by Chris Devers
Things aren’t always what they seem to be…
Image by Ed Yourdon
About a week before this picture was taken, I saw this same woman with her two suitcases (who could forget such a lime-green suitcase) sitting in almost the same spot here in Verdi Square at 72nd Street & Broadway, reading a book or working on a crossword puzzle; click here to see the picture.
At the time, I thought she was a slightly confused, but peacefully content, tourist; now it seems that my first impression was mistaken…
And, in fact, it’s best not to leap to any conclusions: three weeks later, on August 18th, I saw this same woman (apparently wearing the same shoes and slacks) sitting wide-awake and writing busily in a notebook, on a park bench in Riverside Park, some 5 blocks north and 3 blocks west of here (click here to see it).
Note: this photo was published in an Aug 22, 2009 "Poverty in America" blog article titled "1 in 5 Americans Are Poor." It was also published in a Nov 17, 2009 blog titled "Payday Loans and Bankruptcy in Canada: No Clear Correlation."
Moving into 2010, the photo was published in an Apr 10, 2010 blog titled "Mind Blowing American Wealth Disparity: The Bottom 50% Have Comparatively Nothing." It was also published in an undated (Sep 2010) blog titled "109th Street, part 3." And it was published in a Nov 22, 2010 blog titled "Prepare Yourself If You Go Abroad." It was also published in a Dec 27, 2010 blog titled "Are there any private lenders that give student loans after bankruptcy?"
Moving into 2011, the photo was published in a blig titled "Covington Cash."
This is part of an evolving photo-project, which will probably continue throughout the summer of 2008, and perhaps beyond: a random collection of "interesting" people in a broad stretch of the Upper West Side of Manhattan — between 72nd Street and 104th Street, especially along Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue.
I don’t like to intrude on people’s privacy, so I normally use a telephoto lens in order to photograph them while they’re still 50-100 feet away from me; but that means I have to continue focusing my attention on the people and activities half a block away, rather than on what’s right in front of me.
I’ve also learned that, in many cases, the opportunities for an interesting picture are very fleeting — literally a matter of a couple of seconds, before the person(s) in question move on, turn away, or stop doing whatever was interesting. So I’ve learned to keep the camera switched on (which contradicts my traditional urge to conserve battery power), and not worry so much about zooming in for a perfectly-framed picture … after all, once the digital image is uploaded to my computer, it’s pretty trivial to crop out the parts unrelated to the main subject.
For the most part, I’ve deliberately avoided photographing bums, drunks, drunks, and crazy people. There are a few of them around, and they would certainly create some dramatic pictures; but they generally don’t want to be photographed, and I don’t want to feel like I’m taking advantage of them. I’m still looking for opportunities to take some "sympathetic" pictures of such people, which might inspire others to reach out and help them. We’ll see how it goes …
The only other thing I’ve noticed, thus far, is that while there are lots of interesting people to photograph, there are far, far, *far* more people who are *not* so interesting. They’re probably fine people, and they might even be more interesting than the ones I’ve photographed … but there was just nothing memorable about them.
Article by Jeff Mictabor
Industry analysts speculate that the volume of private student loans, which had dropped in 2008-09 and 2009-10, is poised to make a comeback as federal funding for education declines, especially among private, for-profit institutions.
Recent governmental analysis has shown that about one-fourth of all federal financial aid is directed toward students who attend private, for-profit colleges, even though these students represent just 12 percent of the national college population.
Private student loans are non-federal student loans - student loans issued by banks and private lenders, rather than by the federal government.
Private student loans are credit-based loans carrying variable interest rates that can be as much as three to five times as high as the fixed interest rates on federal college loans. Additionally, private student loans don’t generally offer the flexible repayment options and borrower hardship protections offered by federal education loans.
The recent substantial drop in the amount of private student loans being issued can be partly attributed to greater publicity of the drawbacks of these loans in comparison to federal student loans.
Consumer advocates, student groups, and the U.S. Department of Education have campaigned heavily over the past three years for the benefits of low-cost federal college loans over private student loans, which the groups maintain are more expensive and higher risk for vulnerable student borrowers, many of whom are financially inexperienced and who may not be aware of exactly what kind of long-term debt burden they’re signing up for.
Private Student Loans Poised to Surge at For-Profit Colleges
The student loan default rate among students from for-profit colleges is exceptionally high because these students - a large proportion of whom are low-income, minorities, or returning students - tend to have a harder time translating their for-profit degree into gainful employment, and they’re carrying much more student loan debt than their post-graduation income will allow them to repay.
New proposed federal financial aid regulations seek to rein in what critics of for-profit colleges see as runaway student debt levels by instituting a student loan default threshold that would render a for-profit institution ineligible to offer federal financial aid to its students if its students have a sustained high student loan default rate.
A proposed federal “gainful employment” rule would also yank federal financial aid funds from for-profit schools whose students graduate with excessive debt-to-income levels and are unable, in general, to find work - “gainful employment” - that will allow them to earn enough to pay off their student loans.
But in the absence of federal financial aid, private student loans remain the financing of choice among students - particularly in the current economy, with home equity, credit card lines, investments, and college savings largely decimated - and some private lenders are readying to fill in the gaps left by the suspension of federal financial aid at ineligible institutions.
According to analysts, large private student loan lenders like Wells Fargo and Sallie Mae will reap the benefits of the proposed federal financial aid sanctions, which are set to go into effect in 2012.
Lingering Recession Forces Students Toward Pricier Private Student Loans
The re-emergence of private student loans won’t be limited to just for-profit colleges, however. The rise, fall, and rise-again of private student loans as a part of U.S. students’ long-term financial aid future is tied directly to increases in the costs of college and the failure of federal financial aid to keep pace with the increases.
“Increases in college costs are the primary drivers of increases in student borrowing, especially when need-based grants don’t keep pace with higher college costs,” Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of FinAid.org, told Reuters.
And as the sour economy drags on, students’ need for funding sources to help pay for college will only become greater.
Publicly funded colleges and universities are reeling from a string of spending reductions for higher education and are passing along those losses to students in the form of tuition and fee increases.
“Private student loan volume could grow in the double digits next year because of tuition hikes driven by state budget constraints,” said Michael Taiano, a financial analyst at Sandler O’Neill.
At the same time, a record number of students are seeking a higher education, enrolling or re-enrolling in colleges and universities, stretching the federal financial aid budget thin.
“Federal budgets are constrained by how much in aid they can deliver,” said FBR Capital Markets analyst Matt Snowling. “So the funding gap is going to be filled by private loans.”
As the lender-in-chief for federal college loans, the federal government is also beginning to experience first-hand the impact of a growing number of student loan defaults, as a national populace in the midst of a recession and 10-percent unemployment struggles to keep up with its monthly bills.
Recent graduates are leaving school with record-high debt from student loans and diminished prospects for employment. Parents who in other years might have helped their children pay for college are finding themselves being turned down for federal parent loans because they have joined the ranks of the unemployed and don’t qualify for the loans based on their own creditworthiness.
All of these factors are re-opening the door to private student loans, despite the federal government’s best efforts to steer families from private student loans to federal financial aid options.
FinAid.org’s Kantrowitz predicts that the volume of private student loans will exceed federal student loan volume by 2025. And, as they have in the past, lenders of private student loans are perched, ready to fill in the widening gap between the cost of a college education and the value of a federal financial aid package.
student loans, The Project on Student Debt, gainful employment rule
About the Author
Jeff Mictabor is an enthusiast on the topic of student loan issues in the news. He has been writing for the past 10 years for a variety of education publications. He now offers his writing services on a freelance basis.
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