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Rep. Virginia Foxx On People With Student Loans: ‘I Have Very Little Tolerance’ For Them

8:06 am - 04/16/2012
Rep. Virginia Foxx On People With Student Loans: ‘I Have Very Little Tolerance’ For Them

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) took on a unique enemy during a radio interview yesterday: people with student loans.

Though many politicians sympathize with those who are saddled with exorbitant student debt, Foxx, who chairs the House subcommittee on higher education, had a different take. Appearing on G. Gordon Liddy’s radio show, the North Carolina congresswoman recounted her own experience paying for college, where she worked her way through and graduated after seven years. Foxx then pointed to her own experience as justification for why she has “very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt.” “There’s no reason for that,” she concluded:

FOXX: I went through school, I worked my way through, it took me seven years, I never borrowed a dime of money. He borrowed a little bit because we both were totally on our own when we went to college, totally. [...] I have very little tolerance for people who tell me that they graduate with $200,000 of debt or even $80,000 of debt because there’s no reason for that. We live in an opportunity society and people are forgetting that. I remind folks all the time that the Declaration of Independence says “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” You don’t have it dumped in your lap.

Listen to it:


Despite Foxx’s implication, these loans are not taken out frivolously. They are taken out because of the soaring cost of college. In other words, because the price of college is so high — and House Republicans are working overtime to cut Pell grants for one million low-income students — the amount of loans required to pay for it is also high. Indeed, student loan debt topped one trillion dollars last year, orders of magnitude larger than in the decades prior.

Still, Foxx’s distaste for large loans does not appear to extend to the mortgage sector. In Foxx’s 2010 financial disclosure statement, she owned two individual mortgage notes worth up to $250,000 each, from which she earned as much as $20,000 in payments.
vanishingbee 16th-Apr-2012 12:23 am (UTC)
I'm not trying to disagree, but is the difference more than just inflation? I legit don't know (I think it is more than just inflation, but I am no economist.)
layweed 16th-Apr-2012 12:25 am (UTC)
I'm not sure about the differences over the last few decades, but in the last few years, the rise in costs has definitely outstripped the increases due to inflation.
13chapters 16th-Apr-2012 12:38 am (UTC)
Yeah...I graduated from the University of California 12 years ago and the price of going there has increased DRAMATICALLY since then. I graduated with $17k of debt...there's no fucking way I could have escaped with so little now.
circumambulate 16th-Apr-2012 12:31 am (UTC)
I think one of the biggest problems is people roughly my age - 30s to early 40s - who's parents told them not to worry about how much they borrowed because when they went to school, the government never pursued collection and they were able to just walk away from their debt.

I think the other problem, though, is people reaching beyond their means - if you can't afford four years at an upper-crust institution, then do two years at a CC and then transfer, or find a less expensive state school. Unless you're in the upper tiers of a clique profession like law, if just doesn't really matter anyway.
liret 16th-Apr-2012 01:09 am (UTC)
2 years at a CC gets promoted a lot as a cost saving option, but how much it's worth varies a lot from state to state. Even places that have automatic transfer agreements to 4 year schools won't necessarily accept a lot of your credits as anything other then generic electives - meaning you still have to fill graduation requirements as well as take anything related to your major - and a lot of CCs have very limited class offerings. So it isn't just that you start at the four year school with 2 years left.

And tuition + housing at my state school is 23k a year - less expensive then some schools, yes, but still nothing that most people could do without loans.
flyingwild 16th-Apr-2012 01:26 am (UTC)
then do two years at a CC and then transfer

If you're lucky enough to have a local CC that's actually any good, which let's be honest, not all are. The time I spent at a CC was an absolute waste of my time and money, and next to nothing I did was transferable anywhere.
the_glow_worm 16th-Apr-2012 01:55 am (UTC)
Doing a CC would be feasible in my area, because we have a really great one with an automatic transfer program to our state school (what up, NOVA?)but that's not necessarily the case. You have to do a LOT of research to make that happen. I know my university has a rather low cap on CC transfer credits.
missmurchison 16th-Apr-2012 02:01 am (UTC)
the government never pursued collection

