Trickle-up debt
July 9, 2015 1:21 PM   Subscribe

Democratic presidential candidate Martin O'Malley has a plan for providing debt-free access to a college degree for all students within five years.

He will seek to cut tuition "to no more than 10 percent of state median income at four-year public universities," and encourage "competency-based education strategies" that allow students to graduate quicker, according to campaign briefing documents. To cut non-tuition costs, O'Malley will propose expanding Pell grants and tripling the work-study program so that at least 2 million students can participate.

Martin O'Malley is no stranger to the problem of student debt: under the parental PLUS program, he is in it for $340,000 on behalf of his daughters.

Yet O'Malley is not an average parent: As Governor of Maryland, O’Malley’s $150,000 salary was more than five times less than what the top state employee made in 2010, but above average when it comes to governors’ pay across the U.S., or, of course, the average U.S. citizen.

As Rachel Fishman noted: Regardless of high or low income any family can borrow as much as O'Malley ($339K), and PLUS loans are capped at "Cost of Attendance" ($67,000 for his daughter at Georgetown).
posted by Dashy (36 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
"O'Malley will call on states to freeze tuition at state colleges and universities and to restore funding to higher education, which has been slashed for decades. He wants to encourage higher education funding with federal grants in a process still being worked out."

Ah, there it is. So he's punting it down to the states. Good luck with that.
posted by daq at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2015 [9 favorites]


If there's one thing I learned in Econ 101 in college (which I paid for myself as I worked 30-hours a week all 4 years, then giving the next 12 years of my life to the loan company), it's that there's no such thing as a free lunch. So I'd really like to hear a plausible plan for how this (very nice idea) will be paid for.

"Governor O'Malley is considering a number of possible ways to cover the cost including closing the trust fund and carried interest loopholes, taxing capital gains at the same rate as earned income, and closing tax loopholes for corporations that ship jobs overseas."

This would be nice but it sounds like he doesn't really understand the nature of our dual-party democratic system. Unless his plan allocates a whole lot of up front funding to pitchforks and tar, I don't see this happening in my kids' lifetime.
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:33 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Speaking as someone who works in higher ed, I am deeply skeptical of the "competency based" aspect of this. From what I've seen on the ground, it involves applying a vague, shifting set of standards to translating students' work and "life experience" into college credit, and frankly has an air of degree-selling to it. It also seems aimed at further eroding the need for faculty / teaching staff, making the surface-level cost/benefit analysis alluring to academic administrators who are both facing declining budgets and increasingly pulled from the private sector (and often see education as little more than a widget-like commodity - despite the lip service).
posted by ryanshepard at 1:34 PM on July 9, 2015 [22 favorites]


The underlying problem is that we have way too many people in college for career reasons that are really only there because there aren't enough jobs to go around and so there's a credential arms race.

From the places I've looked into, per student spending at state schools hasn't increased so much as the percent of people attending college has gone up while the percentage of state money going to higher education has gone down.
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:45 PM on July 9, 2015 [12 favorites]


O’Malley’s $150,000 salary was more than five times less than what the top state employee made in 2010

this guy?
posted by 7segment at 1:51 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here's a good profile of O'Malley if anyone's interested. Personally I'd much rather see the socialist (potential) candidate make it to the White House.
posted by item at 1:53 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


O'Malley's entire campaign is DOA, he's polling at about 1% and left office with huge unfavorables in his own state. He's trying to run to Clinton's left by appropriating all of Bernie Sanders' ideas, except he lacks the decades of authenticity and consistency behind Sanders. His biggest accomplishments in MD were medical marijuana and same-sex marraige, which are board standard requirements for any Democratic canidate at this point, not exactly standouts. Most of the rest of his 2 terms were bogged down in budget minutia and a slew of highly unpopular tax increases. At the same time Clinton is also being pulled left by Sanders strong early showing. There's no room for an empty suit like O'Malley with two more personable canidates already fighting over the same space.
posted by T.D. Strange at 1:55 PM on July 9, 2015 [14 favorites]


Maybe we could just spend this money making K-12 enriching enough that not so many people need to go to college. That would help just about everybody, not just those afraid of going to college because of the cost. Making college a default is just going to keep diluting the quality of education and encouraging credentialism. Not many jobs really require 16 years of education.
posted by skewed at 1:58 PM on July 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


If there's one thing I learned in Econ 101 in college (which I paid for myself as I worked 30-hours a week all 4 years, then giving the next 12 years of my life to the loan company), it's that there's no such thing as a free lunch.


That's funny- I learned it from a science fiction paperback I paid $12.99 for.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:48 PM on July 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


Not many jobs really require 16 years of education.

