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Is University Just for the Elite?

· affirmative action,student loans,loan forgiveness,student debt forgiveness,debt forgiveness

 

Last week the Supreme Court dealt two huge blows – affirmative action was reversed and the courts ruled that President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan was unconstitutional. These decisions are detrimental for many reasons, with money being just one of them.

On Affirmative Action...

Something President Biden said after the affirmative action ruling came down has really stayed with me:

Many people wrongly believe that affirmative action allows unqualified students to be admitted ahead of qualified students. This is not how college admissions work. Rather, colleges set out standards for admission, and every student — every student has to meet those standards. Then, and only then, after first meeting the qualifications required by the school, do colleges look at other factors in addition to their grades, such as race.

I do believe that many people believe that affirmative action was just letting people of color into schools, who were not qualified, who didn’t have the grades or the test scores, and that’s why there’s been such an argument about how it needs to be “merit based.” What this decision really means is – colleges and universities now get to be even more elitist and make decisions about admissions based on how much money they can receive from a family.

Here’s the entire transcript of President Biden’s speech, where he also outlines the dire situation facing families who can’t afford to send their kids to college. I highlighted sections that I believe are important to note (especially the statistic that “students from the top 1 percent of family incomes in America are 77 times more likely to get into an elite college than one from the bottom 20 percent of family incomes.”) 

For forty-five years, the United States Supreme Court has recognized a college’s freedom to decide how — how to build diverse student bodies and to meet their responsibility of opening doors of opportunity for every single American.

In case after case, including recently, just as a few years ago in 2016, the Court has affirmed and reaffirmed this view: that colleges could use race not as a determinative factor for admission, but as one of the factors among many in deciding who to admit from an already qualified pool of applicants.

Today, the Court once again walked away from decades of precedent and make — as the dissent has made clear.

The dissent states that today’s decision, quote, “rolls back decades of precedent and momentous progress.” End of quote.

I agree with that statement from the dissents — from the dissent.

The Court has effectively ended affirmative action in college admissions. And I strongly — strongly disagree with the Court’s decision.

Because affirmative action is so misunderstood, I want to be clear — make sure everybody is clear about what the law has been and what it has not been, until today.

Many people wrongly believe that affirmative action allows unqualified students — unqualified students — to be admitted ahead of qualified students. This is not — this is not how college admissions work.

Rather, colleges set out standards for admission, and every student — every student has to meet those standards.

Then, and only then, after first meeting the qualifications required by the school, do colleges look at other factors in addition to their grades, such as race.

The way it works in practice is this: Colleges first establish a qualified pool of candidates based on meeting certain grade, test scores, and other criteria.

Then, and only then — then, and only then, and it’s from this pool of applicants — all of whom have already met the school’s standards –- that the class is chosen, after weighing a wide range of factors, among them being race.

You know, I’ve always believed that one of the greatest strengths of America — and you’re tired of hearing me say it — is our diversity, but I believe that.

If you have any doubt about this, just look at the United States military, the finest fighting force in the history of the world. It’s been a model of diversity. And it’s not only been our — made our nation better, stronger, but safer.

And I believe the same is true for our schools. I’ve always believed that the promise of America is big enough for everyone to succeed and that every generation of Americans, we have benefitted by opening the doors of opportunity just a little bit wider to include those who have been left behind.

I believe our colleges are stronger when they are racially diverse. Our nation is stronger because we use what we — because we are tapping into the full range of talent in this nation.

I also believe that while talent, creativity, and hard work are everywhere across this country, not equal opportunity. It is not everywhere across this country.

We cannot let this decision be the last word. I want to emphasize: We cannot let this decision be the last word.

While the Court can render a decision, it cannot change what America stands for.

America is an idea — an idea unique in the world. An idea of hope and opportunity, of possibilities, of giving everyone a fair shot, of leaving no one behind. We have never fully lived up to it, but we’ve never walked away from it either. We will not walk away from it now.

We should never allow the country to walk away from the dream upon which it was founded: that opportunity is for everyone, not just a few.

We need a new path forward — a path consistent with a law that protects diversity and expands opportunity.

So, today I want to offer some guidance to our nation’s colleges as they review their admissions systems after today’s decision — guidance that is consistent with today’s decision.

They should not abandon — let me say this again: They should not abandon their commitment to ensure student bodies of diverse backgrounds and experience that reflect all of America.

What I propose for consideration is a new standard, where colleges take into account the adversity a student has overcome when selecting among qualified applicants.

