The presidents of Northeastern, Tufts, and Boston universities have banded together with other college heads to lobby President Obama to preserve funding for the Federal Perkins Loan Program, which provides college loans with an interest rate of 5% to low-income students.

"Ending this program would be directly at odds with President Obama's ambitious goal for the U.S. to have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020,'' said a letter to the U.S. Education Secretary that was signed by more than 30 university presidents.

Joseph E. Aoun, Northeastern University president, told the Boston Globe, "We need to find ways for families to go to college, and not curtail the opportunities for that.''

I'd like to propose an alternative solution: Instead of complaining that Congress is -- for the first time in history -- expressing mild reservations about continuing to provide the easy credit that allows colleges to raise their prices at breakneck speed, why don't the colleges find ways to reduce costs so that fewer students will find it necessary to borrow huge sums of money?

In September 2009, for example, Boston University unveiled its new luxury dorm. It bragged about the hotel-quality amenities to the Boston Globe -- the same newspaper that is now airing the university's complaints about a lack of funding:
". . . suites of singles and doubles, with elegantly furnished common rooms, large private baths, walk-in closets, and floor-length mirrors, resemble nothing like what older generations remember of their college housing. Other amenities include soundproof piano rooms that allow students to practice without disturbing those studying in the 24-hour reading room, which is outfitted with plush adjustable furniture befitting a first-class airport lounge. The laundry room -- with washers and dryers programmed to alert students via computer when they are available -- overlooks the athletic field and stadium. A trio of futuristic chandeliers hangs in the stairwell of the airy lobby. Newly potted lady-finger palms and creeping ficus fill giant stainless steel planters."
And then my favorite part:
"'Students want beauty, and they should have beauty,' Kenneth Elmore, BU's dean of students, said during a tour of the dorm."

So, after spending millions on a luxury dorm, BU is now complaining that it needs more money. Their argument is basically this: Students want beauty and they should have beauty; to get it, they will need to borrow tens of thousands of dollars from the government in order to have that beauty for four years, and then they should live in hovels when they graduate in order to pay back those loans -- if they're able to. A third of federal student loan borrowers end up defaulting anyway.

We need to re-frame the debate: Instead of talking about student loans for higher education, parents, students, and taxpayers need to ask this: Does it really make sense to have federally guaranteed loans used to build dorms with "elegantly furnished commons rooms"?

Zac Bissonnette'
s Debt-Free U: How I Paid For An Outstanding College Education Without Loans, Scholarships, Or Mooching Off My Parents was called the "best and most troubling book ever about the college admissions process" by The Washington Post.

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that's bulls$$$ that is not what my tax dollars were meant for

February 17 2011 at 10:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The adjustable rate mortgage that I had before had me nearly to the brink of bankruptcy because of the never-ending payment increases. Now I have 3.18% fixed rate. I would absolutely recommend "123 Mortgage Refinance" I worked with to anyone I know planning to refinance mortgage.

February 17 2011 at 5:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Where are the people who are supposed to be in a leadership position that allow such abuses to occur? The universities I have visited appear to be designed after a high class hotel with all the amenities--pool, fine cuisine, weight rooms, etc. No wonder middle class kids can't afford these institutions--the poor are given full rides, the wealthy have the funds to pay for their children but the middle class kids have no avenue unless they borrow thousands which they will have to repay. But the universities want to spend the dollars (some which the taxpayer has to pay and doesn't know it) on building a bigger, better, fancier frontier.

February 17 2011 at 3:18 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Even after 20 years, only about 15 percent default. The 33 percent rate represents is a small sector that thus does not influence the national averages.

February 17 2011 at 2:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

If any university wishes to provide its students with "beauty" in the form of luxury dorms, they should do so - provided that every dollar used comes from private sources. Not one tax dollar should be wasted on such a project. There are thousands of students who need government help to make their college dream come true - money should be used to help them.

February 16 2011 at 9:42 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Go Wildcats

Luxury Dorms that is freaking brilliant in a recession yankees colleges don't have clue of real world.

February 16 2011 at 9:37 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

they should have had saunas, a pool, and maid service . and probably 95% or them didn't study anything very productive like math and any sciende . but we have a lot more socail workers and shrinks .

February 16 2011 at 9:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

I couldn't agree with Zac more. I graduated from Boston University School of Law in the middle 80's. While I was there tuition increased 50%. I had to commute everyday from Rhode Island because I couldn't afford to attend the school and live there.
In addition to constructing lavish buildings let's not forget that these educators pay themselves pretty well. The head of Boston University makes about One Million Dollars per year. In addition according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, while total enrollment in Universities over the last 20 years is only up slightly, the number of administrators and faculty is up nearly 50%. Believe me these people are all well paid.
Their real concern with the ending of the loans is that somehow the "gravy train" is coming to an end. They may now have to be like the rest of the country and make do with less.

February 16 2011 at 8:09 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

You have got to be S-ing me?!! More money for luxury dorms? Have you morons been listening to the news lately?

February 16 2011 at 8:05 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

I usually agree with these posts and enjoyed the book--however--Zac and most everyone else misses the point--if WAGES had kept up with costs this would not be the issue. According to a CNN Money article published today 90% of Americans have not seen increases in income--in fact if you adjust for inflation median income DECREASED between 1988 and 2008 (while the top 10% saw their income grow over 33%). It isn't about things getting more expensive--the real issue is that our INCOME HAS NOT KEPT UP WITH INFLATION--we just think it has because we sustain ourselves on credit. This goes for the country as well--OUR INCOME HAS DECREASED as our spending has increased because we rely on credit.

February 16 2011 at 2:49 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply