetime dean of the infamous DeVry University, whom Trump appointed to police fraud in education.
Americans don't understand the student-loan crisis because they've been trained to view the issue in terms of a series of separate, unrelated problems.
They will read in one place that as of the summer of 2017, a record 8.5 million Americans are in default on their student debt, with about $1.3 trillion in loans still outstanding.
In another place, voters will read that the cost of higher education is skyrocketing, soaring in a seemingly market-defying arc that for nearly a decade now has run almost double the rate of inflation. Tuition for a halfway decent school now frequently surpasses $50,000 a year. How, the average newsreader wonders, can any child not born in a yacht afford to go to school these days?
In a third place, that same reader will see some heartless monster, usually a Republican, threatening to cut federal student lending. The current bogeyman is Trump, who is threatening to slash the Pell Grant program by $3.9 billion, which would seem to put higher education even further out of reach for poor and middle-income families. This too seems appalling, and triggers a different kind of response, encouraging progressive voters to lobby for increased availability for educational lending.
But the separateness of these stories clouds the unifying issue underneath: The education industry as a whole is a con. In fact, since the mortgage business blew up in 2008, education and student debt is probably our reigning unexposed nation-wide scam.
It's a multiparty affair, what shakedown artists call a "big store scheme," like in the movie The Sting : a complex deception requiring a big cast to string the mark along every step of the way. In higher education, every party you meet, from the moment you first set foot on campus, is in on the game.
America as a country has evolved in recent decades into a confederacy of widescale industrial scams. The biggest slices of our economic pie – sectors like health care, military production, banking, even commercial and residential real estate – have become crude income-redistribution schemes, often untethered from the market by subsidies or bailouts, with the richest companies benefiting from gamed or denuded regulatory systems that make profits almost as assured as taxes. Guaranteed-profit scams – that's the last thing America makes with any level of consistent competence. In that light, Trump, among other things, the former head of a schlock diploma mill called Trump University, is a perfect president for these times. He's the scammer-in-chief in the Great American Ripoff Age, a time in which fleecing students is one of our signature achievements.
It starts with the sales pitch colleges make to kids. The thrust of it is usually that people who go to college make lots more money than the unfortunate dunces who don't. "A bachelor's degree is worth $2.8 million on average over a lifetime" is how Georgetown University put it. The Census Bureau tells us similarly that a master's degree is worth on average about $1.3 million more than a high school diploma.
But these stats say more about the increasing uselessness of a high school degree than they do about the value of a college diploma. Moreover, since virtually everyone at the very highest strata of society has a college degree, the stats are skewed by a handful of financial titans. A college degree has become a minimal status marker as much as anything else. "I'm sure people who take polo lessons or sailing lessons earn a lot more on average too," says Alan Collinge of Student Loan Justice, which advocates for debt forgiveness and other reforms. "Does that mean you should send your kids to sailing school?"
But the pitch works on everyone these days, especially since good jobs for Trump's beloved "poorly educated" are scarce to nonexistent. Going to college doesn't guarantee a good job, far from it, but the data show that not going dooms most young people to an increasingly shallow pool of the very crappiest, lowest-paying jobs. There's a lot of stick, but not much carrot, in the education game.
It's a vicious cycle. Since everyone feels obligated to go to college, most everyone who can go, does, creating a glut of graduates. And as that glut of degree recipients grows, the squeeze on the un-degreed grows tighter, increasing further that original negative incentive: Don't go to college, and you'll be standing on soup lines by age 25.
With that inducement in place, colleges can charge almost any amount, and kids will pay – so long as they can get the money. And here we run into problem number two: It's too easy to find that money.
Parents, not wanting their kids to fall behind, will pay every dollar they have. But if they don't have the cash, there is a virtually unlimited amount of credit available to young people. Proposed cuts to Pell Grants aside, the landscape is filled with public and private lending, and students gobble it up. Kids who walk into financial-aid offices are often not told what signing their names on the various aid forms will mean down the line. A lot of kids don't even understand the concept of interest or amortization tables – they think if they're borrowing $8,000, they're paying back $8,000.
Nailor certainly was unaware of what he was getting into when he was 19. "I had no idea [about interest]," he says. "I just remember thinking, 'I don't have to worry about it right now. I want to go to school.' " He pauses in disgust. "It's unsettling to remember how it was like, 'Here, just sign this and you're all set.' I wish I could take the time machine back and slap myself in the face."
The average amount of debt for a student leaving school is skyrocketing even faster than the rate of tuition increase.
In 2016, for instance, the average amount of debt for an exiting college graduate was a staggering $37,172. That's a rise of six percent over just the previous year. With the average undergraduate interest rate at about 3.7 percent, the interest alone costs around $115 per month, meaning anyone who can't afford to pay into the principal faces the prospect of $69,000 in payments over 50 years.
So here's the con so far.
You must go to college because you're screwed if you don't.
Costs are outrageously high, but you pay them because you have to, and because the system makes it easy to borrow massive amounts of money
The third part of the con is the worst: You can't get out of the debt.
Since government lenders in particular have virtually unlimited power to collect on student debt – preying on everything from salary to income-tax returns – even running is not an option. And since most young people find themselves unable to make their full payments early on, they often find themselves perpetually paying down interest only, never touching the principal. Our billionaire president can declare bankruptcy four times, but students are the one class of citizen that may not do it even once.
October 2017 was supposed to represent the first glimmer of light at the end of this tunnel. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, one of the few avenues for wiping out student debt. The idea, launched by George W. Bush, was pretty simple: Students could pledge to work 10 years for the government or a nonprofit and have their debt forgiven. In order to qualify, borrowers had to make payments for 10 years using a complex formula. This month, then, was to start the first mass wipeouts of debt in the history of American student lending. But more than half of the 700,000 enrollees have already been expunged from the program for, among other things, failing to certify their incomes on time, one of many bureaucratic tricks employed to limit forgiveness eligibility. To date, fewer than 500 participants are scheduled to receive loan forgiveness in this first round.
Moreover, Trump has called for the program's elimination by 2018, meaning that any relief that begins this month is likely only temporary. The only thing that is guaranteed to remain real for the immediate future are the massive profits being generated on the backs of young people, who before long become old people who, all too often, remain ensnared until their last days in one of the country's most brilliant and devious moneymaking schemes.
Everybody wins in this madness, except students. Even though many of the loans are originated by the state, most of them are serviced by private or quasi-private companies like Navient – which until 2014 was the student-loan arm of Sallie Mae – or Nelnet, companies that reported a combined profit of around $1 billion last year (the U.S. government made a profit of $1.6 billion in 2016!). Debt-collector companies like Performant (which generated $141.4 million in revenues; the family of Betsy DeVos is a major investor), and most particularly the colleges and universities, get to prey on the desperation and terror of parents and young people, and in the process rake in vast sums virtually without fear of market consequence.
About that: Universities, especially public institutions, have successfully defended rising tuition in recent years by blaming the hikes on reduced support from states. But this explanation was blown to bits in large part due to a bizarre slip-up in the middle of a controversy over state support of the University of Wisconsin system a few years ago.
In that incident, UW raised tuition by 5.5 percent six years in a row after 2007. The school blamed stresses from the financial crisis and decreased state aid. But when pressed during a state committee hearing in 2013 about the university's finances, UW system president Kevin Reilly admitted they held $648 million in reserve, including $414 million in tuition payments. This was excess hidey-hole cash the school was sitting on, separate and distinct from, say, an endowment fund.
After the university was showered with criticism for hoarding cash at a time when it was gouging students with huge price increases every year, the school responded by saying, essentially, it only did what all the other kids were doing. UW released data showing that other major state-school systems across the country were similarly stashing huge amounts of cash. While Wisconsin's surplus was only 25 percent of its operating budget, for instance, Minnesota's was 29 percent, and Illinois maintained a whopping 34 percent reserve.
When Collinge, of Student Loan Justice, looked into it, he found that the phenomenon wasn't confined to state schools. Private schools, too, have been hoarding cash even as they plead poverty and jack up tuition fees. "They're all doing it," he says.
While universities sit on their stockpiles of cash and the loan industry generates record profits, the pain of living in debilitating debt for many lasts into retirement. Take Veronica Martish. She's a 68-year-old veteran, having served in the armed forces in the Vietnam era. She's also a grandmother who's never been in trouble and consid?ers herself a patriot. "The thing is, I tried to do everything right in my life," she says. "But this ruined my life."
This is an $8,000 student loan she took out in 1989, through Sallie Mae. She borrowed the money so she could take courses at Quinebaug Valley Community College in Connecticut. Five years later, after deaths in her family, she fell behind on her payments and entered a loan-rehabilitation program. "That's when my nightmare began," she says.
In rehabilitation, Martish's $8,000 loan, with fees and interest, ballooned into a $27,000 debt, which she has been carrying ever since. She says she's paid more than $63,000 to date and is nowhere near discharging the principal. "By the time I die," she says, "I will probably pay more than $200,000 toward an $8,000 loan." She pauses. "It's a scam, you see. Nothing ever comes off the loan. It's all interest and fees. And they chase you until you're old, like me. They never stop. Ever."
And that's the other thing about lending to students: It's the safest grift around.
There's probably no better symbol of the bankruptcy of the education industry than Trump University. The half-literate president's effort at higher learning drew in suckers with pathetic promises of great real-estate insights (for instance, that Trump "hand-picked" the instructors) and then charged them truckfuls of cash for get-rich-quick tutorials that students and faculty later described as "almost completely worthless" and a "total lie." That Trump got to settle a lawsuit on this matter for $25 million and still managed to be elected president is, ironically, a remarkable testament to the failure of our education system. About the only example that might be worse is DeVry University, which told students that 90 percent of graduates seeking jobs found them in their fields within six months of graduation. The FTC found those claims "false and unsubstantiated," and ordered $100 million in refunds and debt relief, but that was in 2016 – before Trump put DeVry chief Schmoke, of all people, in charge of rooting out education fraud. Like a lot of things connected to politics lately, it would be funny if it weren't somehow actually happening.?"Yeah, it's the fox guarding the henhouse," says Collinge. "You could probably find a worse analogy."
But the real problem with the student-loan story is that it's so poorly understood by people not living the nightmare. There's so much propaganda that blames the borrowers for taking on the debt in the first place that there's often little sympathy for people in hopeless situations. To make matters worse, band-aid programs that supposedly offer help hypnotize the public into thinking there are ways out, when the "help" is usually just another trick to add to the balance.
"That's part of the problem with the narrative," says Nailor, the schoolteacher. "People think that there's help, so what are you complaining about? All you got to do is apply for help."
But the help, he says, coming from a for-profit predatory system, often just makes things worse. "It did for me," he says. "It does for a lot of people."jcaz -> ThirdWorldNut , Nov 5, 2017 7:36 PMMoe Hamhead -> Escrava Isaura , Nov 5, 2017 8:05 PM
So..... This guy is working ONE job, part-time.... How does he fill the rest of his day?
Take away his student loan, he's still living on $18K/yr- you're still broke...NoPension -> Grimaldus , Nov 5, 2017 9:10 PM
The real flaw is associating "higher" education with value. Get a job. Earn an income. Find an interest for your free time. Raise a family. Spare the four years of wasted time and money.WhackoWarner -> CunnyFunt , Nov 5, 2017 7:10 PM
Colleges.....those bastions of conservatism.Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:08 PM
Yeah there is a predatory lending story here...Krungle -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:14 PM
If you want to take the risk of going into debt to attend college, you better come out with skills that are in high demand. Otherwise you are much better off going into the military, or going to trade school. BTW, thank the Clintons for making it impossible to get out of student debt through bankruptcy.Boxed Merlot -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:16 PM
If you want to give out loans to kids then you should accept the risk that they might default on that debt and leave you with the tab. Let's stop the coddling the banker bullshit. They lobbied to make this loans extremely difficult to discharge in bankruptcy. They wanted all the profit and none of the risk. Let them assume risk and they'll stop handing out loans to unqualified borrowers.t0mmyBerg -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:50 PM
Amen! If the money for an "education" is more difficult to obtain, that ought to be a clue as to the value of the information / training one is purchasing. The fact it's so easy to get is all one needs to know about the worth of what's being spewed by those dispensing their so-called knowledge / truth.
Allow the lawful discharge through bankruptcy and punish every single financial institution, (and especially their individual persons who oversaw the process), that has profited off of ballooning "principle" amounts that even come close to doubling an original amount with ties to any government official that voted to place these kind of loans in such a category.
This is madness! "Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees,..." Isaiah 10:1
jmoCunnyFunt -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:25 PM
Finally at least one person gets it. The inability to discharge student loan debt through the taint of bankruptcy is one of the greatest financial crimes of the last century. Entirely unAmerican. America used to be all about fresh starts. That is one reason our business life is more vibrant than say many places in Europe with less benign laws. Same goes for individuals. If you go through the pain of bankruptcy there is no reason you shouldnt get that debt discharged. Whomever voted for that law, whether Clintons or others should be beaten to death.ElwinCthulhu -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:35 PM
Hobart's 38-week combo welder program costs $16,625. A trained kid willing to travel and work in the field would make more than an engineering graduate who paid a quarter-million for his degree.PrefabSprout -> Sizzurp , Nov 5, 2017 7:54 PM
No mention made of the rats nest Social Justice program$ infesting college and university campuses across the country, at untold cost, worthless sullshit.Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 7:11 PM
But if you go into the military, you get poisoned and dehabilitated by bazillion vaccines, which you can't refuse.JohnG -> Krungle , Nov 5, 2017 8:06 PM
Not that the student loan thing isn't another banker scam, but the lead story doesn't make sense.
