“How student loans help keep expensive schools in business”

…is the title of a Post op-ed questioning whether federal student loan assistance is most wisely allocated toward grad schools. The piece questions, in particular, low-rate loans for law students:

Nowhere has Grad PLUS [the government's loan assistance program for graduate students] had a greater impact than in the nation’s law schools. Law-student indebtedness grew from an average of $66,000 for public institutions in the 2005 academic year to $88,000 in 2012, according to a recent American Bar Association (ABA) task force report. The figures for private law schools were $102,000 in 2005 and $127,000 in 2012. More than half of law students use Grad PLUS.

But after the Great Recession, the piece notes, the legal profession has been restructuring and demand for lawyers has decreased, leading to only a 60% immediate employment rate for law school graduates in the class of 2013. Instead of causing law schools to rethink their models, the op-ed argues, "the flow of easy taxpayer-backed loan money through Grad PLUS operated as a de facto bailout, enabling many law schools to maintain capacity and delay reforms, or settle for modest ones, while continuing to charge more or less the same high tuition."

I don't know enough about the industry to judge whether it's a fair charge that misdirected student loan money is responsible for spiraling grad school (and particularly law school) cost. After all, undergrad tuition has been spiking too. But it's an argument worth considering.

Read the full piece here.

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