Understanding the data behind student loans is essential for reporters covering this beat.
Project on Student Debt, from The Institute for College Access & Success for annual reports on average debt-loads of four-year college graduates.
Federal Student Loan Data Center to download macro-level federal student loan information.
When Student Loans Started in America
Students loans — and especially today’s widespread reliance on them — are a relatively recent phenomenon in the American higher education system. While the country’s use of student loans dates back to 1838 at Harvard University, it wasn’t until the late 1950s that the federal government got into the business of lending to college students.
Consolidation combines multiple federal loans into a single, new loan. It does not reduce the amount of interest a borrower pays — the new loan will carry a weighted average interest rate of the existing loans — but consolidation can be useful to access certain repayment plans. If a borrower has loans from before 2011 or a Perkins loan, consolidation is necessary to access income-driven repayment or Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
Myth: Student debt is widespread and worsening.
In the years since then presidential candidate Bernie Sanders introduced the idea of widespread debt forgiveness into the mainstream, it’s become a common rallying cry among younger, progressive voters. Here’s a breakdown of the existing options and new proposals.
A college degree is widely considered one of the most reliable paths toward upward economic mobiilty. But for minority students, that promise often falls short. That’s in part because student debt exacerbates existing racial wealth gaps.
Lured by the aura of degrees from top-flight institutions, many master’s students at universities across the U.S. took on debt beyond what their pay would support, the Journal analysis of federal data on borrowers found.
Undergraduate students for years have faced ballooning loan balances. But now it is graduate students who are accruing the most onerous debt loads. Unlike undergraduate loans, the federal Grad Plus loan program has no fixed limit on how much grad students can borrow—money that can be used for tuition, fees and living expenses.
Tips for Scrutinizing Data on College Value
Are college students getting the best education for their (and taxpayers’) money?
What’s the “value” of a college education? As college costs rise, more people are questioning what they’re getting for their tuition and tax money.
Reporters investigating this important topic can access a growing number of databases that are starting to capture at least some aspects of value, according to Dominique Baker, an education policy professor at Southern Methodist University, and Robert Kelchen, a professor at Seton Hall University and data manager for the Washington Monthly College Rankings.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona made his priorities clear at the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar.
Cardona vowed to “unapologetically address achievement disparities” and urge all schools to reopen for in-person learning during the wide-ranging conversation on May 3.
Miguel Cardona: Why Schools Should Reopen Fully and Train Their Police Officers Better
What education reporters can expect from the Biden administration
Public schools that don’t offer full-time, in-person learning for students five days a week next fall risk intervention from the U.S. Education Department.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona shared this message with journalists, just two months after his Senate confirmation, during the Education Writers Association’s 2021 National Seminar.
The Education Writers Association’s 74th National Seminar will focus on the theme of “Now What? Reporting on Education Amid Uncertainty.” Four afternoons of conversations, training and presentations will give attendees deeper understanding of these crises, as well as tools, skills and context to help them better serve their communities — and advance their careers.
To be held May 2-5, 2021, the seminar will feature education newsmakers, including leaders, policy makers, researchers, practitioners and journalists. And it will offer practical data and other skills training.
Pathways: Experts Offer a Quick Roundup on Student Loan Forgiveness
Webinar will provide journalists with resources, context and answers about education debt forgiveness plans.
Proposals to forgive some or all of the nation’s $1.5 trillion in student loans are making headlines as the Biden administration considers how to restart the economy and make the U.S. education system more equitable.
In this EWA webinar, speakers discussed the impact of student debt forgiveness on access to higher education and pathways to good jobs. They shared their insights and answered audience questions on this pressing topic.
Education Surges to Top Tier of Presidential Race Amid Pandemic
Journalists offer insights, story ideas on covering the schools angle
Education is not typically an issue that comes to the forefront in presidential races.
But months of an ongoing coronavirus pandemic have elevated conversations about how schools and elected officials are tackling the issue. In fact, education took a front seat in high-stakes negotiations this summer over a federal stimulus bill that has stalled.