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Harvard Program Fails Federal Gainful Employment Test, Pauses Admissions

Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley 6084 replies100309 postsFounder Senior Member
Federal sanctions aren't just for predatory for-profits any more... The Harvard A.R.T. Institute (not to be confused with the plethora of Art Institute for-profit offerings in culinary arts, etc.) made the list of schools where the loan amounts don't lead to appropriate salaries. From the NYTimes:
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/13/upshot/harvard-too-obamas-final-push-to-catch-predatory-colleges-is-revealing.html

The A.R.T. program has been selective, admitting only 24 students a year into a graduate program for "acting, dramaturgy or voice pedagogy." The average graduate of the program borrows $78,000 and earns a mere $36,000 per year. Harvard is pausing admissions to the program for this year.

This raises an interesting question... I am sure the experience is great and that the graduates are talented. I'm equally sure nobody would want to deny these students the right to spend a bunch of money to pursue their dream and work in a field they love. Even those who don't achieve stardom may make great artistic contributions and enjoy their work tremendously. Not everybody wants to work for Goldman Sachs or Google, nor should they. BUT, should the taxpayers support these students and incur a high risk of non-payment? And, even more important, should anyone be discouraging young people from assuming what will become a crushing debt burden?

A couple of more data points would be helpful, notably the longer term loan performance. Are there many defaults? How many are paid back early? Is family income a factor, i.e., could some grads from this program knowingly pursue a lower income career because their spouse/partner's income would allow both repayment and a reasonable lifestyle? Or, are young people signing off on big debt without a realistic picture of what their prospects are? Even if they don't default, will they spend a decade or more struggling to make ends meet?

Personally, I'd distinguish between a program like Harvard's and an online "computer science" degree that racks up the same kind of loans with little or no career benefit. But, non-profit colleges can definitely fail the gainful employment test. Here's a link to several versions of the list, which includes programs at George Washington University, the University of Florida, and other well-known non-profits:
https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/data-center/school/ge
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Replies to: Harvard Program Fails Federal Gainful Employment Test, Pauses Admissions

  • thumper1thumper1 73800 replies3218 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yale masters in music performance are also fully funded.

    But really...LOTS of grad schools in the arts are NOT fully funded for all. They just aren't.

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  • ZinheadZinhead 2473 replies137 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Personally, I'd distinguish between a program like Harvard's and an online "computer science" degree that racks up the same kind of loans with little or no career benefit. But, non-profit colleges can definitely fail the gainful employment test. Here's a link to several versions of the list, which includes programs at George Washington University, the University of Florida, and other well-known non-profits:
    https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/about/data-center/school/ge

    What a bogus list. There are numerous majors with expected income levels in the $100,00 to $200,000+ range that are considered to have "little of no career benefit".

    This list in its current form provides little or no benefit.
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  • thumper1thumper1 73800 replies3218 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    The amount of forgiveness is $165,000

    And if this amount is forgiven...the student will pay taxes on it. But that's after 20 years of making the minimum payments ON TIME every month.
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  • AlbionGirlAlbionGirl 816 replies92 postsRegistered User Member
    I once saw someone encourage an aspiring social worker to go to a fancy private school she'd gotten admitted to - that cost $60,000 a year - because she could just borrow the money, pay 10% of her discretionary income, then pay for 10 years and get the money forgiven.

    This might end up being a serious mistake. Some people who thought they were in this program are having the rules changed on them retrospectively.


    http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/20/your-money/student-loans/they-thought-they-qualified-for-loan-forgiveness-years-later-the-answer-is-no.html
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  • calmomcalmom 20489 replies166 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    where students encourage other students to borrow large amounts of money because they can simply pay a little in income-based repayment every month and discharge it in public service loan forgiveness
    It's not just students - it is the schools as well. Schools offering MPA's or other degrees geared to government or public service encourage borrowing based on the IBR and loan forgiveness options. For example, see this presentation from NYU Wagner School of Public Service: https://wagner.nyu.edu/files/admissions/FPSLF_Program_Webinar_Slide_Deck.pdf