Firstly, educators get loan forgiveness after a decade or two of public service. And there are income contingent repayment plans. And lawyers have, in fact, been able to get these things discharged. None of this changes the scam that is giving out high interest loans to kids to pursue an education. But you might want to start with a sob story that makes more sense. How about a pediatrician with 400k in loans and making 100k a year living in a coastal city? Or how about the art history majors at private liberal arts schools with 200k in debt making $10/hour as a barista? But teachers are one of the few groups that has an actual federal out.bluskyes , Nov 5, 2017 7:15 PM
Maybe. My wife is a teacher in a Title I, low income school, and had been for 13 years..... She also has about 13K remaining in student loans, originally federal direct and Perkins loans. With her over 10 years in title I schools, she should be able to get them forgiven, except that she consolidated these loans before I met her, and now they are "serviced" by AES, a private lender, and they are no longer eligible for discharge. This I call the "Consolidation Scam."uhland62 -> bluskyes , Nov 5, 2017 7:27 PM
Should have taken a math course first.dwboston , Nov 5, 2017 7:19 PM
Pay off debt before you have children. There is no law that you must have children, if the debt makes it impossible. I would have liked a lot of tings but could not afford them.TheLastTrump -> dwboston , Nov 5, 2017 7:31 PM
Taibbi has some gall to blame Trump, DeVos and others for the student debt explosion, but not one word about Obama or the government's takeover of the student loan market as part of Obamacare? The student loan market was folded into the ACA as part of the fake accounting to make the ACA numbers "work". Every market the govenrment insinuates itself into - housing, health care, college tuition, etc. - gets distorted and costs explode. Taibbi's yet another dishonest liberal.dwboston -> TheLastTrump , Nov 5, 2017 9:11 PM
Yikes- is this factual? If so fuck him. All name, no cattle.
Obama began his turn as destroyer in chief at the height of the Great Recession, everyone & their brother was running into the safety of college & student loans to pay the bills. I recall watching the local parking lots swell. :) So there's that.
But numbers are off the charts every year because younger millennials expect the govt to forgive all those loans at some point. That's how many thought 20 years ago & it's worse today.allgoodmen , Nov 5, 2017 7:22 PM
"The nexus between the student loan program and ObamaCare is purely opportunistic. As the Affordable Care Act was passing through Congress, its wheels greased by the wholly fraudulent assertion that it didn't need 60 votes to pass the Senate, the administration decided to put in a provision eliminating the private student loan industry, fully federalizing the program. What was not widely understood at the time was that it hoped to raid the funds paid by students to provide money for the bottomless pit known as ObamaCare"
http://thehill.com/opinion/columnists/dick-morris/302247-loans-subsidize...TheLastTrump , Nov 5, 2017 7:26 PM
Good article from Matt Taibbi, but you can count on this bolshevik to leave out Clinton complicity in the for-profit student loan scandals:
http://www.slate.com/blogs/moneybox/2016/09/06/bill_clinton_earned_milli...kenny500c , Nov 5, 2017 7:30 PM
American college farm. Biggest swindle there is. Your education is an afterthought.
No reason student debt should be treated differently from other debts, allow it to be written off in BK court.
economistsview.typepad.comThomas Piketty on a theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!:Student Loan Debt Is the Enemy of Meritocracy in the US: ...the amount of household debt and even more recently of student debt in the U.S. is something that is really troublesome and it reflects the very large rise in tuition in the U.S. a very large inequality in access to education. I think if we really want to promote more equal opportunity and redistribute chances in access to education we should do something about student debt. And it's not possible to have such a large group of the population entering the labor force with such a big debt behind them. This exemplifies a particular problem with inequality in the United States, which is very high inequality and access to higher education. So in other countries in the developed world you don't have such massive student debt because you have more public support to higher education. I think the plan that was proposed earlier this year in 2015 by President Obama to increase public funding to public universities and community college is exactly justified.This is really the key for higher growth in the future and also for a more equitable growth..., you have the official discourse about meritocracy, equal opportunity and mobility, and then you have the reality. And the gap between the two can be quite troublesome. So this is like you have a problem like this and there's a lot of hypocrisy about meritocracy in every country, not only in the U.S., but there is evidence suggesting that this has become particularly extreme in the United States. ... So this is a situation that is very troublesome and should rank very highly in the policy agenda in the future in the U.S.
DrDick -> Jeff R Carter:
"college is heavily subsidized"
In 1980, the states subsidized 70% of the cost per student. Today it is less than 30% and the amount of grants and scholarships has likewise declined. Tax cuts for rich people and conservative hatred for education are the biggest problem.
cm -> to DrDick...
I don't know what Jeff meant, but "easy" student loans are a subsidy to colleges, don't you think? Subsidies don't have to be paid directly to the recipient. The people who are getting the student loans don't get to keep the money (but they do get to keep the debt).
DrDick -> to cm...
No I do not agree. If anything, they are a subsidy to the finance industry (since you cannot default on them). More basically, they do not make college more affordable or accessible (his point).
cm -> to DrDick...
Well, what is a subsidy? Most economic entities don't get to keep the money they receive, but it ends up with somebody else or circulates. If I run a business and somebody sends people with money my way (or pays me by customer served), that looks like a subsidy to me - even though I don't get to keep the money, much of it paid for operational expenses not to forget salaries and other perks.
Just because it is not prearranged and no-strings (?) funding doesn't mean it cannot be a subsidy.
The financial system is involved, and benefits, whenever money is sloshing around.
Pinkybum -> to cm...
I think DrDick has this the right way around. Surely one should think of subsidies as to who the payment is directly helping. Subsidies to students would lower the barrier of entry into college. Subsidies to colleges help colleges hire better professors, offer more classes, reduce the cost of classes etc. Student loans are no subsidy at all except to the finance industry because they cannot be defaulted on and even then some may never be paid back because of bankruptcies.
However, that is always the risk of doing business as a loan provider. It might be interesting to assess the return on student loans compared to other loan instruments.
mrrunangun -> to Jeff R Carter...
The cost of higher education has risen relative to the earning power of the student and/or the student's family unless that family is in the top 10-20% wealth or income groups.
50 years ago it was possible for a lower middle class student to pay all expenses for Northwestern University with his/her own earnings. Tuition was $1500 and room + board c $1000/year. The State of Illinois had a scholarship grant program and all you needed was a 28 or 29 on the ACT to qualify for a grant that paid 80% of that tuition. A male student could make $2000 in a summer construction job, such as were plentiful during those booming 60s. That plus a low wage job waiting tables, night security, work-study etc could cover the remaining tuition and expense burden.
The annual nut now is in excess of $40,000 at NU and not much outside the $40,000-50,000 range at other second tier or elite schools.
The state schools used to produce the bedrock educated upper middle class of business and professional people in most states west of the seaboard. Tuition there 50 years ago was about $1200/year and room and board about $600-800 here in the midwest. Again you could put yourself through college waiting tables part-time. It wasn't easy but it was possible.
No way a kid who doesn't already possess an education can make the tuition and expenses of a private school today. I don't know what the median annual family income was in 1965 but I feel confident that it was well above the annual nut for a private college. Now it's about equal to it.
mrrunangun -> to mrrunangun...
1965 median family income was $6900, more than 200% of the cost of a year at NU. Current median family income is about 75% of a year at NU.
anne -> to 400 ppm CO2...
Click on "Share" under the graph that is initially constructed and copy the "Link" that appears:
March 22, 2015
Federal debt, 1966-2014
This allows a reader to understand how the graph was constructed and to work with the graph.
The US spends half the money the entire world spends on war, that is success!
Massive student debt, huge doses poverty, scores of thousands [of annual neglect related] deaths from the wretched health care system etc are not failure!
Poor education is the enemy of meritocracy. Costly, bloated administrations full of non-educators there to pamper and pander to every possible complaint and special interest - that is the enemy of meritocracy.
Convincing kids to simple "follow their dreams" regardless of education cost and career potential is the enemy of meritocracy. Allowing young adults to avoid challenging and uncomfortable and difficult subjects under the guise of compassion is the enemy of meritocracy. Financial illiteracy is the enemy of meritocracy.
Manageable student debt is no great enemy of meritocracy.
cm -> to tew...
This misses the point, aside frm the victim blaming. Few people embark on college degrees to "follow their dream", unless the dream is getting admission to the middle class job market.
When I was in elementary/middle school, the admonitions were of the sort "if you are not good in school you will end up sweeping streets" - from a generation who still saw street cleaning as manual labor, in my days it was already mechanized.
I estimate that about 15% or so of every cohort went to high school and then college, most went to a combined vocational/high school track, and some of those then later also went college, often from work.
This was before the big automation and globalization waves, when there were still enough jobs for everybody, and there was no pretense that you needed a fancy title to do standard issue work or as a social signal of some sort.
Richard H. Serlin:
Student loans and college get the bulk of the education inequality attention, and it's not nearly enough attention, but it's so much more. The early years are so crucial, as Nobel economist James Heckman has shown so well. Some children get no schooling or educational/developmental day care until almost age 6, when it should start in the first year, with preschool starting at 3. Others get high quality Montessori, and have had 3 years of it by the time they enter kindergarten, when others have had zero of any kind of education when they enter kindergarten.
Some children spend summers in high quality summer school and educational programs; others spend three months digressing and learning nothing. Some children get SAT prep programs costing thousands, and high end educational afterschool programs; others get nothing after school.
All these things should be available in high quality to any child; it's not 1810 anymore Republicans, the good old days of life expectancy in the 30s and dirt poverty for the vast majority. We need just a little more education in the modern world. But this also makes for hugely unequal opportunity.
Observer -> to Observer...
Data on degree by year ...
Observer -> to Syaloch...
One needs to differentiate between costs (total dollars spent per student credit hour or degree, or whatever the appropriate metric is) and price (what fraction of the cost is allocated to the the end-user student).
Note that the level of state funding impacts price, not cost; that discussion is usually about cost shifting, not cost reduction.
I'd say that the rate of increase in costs is, more or less, independent of the percent of costs borne by the state. You can indeed see this in the increase in private schools, the state funding is small/nil (particularly in schools without material endowments, where actual annual fees (prices) must closely actual match annual costs). Price discounts and federal funding may both complicate this analysis.
I think much more effort should be spent on understanding and controlling costs. As with health care, just saying "spend more money" is probably not the wise or even sustainable path in the long term.
Costs were discussed at some length here a year(?) or so ago. There is at least one fairly comprehensive published analysis of higher education costs drivers. IIRC, their conclusion was that there were a number of drivers - its not just food courts or more administrators. Sorry, don't recall the link.
Syaloch -> to cm...
Actually for my first job out of college at BLS, I basically was hired for my "rounded personality" combined with a general understanding of economic principles, not for any specific job-related skills. I had no prior experience working with Laspeyres price indexes, those skills were acquired through on-the-job training. Similarly in software development there is no degree that can make you a qualified professional developer; the best a degree can do is to show you are somewhat literate in X development language and that you have a good understanding of general software development principles. Most of the specific skills you'll need to be effective will be learned on the job.
The problem is that employers increasingly want to avoid any responsibility for training and mentoring, and to shift this burden onto schools. These institutions respond by jettisoning courses in areas deemed unnecessary for short-term vocational purposes, even though what you learn in many of these courses is probably more valuable and durable in the long run than the skills obtained through job-specific training, which often have a remarkably short shelf-life. (How valuable to you now is all that COBOL training you had back in the day?)
I guess the question then is, is the sole purpose of higher education to provide people with entry-level job skills for some narrowly-defined job description which may not even exist in a decade? A lot of people these days seem to feel that way. But I believe that in the long run it's a recipe for disaster at both the individual and the societal level.
Richard H. Serlin -> to Observer...
The research is just not on you side, as Heckman has shown very well. Early education and development makes a huge difference, and at age 5-7 (kindergarten) children are much better off with more schooling than morning to noon. This is why educated parents who can afford it pay a lot of money for a full day -- with afterschool and weekened programs on top.
Yes, we're more educated than 1810, but I use 1810 because that's the kind of small government, little spending on education (you want your children educated you pay for it.) that the Republican Party would love to return us to if they thought they could get away with it. And we've become little more educated in the last 50 years even though the world has become much more technologically advanced.
January 30, 2015
Student Loans Outstanding as a share of Gross Domestic Product, 2007-2014
January 30, 2015
Student Loans Outstanding, 2007-2014
As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?
July 25, 2009
Why Markets Can't Cure Healthcare
By Paul Krugman
Judging both from comments on this blog and from some of my mail, a significant number of Americans believe that the answer to our health care problems - indeed, the only answer - is to rely on the free market. Quite a few seem to believe that this view reflects the lessons of economic theory.
Not so. One of the most influential economic papers of the postwar era was Kenneth Arrow's "Uncertainty and the Welfare Economics of Health Care," * which demonstrated - decisively, I and many others believe - that health care can't be marketed like bread or TVs. Let me offer my own version of Arrow's argument.
There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don't know when or whether you'll need care - but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor's office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.
This tells you right away that health care can't be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can't just trust insurance companies either - they're not in business for their health, or yours.
This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers' point of view - they actually refer to it as "medical costs." This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there's a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need - not everyone agrees, but most do - this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.
The second thing about health care is that it's complicated, and you can't rely on experience or comparison shopping. ("I hear they've got a real deal on stents over at St. Mary's!") That's why doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code, why we expect more from them than from bakers or grocery store owners.
You could rely on a health maintenance organization to make the hard choices and do the cost management, and to some extent we do. But HMOs have been highly limited in their ability to achieve cost-effectiveness because people don't trust them - they're profit-making institutions, and your treatment is their cost.
Between those two factors, health care just doesn't work as a standard market story.
All of this doesn't necessarily mean that socialized medicine, or even single-payer, is the only way to go. There are a number of successful healthcare systems, at least as measured by pretty good care much cheaper than here, and they are quite different from each other. There are, however, no examples of successful health care based on the principles of the free market, for one simple reason: in health care, the free market just doesn't work. And people who say that the market is the answer are flying in the face of both theory and overwhelming evidence.
anne -> to anne...
