Consumers now owe more on their student loans than their credit cards.
Americans owe some $826.5 billion in revolving credit, according to June 2010 figures from the Federal Reserve. (Most of revolving credit is credit-card debt.) Student loans outstanding today — both federal and private — total some $829.785 billion, according to Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org and FastWeb.com.“The growth in education debt outstanding is like cooking a lobster,” Mr. Kantrowitz says. “The increase in total student debt occurs slowly but steadily, so by the time you notice that the water is boiling, you’re already cooked."
If you have a child in college, or are planning to send one there soon, Craig Brandon has a message for you: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The Five-Year Party provides the most vivid portrait of college life since Tom Wolfe's 2004 novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons. The difference is that it isn't fiction. The alcohol-soaked, sex-saturated, drug-infested campuses that Mr. Brandon writes about are real. His book is a roadmap for parents on how to steer clear of the worst of them.
Many of the schools Mr. Brandon describes are education-free zones, where students' eternal obligations—do the assigned reading, participate in class, hand in assignments—no longer apply. The book's title refers to the fact that only 30% of students enrolled in liberal-arts colleges graduate in four years. Roughly 60% take at least six years to get their degrees. That may be fine with many schools, whose administrators see dollar signs in those extra semesters.
In an effort to win applicants, Mr. Brandon says, colleges dumb down the curriculum and inflate grades, prod students to take out loans they cannot afford, and cover up date rape and other undergraduate crime. The members of the faculty go along with the administration's insistence on lowering standards out of fear of losing their jobs. ...
The Five-Year Party is a useful handbook for parents to pack when they take their teenager on a college tour, and its list of suggested questions is smart. My favorite: How many of the school's professors send their own children there? More broadly, Mr. Brandon urges parents not to assume that their child is college material and to consider community colleges and vocational schools, whose curriculums tend to focus on teaching specific job skills.