EDITORIAL: Parents must do homework of their own when making college plans for their kids

York Dispatch
  • The nation's largest student-loan company is accused of abusive practices.
  • State budget talks have collapsed, leaving higher-education funding in limbo.
  • Student who attended for-profit colleges were twice as likely to to default on their loans.

If you’re a parent hoping to send a child to college, these are uneasy times.

And it all comes down to one petrifying word — money.

Education logo

Everyone knows it can cost a small fortune to send a child to college. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree at a top university can set you back $250,000 — maybe more.

That’s a daunting number for any middle-class family.

In the past week or so, however, a few news stories have emerged that will add to the parental anxiety about the skyrocketing cost of a college education.

Two of those stories could have a direct impact on Pennsylvania parents.

Student loans: First, a new federal lawsuit by Pennsylvania’s attorney general says the nation’s largest student-loan company engaged in abusive practices that have cost borrowers billions of dollars.

Pennsylvania attorney general sues student loan company

The complaint filed Thursday in federal court in Harrisburg says Navient Corp. and Navient Solutions LLC sold “risky and expensive” subprime loans and damaged borrowers and co-signers by failing to perform core loan servicing duties.

The lawsuit says the companies funneled people into a program that added massive interest costs when they should have been directing them into repayment plans indexed to income.

Navient issued a statement saying the allegations are unfounded.

Budget talks: Second, the collapse of budget negotiations left state aid to five Pennsylvania universities in limbo three months into the fiscal year, and a quiet and empty Pennsylvania Capitol ensured that the schools will have to wait longer for the money, if they ever get it.

Collapse of Pennsylvania budget talks leaves higher ed aid in limbo

House Republican Leader Dave Reed, R-Indiana, said the state needs the money to pay for the aid before the chamber will send the legislation to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

However, House members have been unwilling to deliver a tax package that Wolf deems large enough to help deal with Pennsylvania’s entrenched post-recession deficit. The House has no plans to return before Oct. 16.

For-profit colleges: Finally, there was the news that students who attended for-profit colleges were twice as likely or more to default on their loans than students who attended public educational institutions, according to a federal study published Wednesday.

Study: For-profits blamed for many student debt defaults

The report by the National Center of Education Statistics looks at students who began their undergraduate education in 2003 and defaulted on at least one loan over the next 12 years. Fifty-two percent of the students who attended for-profit schools defaulted on their loan. That’s compared to 17 percent for those who attended a four-year public institution and 26 percent at community college.

Do your homework: So, given those disturbing reports, what is a parent to do?

It’s pretty simple. Just like your kids, you must do your homework.

When there are hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake, you simply can’t allow yourself to get hoodwinked by shady lending practices or fly-by-night, for-profit “universities.” And you can’t depend on state politicians to fund higher education in a fair and timely manner.

In other words, you’re on your own to develop a plan that can get your kids the best bang for your educational buck.

It'll be hard work. You’ll have to do plenty of research and make lots of tough choices.

In the end, however, a little homework now could save you plenty of headaches later.