January 30, 2015
College tuition and fees, 1980–2015
1980 ( 9.4)
1981 ( 12.4) Reagan
1982 ( 13.4)
1983 ( 10.4)
1984 ( 10.2)
1985 ( 9.1)
1986 ( 8.1)
1987 ( 7.6)
1988 ( 7.6) Bush
1989 ( 7.9)
1990 ( 8.1)
1991 ( 10.2)
1992 ( 10.7) Clinton
1993 ( 9.4)
1994 ( 7.0)
1995 ( 6.0)
1996 ( 5.7)
1997 ( 5.1)
1998 ( 4.2)
1999 ( 4.0)
2000 ( 4.1)
2001 ( 5.1) Bush
2002 ( 6.8)
2003 ( 8.4)
2004 ( 9.5)
2005 ( 7.5)
2006 ( 6.7)
2007 ( 6.2)
2008 ( 6.2)
2009 ( 6.0) Obama
2010 ( 5.2)
2011 ( 5.0)
2012 ( 4.8)
2013 ( 4.2)
2014 ( 3.7)
2015 ( 3.6)
Syaloch -> to anne...
I believe so, as I noted above. The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.
Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.
anne -> to Syaloch...
Another interesting feature of both health care and college education is that there are many proffered explanations as to why their cost is rising so much relative to other areas, but a surprising lack of a really authoritative explanation based on solid evidence.
[ Look to the paper by Kenneth Arrow, which I cannot copy, for what is to me a convincing explanation as to the market defeating factors of healthcare. However, I have no proper explanation about education costs and am only speculating or looking for an analogy. ]
anne -> to Syaloch...
The specific market dynamics of health care expenditures are obviously different, but as categories of expenses they have some things in common. First, both are very expensive relative to most other household expenditures. Second, unlike consumer merchandise, neither lends itself very well to cost reduction via offshoring or automation. So in an economy where many consumer prices are held down through a corresponding suppression of real wage growth, they consume a correspondingly larger chunk of the household budget.
[ Nicely expressed. ]
Peter K. -> to anne...
"As to increasing college costs, would there be an analogy to healthcare costs?"
Yes, exactly. They aren't normal markets. There should be heavy government regulation.
JUST HAD AN IDEA THAT MIGHT LIMIT THE DAMAGE OF THESE PHONEY ONLINE COLLEGES (pardon shouting, but I think it's justified):
Only allow government guaranteed loans (and the accompanying you-can-never-get-out-of-paying) IF a built for that purpose government agency APPROVES said loan. What do you think?
Denis Drew -> to cm...
A big reason we had the real estate bubble was actually the mad Republican relaxation of loan requirements -- relying on the "free market." So, thanks for coming up with a good comparison.
By definition, for the most part, people taking out student loans are shall we say new to the world and more vulnerable to the pirates.
* * * * * * * * * *
[cut and paste from my comment on AB]
Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post.
According to an article in the Huffington Post At Kaplan University, 'Guerrilla Registration' Leaves Students Deep In Debt, Kaplan Ed is among the worst of the worst of internet federal loan and grant sucking diploma mills. Going so far as to falsely pad bills $5000 or so dollars at diploma time - pay up immediately or you will never get your sheepskin; you wasted your time. No gov agency will act.
According to a lovely graph which I wish I could patch in here the Post may actually be currently be kept afloat only by purloined cash from Kaplan:
earnings before corporate overhead
2002 - Kaplan ed, $10 mil; Kaplan test prep, $45 mil: WaPo, $100 mil
2005 - Kaplan ed, $55 mil; Kaplan test prep, $100 mil; WaPo, $105 mil
2009 - Kaplan ed, $255 mil; Kaplan test prep, $5 mil; WaPo negative $175 mil
Wonder if billionaire Bezos will reach out to make Kaplan Ed victims whole. Will he really continue to use Kaplan's pirated money to keep WaPo whole -- if that is what is going on?
Johannes Y O Highness:
"theme I've been hammering lately, student debt is too damn high!: "
Too damn high
Because! Because every event in today's economy is the wish of the wealthy. Do you see why they suddenly wish to deeply educate the proles?
Opportunity cost! The burden of the intelligentsia, the brain work can by carried by robots or humans. Choice of the wealthy? Humans, hands down. Can you see the historical background?
Railroad was the first robot. According to Devon's Paradox, it was overused because of its increment of efficiency. Later, excessive roadbeds were disassembled. Rails were sold as scrap.
The new robots are not heavy lifters. New robots are there to do the work of the brain trust. As first robots replaced lower caste jokers, so shall new robots replace upper caste jokers. Do you see the fear developing inside the huddle of high rollers? Rollers now calling the play?
High rollers plan to educate small time hoods to do the work of the new robots, then kill the new robots before the newbie 'bot discovers how to kill the wealthy, to kill, to replace them forever.
Good bit of data on education costs here
This chart shows state spending per student and tuition ...
" overall perhaps the best description of the data is something along the lines of "sometimes state appropriations go up and sometimes they go down, but tuition always goes up." "
Sep 06, 2017 | www.theguardian.com The Guardian
Navient, spun off from Sallie Mae, has thrived as student loan debt spirals across the US. Its story reveals how, instead of fighting inequality, the education industry is reinforcing it
Nathan Hornes: 'Navient hasn't done a thing to help me. They just want their money. And they want it now.' Photograph: Fusion
A mong the 44 million Americans who have amassed our nation's whopping $1.4tn in student loan debt, a call from Navient can produce shivers of dread.
Navient is the primary point of contact, or the "servicer", for more student loans in the United States than any other company, handling 12 million borrowers and $300bn in debt. The company flourished as student loan debt exploded under the Obama administration, and its stock rose sharply after the election of Donald Trump.
But Navient also has more complaints per borrower than any other servicer, according to a Fusion analysis of data. And these mounting complaints repeatedly allege that the company has failed to live up to the terms of its federal contracts, and that it illegally harasses consumers . Navient says most of the ire stems from structural issues surrounding college finance – like the terms of the loans, which the federal government and private banks are responsible for – not about Navient customer service.
Navient has positioned itself to dominate the lucrative student loan industry in the midst of this crisis, flexing its muscles in Washington and increasingly across the states. The story of Navient's emerging power is also the story of how an industry built around the idea that education can break down inequities is reinforcing them.The tension at the center of the current controversy around student loans is simple: should borrowers be treated like any other consumers, or do they merit special service because education is considered a public good?
Often, the most vulnerable borrowers are not those with the largest debt, but low-income students, first-generation students, and students of color – especially those who may attend less prestigious schools and are less likely to quickly earn enough to repay their loans, if they graduate at all.
Last year, Navient received 23 complaints per 100,000 borrowers, more than twice that of the nearest competitor, according to Fusion's analysis. And from January 2014 to December 2016, Navient was named as a defendant in 530 federal lawsuits. The vast majority were aimed at the company's student loans servicing operations. (Nelnet and Great Lakes, the two other biggest companies in the student loans market, were sued 32 and 14 times over the same period, respectively.)
Many of the complaints and lawsuits aimed at the company relate to its standard practice of auto-dialing borrowers to solicit payments.
Shelby Hubbard says she has long been on the receiving end of these calls as she has struggled to pay down her debt. Hubbard racked up over $60,000 in public and private student loans by the time she graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a basic healthcare-related degree.
"It consumes my every day," Hubbard said of the constant calls. "Every day, every hour, starting at 8 o'clock in the morning." Unlike mortgages, and most other debt, student loans can't be wiped away with bankruptcy.
These days, Hubbard, 26, works in Ohio as a logistics coordinator for traveling nurses. She's made some loan payments, but her take-home pay is about $850 every two weeks. With her monthly student loan bill at about $700, roughly half her income would go to paying the loans back, forcing her to lean more heavily on her fiancé. "He pays for all of our utilities, all of our bills. Because at the end of the day, I don't have anything else to give him," she said. The shadow of her debt hangs over every discussion about their wedding, mortgage payments, and becoming parents.
The power and reach of the student loan industry stacks the odds against borrowers. Navient doesn't just service federal loans, it has a hand in nearly every aspect of the student loan system. It has bought up private student loans, both servicing them and earning interest off of them. And it has purchased billions of dollars worth of the older taxpayer-backed loans, again earning interest, as well as servicing that debt. The company also owns controversial subsidiary companies such as Pioneer Credit Recovery that stand to profit from collecting the debt of loans that go into default.
label="How the Trump administration is undermining students of color | Mark Huelsman and Vijay Das" href="https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jul/15/trump-administration-students-color-debt">
And just as banks have done with mortgages, Navient packages many of the private and pre-2010 federal loans and sells them on Wall Street as asset-backed securities. Meanwhile, it's in the running to oversee the Department of Education's entire student debt web portal, which would open even more avenues for the company to profit from – and expand its influence over – Americans' access to higher education.
The federal government is the biggest lender of American student loans, meaning that taxpayers are currently on the hook for more than $1tn . For years, much of this money was managed by private banks and loan companies like Sallie Mae. Then in 2010, Congress cut out the middlemen and their lending fees, and Sallie Mae spun off its servicing arm into the publicly traded company Navient.
Led by former Sallie Mae executives, Navient describes itself as "a leading provider of asset management and business processing solutions for education, healthcare, and government clients." But it is best known for being among a handful of companies that have won coveted federal contracts to make sure students repay their loans. And critics say that in pursuit of getting that money back, the Department of Education has allowed these companies to all but run free at the expense of borrowers.
"The problem is that these servicers are too big to fail," said Persis Yu, director of the National Consumer Law Center's Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project. "We have no place to put the millions of borrowers whom they are servicing, even if they are not doing the servicing job that we want them to do."
In its last years, the Obama administration tried to rein in the student loan industry and promoted more options for reduced repayment plans for federal loans. Since then, Donald Trump's education secretary, Betsy DeVos , has reversed or put on hold changes the former education secretary John B King's office proposed and appears bent on further loosening the reins on the student loan industry , leaving individual students little recourse amid bad service.
In late August, DeVos's office announced that it would stop sharing information about student loan servicer oversight with the federal consumer watchdog agency known as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB.
Earlier this year, as complaints grew, the CFPB sued Navient for allegedly misleading borrowers about the repayment options it is legally obligated to provide.
A central allegation is that Navient, rather than offering income-based repayment plans, pushed some people into a temporary payment freeze called forbearance. Getting placed into forbearance is a good Band-Aid but can be a terrible longer-term plan. When an account gets placed in forbearance, its interest keeps accumulating, and that interest can be added to the principal, meaning the loans only grow.
Lynn Sabulski, who worked in Navient's Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, call center for five months starting in 2012, said she experienced first-hand the pressure to drive borrowers into forbearance.
"Performing well meant keeping calls to seven minutes or under," said Sabulski. "If you only have seven minutes, the easiest option to put a borrower in, first and foremost, is a forbearance." Sabulski said if she didn't keep the call times short, she could be written up or lose her job.
Navient denies the allegations, and a spokeswoman told Fusion via email seven and a half minutes was the average call time, not a target. The company maintains "caller satisfaction and customer experience" are a significant part of call center representatives' ratings.
But in a 24 March motion it filed in federal court for the CFPB's lawsuit, the company also said: "There is no expectation that the servicer will act in the interest of the consumer." Rather, it argued, Navient's job was to look out for the interest of the federal government and taxpayers.
Navient does get more per account when the servicer is up to date on payments, but getting borrowers into a repayment plan also has a cost because of the time required to go over the complex options.
The same day the CFPB filed its lawsuit, Illinois and Washington filed suits in state courts. The offices of attorneys general in nine other states confirmed to Fusion that they are investigating the company.
At a recent hearing in the Washington state case, the company defended its service: "The State's claim is not, you didn't help at all, which is what you said you would do. It's that, you could've helped them more." Navient insists it has forcefully advocated in Washington to streamline the federal loan system and make the repayment process easier to navigate for borrowers.
And it's true, Navient, and the broader industry, have stepped up efforts in recent years to influence decision makers. Since 2014, Navient executives have given nearly $75,000 to the company's political action committee, which has pumped money mostly into Republican campaigns, but also some Democratic ones. Over the same timespan, the company has spent more than $10.1m lobbying Congress, with $4.2m of that spending coming since 2016. About $400,000 of it targeted the CFPB, which many Republican lawmakers want to do away with.
Among the 22 former federal officials who lobby for Navient is the former US representative Denny Rehberg, a Republican, who once criticized federal aid for students as the welfare of the 21st century. His fellow lobbyist and former GOP representative Vin Weber sits on a board that has aired attack ads against the CFPB, as well as on the board of the for-profit college ITT Tech , which shuttered its campuses in 2016 after Barack Obama's Department of Education accused it of predatory recruitment and lending.
In response to what they see as a lack of federal oversight, California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and the District of Columbia recently required student loan servicers to get licenses in their states. Not surprisingly, Fusion found a sharp increase in Navient's spending in states considering such regulations, with the majority of the $300,000 in Navient state lobbying allocated since 2016.
In Maine and Illinois, the legislatures were flooded with Navient and other industry lobbyists earlier this year, after lawmakers proposed their own versions of the license bills. The Maine proposal failed after Navient argued the issue should be left to the federal government. The Illinois bill passed the legislature, but the Republican governor, Bruce Rauner, vetoed it in August following lobbying from an industry trade group . Rauner said the bill encroached on the federal government's authority.
Researchers argue more data would help them understand how to improve the student loan process and prevent more people from being overwhelmed by debt. In 2008, Congress made it illegal for the Department of Education to make the data public, arguing that it was a risk for student privacy. Private colleges and universities lobbied to restrict the data. So, too, did Navient's predecessor, Sallie Mae, and other student loan servicing companies.
Today, companies like Navient have compiled mountains of data about graduations, debt and financial outcomes – which they consider proprietary information. The lack of school-specific data about student outcomes can be life-altering, leading students to pick schools they never would have picked. Nathan Hornes, a 27-year-old Missouri native, racked up $70,000 in student loans going to Everest College, an unaccredited school, before he graduated.