In fact, it's next to impossible to get student loans discharged in bankruptcy and the feds have options for collecting debt that the credit card companies can only dream about. They can seize income tax refund and other federal payments (including portions of Social Security payments), garnish your wages without getting a court order, and assign your debt to the Department of Justice for litigation. They also use collection agencies.
papilio_luna 16th-Apr-2012 02:30 am (UTC)
Not only were the loans less likely to be collected on, but they weren't for as much. It used to be perfectly feasible to take out a small loan for college so you could get a good job and pay that sucker back in a fairly timely manner. With the cost of tuition rising so much faster than inflation and wages, the idea now of paying your college loan back quickly is totally ludicrous, but back in the early 90s a lot of our parents hadn't really realised that yet. Even my relatively piddling graduate student loan has taken me 10 years to pay back, and what I'm paying a month vs. what I make with that fancy degree actually turns out to be a pretty big bite out of my income.
hinoema 16th-Apr-2012 07:48 am (UTC)
I think one of the biggest problems is people roughly my age - 30s to early 40s - who's parents told them not to worry about how much they borrowed because when they went to school, the government never pursued collection and they were able to just walk away from their debt.

Speaking as a 40ish, my parent's never told me anything like that, what? Who thinks like that?

I think the other problem, though, is people reaching beyond their means...

Stop. Right. There.

The whole POINT of student loans is to enable people to do something that is at the moment beyond their means- to pursue an education- in the hopes that this will allow them to use their skills in such a way that they never could without that education. Whatever gifts alone won't usually cut it in a world that measures success by degree verification.

Any large finance arrangement does the same thing, whether it's for a house, a car or an education. And what about small business start-up loans? I don't hear people saying "Sorry, Mr. Entrepreneur, that SBA loan is reaching beyond your means, leave starting businesses to the people who can afford it?" Oh no, that would be seen as Anti-American. Why? Because higher education is seen as a the luxury of the already well off, and what you say just proves that.

if you can't afford four years at an upper-crust institution, then do two years at a CC and then transfer, or find a less expensive state school. Unless you're in the upper tiers of a clique profession like law, if just doesn't really matter anyway.

I don't disagree with the CC idea- many community colleges rock, and are an underutilized resource. However, saying that big name schools are only useful to lawyers? The science departments at MIT and Cambridge (or Harvard Med or many others) would like a word.


ebay313 16th-Apr-2012 06:15 pm (UTC)
Less expensive state schools don't really guarantee that you won't have lots in loans. I went to a state school, and not the most expensive one in my state, and still had over $40K (maybe over $50K? Not sure) in debt from undergrad (I'm up to $70K from getting my master's- also at a state school.) And that is with having pell grants, grants from my university, and multiple scholarships too.
windy_lea 16th-Apr-2012 12:38 am (UTC)
Googled and found a document titled Trends In College Pricing (published in 2006), which has a graph of tuition changes in Constant Dollars (2006 rates). The graph shows the average published tuition and fees doubling betwen 1976 and 2006, and goes on to say that "The average annual inflation-adjusted increase in private four-year college published tuition and fees has been about 3 percent in each of the past three decades."

The document is from www.collegeboard.com.
vanishingbee 16th-Apr-2012 12:41 am (UTC)
cool ty :D
ragnor144 16th-Apr-2012 12:52 am (UTC)
A large part of it is that the government has drastically cut back on its support of higher education. I am too lazy to look up my State Government notes, but the government went from paying about 80% of tuition costs down to something like 25%. I may be off on the numbers, but it is very dramatic. My mother could work a summer job and pay tuition and books easily. The lag of minimum wage has some influence on that, but even with that taken into consideration it is governments support that really made the difference.
circumambulate 16th-Apr-2012 08:10 am (UTC)
And shifted the burden to private loan providers who were hugely predatory.
telemann 16th-Apr-2012 12:55 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure in California, tuition was nearly free during the 1950s. as long as you were a state resident. And it allowed anyone from any economic background a place in the college system as long as you had good grades. Totally awesomeness.
serendipity_15 16th-Apr-2012 01:06 am (UTC)
Didn't California have like the best or one of the best public university systems in the country back in the in the 1950s/1960s?
liret 16th-Apr-2012 12:56 am (UTC)


