July 10, 2013
Oregon's Very Radical and Very Terrible Plan to Make College 'Tuition-Free'

For the past week, the world of higher education has been buzzing aboutOregon, where state legislators have taken the first step towards a radical attempt at combating student debt. The proposed “Pay It Forward” plan is catchy as it is seemingly straightforward. Colleges would no longer charge their undergraduates tuition up front. Instead, students would promise to pay a fixed percentage of their income to the state for a set number of years after graduation. 

You earn a lot, you pay a lot. You earn a little, you pay a little. But most importantly, nobody has to take out loans to cover the cost of classes. 

It’s bold. It sounds progressive. And if implemented, it could be a boondoggle. Here’s why.

The Plan
To be absolutely clear, Pay It Forward is nowhere close to becoming a reality. So far, Oregon’s legislature has passed a bill instructing a state commission to consider the idea and possibly flesh out a pilot program that would itself have to be approved by lawmakers. What officially exists now barely qualifies as an outline. 

That said, we have an decent sense of what the plan might look like in practice. As originally proposed by a group called Students for Educational Debt Reform, bachelor’s degree recipients would pay 3 percent of their annual income for 24 years after finishing school, while community college grads would pay 1.5 percent. In other words, each full year of college would cost 0.75 percent of a student’s earnings. The average B.A. completing their degree today would pay an estimated $39,653 over a lifetime, more than $7,000 above the actual cost of tuition and fees. That extra money would go towards making the system self-sustaining over the long term. However, taxpayers would have to keep footing their portion of the state’s higher ed bill. Pay It Forward would only replace the costs currently covered by tuition.

The Upside
There are some potential advantages to this approach. First, the obvious: fewer loans. Under Pay It Forward, Oregon students would not borrow any money to cover tuition. That means less debt impacting their credit score. And, just like under income-based repayment plans for federal student loans, there’s zero chance of default. 

The plan also has an appealing progressive streak. Future One Percenters will pay the most for their educations. Graduates that find themselves mixing espresso drinks after commencement, or who devote themselves to low-pay careers like teaching, will pay the least.

Meanwhile, the system might encourage poor students to reach for better, more selective colleges. Some higher-ed experts, such as the University of Wisconsin’s Sara Goldrick-Rab, argue that low-income students are discouraged from applying to top schools by so-called “sticker-shock.” They see the astronomical advertised price of tuition at State U. and assume they can’t afford it, even if the admissions office promises that they’ll provide ample financial aid. Part of the problem may be that poor and working class families have little trust in large, unfamiliar institutions. But under Pay It Forward, up-front tuition is no longer an issue, and there’s no need to guess about grants and other aid. 

Finally, the program could potentially enforce some spending discipline on Oregon’s colleges. Without the ability to raise tuition, schools will be forced to clamp down on their most profligate habits.  

The Downside
So what could go wrong? Lots, sadly. Because Pay It Forward wouldn’t eliminate student debt completely, it might inadvertently make college less financially manageable for some students. At the same time, it could drive the most talented young people out of the state college system altogether. And, to top it all off, the whole plan might be financially unsustainable for the state.

Let’s take those one at a time. 

One of the fiercest critics of Pay It Forward so far has actually been Wisconsin’s Goldrick-Rab. In a lengthy, must-read vivisection* of the policy posted today at The Century Foundation, she hones in on what I think is one of the idea’s biggest weaknesses: it would still leave plenty of students buried in loans. 

It’s a major misconception that student debt is driven entirely by tuition. In many cases, it’s not. At public schools, and especially community colleges, room, board, and supplies like textbooks are often far more expensive, especially once you take institutional aid into account. Pay it forward delays the cost of classes until after graduation, but not the cost of housing, meals, or course materials. So, as Goldrick-Rab points out, the typical student at The University of Oregon would still be staring down about $14,000 a year in expenses. Working 20-hours a week at a minimum-wage job, she notes, would earn them $7,000 after taxes. The other $7,000? Either they’d pay it upfront with family help, or they’d borrow it. (That’s one of the reasons she’s doubtful the plan would help with sticker shock). 

Which brings us to why Pay It Forward might actually be a bad deal for some cash-strapped students. Today, financially troubled federal loan borrowers have the option of wrapping all their debts into an income-based repayment program that caps their monthly bill at 10 percent of discretionary earnings. It’s a great safety net. But under Pay It Forward, BA’s from Oregon would still have to pay an additional 3 percent of their income, for 24 years. 

Now, supporters of the Oregon plan do have a counterargument. Ending tuition as we know it would free students to spend their financial aid money on living expenses. For instance, federal Pell Grant recipients could use their awards to cover housing instead of course credits. The problem is that most students don’t get Pell Grants. Most students would still face a very real possibility of having to borrow. 

Of course, those students who wouldn’t have needed to borrow may have it even worse. After all, there’s a good chance they’ll be paying more for their education over time than if they had simply been allowed to pay up front.