"Navient hasn't done a thing to help me," Hornes told Fusion. "They just want their money. And they want it now."
label="The US cities luring millennials with promises to pay off their student debts" href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/10/the-us-cities-luring-millennials-with-promises-to-pay-off-their-student-debts">
Hornes' loans were recently forgiven following state investigations into Everest's parent company Corinthian. But many other borrowers still await relief.
Better educating teens about financial literacy before they apply to college will help reduce their dependence on student loans, but that doesn't change how the deck is stacked for those who need them. A few states have made community colleges free , reducing the need for student loan servicers.
But until the Department of Education holds industry leaders like Navient more accountable, individual states can fix only so much, insists Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of the industry's most outspoken critics on Capitol Hill.
"Navient's view is, hey, I'm just going to take this money from the Department of Education and maximize Navient's profits, rather than serving the students," Warren said. "I hold Navient responsible for that. But I also hold the Department of Education responsible for that. They act as our agent, the agent of the US taxpayers, the agent of the people of the United States. And they should demand that Navient does better."
Laura Juncadella, a production assistant for The Naked Truth also contributed to this article
The Naked Truth: Debt Trap airs on Fusion TV 10 September at 9pm ET. Find out where to watch here
Oct 18, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
A fresh story at Bloomberg, which includes new analysis, shows the ugly student debt picture is getting uglier. The driver is that higher education costs keep rising, often in excess of the likely wages for graduates. The article's grim conclusion: "The next generation of graduates will include more borrowers who may never be able to repay."
Student debt is now the second biggest type of consumer debt in the US. At $1.5 trillion, is is second only to the mortgage market, and is also bigger than the subprime market before the crisis, which was generally pegged at $1.3 trillion. 1 Bloomberg also points out that unlike other categories of personal debt, student debt balances has shown consistent, or one might say persistent, growth since the crisis.
From the article:
Student loans are being issued at unprecedented rates as more American students pursue higher education . But the cost of tuition at both private and public institutions is touching all-time highs , while interest rates on student loans are also rising. Students are spending more time working instead of studying . (Some 85 percent of current students now work paid jobs while enrolled.) Experts and analysts worry that the next generation of graduates could default on their loans at even higher rates than in the immediate wake of the financial crisis.
The last sentence is alarming. As graduates of the class of 2009 like UserFriendly can attest, the job market was desperate. And for the next few years, the unemployment rate of new college graduates was higher than that of recent high school graduates. One of the corollaries of that is that more college graduates than before were taking work that didn't require a college degree; this is still a significant trend today. And on top of that, studies have found that early career earnings have a significant impact on lifetime earnings. While there are always exceptions, generally speaking, pay levels key off one's earlier compensation, so starting out at a lower income level is likely to crimp future compensation.
And on top of that, interest costs are rising. The rate for direct undergraduate loans is 5% and for graduate and professional schools, 6.6%. So student debt costs will also go up even before factoring in inflating school costs. So the ugly picture of delinquencies and defaults is destined to get worse.
Students attending for-profit universities and community colleges represented almost half of all borrowers leaving school and beginning to repay loans in 2011. They also accounted for 70 percent of all defaults. As a result, delinquencies skyrocketed in the 2011-12 academic year, reaching 11.73 percent.
Today, the student loan delinquency rate remains almost as high, which Scott-Clayton attributes to social and institutional factors, rather than average debt levels. "Delinquency is at crisis levels for borrowers, particularly for borrowers of color, borrowers who have gone to a for-profit and borrowers who didn't ultimately obtain a degree," she said, highlighting that each cohort is more likely to miss repayments on their loans than other public and private college students.
Those most at risk of delinquency tend to be, counterintuitively, those who've incurred smaller amounts of debt, explained Kali McFadden, senior research analyst at LendingTree. Graduates who leave school with six-figure degrees that are valued in the marketplace -- such as post-graduate law or medical degrees -- usually see a good return on their investment.
I'm a little leery of cheerful generalizations like "big ticket borrowers for professional degrees do better." "Better" may still not be that good. Recall that law school and in the last year, business school enrollments have fallen because candidates question whether the hard costs and loss of income while in school will pay off. And there are some degrees, like veterinary medicine, that are so pricey it's hard to see how they could possibly make economic sense.
What is distressing about this ugly picture is the lack of effective activism by the victims. I am sure some are trying, but in addition to the burden of being so overwhelmed by the debt burden as to lack the time and energy to do anything beyond cope, is the fact that being in debt is stigmatized in our society, and borrowers may not want to deal with condescension and criticism. Another obstacle to organizing is that most of the victims are lower income and/or from minority groups, which means Team Dem can ignore them on the usual assumption that they have nowhere else to go. It is also harder to create an effective coalition across disparate economic, geographic, and age groups
But the experience of the post-Civil War South says things could get a lot worse. From Matt Stoller in 2010:
A lot of people forget that having debt you can't pay back really sucks. Debt is not just a credit instrument, it is an instrument of political and economic control.
It's actually baked into our culture. The phrase 'the man', as in 'fight the man', referred originally to creditors. 'The man' in the 19th century stood for 'furnishing man', the merchant that sold 19th century sharecroppers and Southern farmers their supplies for the year, usually on credit. Farmers, often illiterate and certainly unable to understand the arrangements into which they were entering, were charged interest rates of 80-100 percent a year, with a lien places on their crops. When approaching a furnishing agent, who could grant them credit for seeds, equipment, even food itself, a farmer would meekly look down nervously as his debts were marked down in a notebook. At the end of a year, due to deflation and usury, farmers usually owed more than they started the year owing. Their land was often forfeit, and eventually most of them became tenant farmers.
They were in hock to the man, and eventually became slaves to him. This structure, of sharecropping and usury, held together by political violence, continued into the 1960s in some areas of the South. As late as the 1960s, Kennedy would see rural poverty in Arkansas and pronounce it 'shocking'. These were the fruits of usury, a society built on unsustainable debt peonage.
Sanders has made an issue of student debt, but politicians who want big bucks from financiers and members of the higher education complex pointedly ignore this issue. As we've pointed out, top bankruptcy scholar Elizabeth Warren won't even endorse a basic reform, that of making student debt dischargable in bankruptcy. So it may take student debtors becoming a bigger percentage of voters for this issue to get the political traction it warrants.
1 Higher estimates typically included near subprime mortgages then called "Alt A".
Geo , October 18, 2018 at 5:02 am
There are many, many passages in this obscure old book called The Bible speaking of usury as a grave sin. So many it is actually one of the most clear and condemned sins in the entire book. Maybe we could see if any of our Congress persons have ever heard of it? They could learn something from it regarding this topic.
That said, it's passages on gender equality and family structures are pretty outdated and abhorrent so I wouldn't want them to get any bad ideas from this book on those subjects.
Neujack , October 18, 2018 at 5:56 am
Indeed, all of the old "Iron Age religions" (Judaism, Early Christianity, and Islam) explicitly denounce usury.
The great irony of the Deep South in te USA is that they've been frequently banning Sharia law, even when Sharia law is one of the few types of law in the world which explicitly bans charging interest.
L , October 18, 2018 at 9:57 am
It is always intriguing how many politicians are so eager to endorse a literalist fealty to the social structures of the bible but ignore, or even vehemently rail against, the more balanced social restrictions on things like usury or the old idea of a debt jubilee. But then Jesus himself railed (physically) against embedding money in religion and now we have "entrepreneurial churches" who preach a "doctrine of prosperity" so I guess times have changed.
xformbykr , October 18, 2018 at 11:23 am
Michael Hudson wrote about the history of 'debt jubilees' and debt cancellation today.
Pete , October 18, 2018 at 5:46 am
I graduated 10 years ago and the most frustrating part was everyone telling me it would be alright and ignoring thw whole you never recover thing. I am still unable to find worthwhile employment and probably never will be able to.
kurtismayfield , October 18, 2018 at 6:56 am
You really can't listen to many of us over 40.. we really lived in complete my different conditions. When I got out of college in the 90's they were basically hiring everyone with a pulse in tech. From what I have seen from recent graduates it's getting easier, as I am seeing a lot more intershops turn into job offers. But for the generation that you are part of, it's an economic hole that may never be recovered from simply because you were born at the wrong time.
Looking at that graph, notice how the only debt that is backstopped completely by the federal government is growing the fastest. The no default on student loans rules have to be rescinded.
Big River Bandido , October 18, 2018 at 10:05 am
I graduated in the 1990s, and if you were not in tech, the job market was just as lousy as it is now.
The Rev Kev , October 18, 2018 at 6:13 am
Extrapolating from these trends, then in a few years the only young people that would be able to afford higher education in the United States would the the children of the ten per cent – plus a smattering of scholarships to talented individuals found worthy of supporting. It follows then that as these educated people entered the workforce, that over time that the people that would be running the country would be children of the elite in a sort of inbred system. It sounds a lot like 19th century class-based Britain that if you ask me.
As for the country itself it would be disastrous. Going by present population levels, it would mean that instead of recruiting the leaders and thinkers of the country from the present population of 325 million, that at most you would be recruiting them from a base level of about 30-40 million. It is to be hoped that these people are not from the shallow end of the gene pool. You can forget about any idea of an even-handed meritocracy and America would be competing against countries that might employ the idea of a full meritocracy in the recruitment of their leaders. I wonder how that might work out.
Brooklin Bridge , October 18, 2018 at 6:46 am
You could put that whole paragraph in the present tense quite nicely.
Eclair , October 18, 2018 at 6:56 am
"I wonder how that might work out." Ummm . the Monty Pythons had an idea in the 1970's.
The "Upper Class Twit of the Year" competition. Gotta love the "Kick a Beggar" event.
Henry Moon Pie , October 18, 2018 at 5:13 pm
"America would be competing against countries that might employ the idea of a full meritocracy in the recruitment of their leaders. I wonder how that might work out"
Would the performance of U. S. men in international soccer competition be a similar situation?
eg , October 18, 2018 at 6:40 am
Why is America so determined to reconstruct an aristocracy its founders abhorred?
zagonostra , October 18, 2018 at 8:41 am
They only abhorred the British aristocracy, they framed to Constitution to create a home grown one; and, they succeeded beyond their wildest dream.
Matthew , October 18, 2018 at 10:00 am
Because they think it will help them stay rich?
Big River Bandido , October 18, 2018 at 10:06 am
an aristocracy its founders abhorred
Alexander Hamilton liked the idea very much. It's why the musical is SO popular among the neoliberal set.
KYrocky , October 18, 2018 at 11:47 am
The concept of student debt as it exists today would be repulsive to our Founders. Not just for the larger issue of our country being on the trajectory of becoming an economic aristocracy, but specifically because the Federal government is profiting tremendously from this crushing usury being applied to majority and the least among us.
Our Founders had no problem with the conquest and seizure of Native Americans land, and they fully respected the rights and claims of other European countries to do the same. One of their strongest repudiations of the aristocracy was the expansion of private property rights beyond what was known under any monarchy on the planet to that point in history. In the pre-industrial world the vast majority of people lived in an agrarian society and economy. Owning land secured you with your livelihood, your living, and much of your resources; it fully supported most families.
For its founding and for generation after generation the United States government gave land to countless men for military service, government service, homesteds, etc. Expansions by the Louisiana Purchase and war and treaties with other European nations, quickly resulting in making these lands available for settlement to our citizens and to immigrants.
The point is that for well over 100 years the government provided to its citizens a huge amount of what our citizens needed to live their lifetimes through these grants of land. These land grants were then passed from generation to generation and formed the economic foundations for millions of people, their children and their next generations.
Our Government did this.
The United States ceased to be a predominantly agrarian country in the mid 20th century. But they did not stop aiding our people and their economic needs. Our government (Federal and states) did continue to provide to our population through public education (very affordable college), the GI Bill that served millions with income, housing and educational benefits, Social Security, Medicare, etc.
Since our country's very founding our government has recognized the benefit and need to facilitate the support of its citizens. The American economy became the greatest on earth because of our land conquest heritage and our collective investments as a nation. No one did it all on their own, and no one pretended they did.
Reagan killed this legacy. Reagan claimed that our nations success and our heritage was built on our history of rugged individualism and that our government was the obstacle to returning to these roots. It was a lie; nothing could have been further from the truth.
Student debt, as it exists to day, is crippling the economic futures of the millions who have accrued this debt and the millions to come, year after year, who will do the same. The student is debt is robbing our nation of the economic activity that historically matriculated out from those passing from college to the world. That has come almost to an end. Worse yet, our government has positioned itself to also profit off this debt, and to prevent the indebted from escaping this type of debt through the legal means available for virtually all other forms of debt.
Our student debt is un-American. It is a cancer on our economy. It exists for the vast short term profit of the few at the expense of our nations future.
Avalon Sparks , October 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm
Amazing essay, thank you!
zagonostra , October 18, 2018 at 12:49 pm
Admirable and well thought-out post.
I hope people keep in mind it was the Democrats, specifically Joe Biden, who made student debt even more crippling and heartless by changing the bankruptcy laws so that creditors can garnish your Social Security benefits (assuming Mitch McConnell doesn't gut them first).
Republicans are open about what they hope to accomplish, you have to clear the verbal BS that clouds what Democrats are after, but at the end of the day they are both about enslavement and debt bondage over unwashed masses.
Mobee , October 18, 2018 at 7:32 am
I'm sure it's often the parents that end up paying the debt, as my sister is doing. Parents have deep pockets and are desperate to help their loved ones get a good start in life.
In my sister's case, they sent their girls to private high school, where they spent the money that could have paid for college. Not a smart decision. But they love their children and really wanted to do give them the best.
Now the girls are struggling to make a living and my sister cannot afford to retire.
Musicismath , October 18, 2018 at 8:18 am
There are so many feedback loops, multipliers, and perverse incentives driving forward this bubble (and its calamitous social and cultural effects) that it's hard to know where to begin.
As Goldman Sachs have pointed out , student-loan-based securities are increasingly "attractive" investments for speculators:
Although the "bubble" is getting bigger, it's not a risk to overall financial stability, Goldman's Marty Young and Lotfi Karoui said in a recent note. In fact, there's one segment of the market that's emerging as an attractive investment.