I'd say most jobs don't require more than 10.
posted by rhizome at 2:49 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's no room for an empty suit like O'Malley with two more personable canidates already fighting over the same space.

You're not accounting for corruption, where someone with real ideas is edged out for someone with no hope anyway.
posted by rhizome at 2:51 PM on July 9, 2015


If there's one thing I learned in Econ 101 in college (which I paid for myself as I worked 30-hours a week all 4 years, then giving the next 12 years of my life to the loan company), it's that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

That's funny - I learned it from a science fiction paperback I paid $12.99 for.


I borrowed this from my local public library. Get a library card, people.
posted by Wordshore at 3:05 PM on July 9, 2015 [7 favorites]


Here is a link to the plan, such as it is.
posted by designbot at 3:24 PM on July 9, 2015


You're not accounting for corruption, where someone with real ideas is edged out for someone with no hope anyway.

Like I said, O'Malley has no ideas of his own that aren't a shittier or less developed version of the same thing Sanders has been saying for decades.

The corruption will be when the HilaryCorp empire eventually steamrolls Bernie under an avalanche of neo-liberal money.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:40 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Also his career path was exactly the same as Carcetti's from The Wire, and wellfrankly I don't think anyone is prepared to see Littlefinger in the White House.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:13 PM on July 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


If there's one thing I learned in Econ 101 in college...

Beware the effects of Econ 101.
posted by chortly at 5:05 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm still astounded at that amount of debt, transferred back to generation y-1, times n children.

Here's a morbid thought ... student loan debt can't be discharged in bankruptcy, but it will get retired when he dies.

And he could rack it up so easily, without limit except for the fictional cost of a year at private university.
posted by Dashy at 5:32 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, he's talking about Wall Street, at least. Not that Sanders isn't, but I haven't heard anything substantial from Hillary.
posted by ropeladder at 5:49 PM on July 9, 2015


It's not fair, but unfortunately my brain substitutes "Tommy Carcetti" whenever Martin O'Malley's name comes up
posted by thivaia at 6:06 PM on July 9, 2015


Just want to say that I'm a Marylander and I like Martin O'Malley. Whatever else you may say about him, he made things work in Maryland during his tenure. During an extremely difficult time, I would say. I was never given the impression that he wasn't interested in me or any constituent and in what they had to say.
posted by newdaddy at 7:34 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


As Governor of Maryland, O’Malley’s $150,000 salary was more than five times less than what the top state employee made in 2010

How is this possible? How did the top state employee in Maryland only make 30k? My ex works for the state of Georgia, and made 40k as a starting salary. Georgia! Just about any full time union laborer ought to make more than that. 30k is basically poor if you have children. Sure as hell can't buy a house and pay student debt off on it. Can that really be a real stat? Maryland must be a rough place.
posted by dis_integration at 7:39 PM on July 9, 2015


As Governor of Maryland, O’Malley’s $150,000 salary was more than five times less than what the top state employee made in 2010

That's a truly, astoundingly bad sentence. "more than five times less"??? I had to think about it for a minute, before figuring out the author meant that the governor makes less than one-fifth what the top Maryland employee makes. That's because the top Maryland employee makes around $800,000. The top state employees of just about every state are football/basketball coaches, administrators or law/medical professors at one of that state's universities.
posted by skewed at 7:50 PM on July 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yeah I feel pretty stupid now.
posted by dis_integration at 7:57 PM on July 9, 2015


If there's one thing I learned in Econ 101 in college (which I paid for myself as I worked 30-hours a week all 4 years, then giving the next 12 years of my life to the loan company), it's that there's no such thing as a free lunch. So I'd really like to hear a plausible plan for how this (very nice idea) will be paid for.

Take Econ 201.
posted by srboisvert at 8:04 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


Not many jobs really require 16 years of education.

I'd say most jobs don't require more than 10


I'd say that society is greatly enriched by widespread education in ways that have no connection to the employability of its recipients.
posted by flaterik at 8:18 PM on July 9, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'd say that society is greatly enriched by widespread education in ways that have no connection to the employability of its recipients.

That type of sentiment doesn't make you very employable.
posted by vorpal bunny at 8:48 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Something about lumping in college debt caused by paying full price for Georgetown (at $70k a year) with the general issue of college accessibility rubs me the wrong way. It strikes me as an inherently inegalitarian expenditure--you are either making an expensive luxury purchase or paying to get your kid into the elite. There's nothing wrong with choosing to do that, exactly, but it strikes me as discretionary in a way that a degree from a solid school isn't.
posted by mark k at 8:49 PM on July 9, 2015


If there's one thing I learned in Econ 101 in college (which I paid for myself as I worked 30-hours a week all 4 years, then giving the next 12 years of my life to the loan company), it's that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

This is actually sort of ironic, dontyathink, because there are lots of free lunches in econ 101. The whole basis of market exchange is that if we voluntarily exchange things, we both end up better off, and that extra welfare or utility appears out of nowhere. Like a midday meal you didn't pay for.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:58 PM on July 9, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'd say that society is greatly enriched by widespread education in ways that have no connection to the employability of its recipients.