Even 20 years ago, the average tuition for a public university was about 7% the average US income. Now it's about 20%. And a lot of the related expenses (like textbooks) have also gone up disproportionally.
ecrivais 16th-Apr-2012 01:01 am (UTC)
Not to mention other misc. things that are very very very important to have (not completely necessary, obviously) like computers, printers, printer paper, printer ink, etc which I think costs more than typewriter tape did in the past.
thevelvetsun 16th-Apr-2012 01:24 am (UTC)
nyxelestia 16th-Apr-2012 01:25 am (UTC)
I don't remember the exact numbers but a past Econ & Poli Sci teacher in my senior year of high school (last year) worked out the numbers with the class. Using what he paid in college around the 1980's, we adjust the price for inflation, then added in the justifiable extra costs of technology (like laptops and other high-end stuff) and how many traditional materials can sometimes cost more to make today than it did a while back (like textbooks).

The final price of what we should be paying per annum still came out to about one fifth to one quarter of what most of our class attending university paid this year. And that's just public universities.
thenakedcat 16th-Apr-2012 01:33 am (UTC)
GI Bill funding for college used to be a lot more common, especially before the draft ended. Many WW2/Korea/Vietnam combatants would never have been able to pay for education without it.

Demand for college education has also risen dramatically, as a Bachelor's degree has become a more common job requirement, women have joined the professional world, and underprivileged groups have tried to work their way up through education. Supply (as in number of freshman slots available in decent schools) really hasn't risen to meet demand so the cost of the available slots has increased accordingly.
brookiki 16th-Apr-2012 02:53 am (UTC)
Strictly anecdotal, but my mom went to college in the late 50's (born in 1938) and she talked about taking out a bank loan to pay for a semester of college then having to take the next semester off to earn money to pay back the debt so she could take another semester of college. It's a private school and I actually attended the same school forty years later. Looking at their website, each semester of tuition is $9320 (up to $9800 if you overload), plus $180 worth of fees, and room and board is $3,500. That's $13,000 a semester, not counting books. At the same time, she was the oldest child of a poor family and was also sending money home to help her family. As for the work, she went north to Ohio and worked in a factory. I also think she did some paid work on the college while she was attending classes, but I could be wrong.

I think it would be virtually impossible to do that now. First, with the rate of unemployment, the jobs simply aren't there and when a job opens up, they're definitely not going to give it the job to a college student that's going to leave in a couple of months. Second, even if a student could find a job like that, good luck making enough to cover $13,000 in tuition, plus sending money home. Third, the way classes are set up now, attending every other semester would really mess you up in terms of what classes you needed. When I attended, some classes were fall only, some were summer only, and some were fall of even years or spring of odd years or whatever.

Also, even if someone could do it, no one should have to. She really enjoyed her college years and I feel like she really got cheated by not being able to have a real 4 year college experience even though she worked hard. Plus, she either wore hand-me-down clothes or made her own and she had virtually no money to buy snacks or go shopping for fun.

Plus she kept working at that pace even once she got out of school and started teaching (for similar reasons) and she wound up with a really severe case of ulcerative colitis. It nearly killed her (she's 5'6 and she was down to 87 pounds) and they had to remove her entire colon when she 28. And given the stress component to ulcerative colitis, I'm pretty sure that if she hadn't had so much stress, it might have been possible to manage it medically which would have made a huge difference in her quality of life for the past nearly fifty years.

Point blank, just because a few lucky people can do it (and often pay for it in other ways) doesn't mean anyone should have to do it.
amyura 16th-Apr-2012 12:02 pm (UTC)
I graduated from college in 2000. So 12 years ago. When I was in college, a private second-tier school, somewhere like BC or University of Chicago, cost around 20-25 thousand a year. Ivies were in the high 20s to low 30s; public schools in my home state were under ten grand for EVERYTHING, tuition, room, and board.

Inflation is generally around 3-4% a year. One would expect, therefore, that 12-15 years later, the cost of such a school would be (1.04)^15 (I'm going with the top estimates) times 30,000. That would mean we should expect THE MOST expensive school this year to be around 54,000 a year, after having rounded everything up, and state schools to be around 18 grand for everything.

BC last year was almost 56,000-- under old calculations, it would have been more like 40,000 (again rounding up). UMass was 22,000 going with the cheapest options.
bestdaywelived 16th-Apr-2012 03:51 pm (UTC)
It's not inflation, it's ever-disappearing support to higher education, from state appropriations being cut.
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