It's the $190 billion of outstanding [student] loans that are held within asset-backed securities (ABS) refinanced by private lenders such as SoFi.
With these securities, lenders pool loans that have similar risk profiles and sell them as instruments in the public markets. Investors profit as graduates pay back their principal and interest.
So the more student debt there is, and the higher the interest rates are, the better, from that perspective.
It's undeniable, too, that high student loan burdens mean graduates are slower to form households and will probably have fewer children than they would otherwise. Their diminished spending power, meanwhile, adds to the ongoing erosion of the "real economy," in favour of the financial one. Student loans therefore disrupt the basic means of social reproduction. The resulting declines in fertility then demand high rates of immigration to compensate. A fact cheered on, inevitably, by the open borders crowd (a substantial number of whom, oddly or not, seem to work in or for universities).
So we see yet another instance in which "right" neoliberalism and "left" identitarianism go hand in hand–forming, indeed, two heads of the same beast. Student loans have enabled the enormous inflation in tuition costs that have plagued the Anglosphere over the last couple of decades. This fees income feeds the academic beast (or at least its administrators and senior managers), while driving the one economic and social crisis (mass migration and the resulting populist backlash) that "left neoliberals," centrists, and Clinton/Progress types appear to care about. It's a self-licking ice cream of catastrophic size and reach.
Petunia , October 18, 2018 at 9:09 am
One specific example: hospital chaplains are facing a big retirement crisis. And yet the job requires (to be hoard certified): an undergraduate degree & then a Master's of Divinity degree, plus a year-long residency. For a job that pays around $60,000 to $70,000. At least one school, Princeton, funds almost all of their divinity students. But I don't think it's the norm. And then you throw in the fact that such person ideally would be emotionally & spiritually mature, with enough life experience to meet with a wide range of people, who are often facing financial hardship due to being sick (as well as existential concerns). I don't even know how to begin reframing the job or the qualifications or the salary to fit America in 2020. There are a lot of other angles, such as: what about well-qualified people who can't afford seminary? I know there needs to be a way to screen-out and screen-in the best people (who won't proselytize), but is a Master's degree the right hurdle? But, I must say, the need for access to interfaith Spiritual Care is only increasing, as times get tougher & other hospital staff (RNs) don't have time to sit and listen. People are in pain, not only in their bodies. One thought leader in the field has speculated that the job will just go away due to lack of advocacy & inability to evolve into a profit center.
redleg , October 18, 2018 at 9:23 am
It would be interesting to see that student loan debt chart superimposed over %adjuncts and number of administrators. Its pretty easy to guess what that would look like, but seeing that would be decisive.
Fiddler Hill , October 18, 2018 at 2:39 pm
I think a little delineation is in order. I've been an adjunct professor and believe the increasing use of adjuncts at universities has been very beneficial overall -- in terms of the quality of education students are getting. Unfortunately, as we know, that's not why universities are hiring so many more adjuncts; they're being hired because schools can get away with paying them abysmally.
The situation is so embarrassing that, at the university where I was teaching five years ago, the full-time faculty passed a resolution asking the administration to give the entire projected increase in teaching salaries entirely to the adjuncts, an amazing act of selflessness.
The relevance to our discussion here, of course, is the insupportable increase in the annual cost of attending college even as the schools radically reduce their overall expenditures on faculty salaries.
Di Modica's Dumb Steer , October 18, 2018 at 9:49 am
So how long before this leads to a mass "We Won't Pay" movement? I'm stuck on the dumb treadmill myself, but I wouldn't begrudge an entire generation for just saying no. Sure, they can garnish wages and the like, but if 30 million people simultaneously say 'eff this', it's more than just a wrench in the works it's drastic enough to force action.
DolleyMadison , October 18, 2018 at 10:45 am
Why DO they keep paying? The debts are always bought by debt collectors who don't even have COPIES promissory notes. Let them sue you and show up for the hearing and demand proof. They can still ruin your "credit" but if student loans haven't taught you to eschew credit nothing will. If EVERYONE "walked away" what could they do?
Tangled up in Texas , October 18, 2018 at 11:01 am
Unfortunately that is never going to happen. This society has been trained to worship at the altar of the FICO score, and most job seekers cannot afford to have a low score. Said score will be examined and potentially held against you when pursuing employment.
Also, employers frown upon employees who do not pay their bills and then have their wages garnished – at least the smaller emlpoyers do. This creates extra work for the employer and makes the employee suspect, as in irresponsible.
This problem was created by the political class and is going to require a political solution, i.e. legislation to assist the student loan borrower or a debt jubilee. Unfortunately, there's too much money being made off the student borrower – even if the practice is killing the host. And the "I got mine" crowd will not allow a jubilee even if it is for the greater good of society. Lastly, student loan borrowers coming from a different era (who have paid off their loans) will begrudge the forgiving of the loans and consider them undeserved. In this case, perhaps the best resolution is to give everyone money toward their student loans – whether they are currently paid or unpaid.
I cannot jeopardize my employment by joining in a "eff this" movement as much as I would like to. Instead, I will continue on this treadmill called life, pay my bills and hope to escape as unscathed as possible.
Harrison Bergeron , October 18, 2018 at 1:42 pm
I work for a company that contracts with department of Ed to get student loan borrowers out if default and back into the hands of loan servicers. The amount of money sloshing around is stunning. I'm sure they've got well paid lobbyists telling legislators that people will be unemployed if student loans are reformed. I owe well over six figures so the irony is not lost on me. Hiring one half of the working class to debt collect from the other.
Tomonthebeach , October 18, 2018 at 2:58 pm
Who pays for diploma-mill educations, and why? I have always assumed that people attended cash-n-carry schools because they did not qualify aptitude/grade-wise for entrance to a state school, OR a 3rd party like DOD or VA was footing the tab. Both assumptions appear to be supported by data. Given the far-above-average drop/flunkout rate of diploma mills. I know from my military career that enlisted members sign up for courses (local or online) at diploma mills to get extra points toward promotions – at Navy expense. Personally, I would not pay to send my dog to such institutions to learn how to sit up and beg.
One thing is certain, collich kidz do not appear to spend nearly as much time researching where they go to $chool as they do buying the car they drive.
Democrita , October 18, 2018 at 3:45 pm
Jumping into the conversation a little late, but my alma mater recently embarked on a major rethink of the college business model, and cut tuition from around 50k to around 30k. We even got a writeup from Frank Bruni for it .
College officials (I'm relatively active as a fundraiser for my class) describe it as a shift to a "philanthropy model" of funding. Which worries me for lots of reasons. But at least it's a conversation-starter.
It's also very much a school that is not for people looking to buy a future income flow, but rather an education.
Nov 27, 2015 | economistsview.typepad.comOn student loans: Student Debt in America: Lend With a Smile, Collect With a Fist : ... Borrowing is risky, financial decisions are not always rational, and people often do a poor job of properly weighing the interests of their present and future selves.
The private enterprise system is built to limit overborrowing by sharing risk between lenders and borrowers. ... They charge more interest when they take on more risk. Because most loans can be discharged in bankruptcy, lenders share the cost of default. ...
But the federal student loan program doesn't work that way. Those ads that run on bus stop signs and on late-night television - "No Cash? No Credit? No Problem!" - are essentially the Department of Education's official policy on student loans.
On the front end, the department is the world's nicest, most accommodating lender. Interest rates ... are lower than banks charge... Borrowing for college is essentially an entitlement...
When the loan bill finally comes due, the federal government transforms into a heartless loan collector. You don't need burly men with brass knuckles to enforce debts when you have the Internal Revenue Service..., which can and will follow you as long as you live.
The government acts this way because the federal student loan program has been removed from the norms and values of prudent lending. Because the Department of Education doesn't consider risk, it takes no responsibility. If life, luck and bad choices leave you ... in the hole, it's all on you. ...
Most college students ... pay back their loans and enjoy the fruits of their degrees. But most pack-a-day smokers don't die of lung cancer. And most people who bought cars with Takata airbags from 2002 to 2008 weren't killed by shrapnel from explosions. Nevertheless, we still regard small risks of catastrophic outcomes as problems to be solved. ...
Just one quick comment. We need to solve the student loan problem for existing loans, but I wish talk about how to address this problem going forward was more about how to provide adequate funding for colleges so that large loans aren't needed in the first place rather than focusing on how to change the loan program itself.
Posted by Mark Thoma on Friday, November 27, 2015 at 11:28 AM in Economics , Education , Universities | Permalink Comments (10)likbez
=== quote ===
@run75441 -> Sanjait...
The cost containment of colleges is the same as what is needed for healthcare. The government should intervene since it is the principal financier in more ways than one.
=== end of quote ===
Very true. May be even the idea of the net of eligible providers (in network vs out of network) can be borrowed form healthcare.
As this is a public good, it should be severe punishment including jail terms for inflating the cost of education. For example I think Mankiw should be at investigated using RICO act for the cost of his textbook. But I think that students who enroll into Mankiw class are already second rate students because at this point they should do some research about who Mankiw really is and avoid his classes like a plague.
Still this is a clear and provable case of racket. Academic racket but still a racket.
But even minor prosecution of those academic rentiers is impossible under neoliberalism as regulators are captured and corrupted.
And students mostly are too badly informed and too naïve to shop around and find a better price. Which is still possible. For example using community college for the first two years and then transferring credits to a state university. And if student is talented enough he always can get masters at Ivy League school later and it will cost less.
Please note that quality of university education is already very problematic. Switching to preparing "ready for jobmarket" graduates backfired. I would say that quality now is dismal as student lacks fundamentals. They are now kind of "bug of tricks" degree holders.
So the idea of cost control of college education can't be refuted with the hypothesis that it will lower the quality of education. Essentially what Ivy league college degree buys is the first place in a heap of resumes to major companies (some companies simply discard resumes from applicant who do not have Ivy League education).
Now about subsidies. Neoliberal colleges are for profit business with academic sharks no different that sharks in chemical or pharmaceutical companies. They do not care about education, only about lining this own pockets. As simple as that.
That means that in a current environment any "broad" subsidies will result in raising of the cost of education. I would make subsidies more focused, subject to means test as well as passing a qualifying exam similar to GED. After all at this point the society invests some money into student.
so is he saying that we shouldn't give student loans unless a bank would loan the money
that's means many people who can now afford college wont be able to
and this:Dan Berg
"Most college students don't end up like Ms. Kelley. They pay back their loans and enjoy the fruits of their degrees. But most pack-a-day smokers don't die of lung cancer. And most people who bought cars with Takata airbags from 2002 to 2008 weren't killed by shrapnel from explosions. Nevertheless, we still regard small risks of catastrophic outcomes as problems to be solved."
is he kidding me??? My student loans required an 8% insurance policy, money I didn't even get to use, came out before I could pay tuition room and board, but I still owed it. The fact that most people pay their student loans means the government doesn't lose anything from student loans
Rather than "provide adequate (more) funding (taxes)for colleges" - how about ways to reduce cost? Beginning with the absurd costs of textbooks; administrative bloat; disparities between tenured and part-time teachers; etc
Lilly -> Dan Berg...
...and I will add sports in here. A good analysis was published by HP: How College Students Are Bankrolling The Athletics Arms Race
pgl -> Dan Berg...
"Beginning with the absurd costs of textbooks"
Here is where Greg Mankiw will tell you he needs to charge $300 a book for his text because he wants his kids to be rich.
And how does anyone propose to remedy monies being deducted from Social Security for delinquent student loans when the person (victim) cannot make timely payments because of AGE DISCRIMINATION IN EMPLOYMENT. While illegal, it is practiced by a majority of employers. Often the Soc Sec recipient is reduced to living at poverty level - even though they want to work and would if they could find paying employment.
Or does anyone want to remedy this? Just let the "old folks" starve and become homeless!!!!!!
"As a senator from Delaware -- a corporate tax haven where the financial industry is one of the state's largest employers -- Biden was one of the key proponents of the 2005 legislation that is now bearing down on students like Ryan. That bill effectively prevents the $150 billion worth of private student debt from being discharged, rescheduled or renegotiated as other debt can be in bankruptcy court.
Biden's efforts in 2005 were no anomaly. Though the vice president has long portrayed himself as a champion of the struggling middle class -- a man who famously commutes on Amtrak and mixes enthusiastically with blue-collar workers -- the Delaware lawmaker has played a consistent and pivotal role in the financial industry's four-decade campaign to make it harder for students to shield themselves and their families from creditors, according to an IBT review of bankruptcy legislation going back to the 1970s."
BCSanjait said.. . November 27, 2015 at 11:39 PM
80-85% of jobs today and in the future will not require post-secondary training or a university credential. If accelerating automation and elimination of service employment (retail, health care, education, gov't, legal, etc.) continues apace as anticipated, including middle- and upper-income employment, there will be still fewer jobs requiring post-secondary "education" that pay what was once perceived as breadwinner compensation.
Universities all over the US have since the 1970s-80s become costly public jobs programs primarily for females at low or no productivity and increasing cost to the private sector (as in the case of "health" care). The explosion in administrative employment and the resulting bureaucratic bloat and costs is ridiculous and unsustainable, including the promised pension and benefit payouts in the years to come.
Young people borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to attend private, for-profit colleges (???) or to study the humanities, social sciences, or business is a waste of time and money for the vast majority.
Most urban/suburban high schools have evolved into what might be described as college preparatory girls schools where a large majority of males are marginalized as necessary nuisances and the vast majority of kids learn little that is practical to participating as gainfully employed and self-supporting adults.
But that is not an accident, of course. Feminization and infantilization of the society and economy has been underway coincident with deindustrialization and financialization since the 1970s-80s.run75441 -> Sanjait... November 28, 2015 at 05:51 AM
there should be a subsidy for college, because otherwise people tend to underinvest in education. Individuals are often liquidity constrained or just short sighted.
But IMO we are doing the subsidies all wrong. We are offering subsidized loans and tax deductions. We should instead be using plain old grants more often. That's how you ensure access to people who would otherwise lack it.