Let’s be clear: Under this new standard, just as was true under the earlier standard, students first have to be qualified applicants. They need the GPA and test scores to meet the school’s standards.

Once that test is met, then adversity should be considered, including — including its lack — a student’s lack of financial means, because we know too few students of low-income families, whether in big cities or rural communities, are getting an opportunity to go to college.

When the poor kid — when a poor kid — may be the first in their family to go to college — gets the same grades and test scores as a wealthy kid whose whole family has gone to the most elite colleges in the country and whose path has been a lot easier, well, the kid who faced tougher challenges has demonstrated more grit, more determination. And that should be a factor that colleges should take into account in admissions. And many still do.

It also means examining where the student grew up and went to high school.

It means understanding the particular hardships that each individual student has faced in life, including racial discrimination that individuals have faced in their own lives.

The Court says, quote, “[N]othing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an application’s [applicant’s] discussion of how race [has] affected his or her life,” but it’s — it’s through — but “be it through discrimination [or] inspiration or otherwise.”

Because the truth is — we all know it: Discrimination still exists in America. Discrimination still exists in America. Discrimination still exists in America.

Today’s decision does not change that. It’s a simple fact.

If a student has — has overcome — had to overcome adversity on their path to education, a college should recognize and value that.

Our nation’s colleges and universities should be engines of expanding opportunity through upward mobility. But today, too often that’s not the case.

The statistics — one statistic: Students from the top 1 percent of family incomes in America are 77 times more likely to get into an elite college than one from the bottom 20 percent of family incomes. Seventy-seven ti- — percent great- — greater opportunity.

Today, for too many schools, the only people who benefit from the system are the wealthy and the well-connected. The odds have been stacked against working people for much too long.

We need a higher education system that works for everyone, from App- — from Appalachia to Atlanta and to far beyond.

We can and must do better, and we will.

Today, I’m directing the Department of Education to analyze what practices help build a more inclusive and diverse student bodies and what practices hold that back, practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity.

Colleges and universities should continue their commitment to support, retain, and graduate diverse students and classes.

You know, and companies — companies who are already realizing the value in diversity should not use this decision as an excuse to turn away from diversity either.

We can’t go backwards.

You know, I know today’s Court decision is a severe disappointment to so many people, including me, but we cannot let the decision be a permanent setback for the country.

We need to keep an open door of opportunities. We need to remember that diversity is our strength. We have to find a way forward.

We need to remember that the promise of America is big enough for everyone to succeed.

 

And then...Student Loan Forgiveness

The very next day, the Supreme Court then issued a decision invalidating the Biden Administration’s student debt forgiveness plan. If you have student loans, you will have to start paying them back in October of this year, but the Administration announced three ways they’re going to hopefully still make the payment process easier. Here’s their proposal word-for-word:

  • First, we are taking action aimed at opening an alternative path to debt relief for working and middle-class borrowers. We started the process to provide relief to as many people as we can, as fast as we can, through rulemaking. Under the law, this path will take time, but we are determined to keep fighting for borrowers and we will keep you updated in the months ahead.
  • Second, the Administration is releasing the details of the most affordable repayment plan ever created, called the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan. Later this summer, borrowers will start saving money under the new plan, which will cut monthly payments to $0 for millions of borrowers making $32,800 or less ($67,500 for a family of four) and save all other borrowers at least $1,000 per year. Additionally, it will stop runaway interest that leaves borrowers owing more than their initial loan.
  • Third, to help borrowers back into repayment, we are creating a temporary “on-ramp” to repayment for one year for those struggling to make payments. For borrowers who still cannot make their payments, we are creating a temporary “on-ramp” period that will help borrowers avoid the harshest consequences of missed, partial, or late payments. During that time, missed, partial, or late payments will not lead to negative credit reporting, default, or loans being sent to collection agencies. Borrowers who can make payments should do so, as payments will be due and interest will accrue during this transition period. Additionally, missed payments will not count toward loan forgiveness under any of the income-driven repayment plans or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.

You can go to StudentAid.gov/debtrelief to learn more about these actions and to identify a repayment plan that works for you to prepare for monthly payments due in October of this year.

 

I’ve written about student loan forgiveness when the Biden administration first announced it. It’s crazy that it’s not going to happen for so many people who need it. However, let’s figure out a plan together on what’s the best way to make sure you’re able to manage these payments. Remember, if you’ve been paying for at least 20 years through an Income Based Repayment Plan, you may still be able to get your student loans forgiven. Now, what questions do you have about student loan debt and payments? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll answer your questions.

 

With Love & Gratitude,

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