Which makes the fact of higher education's systematic impoverishment of the citizenry even more ironic.
posted by AdamCSnider at 9:01 PM on July 9, 2015


There's nothing wrong with choosing to do that, exactly, but it strikes me as discretionary in a way that a degree from a solid school isn't.

But the difference between Georgetown and Decent State U isn't that massive any more, especially for out-of-state students. I can sort of understand why O'Malley's children didn't go to in-state colleges -- they were more likely to be The Governor's Kids there, and at least some of the college experience is tied up with getting away from your family and home region. The optics are rough, though.

US college tuition (and tuition debt) is at the "if it can't go on forever, it will stop" stage. The question now is when it's likely to stop.
posted by holgate at 9:29 PM on July 9, 2015


But the difference between Georgetown and Decent State U isn't that massive any more, especially for out-of-state students.

Berkeley is one of the top universities in the nation and is $13k in-state tuition, double that including including room & board. This is really high-priced, as a UC graduate who paid around 10% of that in tuition when I went I find it really embarrassing we've done this to the next generation. The very idea of access for all is faded, though at least we have state universities here still at about half the cost.

OTOH Georgetown is $70k per the article. Public schools are expensive now compared to twenty years ago but private schools are vastly more. The difference here is an extra $200k over a 4-year run to go to a name-brand school. It is "not massive" only to a relatively select few, or possibly to a young kid with no sense of what these numbers mean.

I can sort of understand why O'Malley's children didn't go to in-state colleges -- they were more likely to be The Governor's Kids there, and at least some of the college experience is tied up with getting away from your family and home region.

Again, I'm not saying anyone who has the money is wrong for choosing to spend it on their kids education. But this is moving the discussion from "affording access to quality education" to "spending habits of people who have access to a lot of money."
posted by mark k at 10:37 PM on July 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


spending habits of people who have access to a lot of money

That's the thing, though -- O'Malley earned a fair amount*, yes, but not orthopedic surgeon, hedge fund, A Lot of Money money.

So it's about spending habits, and debt habits, but of the absolutely ruinous kind (ie, 3x yearly salary). That there was no real limit to, and no way out of.

*as with any politician, I would imagine, like many people would, that he has backdoor access to ... lots more money. But that isn't documented here, nor is inherited money, and I kind of doubt he'd be taking on $340k in debt if he had access to either of those.
posted by Dashy at 6:58 AM on July 10, 2015


How much of the sticker price is going to sports teams at the state schools?
posted by Slackermagee at 7:27 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


So it's about spending habits, and debt habits, but of the absolutely ruinous kind (ie, 3x yearly salary). That there was no real limit to, and no way out of.

Hmm. I realize I'm repeating myself, but there is a simple way out of it: By going to a state university the debt could be reduced by about 70% right off the bat. And assuming all of the debt as a parent is awesome but is also not normal. If there's no way out of it you simply can choose not to do it, to pass some on to your kids and their income too. It's like thinking your kid would benefit from a car to get to work, buying a Porsche, then saying auto payments are ruinous.

The psychological issue is someone making three times the national average feels they should be able to afford an elite private school. But an elite school, or even a non-elite private school, is a luxury purchase. That someone in the top quintile can't afford luxuries that were once normal is a symptom of rising inequality, sure, but it's a very specific kind of unfairness.
posted by mark k at 7:42 AM on July 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Public schools are expensive now compared to twenty years ago but private schools are vastly more. The difference here is an extra $200k over a 4-year run to go to a name-brand school.

Among the other substantial changes in how higher ed gets funded and paid for over the last 30 years, a lot of universities have increased tuition and financial aid at the same time. You want to look at the net price, which is the total cost of attendance (including room and board, books, etc) minus grant aid.

Last year, average net price at Berkeley including room and board was $16655. For people living off campus, this corresponds to an average net tuition of about $2000. Georgetown's average net price is about $25K or about $9K net tuition (but they don't list off-campus TCA so some of those "living expenses" are just hidden tuition).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:15 AM on July 10, 2015


Another person in higher ed here.

State universities _can_ be expensive if attended by out-of-state students, and publics have been working hard to increase the number of those students.
posted by doctornemo at 10:42 AM on July 10, 2015


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