The next big issue is what I call the engineer problem. If you’re a student who plans to make a lot of money after college, say as an engineer or a computer programmer, Pay as You Go is a terrible deal. The average student is already asked to pay more than the value of their tuition over time. Students who make higher than average salaries will be asked to pay vastly more. If you’re a student contemplating grad school, say to become a doctor or a lawyer, the problem may be even worse, since chances are you’ll be relying on an income-based repayment program to handle your federal loans down the line anyway. Depending on the precise math, it may no longer be worthwhile for a talented student to attend an Oregon public school instead of a private institution that might offer them merit aid. 

The engineer problem would also pose an accounting headache for the state. Remember, the system assumes that high-earning students will balance-out low-earning ones. Cut the high-earners out of the equation, and students will suddenly need to pay a higher percentage of their income to keep the system solvent.  

That said, what it would take to keep the system solvent is a bit of an open question in the first place. Advocates have suggested that state would need to spend $9 billion over a quarter century before enough former students are paying into the program to cover its costs. The problem (well, one of the problems) is that their calculations appear to be based on the earnings of college graduates. But only half of Oregon public college students finish a B.A. within six years, and dropouts tend to earn far less than their classmates who earn a degree. Their figure is also based on a projection of the economy’s health and college graduate earnings decades from now, which is utter guesswork. If those estimates don’t pan out, the whole idea could turn into a financial albatross for taxpayers. Or, possibly worse, the state would have to ask students to pay back more of their income.

Ordinarily, when state legislators tell a committee to study an offbeat policy idea, it doesn’t generate headlines in the New York Times. But the attention the Oregon plan has received speaks to just how frustrated Americans have become with student debt, and how desperate they are for a solution. But there are no simple fixes at this point, and the last thing we want to do is make a sad situation even worse.

_________________________________

*A few of my points later in this post are similar to hers, though not altogether the same. In any case, I’d like to give credit where it’s due, and encourage any education wonks out there to read her whole take. 

July 16, 2012

(via libertariancontrarian)

June 17, 2012

Carol Paul on Ron Paul Radio - Rand did not consult family on Romney endorsement, Ron still true


It’s Father’s Day today so I’m wondering if Rand has called home yet….

(Source: youtube.com)

June 17, 2012
Rodney King dead at 47

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 12:40 PM EDT, Sun June 17, 2012

Los Angeles (CNN) — Rodney King, whose beating by Los Angeles police in 1991 was caught on camera and sparked riots after the acquittal of the four officers involved, was found dead in his swimming pool Sunday, authorities and his fiancee said. He was 47.

Police in Rialto, California, received a 911 call from King’s fiancee, Cynthia Kelly, about 5:25 a.m., said Capt. Randy DeAnda. Responding officers found King at the bottom of the pool, removed him and attempted to revive him. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital, DeAnda said.

There were no preliminary signs of foul play, he said, and no obvious injuries on King’s body. Police are conducting a drowning investigation, DeAnda said, and King’s body would be autopsied.

"His fiancee heard him in the rear yard," he said, and found King in the pool when she went outside.

Kelly was a juror in King’s lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles in 1994.

Read More: http://www.cnn.com/2012/06/17/us/obit-rodney-king/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

(Source: CNN)

May 10, 2012
Fed Foe Ron Paul Breakfasts With Bernanke at Central Bank

May 9, 2012, 10:08 PM

By Kristina Peterson

Republican presidential hopeful Rep. Ron Paul certainly wants to end the Federal Reserve. But he also has to eat breakfast.

One day after chairing a hearing on proposals to abolish or overhaul the central bank, the Texan congressman sat down for the first meal of the day Wednesday with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, the lawmaker confirmed in a brief interview at the Capitol. The decision to meet for breakfast at the Fed was “mutual,” said Mr. Paul, who last year introduced a bill to eliminate the central bank.

The Fed chief and lawmaker had “sort of an open discussion,” Mr. Paul said, while declining to provide any details of the conversation. “It was off the record,” he said. The Fed declined to comment on the meeting.

Wednesday’s visit to the Fed’s Washington headquarters was not the first for Mr. Paul, who has said previously he dined at the central bank with former Fed Chairman Paul Volcker.

Nor is it unusual for Mr. Bernanke to play host to lawmakers, including those proposing to refashion the Fed. The Fed chief had breakfast in February with Rep. Kevin Brady(R., Texas) who earlier this year introduced a bill that would narrow the Fed’s mandate to focus solely on price stability. Currently, the central bank has a dual mandate that also requires it to strive for maximum employment.

Still, Wednesday’s breakfast brought together two figures who publicly agree on very little. A longtime critic of paper currency and fan of the gold standard, Mr. Paul’s fiery Fed-bashing has enthused his campaign trail supporters, who often start rallies with loud chants of “end the Fed!”
Mr. Bernanke, meanwhile, dedicated a significant chunk of his first lecture at George Washington University in March to enumerating the flaws associated with a system in which the dollar is valued at a fixed price per unit of gold.

So did Wednesday’s meeting overturn any deep-set beliefs?

“He’s for the gold standard now,” joked Mr. Paul.”

(Source: The Wall Street Journal)

May 9, 2012
Blogger/Libertarian opinions on Marriage:

Here are some of the best responses I’ve seen on why it’s imperative to get GOVERNMENT out of MARRIAGE. 