    I don't think it's a bad thing for taxpayers to support graduate education that leads to public service -- but I think that direct funding in the form of grants tied to the student's commitment to work a certain number of years in specified types of jobs makes more sense.
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 15525 replies98 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    edited January 2017
    With PSLF, the amount forgiven is tax-free, which makes it a draw for some. This is the first year any borrowers are eligible for PSLF, and very few have actually qualified. There are a lot of caveats with PSLF ... only on-time payments count, only work at qualifying employers that is properly certified counts, 30 or more hours/week must be certified to count, payments made while in paid-ahead status don't count, etc., etc. I always caution my students that they may not qualify, the program may be modified or discontinued, etc.

    I believe that if IBR and PSLF are in place for some, they need to be in place for all. Who is going to determine what degree/program/school/tuition cut-off/etc. is "fair?" In other words, whose value judgment should count?
    edited January 2017
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  • compmomcompmom 10628 replies76 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    What about grad programs in the arts at public universities? They are not for-profit. Are they considered non-profits?

    It looks like Harvard simply has to change the certificate program label to an actual master's degree and problem would be solved.
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  • insanedreamerinsanedreamer 1533 replies3 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Harvard can easily afford to give enough aid so those students don't have to take out loans, or at least not as much. Not sure why taxpayers should bear the risk of debt default when Harvard is sitting on billions.
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  • musicmeritmusicmerit 1001 replies215 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    @thumper1 Yale School of Music is only fully funded because of a donation. You are right, most programs are not.

    "The Adams also contributed a gift in 2005, making Yale School of Music a tuition-free professional institution."
    http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2017/01/17/adams-center-for-musical-arts-opens/
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 15525 replies98 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Yes, grad programs at public (and private) universities are at non-profit schools. It's not just the school designation - it's the program's curriculum that matters. If it's a certificate program, it falls under gainful employment rules. I suspect the programs at Harvard do not fit the definition of a master's program (there are standards, even in the arts). That is why they are certificate, and not master's, programs.
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  • Roger_DooleyRoger_Dooley 6084 replies100309 postsFounder Senior Member
    Good points, @juillet. The forgiveness program is interesting, but would seem to carry a fair amount of risk, including tying the individual to limited employment options they may end up not liking. And, if the requirements are loosened, it could become another boondoggle in which taxpayers transfer money to high-tuition schools. I agree, too, about the family income bit... I was envisioning a scenario where the individual chooses lower-paying positions but could readily earn a higher income if personal circumstances demanded it. (E.g., a grad who chooses a part-time teaching position or opts to pursue random performance gigs because they don't have to worry about paying the rent/mortgage.) But, if the person is already near the max for their field, there's a definite risk of financial pain if the partner's high income goes away for any reason.

    I wonder how many respected music (or other arts) programs would fare if evaluated this way...
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  • JenJenJenJenJenJenJenJen 1098 replies18 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    I have an issue with the cut-and-dried nature of this article. Yes, people headed to Wall Street after grad school are going to be raking it in, financially -- good for them! -- but the business majors I met in college didn't LOVE financial firm careers, per se, instead they valued financially successful careers and the lifestyles that go with them. And those predatory for-profit and (particularily) "accredited online degrees" often take advantage of veterans and Americans down on their luck. Absolutely.

    But, what about those who value doing good and making the world a better place? Social work will never, ever pay Goldman Sachs money. The social workers I know have passion, though, for helping others. There is value in that. That's important.

    Similarly, art is important. There are the superstars who who to colleges and major in drama etc (Jodi Foster went to Yale) but there are plenty of artists, writers, stage actors and more who love what they do and can't imagine having a job which isn't creative. These people, these community theater stage directors, these local art show mounters, they a make OUR lives more interesting. We should see the value in those that put art out into our worlds as well.

