Policies of “Government” Higher Education Seen Contributing to Growing Student Loan Debt

Angelo Armenti, Jr., president of the Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU) offers his observations regarding recent news articles about the alarming rate of student loan debt in Pennsylvania and across America.

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Privatization Without a Plan

This is not a failure of law, but rather a failure of Pennsylvania public officials to obey the law.

Chesterbrook, Pennsylvania (PRWEB) May 19, 2014

Angelo Armenti, Jr., president of the Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU) claims politically-expedient, but fiscally unsound, policies by “government” higher education leaders are contributing to rapidly growing student loan debt in Pennsylvania and across America.

In June of 2010, total student loan debt in America ($830 billion) surpassed total credit card debt ($826.5 billion) for the first time.¹

By May of 2014, total student loan debt had already reached $1.1 trillion,² surpassing both auto loan debt and credit card debt, and is now second only to mortgage debt, prompting Patrick Lunsford³ to note: “Americans owe more for attending college than for anything else, except buying a home.”

In a recent article entitled “Where the average student loan burden is largest,” The Washington Post⁴ divided the 50 states into five groups under the following ‘average student loan debt’ headings: 1) Less than $18,000; 2) $18,000 to $20,000; 3) $20,000 to $22,000; 4) $22,000 to $25,000; and 5) More than $25,000. Pennsylvania is one of twelve states that fall into the highest student loan debt category.

Also, according to The Washington Post article, between 2003 and 2013, the share of American household debt associated with student loans increased from 3.5% to 9% of total household debt.

Armenti defines “Government” higher education as “public higher education in which the State controls more than 50% of its governance seats, while providing less than 50% of its annual funding.” He has also characterized Pennsylvania as an extreme example of “government” higher for clinging to 100% control of the governance seats while providing only 25% of the annual funding.

According to Act 188,⁵ the statutory purpose of the 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) universities is to provide “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”

In his recent book, Privatization Without a Plan,⁶ Armenti provides what he calls “compelling evidence” showing that Pennsylvania does not provide higher education at the 14 PASSHE universities at anything like the lowest possible cost to the students, and that other states are doing a much better job holding down student costs, and hence, holding down average student loan debt.

According to the book, a typical financial aid package for students nationally during the 2011 award year contained 51% grants and 42% loans, while a typical financial aid package for students at a PASSHE university consisted of 27% grants and 65% loans.

“Privatization Without a Plan is a story about alleged public malfeasance leading to personal and tragic consequences,” Armenti said. “If true, such malfeasance, according to Dictionary.com, would amount to ‘the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.’”

The alleged malfeasance, according to the book, was easy to document because the actions in question by the public officials appear to violate not just the spirit but the letter of the law.

“The personal and tragic consequences are difficult to document, however, because they are mostly things that did not happen as a result of the malfeasance,” Armenti said, “including the deserving PASSHE students who did not graduate, the worthy PASSHE alumni who could not afford to start a business, and the other PASSHE students and alumni who could not afford to support a family.”

Armenti claims that his book provides evidence that the Act 188 statutory purpose of the state-owned universities, high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students, has not been provided to PASSHE students since 2002, reducing the promise of Act 188 to empty words for those students.

“This is not a failure of law,” Armenti asserts, “but rather a failure of Pennsylvania public officials to obey the law.”

“That failure may be seen in the fact that the public officials with authority over the PASSHE universities have for years been focused on offering the lowest possible tuition, i.e., lowest sticker price, when the law, Act 188, requires a focus on the lowest possible cost to the students, i.e., lowest bottom line.”

According to Armenti, that one failure alone, substituting ‘tuition’ for ‘cost to the students’—which makes the cost of attendance too high, and the burden of crushing student-loan debt too unbearable—leads directly to deserving students who don’t graduate, worthy alumni who can’t afford to start a business, and other students and alumni who can’t afford to support a family.

“And because ‘Privatization Without a Plan’ could only infer but not fully document the personal and tragic consequences of the malfeasance in this case, I call upon all PASSHE students and alumni to document, via social media, their own stories in their own words. A few of those stories may carry a happy ending, but too many more may not. And until that situation is rectified, the work of preserving the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania will remain unfinished.”

¹ http://www.fastweb.com/financial-aid/articles/2589-total-college-debt-now-exceeds-total-credit-card-debt.
² http://redalertpolitics.com/2014/05/13/student-loan-debt-increases-31-billion-1-1-trillion/.
³ http://www.insidearm.com/daily/student-loan-collection-news/student-loan-collections/the-increase-in-student-loan-debt-has-been-irrationally-epic/.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/govbeat/wp/2014/05/08/map-where-the-average-student-loan-burden-is-largest/.
https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.
http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=angelo%20armenti.

The Role of PASCU
PASCU’s mission is “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.” To advance that mission, PASCU seeks to reform the governance of PASSHE so as to enable it achieve its statutory purpose as mandated by Act 188.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Angelo Armenti Jr. served as President of California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) from 1992 to 2012. Before that, he was a Dean at Villanova University, a professor of physics, and author of The Physics of Sports (American Institute of Physics, 1992). During his career at Cal U, Armenti is credited with establishing numerous funding sources for student scholarships and for campus revitalization projects, efforts made in part to address the problems that he describes in Privatization Without a Plan. In June of 2012, Armenti founded a non-profit corporation entitled The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU) whose mission it is to preserve the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania. He also writes for his blog at http://angeloarmenti.blogspot.com/.


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