But the grants should be relatively small. They should just be sufficient to coverage get of a public university education, without a little t of extra amenities. The critics of higher ed who say that subsidies are driving up the costs are half right. It's really consumer preferences, for the most part. But that doesn't mean government should contribute to that problem, of that taxpayers should pay limitless amounts. Some price pressure should still be left to exist.run75441
The cost containment of colleges is the same as what is needed for healthcare. The government should intervene since it is the principal financier in more ways than one.
I am not sure of what you know; but, this might be a good place to start. http://www.deltacostproject.org/ "The Delta Cost Project" http://www.deltacostproject.org/
There is a movement afoot from the Jason Delisles, Matt Chingos, and the Beth Akers of both the New America Foundation and Brookings who advocate interest rates do not matter, higher interest rates make sense for advanced degrees, and student loans should be risk sensitive using Fair Market Valuation techniques.
Getting a student loan is like checking into a Roach Motel. You can sign in via your signature; but, you can never check out without paying it off. If you default, it gets worst for you as stated in the story. So the risk to the Federal Gov and taxpayers is minimal. Indeed some would tell you, the Gov makes more money in default than in payoff. I also think there is more to the story than being revealed.
Fix interest rates and keep them low at http://angrybearblog.com/2015/11/for-profit-college-student-loan-default-and-the-economic-impact-of-student-loans.html . Indeed households without student loans are buying at a higher rate than those households with student loans. In some cases, it is worsening.
The highest default rate is with those who have student loans of < $10,000 [~39% of them have loans of less than $10,000 (NY Fed)] and are the result of Community Colleges. Potentially these are people attempting to improve their status in life. Student loan borrowers with $100,000 of debt had a default rate of 18% and are also the higher earners after graduation.
To my knowledge and experience with Federal Direct Loans, students can go into forbearance at any time. There is also a 3 year window of no interest accumulation. After the 3 years, interest accumulates. The 3 year window of no interest accumulation needs to be expanded to cover what we experienced since 2008 and perhaps go as long as 10 years. The 20-25 life time of IBR should be shortened to 10 - 15 years. This is not like students ordered up a 2008 recession, they were penalized unknowingly and were encouraged to seek a college education of sorts. The same holds true for those returning to college to better themselves.
Not only does student debt hurt the student, it is also playing out in the overall economy as I reported using NY Fed information at AB. Households with Student Loan Debt are a higher risk than those without Student Loan Debt. They are buying fewer homes and autos than households without Student Loan debt.
State financing has decreased. In Michigan it has gone from ~60% to ~30% with families picking up the load through various sources. Perhaps expanding the public service to erase college debt after 10 years would make more sense than doing so with strings attached.
Colleges do not appear to be cost sensitive to what the market may bear. There has always been a need for them and like healthcare colleges are allowed to increase as needed in cost without question. If you can not pay it upfront, you can always borrow it seems to rule. The new programs was supposed to hold colleges accountable for default rates. From the get-go, the administration let some of them off the hook.
Jul 30, 2015 | zerohedge.comCould you live without debt? Most Americans say that they cannot.
According to a brand new Pew survey, approximately 7 out of every 10 Americans believe that "debt is a necessity in their lives", and approximately 8 out of every 10 Americans actually have debt right now. Most of us like to think that "someday" we will get out of the hole and quit being debt slaves, but very few of us ever actually accomplish this.
That is because the entire system is designed to trap us in debt before we even get out into the "real world" and keep us in debt until we die. Sadly, most Americans don't even realize what is being done to them.
In America today, debt is considered to be just part of normal life. We go into debt to go to college, we go into debt to buy a vehicle, we go into debt to buy a home, and we are constantly using our credit cards to buy the things that we think we need.
As a result, this generation of Americans is absolutely swimming in debt. The following are some of the findings of the Pew survey that I mentioned above
*"8 in 10 Americans have debt, with mortgages the most common liability."
*"Although younger generations of Americans are the most likely to have debt (89 percent of Gen Xers and 86 percent of millennials do), older generations are increasingly carrying debt into retirement."
*"7 in 10 Americans said debt is a necessity in their lives, even though they prefer not to have it."
Most of us wish that we didn't have any debt, but we have bought into the lie that it is a necessary part of life in America in the 21st century.
It has been estimated that 43 percent of all American households spend more money than they make each month, and U.S. households are more than 11 trillion dollars in debt at this point.
When it comes to government debt, that is easy for us to blame on someone else, but all of this household debt is undoubtedly something that we have done to ourselves.
It all starts at a very early age for most of us. When we are still in high school, we are endlessly told about how important a college education is. All of the authority figures in our lives insist that we should just try to get into the best school that we possibly can and to not even worry about how much it will cost.
So many of us go into staggering amounts of debt before we even get out into the working world. We had faith that the "good jobs" that were being promised to us would be there when we graduated.
Unfortunately, in this day and age those "good jobs" end up being a mirage more often than not.
But whether or not we can find a good job, we still have to pay off all that debt.
According to new data that was recently released, the total amount of student loan debt in the United States has risen to a grand total 1.2 trillion dollars. If you can believe it, that total has more than doubled over the past decade.
Right now, there are approximately 40 million Americans that are paying off student loan debt. For many of them, they will keep making payments on this debt until they are senior citizens.
Another way that they get you while you are still in school is with credit card debt.
I got my first credit card while I was in college, and nobody ever taught me about the potential dangers.
Today, the average U.S. household that has at least one credit card has approximately $15,950 in credit card debt.
So let's say that you have that much credit card debt and you are paying an annual interest rate of 17 percent. If you only pay the minimum payment each month, it will take you 229 months to pay your credit card off, and during that time you will have paid $13,505.82 in interest charges.
In other words, you will almost have paid twice as much for everything that you originally bought with your credit card by the time it is all said and done.
This is why banks love to give you credit cards. If they can get back nearly twice as much money as they originally give you, they get rich and you get poor.
Most of us get loaded down with even more debt when we go to buy a vehicle. Instead of saving up and getting what we can afford, many of us end up getting the largest loans that we can qualify for.
In a previous article, I discussed the fact that the average auto loan at signing in America today is approximately $27,000. In order to get the monthly payments down to a level where we can afford them, many of these auto loans are now being stretched out for six or seven years. In fact, the number of auto loans that exceed 72 months has hit at an all-time high of 29.5 percent.
It is the same thing with home loans.
In the old days, it was extremely rare for a mortgage to be stretched over 30 years, but today that is pretty much the standard.
Sadly, most people don't understand how much money this is costing them.
If you take out a $300,000 mortgage at 3.92 percent and stretch it over 30 years, you will end up paying back a grand total of $510,640.
In other words, you will pay for two houses by the time you are done.
Yes, we all need somewhere to live, and there are definitely negatives to renting as well. But it is very important that we all understand what is being done to us.
And I haven't even discussed one of the most insidious forms of debt yet.
Have you noticed that most doctors and most hospitals will never tell you how much something is going to cost in advance?
They get us when we are at our most vulnerable. When there is something wrong with us physically, we are often desperate to get help. So we don't ask too many questions and we just go along with whatever they say.
But then later we get the bill and we are often completely shocked by what they have charged us.
If you are completely unethical, it is a great business model. People that are extremely desperate and needy come to you and you don't even have to tell them how much your services are going to cost. And then once they leave, you send them an absolutely outrageous bill for whatever you feel like charging.
Frankly, I don't know how a lot of people working in the medical field live with themselves. In their extreme greed, they are ruining the lives of millions of ordinary American families.
One very disturbing study found that approximately 41 percent of all working age Americans either currently have medical bill problems or are paying off medical debt. And collection agencies seek to collect unpaid medical bills from about 30 million of us each and every year.
Most of us will spend our entire lives paying off debt.
That is why we are called debt slaves – our hard work makes others extremely wealthy.
All by design. The great lie is that you should "work hard and be responsible".
Yeah? Why? Because it feeds the beast in Wall Street and Washington? The bailouts and free money for the banks/corporations/insurers wiped that idea off the slate.
Give me sound money and start producing again while offering me interest on my savings and we can start talking about responsibility. The example set by Wall Street and Washington is that debt is good, so what the fuck do they expect regular folks to do, keep carrying their bags?
Fuck you assholes, to Hell and back on a bed of nails.
European AmericanIgnorance is bliss
I must confess. I declared bankruptcy back in the late 80's. Not proud of that time in my life but it was legal and it literally saved me. Since then, "If I can't buy that product/service with the cash in my wallet, then I wasn't suppose to have it." has been my philosophy for the last 25 years, and even though the State stills owns my real estate, more or less (various taxes), I'm basically free. Debt is a killer of ones mental, physical and emotional immune system. I highly recommend avoiding IT at all costs. Debit card is the only plastic money in my wallet, along with some fiat currency. My bank is the color of Gold and SIlver.NoDebtyogibear
In General People are stupid
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0he0cqHH20Hugh G Rection
And people wonder how Hitler took over in Germany.
People in the US are now more gullible than the Germans in the 20's.
Tough to keep liberty.
All the US needs is a full-fledged tyrant.chrsn
Speaking of gullible, take a look in the mirror.
Step one: stop tying in the quantity of your possessions with your self-worth. That shift in mindset alone will keep a lot of debt out of your life.NoDebt
This is one of the few topics around here that actually makes me feel good. 100% debt free for last ten years.
Paying off everything off ahead of time, cutting down the interest, was my primary goal for years.
Them damn bankers won't squeeze another penny out of me!LightSpender
Welcome to the club. Been a member for about that long myself.
I knew I'd like the financial freedom. I knew I'd like how much money it saved me.
What it took a few years debt-free to understand was that in a world measured in debt, I would become invisible. I can not be viewed using their technology any more. I'm a steath bomber with glider wings and a zero coefficient of drag.Korea98
If the 100th monkey effect applies here, we will be part of an awakened populace that watches the ctrl+alt+del of USD and the resultant house of cards.Treason Season
As we know debt is not always a bad thing. Sometimes it is worth becoming an indentured servent for a payout later.
We take out a loan, or at least most of us, for a house. This helps us build up equity instead of wasting it all on rent every month. By retirement people should own their home outright and not have to pay rent during their retirement. Most smart people are even able to downsize and stick some money in their savings.
A large percentage of people take out a loan for school. We have all read articled of idiots getting a 4 year degree in women's studies at a fancy private school, having a loan of $120,000, and never being able to pay it off. But the smart people who go to school maybe a state school, for a degree that is marketable do better than those without a degree.
A reliable car can help us save time, thus money, getting to and from work and other places. The key buying something basic and reliable and not a brand new sports car.
I'm glad we have the ability to borrow money. It has helped me immensily in my own personal life. And I would say, I would be worse off without it.
Ugh. You all know my screen name, what it stands for and my opinions on debt. Posting up on this subject borders on the tedious for me, but for those who haven't heard it yet, here it is....
If you have a valid financial reason for going into debt, that is to say you have a well-considered goal for your debt exposure, debt is not necessarily bad. For instance, if you are going to be a professional photographer you might need to buy some cameras and photography equipment that will be necessary for you to exist in that world. You are INVESTING in yourself. Nothing wrong with using debt for that if you can't pay as you go straight out of pocket.
Further down the totem pole is something like buying a house. A collateralized obligation. One you have the USE of the asset while you pay it off. I'm less enthusiastic about this sort of stuff but if it's a necessity (like having a place to live) I can't fault you for doing it. BUT IT WILL NEVER MAKE YOU MORE PRODUCTIVE OR INCREASE YOUR EARNING POWER. You feeling me on this? The key here is to pay that bitch down as fast as possible and minimize your interest expense because it's a pure dead-weight loss to you.
ANYTHING else, you don't need to go into debt over. So just don't. Better to do without than go into debt over anything beyond this point.
There really are very few exceptions to these simple rules (unless you are a government in which case everything is an excuse to go into debt since you're just spending other people's money).
Nov 09, 2015 | naked capitalism
It also never ceases to amaze me the number of anti-educational opinions which flare up when the discussion of student loan default arises. There are always those who will prophesize there is no need to attain a higher level of education as anyone could be something else and be successful and not require a higher level of education. Or they come forth with the explanation on how young 18 year-olds and those already struggling should be able to ascertain the risk of higher debt when the cards are already stacked against them legally. In any case during a poor economy, those with more education appear to be employed at a higher rate than those with less education. The issue for those pursuing an education is the ever increasing burden and danger of student loans and associated interest rates which prevent younger people from moving into the economy successfully after graduation, the failure of the government to support higher education and protect students from for-profit fraud, the increased risk of default and becoming indentured to the government, and the increased cost of an education which has surpassed healthcare in rising costs.
There does not appear to be much movement on the part of Congress to reconcile the issues in favor of students as opposed to the non-profit and for profit institutes.
Ranger Rick, November 9, 2015 at 11:34 am
It's easy to explain, really. According to the Department of Education ( https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/understand/plans ) you're going to be paying off that loan at minimum payments for 25 years. Assuming your average bachelor's degree is about $30k if you go all-loans ( http://collegecost.ed.gov/catc/ ) and the average student loan interest rate is a generous 5% ( http://www.direct.ed.gov/calc.html ), you're going to be paying $175 a month for a sizable chunk of your adult life.
If you're merely hitting the median income of a bachelor's degree after graduation, $55k (http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=77 ), and good luck with that in this economy, you're still paying ~31.5% of that in taxes (http://www.oecd.org/ctp/tax-policy/taxing-wages-20725124.htm ) you're left with $35.5k before any other costs. Out of that, you're going to have to come up with the down payment to buy a house and a car after spending more money than you have left (http://www.bls.gov/cex/csxann13.pdf).
Louis, November 9, 2015 at 12:33 pm
The last paragraph sums it up perfectly, especially the predictable counterarguments. Accurately assessing what job in demand several years down the road is very difficult, if not impossible.
Majoring in IT or Computer Science would have a been a great move in the late 1990's; however, if you graduated around 2000, you likely would have found yourself facing a tough job market.. Likewise, majoring in petroleum engineering or petroleum geology would have seemed like a good move a couple of years ago; however, now that oil prices are crashing, it's presumably a much tougher job market.
Do we blame the computer science majors graduating in 2000 or the graduates struggling to break into the energy industry, now that oil prices have dropped, for majoring in "useless" degrees? It's much easier to create a strawman about useless degrees that accept the fact that there is a element of chance in terms of what the job market will look like upon graduation.
The cost of higher education is absurd and there simply aren't enough good jobs to go around-there are people out there who majored in the "right" fields and have found themselves underemployed or unemployed-so I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of many people in my generation.
At the same time, I do believe in personal responsibility-I'm wary of creating a moral hazard if people can discharge loans in bankruptcy. I've been paying off my student loans (grad school) for a couple of years-I kept the level debt below any realistic starting salary-and will eventually have the loans paid off, though it may be a few more years.
I am really conflicted between believing in personal responsibility but also seeing how this generation has gotten screwed. I really don't know what the right answer is.
Ulysses, November 9, 2015 at 1:47 pm
"The cost of higher education is absurd and there simply aren't enough good jobs to go around-there are people out there who majored in the "right" fields and have found themselves underemployed or unemployed-so I'm not unsympathetic to the plight of many people in my generation."
To confuse going to college with vocational education is to commit a major category error. I think bright, ambitious high school graduates– who are looking for upward social mobility– would be far better served by a plumbing or carpentry apprenticeship program. A good plumber can earn enough money to send his or her children to Yale to study Dante, Boccaccio, and Chaucer.
A bright working class kid who goes off to New Haven, to study medieval lit, will need tremendous luck to overcome the enormous class prejudice she will face in trying to establish herself as a tenure-track academic. If she really loves medieval literature for its own sake, then to study it deeply will be "worth it" even if she finds herself working as a barista or store-clerk.
None of this, of course, excuses the outrageously high tuition charges, administrative salaries, etc. at the "top schools." They are indeed institutions that reinforce class boundaries. My point is that strictly career education is best begun at a less expensive community college. After working in the IT field, for example, a talented associate's degree-holder might well find that her employer will subsidize study at an elite school with an excellent computer science program.
My utopian dream would be a society where all sorts of studies are open to everyone– for free. Everyone would have a basic Job or Income guarantee and could study as little, or as much, as they like!
Ulysses, November 9, 2015 at 2:05 pm
As a middle-aged doctoral student in the humanities you should not even be thinking much about your loans. Write the most brilliant thesis that you can, get a book or some decent articles published from it– and swim carefully in the shark-infested waters of academia until you reach the beautiful island of tenured full-professorship.
If that island turns out to be an ever-receding mirage, sell your soul to our corporate overlords and pay back your loans! Alternatively, tune in, drop out, and use your finely tuned research and rhetorical skills to help us overthrow the kleptocratic regime that oppresses us all!!
subgenius, November 9, 2015 at 3:07 pm
except (in my experience) the corporate overlords want young meat.
I have 2 masters degrees 2 undergraduate degrees and a host of random diplomas – but at 45, I am variously too old, too qualified, or lacking sufficient recent corporate experience in the field to get hired
Trying to get enough cash to get a contractor license seems my best chance at anything other than random day work.
MyLessThanPrimeBeef, November 9, 2015 at 3:41 pm
Genuine education should provide one with profound contentment, grateful for the journey taken, and a deep appreciation of life.
Instead many of us are left confused – confusing career training (redundant and excessive, as it turned out, unfortunate for the student, though not necessarily bad for those on the supply side, one must begrudgingly admit – oops, there goes one's serenity) with enlightenment.
"I would spend another 12 soul-nourishing years pursuing those non-profit degrees' vs 'I can't feed my family with those paper certificates.'
jrs, November 9, 2015 at 2:55 pm
I am anti-education as the solution to our economic woes. We need jobs or a guaranteed income. And we need to stop outsourcing the jobs that exist. And we need a much higher minimum wage. And maybe we need work sharing. I am also against using screwdrivers to pound in a nail. But why are you so anti screwdriver anyway?
And I see calls for more and more education used to make it seem ok to pay people without much education less than a living wage. Because they deserve it for being whatever drop outs. And it's not ok.
I don't actually have anything against the professors (except their overall political cowardice in times demanding radicalism!). Now the administrators, yea I can see the bloat and the waste there. But mostly, I have issues with more and more education being preached as the answer to a jobs and wages crisis.
MyLessThanPrimeBeef -> jrs, November 9, 2015 at 3:50 pm
We all should be against Big Educational-Complex and its certificates-producing factory education that does not put the student's health and happiness up there with co-existing peacefully with Nature.
- "You must be lazy – you're not educated."
- "Sorry, you are too stupid for our elite university to admit, just as your brother was too poor for our rich club to let in."
- "I am going to kill you intellectually. I will annihilate you intellectually. My idea will destroy you and I don't have to feel sorry at all."
Kris Alman, November 9, 2015 at 11:11 am
Remember DINKs? Dual Income No Kids. Dual Debt Bad Job No House No Kids doesn't work well for acronyms. Better for an abbreviated hash tag?
debitor serf, November 9, 2015 at 7:17 pm
I graduated law school with $100k+ in debt inclusive of undergrad. I've never missed a loan payment and my credit score is 830. my income has never reached $100k. my payments started out at over $1000 a month and through aggressive payment and refinancing, I've managed to reduce the payments to $500 a month. I come from a lower middle class background and my parents offered what I call 'negative help' throughout college.
my unfortunate situation is unique and I wouldn't wish my debt on anyone. it's basically indentured servitude. it's awful, it's affects my life and health in ways no one should have to live, I have all sorts of stress related illnesses. I'm basically 2 months away from default of everything. my savings is negligible and my net worth is still negative 10 years after graduating.
student loans, combined with a rigged system, turned me into a closeted socialist. I am smart, hard working and resourceful. if I can't make it in this world, heck, then who can? few, because the system is rigged!
I have no problems at all taking all the wealth of the oligarchs and redistributing it. people look at me like I'm crazy. confiscate it all I say, and reset the system from scratch. let them try to make their billions in a system where things are fair and not rigged...
Ramoth, November 9, 2015 at 9:23 pm
My story is very similar to yours, although I haven't had as much success whittling down my loan balances. But yes, it's made me a socialist as well; makes me wonder how many of us, i.e. ppl radicalized by student loans, are out there. Perhaps the elites' grand plan to make us all debt slaves will eventually backfire in more ways than via the obvious economic issues?
May 06, 2019 | japantimes.co.jp
The $1.6 trillion in U.S. student debt may not pose a direct threat to the economy, but it's causing anguish that goes far beyond financial concerns for the people who owe it.
One in 15 borrowers has considered suicide due to their school loans, according to a survey of 829 people conducted last month by Student Loan Planner, a debt advisory group.
Most student debt is held by people with balances on the lower end of the scale, with only 0.8 percent of the U.S. population owing more than $100,000, according to Deutsche Bank economists. They have labeled the issue as a "micro problem" for individuals, rather than a macro problem for the economy.
Yet that still equates to 2.8 million people with around $495 billion in debt as of March, according to Department of Education data. Even more worrying is that it's an increase of almost $61 billion since the end of 2017.
Student loans are the second-biggest kind of debt in America behind home mortgages and often more expensive to service relative to the amount owed because interest rates are generally higher. Not to mention that unlike buying a home, an education isn't a tangible asset that can be sold.
It's also turning into a hot political issue as next year's presidential election approaches. Sen. Elizabeth Warren has proposed a plan to cancel loans for many borrowers, while former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper addressed some of the knock-on effects for the economy in a presentation at the Milken Institute conference earlier this week.
"Of course millennials would love to buy a house," Hickenlooper said April 30 in Los Angeles. But, "they're buried in debt!"
The following scenarios show the monthly costs associated with different levels of student debt. The first envisages a 10-year loan at 6 percent. To put the figures into perspective, a 30-year mortgage of $400,000 at current interest rates would cost about $2,000 per month.
In the second scenario, loans are shown over a 20-year term with rates at 7 percent. Monthly payments are smaller but the overall burden is bigger, with total interest payments on $100,000 of debt rising above $86,000.
Apr 20, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com
The Death Of Education In AmericaAuthored by W.J.Astore via BracingViews.com,
Trump! Mueller! Collusion!
I know: who cares about the education of our kids as the redacted Mueller Report dominates the airwaves on CNN, MSNBC, and similar cable "news" networks?
I care. I spent fifteen years as a history professor, teaching mostly undergraduates at technically-oriented colleges (the Air Force Academy ; the Pennsylvania College of Technology). What I experienced was the slow death of education in America. The decline of the ideal of fostering creative and critical thinking ; the abandonment of the notion of developing and challenging young people to participate intelligently and passionately in the American democratic experiment. Instead, education is often a form of social control , or merely a means to an end, purely instrumental rather than inspirational. Zombie education .
Nowadays, education in America is about training for a vocation, at least for some. It's about learning for the sake of earning, i.e. developing so-called marketable skills that end (one hopes) in a respectable paycheck. At Penn College, I was encouraged to meet my students "at their point of need." I was told they were my "customers" and I was their " provider ." Education, in sum, was transactional rather than transformational. Keep students in class (and paying tuition) and pray you can inspire them to see that the humanities are something more than "filler" to their schedules -- and their lives.
As a college professor, I was lucky. I taught five classes a semester (a typical teaching load at community colleges), often in two or three subjects. Class sizes averaged 25-30 students, so I got to know some of my students; I had the equivalent of tenure, with good pay and decent benefits, unlike the adjunct professors of today who suffer from low pay and few if any benefits. I liked my students and tried to challenge and inspire them to the best of my ability.
All this is a preface to Belle Chesler's stunning article at TomDispatch.com , "Making American Schools Less Great Again: A Lesson in Educational Nihilism on a Grand Scale." A high school visual arts teacher, Chesler writes from the heart about the chronic underfunding of education and how it is constricting democracy in America. Here she talks about the frustrations of classes that are simply too big to teach:
[ Class sizes grew so large ] I couldn't remember my students' names, was unable to keep up with the usual grading and assessments we're supposed to do, and was overwhelmed by stress and anxiety. Worst of all, I was unable to provide the emotional support I normally try to give my students. I couldn't listen because there wasn't time.
On the drive to work, I was paralyzed by dread; on the drive home, cowed by feelings of failure. The experience of that year was demoralizing and humiliating. My love for my students, my passion for the subjects I teach, and ultimately my professional identity were all stripped from me. And what was lost for the students? Quality instruction and adult mentorship, as well as access to vital resources -- not to mention a loss of faith in one of America's supposedly bedrock institutions, the public school
The truth of the matter is that a society that refuses to adequately invest in the education of its children is refusing to invest in the future. Think of it as nihilism on a grand scale.
Nihilism, indeed. Why believe in anything? Talk about zombie education!
What America is witnessing, she writes, is nothing short of a national tragedy:
Public schools represent one of the bedrock institutions of American democracy. Yet as a society we've stood aside as the very institutions that actually made America great were gutted and undermined by short-term thinking, corporate greed, and unconscionable disrespect for our collective future.
The truth is that there is money for education, for schools, for teachers, and for students. We just don't choose to prioritize education spending and so send a loud-and-clear message to students that education doesn't truly matter. And when you essentially defund education for more than 40 years, you leave kids with ever less faith in American institutions, which is a genuine tragedy.
Please read all of her article here at TomDispatch.com . And ask yourself, Why are we shortchanging our children's future? Why are we graduating gormless zombies rather than mindful citizens?
Perhaps Trump does have some relevance to this article after all: "I love the poorly educated," sayeth Trump . Who says Trump always lies?
Jan 20, 2019 | www.truthdig.com
RW: Well at this point I think it really depends on what indexes you're looking at. The biggest thing that's kept this economy going in the last few years should make everybody tremble. It's called debt, let me give you just a couple of examples.
Ten years ago, at the height of the crash, the total debt carried by students in the United States was in the neighborhood of $700 billion, an enormous sum.
What is it today? Over twice that, one-and-a-half trillion dollars.
The reason part of our economy hasn't collapsed is that students have taken up an enormous amount of debt that they cannot afford, in order to get degrees which will let them get jobs whose incomes will not allow them to pay back the debts. And forget about getting married, forget about having a family.
We have paid an enormous price in hobbling the generation of people who would have otherwise lifted this economy and made us more productive. It is a disastrous mistake historically, and if you face that, and if you add to it the increased debt of our businesses, and the increased debt of our government, you see an economy that is held up by a monstrous increase in debt, not in underlying productivity, not in more jobs that really produce anything, but in debt.
That should frighten us because it was the debt bubble that burst in 2008 and brought us the crash. It is as if we cannot learn in our system to do other than we've always done and that's taking us into another crash coming now.
LC: Yeah. This is the land of the free, but it seems like most of us are chained down by debt peonage.
Sep 16, 2018 | www.nakedcapitalism.comYves here. This article describes how the stigma of struggling to pay student debt is a burden in and of itself. I wish this article had explained how little it take to trigger an escalation into default interest rates and how punitive they are. The piece also stresses the value of activism as a form of psychological relief, by connecting stressed student debt borrowers with people similarly afflicted.
But the bigger issue is the way indebtedness is demonized in a society that makes it pretty much impossible to avoid borrowing. One reader recounted how many (as in how few) weeks of after tax wages it took to buy a car in the 1960s versus now. Dealers don't want to talk to buyers who want to pay in full at the time of purchase. And if you don't have installment credit or a mortgage, the consumer credit agencies ding you!
It goes without saying that the sense of shame is harder to endure due to how shallow most people's social networks are, which is another product of neoliberalism.
