The Privatization of Public Education Serves No Public Good


Two Items from Ohio

This is a summary of the findings in a report by Policy Matters Ohio on student debt in in the state:

–Ohioans have higher rates of indebtedness and default than residents of other states.

–People of color, women, low-income people and seniors struggle most with debt.

Loan servicers, the entities that manage loans, engage in predatory practices that harm borrowers.

–The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau fielded almost 1,500 student loan-related complaints from Ohio.

–Over half those complaints were for “dealing with your loan servicer or lender.”

–Collectors on contract with the Ohio Attorney General charge exorbitant fees and use problematic collections practices when pursuing public higher education debt.

Here are some statistics on the scope of the problem:

Over a million Ohioans have student loan debt. Ohioans borrow more and have higher rates of default than residents of most states. An analysis by the Institute for College Access and Success finds that Ohio’s 2016 university graduates finished school with an average debt load of $30,351, the 14thhighest in the nation. Sixty-four percent of the class of 2016 had debt, the 9th highest in the nation. Ohioans have a total of $57.61 billion in outstanding student loan debt. Ohio’s rate of default is 13.6 percent, 2.1 points higher than the national average. Most Ohioans who pursue education beyond high school use debt to finance their schooling. The debt they are left with affects us all.

And here are some statistics on the causes:

Cuts in state support for higher education and insufficient funding for need-based aid have contributed to increased student debt in Ohio. The state is ranked 45th least affordable for college because it takes a very large percentage of household income to afford the net price of college (tuition, fees, room and board minus financial aid). For example, the Institute for Research on Higher Education found on average, the lowest income families ($30,000 or less) would spend 81 percent of their income for one year of the net price of a public university and 38 percent for community college. For families making $48,000 to $75,000, 31 percent and 15 percent of annual income is needed for public university and community college, respectively. Even for families making above $110,000, 12 percent of income is needed for public university and 6 percent for community college.



The problems are not confined to the creeping privatization of higher education. On the K-12 level, privatization has been much more overt and aggressive, and its detrimental effects have been even more obvious. Writing for the Columbus Dispatch, Jim Siegal has reported on graduation rates at Ohio’s charter schools, about three-quarters of which are corporate operated: Even when excluding dropout-recovery schools, the four-year graduation rates of charter schools in Ohio are half that of traditional schools, and 28 points lower than the largest urban districts. Charter schools not classified as dropout recovery have a four-year graduation rate of just under 45 percent, compared with 73 percent in Ohio’s six biggest urban districts—Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron and Toledo.

When asked about these statistics, the spokespersons for charter-school advocacy groups in Ohio offered two nonsensical explanations: first, that the overhaul of the standards by which the state measures school performance is long overdue and, second, that many of the students in charter schools may be under-performing because of deficiencies in their prior public schooling. The first explanation is ridiculous because the standards are not exotic, and even if they are adjusted to provide a more accurate measure of how well educated graduates can be expected to be, they still have comparative value. The second explanation is absolutely absurd because charter schools have much higher expulsion rates than the public schools—because the charter schools are, in effect, culling students likely to underperform on the state tests, and the students expelled from the charter schools often are then re-enrolled in the public schools.


But let’s not let facts get in the way of ideologically-driven talking points.


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