Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Way Colleges Handle Low-Income Applicants is Depressing

We found out this week that George Washington University discriminates against poor people when it picks its freshmen; here's how it works, as reported by Jordan Weissmann on Atlantic.com:
First the admissions office picks a class based on merit. Then they move some financially needy applicants to the waitlist, which all but amounts to a rejection, and admit richer applicants in their place to make the books balance.
Apparently they are common knowledge to most in the higher-education business, but I also learned all sorts of tricks that schools use to keep out the hoi polloi, such as "gapping," as described by Inside Higher Ed
... only a small subset of colleges pledges to meet the full need of all students they admit. That means that for most institutions, "gapping" has become the norm. That's when a college admits a student, tells her that she probably needs $X to afford to enroll, and then provides a package that is less than $X--sometimes considerably so.
As Weissmann put it in his Atlantic piece, the point is to send a very direct message to applicants; "kids who fail to take the hint just sink deeper into debt."

And they sink deeper into debt in part because banks are assholes. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau received 3,800 complaints last year from student loan borrowers--primarily Sallie Mae, Wells Fargo, Citi and JPMorgan Chase--about loan services, according to piece on Salon.com. In some cases, the banks lied about refinancing options, ignored requests of students to apply payments to particular loans with higher interest rates, and just plain lied about late payments.