In keeping, the New York Times today ran an op-ed by one of its editors on how student debtors are also victims of the crisis, reprinted from a longer piece in The Baffler (hat tip Dan K). Key sections :
Because of the loans' disgracefully high interest rates, my family and I have paid more or less the equivalent of my debt itself in the years since I graduated, making monthly payments in good faith -- even in times of unemployment and extreme duress -- to lenders like Citigroup, a bank that was among the largest recipients of federal bailout money in 2008 and that eventually sold off my debt to other lenders. This ruinous struggle has been essentially meaningless: I now owe more than what I started out owing, not unlike my parents with their mortgage .
Many people have and will continue to condemn me personally for my tremendous but unexceptional student debt, and the ways in which it has made the recession's effects linger for my family. I've spent quite a lot of time in the past decade accepting this blame. The recession may have compounded my family's economic insecurity, but I also made the conscious decision to take out loans for a college I couldn't afford in order to become a journalist, a profession with minimal financial returns. The amount of debt I owe in student loans -- about $100,000 -- is more than I make in a given year. I am ashamed and embarrassed by this, but as I grow older, I think it is time that those profiting from this country's broken economic system share some of my guilt
[At my commencement in 2009] Mrs. Clinton then echoed a fantasy of boundless opportunity that had helped guide the country into economic collapse, deceiving many of the parents in attendance, including my own, into borrowing toward a future that they couldn't work hard enough to afford. "There is no problem we face here in America or around the world that will not yield to human effort," she said. "Our challenges are ones that summon the best of us, and we will make the world better tomorrow than it is today." At the time, I wondered if this was accurate. I now know how wrong she was.
By Daniela Senderowicz. Originally published in Yes! Magazine
Activists are building meaningful connections among borrowers to counter the taboo of admitting they can't pay their bills.
Gamblers and reality TV stars can claim bankruptcy protections when in financial trouble, but 44 million student loan borrowers can't. Unemployed, underpaid, destitute, sick, or struggling borrowers simply aren't able to start anew.
With a default rate approaching 40 percent , one would expect armies of distressed borrowers marching in the streets demanding relief from a system that has singled out their financial anguish. Distressed student debtors, however, seem to be terror-struck about coming forward to a society that, they say, ostracizes them for their inability to keep up with their finances.
When we spoke to several student borrowers, almost none were willing to share their names. "I can't tell anyone how much I'm struggling," says a 39-year-old Oregon physician who went into student loan default after his wife's illness drained their finances. He is terrified of losing his patients and reputation if he speaks out about his financial problems.
"If I shared this with anyone they will look down upon me as some kind of fool," explains a North Carolina psychologist who is now beyond retirement age. He explains that his student debt balance soared after losing a well-paying position during the financial crisis, and that he is struggling to pay it back.
Financial shame alienates struggling borrowers. Debtors blame themselves and self-loathe when they can't make their payments, explains Colette Simone, a Michigan psychologist. "There is so much fear of sharing the reality of their financial situation and the devastation it is causing in every facet of their lives," she says. "The consequences of coming forward can result in social pushback and possible job -- related complications, which only deepen their suffering."
Debtors are isolated, anxious, and in the worst cases have taken their own lives . Simone confirms that she has "worked with debtors who were suicidal or had psychological breakdowns requiring psychiatric hospitalization."
With an average debt of just over $37,000 per borrower for the class of 2016 , and given that incomes have been flat since the 1970s , it's not surprising that borrowers are struggling to pay. Student loans have a squeaky-clean reputation, and society tends to view them as a noble symbol of the taxpayers' generosity to the working poor. Fear of facing society's ostracism for failure to pay them back has left borrowers alienated and trapped in a lending system that is engulfing them in debt bondage.
"Alienation impacts mental health issues," says New York mental health counselor Harriet Fraad. "As long as they blame themselves within the system, they're lost."
Student debtors can counter despair by fighting back through activism and political engagement, she says. "Connection is the antidote to alienation, and engaging in activism, along with therapy, is a way to recovery."
Despite the fear of coming forward, some activists are building a social movement in which meaningful connections among borrowers can counter the taboo of openly admitting financial ruin.
Student Loan Justice, a national grassroots lobby group, is attempting to build this movement by pushing for robust legislation to return bankruptcy protections to borrowers. The group has active chapters in almost every state, with members directly lobbying their local representatives to sign on as co-sponsors to HR 2366. Activists are building a supportive community for struggling borrowers through political agitation, local engagement, storytelling, and by spreading a courageous message of hope that may embolden traumatized borrowers to come forward and unite.
Julie Margetaa Morgan , a fellow at The Roosevelt Institute, recently noted that student debt servicers like Navient have a powerful influence on lawmakers. "Student loan borrowers may not have millions to spend on lobbying, but they have something equally, if not more, powerful: millions of voices," she says.
A recent manifesto by activist and recent graduate Eli Campbell calls for radical unity among borrowers. "Young people live in constant fear that they'll never be able to pay off their debt. We're not buying houses or able to afford the hallmarks of the American dream," he explains.
In his call for a unified national boycott of student loan payments, inevitably leading to a mass default on this debt, Campbell hopes to expose this crisis and instigate radical change. In a recent interview he explained that the conditions for borrowers are so bad already that debtors may not join the boycott willingly. Instead, participation may simply happen by default given the lack of proper work opportunities that lead to borrowers' inability to pay.
While a large-scale default may not happen through willful and supportive collective action, ending the secrecy of the crisis through massive national attention may destigmatize the shame of financial defeat and finally bring debtors out of the isolation that causes them so much despair.
Activists are calling for a significant conversation about the commodification of educating our youth, shifting our focus toward investing into the promise of the young and able, rather than the guarantee of their perpetual debt bondage. In calling for collective action they soothe the hurt of so many alienated debtors, breaking the taboos that allow them to say, "Me, too" and admit openly that in this financial climate we all need each other to move forward.
Jane , September 16, 2018 at 4:15 amJVR , September 16, 2018 at 5:36 am
How much are the interest rates on student loans there in the USA? Here in India its 11.5% if you want to finance studies abroad. 8.5 for some select institutions.Epistrophy , September 16, 2018 at 6:42 am
I wonder if the media's obsession with "millenials" isn't primarily a way to try to divide people with shared interests, above all around the topics of student debt and the job market and to make the problems seem like they have shallower roots than they really do. The individuals mentioned here are older than that 24-37 age cohort, one of them much older.JTMcPhee , September 16, 2018 at 8:33 am
Dealers don't want to talk to buyers who want to pay in full at the time of purchase.
Yes Yes. Car manufacturers are actually finance houses selling products manufactured by subcontractors – such is the state of American industry – but their dream is to move to a SaaS model where ownership, of anything, becomes a relic of the past (except for the overlords and oligarchs).
This could not be possible without government corruption and revolving-door regulation. Maybe these PAYG vehicles will contain built-in body scanners too; for our own security, of course.
In his call for a unified national boycott of student loan payments, inevitably leading to a mass default on this debt, Campbell hopes to expose this crisis and instigate radical change.
Default, or radical change, would bring the economy to it's knees. But when there is another economic downturn, this is going to happen anyway. Terrible situation; negative real interest rates destroying the pensions of the elderly, student loan servitude destroying the youth and the middle class being squeezed to oblivion. What can be done to fix it, I ask?
Yet they are doing God's work, are they? Well, this is not a God I choose to worship.UserFriendly , September 16, 2018 at 6:57 am
Well good for you. How many cars, of what age, have you bought, for your anecdote to rate as anything vaguely resembling the wide reality, and how does your personal financial situation let you just write checks for $30 or $70,000?
Do a little research on car selling and you will see the pressures on the dealer sales force to suck the vast majority of buyers into long term debt. Car loans are now five or six years, routinely.
And one wonders what the investment is in trying to impeach the points of this report, wth such an unlikely and atypical claim.JTMcPhee , September 16, 2018 at 8:39 am
NYT ran the same story , interesting they edited out his total debt and major though.
Maybe a little traction, then, for the notion, and increasingly the inescapable reality, of #juststoppaying on those "remember Joe Biden" virtually non-dischargeable, often fraudulently induced, "student loan" debt shackles?
Sep 07, 2018 | news.slashdot.org
recently ruled that under some circumstances employers can link their 401(k) matching contributions to the amount of an employee's student loan repayments -- making it easier for recent graduates to take advantage of this employer benefit. But that's one spot of good news in a sea of bad, according to one anonymous Slashdot reader: Two new articles criticize America's student loan policies (under both the Obama and Trump administrations). CNBC cites reports that within six years, more than 15% of student borrowers had officially defaulted , while 10% more had stopped making payments and another 4.8% were at least 90 days late. And for-profit colleges fared even worse, where nearly 25% of graduates defaulted, and a total of 44% faced "some form of loan distress."
These trends were masked by Department of Education reports which stopped tracking repayment rates after just three years (reporting defaults rates of just 10%), according to Ben Miller, senior director for post-secondary education at the left-leaning Center for American Progress. "Official statistics present a relatively rosy picture of student debt. But looking at outcomes over more time and in greater detail shows that hundreds of thousands more borrowers from each cohort face troubles repaying."
Apr 12, 201 | 5economistsview.typepad.comLarry Mishel of the EPI:The Opportunity Dodge, The American Prospect: We think of America as the land of opportunity, but the United States actually has low rates of upward mobility relative to other advanced nations... Creating more opportunity is therefore a worthy goal. However, when the goal of more opportunity is offered instead of addressing income inequality, it's a dodge and an empty promise-because opportunity does not thrive amid great inequalities. ...The opportunity dodgers .... ignore that income inequality and intergenerational mobility are closely linked..., one of the most robust and long-standing social science research findings is that ... the circumstances in which children grow up ... greatly shapes educational advancement. So, promoting education solutions to mobility without addressing income inequality is ultimately playing pretend. We can't substantially change opportunity without changing the actual lived circumstances of disadvantaged and working-class youth. ...Acknowledging that income inequality and poverty greatly affect schooling success means we need to improve the circumstances of poor children's lives by providing stable, adequate housing and healthy, safe environments. Decent income for their parents is essential. ...Last, it is important to recognize that some people are always going to end up on the bottom and middle rungs since ... somebody has to be below average. Economic policy must also be concerned that low- and moderate-income families have decent incomes, health care, and retirement. The opportunity dodgers are really saying they do not care how low- and middle-income families actually live.
this is especially true when you see what a farce it is that ivy leagues and other top rated colleges are always trying to find "worthy" poor kids to come to their school
and how little that actually happens
the little that it does is good
but it is mostly not really happening
because to get the qualifications you really need to go to a rich school with all sorts of supports and training on standardized tests etc
Indeed equal opportunity cannot exist in the presence of high inequality. It is a lie designed to divert the blame from the rapacious rich to the supposed (and largely nonexistent) faults of the poor.
Nov 18, 2016 | www.nakedcapitalism.com
FreeMarketApologist November 17, 2016 at 8:11 amBenedict@Large November 17, 2016 at 9:29 am
In other news (but isn't everything political?):
Released earlier this week from George Washington University School of Business: "Study Finds 1 in 3 Student Loan Holders With Payments Due Are Late With Payments and More Than Half Regret Their Borrowing"
"Nearly half of young Americans start their working lives with student debt, and 43 million Americans carry student loans. A new study by the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) at the George Washington University School of Business found that many borrowers are struggling to make student loan payments and regret their borrowing.
GFLEC's newly published policy brief reports that most borrowers did not fully understand what they were taking on when they obtained student loans. Additionally, 54 percent of student loan holders did not try to figure out what their monthly payments would be before taking out loans. And 53 percent said that if they could go back and redo the process of taking out loans, they would do things differently. "
(via the securities regulator, FINRA): http://www.finra.org/newsroom/2016/study-finds-1-3-student-loan-holders-payments-due-are-late-payments-and-more-half
Direct link to the paper: http://gflec.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/GFLEC-Brief-Student-loan-debt.pdf )
Odd. I was looking at the comment by Bannon about Spanish young adult unemployment (a serious problem, as he says) and thinking, well, at least we don't have anything like that here.
No, our young adults aren't unemployed, are they? They are simply working to hand over major parts of their future to their debt bosses.
And it really is so much better that way. After all, if ours were unemployed, they might take to the streets like the Spaniards are doing.
The geography of student debt is very different than the geography of delinquency. Take the Washington, D.C. metro region. In zip codes with high average loan balances (western and central Washington, D.C.), delinquency rates are lower. Within the District of Columbia, median income is highest in these parts of the city. Similar results–low delinquency rates in high-debt areas–can be seen for Chicago, as well. (See Figure 1.)
...What explains this relationship? There appear to be two possible, and mutually consistent, theories. First, although graduate students take out the largest student loans, they are able to carry large debt burdens thanks to their higher salaries post-graduation. Second, the rise in the number of students borrowing relatively small amounts for for-profit colleges has augmented the cumulative debt load, but because these borrowers face poor labor market outcomes and lower earnings upon graduation (if they do in fact graduate), their delinquency rates are much higher. This is further complicated by the fact that these for-profit college attendees generally come from lower-income families who may not be able to help with loan repayments.
The inverse relationship between delinquency and income is not surprising, especially when considering that problems of credit access have disproportionately affected poor and minority populations in the past.
...It might seem counterintuitive that lack of access to credit results in delinquency-seemingly a problem of "too much debt." But in fact, lack of access to credit and delinquency are two sides of the same coin. Nearly everyone needs access to credit markets to meet basic economic needs, and if they can't get loans through competitive, transparent financial networks, poor people are more likely to be subjected to exploitative credit arrangements in the form of very high rates and other onerous terms and penalties, including on student loans. That disadvantage interacts with and is magnified by their lack of labor market opportunities. The result is exactly what we see across time and space: high delinquency rates for those with the least access to credit markets.
...For user-friendliness, we assign each of these student debt scale variables a qualitative category. If average loan balance on the map is "somewhat high," for example, then it means that a zip code's average loan balance is between 25 and 35 percent higher than the national average of $24,271. Similarly, if the delinquency reads "very low," it corresponds to a scale level between 0.067 and 0.091.
Figure 6 summarizes the relationship between each of the scale variables' levels and their qualitative description.
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