To the editor: Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos ought to be ashamed of herself for trying to push through a reversal of the Obama-era regulation that made it easier for students to erase debited loans in cases of fraud. These regulations were not only necessary, but purposely put in place to guard unsuspecting students from being taken advantage of by for-profit colleges. It's just one more concession DeVos and her administration has made to big-money investors who want to make sure they not only get their money back, but also make a huge profit off the backs of young people who can least afford it. It's deception at the highest level.
Is this being done on purpose? You bet. The Obama administration had this right, implementing rules that guarded students from being saddled with huge (and unpayable) debt for the majority of their lives. These "schools" are a scam, as evidenced by "colleges" like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute (and, yes, Trump University), that use deceptive marketing and predatory recruitment in order to turn a profit.
As a long-time educator I recognized these scams for what they were when they came to life in late 1980s and early 1990s. Many students asked me about going to these types of schools, and after conversations, I realized these schools were just profit centers. The students’ degrees were essentially worthless and the prospect of a job in the students’ chosen fields dim at best.
Here's how this scam works. The school's counselor/salesperson would get a student to attend the college. The school would then load a student up with as much debt as possible because loans would be guaranteed by the U.S. government. In essence, it wouldn't matter if the student could pay back the loan or not because the taxpayers would always guarantee the loan. The college got its money no matter what … at least until the Obama administration shut down the scam. DeVos wants to reverse this protection.
DeVos also wants to kill the provision that barred colleges from requiring students to sign an agreement that would force them into arbitration in the event of a dispute. If a student can't afford to pay for college, how can he or she be expected to afford a lawyer for representation in mandatory arbitration? DeVos' proposal is also considering a higher burden of "clear and convincing" evidence of fraud for all students. Maybe the government should require these colleges to prove they weren't defrauding the students.
This should be a call to arms for all parents with kids currently in college and those with future college aspirations. Call or write your members of Congress and tell them that you will not be voting for them unless they kill this bad proposal in its tracks before it gains a foothold.
— Lee R. Talley, Tinley Park
A model society
Conservative columnists and cartoonists try to depict democratic socialists as admiring the dictatorship in Venezuela. They deliberately avoid the reality that the model for democratic socialism is actually found in northern Europe, in progressive and democratic societies like Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Germany.
The current president has expressed the wish that immigrants to the U.S. would come from a place like Norway. There is a good reason why people from countries like Norway do not want to come here.
The social-democratic societies they live in generally have a far better quality of life than in our unchecked capitalist country. There is far less disparity between the rich and the poor. Living standards are high. Workers have a far greater say in the management of their companies. People are entitled to, and do take, longer vacations. With socialized medicine, life expectancy is far greater than in the U.S., since everybody has access to the best medical care. Murder and crime rates are lower. National resources are devoted to a greater extent on the infrastructure and programs to benefit ordinary people, rather than wasted on military expenditures.
These societies are not perfect, by any means. Social-democratic parties are not always in the government, but there is a general consensus among all leading parties to preserve and protect the welfare state built up by previous social-democratic governments.
Young people in America are right in beginning to question our unfettered capitalist society and looking to the social-democratic model of a market economy checked by rules to protect ordinary people and enhance the quality of life for everyone.
— James Genden, Evanston
What Russia really wanted
The recent criticism of President Donald Trump by Russia’s state-controlled media is both mind-bending and eye-opening. Russia’s media have even suggested that Trump smells like a Kremlin agent. Trump appears beholden to Russia with his public support for Russian President Vladimir Putin and criticism of U.S. intelligence agencies, while exhibiting a disinterest in tamper-free elections. And, all the while he enforces some Russian sanctions and opposes Russia annexing Crimea. That Russia’s media are reporting these conflicting positions — something that is being offered up by our own media, as well — is oxymoronic. What’s going on?
What going on is that Putin and his oligarchs have been far more successful than we (and perhaps they) have yet understood at disrupting our democracy, its many institutions, and specifically its electoral system. Rather than make Trump our president, I expect Putin’s initial goal was to taint or corrupt Hillary Clinton’s much-anticipated presidency. She would have been disparaged to such a degree — “lock her up” — that an opposing Congress and constituency would have made her time in office both miserable and ineffective. Her early criticisms of Russia and Putin were threats that Putin couldn’t tolerate as he attempts to widen his international influence while undermining democracies and western alliances worldwide.
Putin’s success has been to make our two-party system into fractured multi-party constituencies who deal out acrimonious nonsequitur attacks on one another while neutralizing the effectiveness of our once-hallowed national and international institutions: the press, Justice Department, Congress, NATO, WTO and our trade partners, the European Union, and, ultimately, our nation’s presidency itself.
That’s the “eye-opening” evolution of Putin’s successful strategy. It’s become much more than making Clinton a beaten presidential candidate. When Putin had his media accuse Trump of being a “Kremlin agent,” it was the final coup de grace. Putin has managed to undermine democratic institutions right and left, including our U.S. president, his very own friend and “agent” Donald J. Trump.
When people and their leaders no longer trust anyone or anything, what happens to their democracy? What will happen to our democracy?
— Ronald Solberg, Downers Grove
Looking to 2020
As an 85-year-old lifelong Democrat fed up with Donald Trump's erratic presidency, I'm troubled by the uncertain attempt to replace it. Nobody knows who Trump's challenger will be in 2020, and that includes the Democratic Party. Most of the hopefuls apparently are waiting to declare as candidates until after the November congressional elections, which could trigger an impeachment possibility and increase the presidential chances against Trump.
But time is not on the Democrats' side. They have an urgent need for someone to emerge who can inspire a majority of voters to rally around him or her for the next year and longer. It will take a lot of time for that person to become a credible party leader capable of defeating Trump by running an energetic 50-state campaign with a believable message. Some familiar names have been mentioned, two of them older and better known to the public. But the problem is determining who would be the right person — if there is one.
With no obvious Democratic choice in sight, it looks more and more like Trump's most serious election enemy might be himself. Three currently unknown factors, however, could deflate Trump's boast of repeating a win: the outcomes of the Trump-Russia investigation and the November elections — plus the possible entry of a strong independent candidate.
— Ed Stone, Northbrook