Marriage is not sacred as long as government is involved. 
Do you know what ruins the sanctity of marriage? Government issued marriage licences. 
Don’t understand what I mean? Read on: 
"I see North Carolina passed the Amendment defining marriage as man and woman

I’ve seen a bunch of posts bitching and complaining.  

But most of these posts are from the same idiots who promote big government.  This is what big government does right here.  A government strong enough to “give” you rights is strong enough to “take” your rights.  

The problem here is government.  

Governments shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all.  Marriage is a contractual agreement between consenting people.  If we accept the fact that government is a necessary evil, one which I don’t though.   But if we do, this is the extent to which government should be involved in marriage.  

But I’m sure the same idiots who love big government won’t put the blame here where it belongs, with big government. 

The only way there can be true equality is with a free market society.”  - www.baseballlibertarian.tumblr.com, @baseballlibertarian


"I don’t support gay marriage.

I support get-the-government-the-hell-out-of-voluntary-associations-between-individuals.”

- www.statehate.tumblr.com, @statehate

As I’ve said repeatedly: how individuals wish to peaceably associate and live their lives should not be subject to majority opinion nor permission from “superiors.” Why should anyone need permission from politicians or the public at large or any third party to peacefully pursue their happiness?

Get government out of marriage.

L.A. Liberty: On North Carolina’s Amendment One 

Also:  How those who support government dictation of who can and cannot marry don’t see the potential for this to backfire is astounding to me.

Without getting all slippery-slope on you, it’s not hard to imagine how theextremely simplistic text of the anti-gay marriage amendment which passed in North Carolina yesterday could have unforeseen ramifications (see herehere, and here, for instance).  

It’s also not hard to imagine that the more authority we give government in defining marriage — whether in anti- or pro-gay marriage measures — the more it may wish to define our other most personal relationships and dealings.  If we need a license to get married, mightn’t we also need a license to have a child?  To get divorced?  To decide where we want to live?  To pick a career?  All of these are decisions of similar, though of course not identical, importance.  (In fact, it honestly surprises me that in a country where you can’t decide to ingest something if the government says “no” or to marry someone if a law objects, we are still allowed to have children at will.  No pot, but you can make a whole new person if you want!)

All that to say, as L.A. Liberty put it:  Get government out of marriage.”

- www.hipsterlibertarian.tumblr.com, @hipsterlibertarian

Blog sites here: http://statehate.tumblr.com/http://baseballlibertarian.tumblr.com/http://hipsterlibertarian.com/

May 8, 2012

Gary Johnson on Running as the Libertarian Nominee

May 7, 2012

Libertarian Presidential Nominee Gary Johnson on his third-party campaign for President.

May 2, 2012
theatlantic:

How a Rip in This Picasso is Worth $7.5 Million

Femme Assise dans un Fauteuil (Woman Sitting in a Chair), a jaggedy portrait in the typical Picasso style, will hit the auction block tonight at Sotheby’s. And in the scrutiny of what’s expected to be the second-most-expensive piece of art sold in the next two weeks (asking price: $20 to $30 million, in case you’re in the market), we learn how much a two-inch tear in a Picasso can cost.
Here’s the story: a lawsuit dug up on the painting reveals that in 2009, financer Teddy Forstmann’s insurance company sued an art gallery housing the portrait for a rip below the figure’s neck due to “careless, negligent, reckless, and otherwise improper handling of the work,” according to Vanity Fair’s Alexandra Peers. That supposedly reduced the value of the painting by $7.5 million, the amount the insurance company paid out to Forstmann, according to the claim. Sotheby’s only slyly mentioned the repair, without fully disclosing the damage: “There is a two-inch repair below the figure’s neck where the canvas has been stitched. … Under UV light, one hairline retouching to address repair, otherwise fine.”
Read more at The Atlantic Wire.

theatlantic:

How a Rip in This Picasso is Worth $7.5 Million

Femme Assise dans un Fauteuil (Woman Sitting in a Chair), a jaggedy portrait in the typical Picasso style, will hit the auction block tonight at Sotheby’s. And in the scrutiny of what’s expected to be the second-most-expensive piece of art sold in the next two weeks (asking price: $20 to $30 million, in case you’re in the market), we learn how much a two-inch tear in a Picasso can cost.

Here’s the story: a lawsuit dug up on the painting reveals that in 2009, financer Teddy Forstmann’s insurance company sued an art gallery housing the portrait for a rip below the figure’s neck due to “careless, negligent, reckless, and otherwise improper handling of the work,” according to Vanity Fair’s Alexandra Peers. That supposedly reduced the value of the painting by $7.5 million, the amount the insurance company paid out to Forstmann, according to the claim. Sotheby’s only slyly mentioned the repair, without fully disclosing the damage: “There is a two-inch repair below the figure’s neck where the canvas has been stitched. … Under UV light, one hairline retouching to address repair, otherwise fine.”

Read more at The Atlantic Wire.

April 29, 2012

Wanna know what happens when a senator endorses Romney at the Alaska State Convention? [HD]

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