Monday Reading List: Obstacles to College Graduation, Predatory (Student) Loans, and Terrorizing Immigrant Families

Meredith Kolodner, writing at The Hechinger Report, looks at the most typical reasons college students do not graduate on time. Balancing school with earning is a big one:

There is no doubt that a student debt crisis exists in the United States, and an entire generation is buckling under its weight. But that doesn’t mean debt should be avoided at all costs, experts say. “Students who are worried about debt sometimes work more and then reduce their course load,” said Robert Kelchen, a professor of higher education at Seton Hall who studies student debt ... About 40 percent of undergraduates work 30 hours a week or more, though a new study finds that anything more than 25 hours can get in the way of passing classes, especially for low-income students. Only 45 percent of students who work more than that are able to keep their grade-point averages above 3.0, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. The percentage goes down as the hours go up.

Most of the people who write, and make policy, about education went to selective colleges and universities. The fact that almost half of college students are working nearly full-time hours while pursuing a degree suggests that the "elite" experience is far from the norm. Policymaking should better reflect the needs and perspectives of the students who depend on higher education as a mechanism for social mobility, and don't have the luxury of choosing between "school" and "work."

For those lucky enough to graduate with a degree, student loan repayment can be a lifelong albatross. Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg are in The New York Times examining a particularly predatory lender:

In recent months, the student loan giant Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014 and retained nearly all of the company’s loan portfolio, has come under fire for aggressive and sloppy loan collection practices, which led to a set of government lawsuits filed in January. But those accusations have overshadowed broader claims, detailed in two state lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, that Sallie Mae engaged in predatory lending, extending billions of dollars in private loans to students ... that never should have been made in the first place. “These loans were designed to fail,” said Shannon Smith, chief of the consumer protection division at the Washington State attorney general’s office. New details unsealed last month in the state lawsuits against Navient shed light on how Sallie Mae used private subprime loans — some of which it expected to default at rates as high as 92 percent — as a tool to build its business relationships with colleges and universities across the country.

So, basically Sallie Mae and Navient were using the most vulnerable families and students as loss-leaders in attempt to squeeze money out of the system. If the predatory relationship among unaccountable universities and unscrupulous student loan providers doesn't both you, you might want to see if your moral compass is functioning correctly. There are lots of galling details in this article so be sure to read the whole thing.

In other news, public officials in Denver are mad that federal immigration officials violated the local government's attempt to create safe learning environments for children. Eric Gorski of Chalkbeat has the story:

In a letter Thursday to the acting chief of the local ICE field office, officials including Mayor Michael Hancock and Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg asked that the agency follow its own policy in respecting such “sensitive locations” while carrying out their duties. The letter in part was triggered by a March 14 incident that rattled one Denver school community. That morning, federal immigration agents dressed in black arrived at a residence directly adjacent to Colorado High School Charter in west Denver, a neighborhood that is home to many immigrant families, according to the letter. The enforcement action, which was planned, came during morning drop-off in plain view of students and families, it said.

ICE's own policy - which these employees did not follow - reflects the idea that arresting families adjacent to school property is reprehensible. If you don't think that these activities have the effect of terrorizing families, you should talk to children and parents in immigrant communities. You'll change your mind. Fast. I'm glad that the mayor and superintendent of Denver are taking action.

Finally, Tara García Mathewson is in The Atlantic, looking at the complexity of starting a dual-language school in Boston:

[Geralde] Gabeau has been part of a committed group of Haitian leaders who have spent much of the last decade pushing Boston Public Schools to open a dual-language program, in which children can take their classes, from math to social studies, in both English and Haitian Creole. The language is the third most-spoken language in Boston Public Schools, second only to English and Spanish—and the Spanish-speaking community has had a dual-language program that caters to its children since 1970. Dual-language programs have been growing in popularity nationally for several years now, spurred on by demand among native speakers of common languages as well as monolingual English speakers who want all the benefits that come from bilingualism.

It's hard to find anyone who will deny the cognitive benefits of bilingualism, and the most fertile context for bilingual education is where a dual-language community exists organically, like in the Boston Haitian-Creole community. That said, there is significant cultural and linguistic subtext in the debate about bilingual education, much of which revolves around power and privilege. García Mathewson does a nice job of tackling those themes in this piece, so please check it out. Have a great week!