    Future financial success is not the only measure of school outcome.
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  • hebegebehebegebe 2661 replies37 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    If taxpayer subsidies are to occur, they should be in plain sight for taxpayers to evaluate. Pell Grants are in plain sight and have widespread approval. It is when subsidies get somewhat hidden that people can (rightly) complain. I personally disapprove of IBR because it becomes a hidden subsidy that taxpayers cannot properly evaluate ahead of time.

    You want to be an art major, or do social work? That's all well and good. But their median pay is well understood, and if you want to take educational loans to join a low paying profession, I personally believe you should be prepared to pay back every cent, with market-based interest.

    Not doing this leads to perverse incentives. Colleges are encouraged to raise tuition, knowing they will be paid. Students who believe that IBR will apply to them are encouraged to go to expensive colleges, because "why not?". Taxpayers get stuck with the bill.
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  • kelsmomkelsmom 15525 replies98 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Such simplistic assumptions about perverse incentives is just that ... assumptions. I do not believe that colleges raise tuition just because of things like IBR. But then again, I have worked at colleges and am familiar with their budgets.
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  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus 77170 replies672 postsRegistered User Senior Member
    Re: #5

    Seems that those who complain about government financial aid for undergraduates (Pell grants, direct loans) should really focus on the much larger (relative to cost of attendance and graduates' future pay levels) amounts that post-BA/BS professional school students can borrow. The argument that government financial aid allows or encourages colleges to increase tuition is hard to believe for undergraduates (since the amounts have not changed much while tuition has increased to a far greater extent), but is much more believable for post-BA/BS professional school.
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  • juilletjuillet 12631 replies161 postsSuper Moderator Super Moderator
    And if this amount is forgiven...the student will pay taxes on it. But that's after 20 years of making the minimum payments ON TIME every month.

    Not in PSLF...for public service loans, the forgiven amount doesn't count as taxable income. That's only under the forgiveness policy of the regular loans forgiveness, which happens after 20 or 25 years depending on the type of loan and when it was borrowed.

    I agree that public service jobs and careers are very important. I just think that if we are going to pay for them, then we as a society should be transparent and establish a national (or state-by-state) scholarship program for public service careers that awards scholarships to students if they agree to serve in a public service career for a period of 10 years. This also allows the selection of students who will receive the scholarship. I'm also not necessarily against PSLF either, I just think the amounts should be capped (as should regular IBR amounts).

    The other danger with borrowing lots with the expectation of PSLF is that you never know how your career desires and goals will change. I went to graduate school to get a PhD in public health and had every intention of becoming a researcher at a government agency or nonprofit or a professor. I ended up doing research at a for-profit technology company (definitely not eligible for PSLF). On the flip side, I have some friends who would be interested in leaving their public service jobs for related careers in for-profit companies, but they feel like they can't because they borrowed so much money for undergrad and grad that they need to stay in public service to repay loans. These people are less than 5 years into their careers, so they've got a ways to go before they have total career freedom.
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  • Prof99Prof99 58 replies0 postsRegistered User Junior Member
    Graduation and retention rates comprise 30% of US News ranking criteria. That is clearly an overweighting and this is yet another fatal flaw in their methodology. The continued use of these stats (which have little to do with academic quality) will virtually guarantee that Stanford will never reach the top of the rankings where it by most legitimate measures deserves to be. I believe it is now ranked 5th, tied with Columbia. Columbia is a fine school (I'm an alum) but its profile in just about every area would put it a tier below that of Stanford.
    Every school--even HYPSM--will lose 2-3% of those who enter. Add to that Stanford's world class elite athletes AND entrepreneurial tech wizards and Stanford's graduation and retention rates WILL always lag those of HYP. Stanford's student body is arguably the most talented in the world. Its Olympians, other professional caliber athletes, techies, and entrepreneurs, in the aggregate, simply have more options than the students at any other college in America and probably in the world. Until the compilers at USNews wake up and learn what every academic "in the know" has known for years now--that Harvard and Stanford define the apex of America education, grad and undergrad--many, like myself, will continue to shake their heads and ask in a now annual ritual, " What planet is USNews on?"
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