Choose another street

I enjoy finding forgotten resources while organizing my computer files on a rainy Friday afternoon.

AUTOBIOGRAPHY IN
FIVE SHORT CHAPTERS
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From There’s a Hole in My Sidewalk
By Portia Nelson

I.
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost … I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

II.
I walk down the same street.
There’s a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don’t see it
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in the same place.
But it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

III.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in. It’s a habit.
My eyes are open.
I know where I am.
It is my fault. I get out immediately.

IV.
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

V.
I walk down another street.

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Student Debt continued: Still no caviar

I have frequently referenced a paper for a higher ed finance class this semester that was featured today in a Los Angeles Times article on the big picture of student debt.

The Institute for Higher Education Policy study of federal student loans, Delinquency: The Untold Story of Student Loan Borrowing, suggests that a majority of students struggle to repay their loans.  As the cost of a higher education has increased exponentially over the last couple of decades, policymakers have relied solely on default rates as a measurement tool.  An institution’s default rates can impact their ability to provide loan borrowing to students.  This study suggests that default rates alone provide an incomplete analysis, as they exclude borrowers who have difficulty repaying their loans but who avoid default.

This study consists of a review of federal student loans only, not private lending.  It focuses on the nearly 1.8 million borrowers who entered into repayment on loans obtained through the Federal Family Education Loan Program in 2005 during their first five years of repayment.  It details the rates at which borrowers entered into default; into deferment, a temporary suspension of loan payments for re-enrollment in school, unemployment, or economic hardship; forbearance, temporary suspensions of a borrower’s payments because of financial difficulty; and delinquency, or late payment on a loan.

Overall, only 37 percent of the borrowers in the study managed to repay their student loans throughout the study period without postponing payments or becoming delinquent. Another seven percent entered into deferment because they re-enrolled in school.  A majority, 56 percent of borrowers, had difficulty making timely payments on their loans.

Of the 56 percent with repayment difficulty, 15 percent of borrowers used deferment and forbearance to postpone their payments and avoid delinquency.  Overall, 41 percent of the student loan borrowers became delinquent or defaulted.  Twenty-six percent of borrowers became delinquent, but did not default.  Approximately 15 percent of borrowers became delinquent and defaulted.

Delinquency and default have serious consequences for student loan borrowers and can affect credit scores and the ability to obtain mortgages and auto loans, and the terms upon which those loans are offered.  Borrowers who default face even more severe consequences, including wage garnishment, withholding of income tax refunds or Social Security benefits, the turning over of the defaulted loans to collection agencies, and liability for collection and court costs.

There were important distinctions made between borrowers.  Undergraduate and graduate borrowers who left school without graduating were far more likely to become delinquent or default than those who graduated.  Graduate students were far more likely to make timely payments without using deferment or forbearance and less likely to become delinquent or to default than undergraduates.  Students at public four-year and private, nonprofit four-year institutions were more likely to repay their loans on time without resorting to deferment or forbearance and less likely to default on loans.  Students at public and for-profit two-year institutions and for-profit four-year institutions were the most likely to experience repayment difficulty.

Student Debt: No new car, caviar, four star daydream

I have been reading a lot on student debt recently, a topic that is of great interest for me as I counsel first-generation college students. My state and institution have among the highest debt rates in the country, not a statistic to celebrate.

Student Debt and the Class of 2009 is the fifth annual report from the Project on Student Debt.  It includes cumulative loan debt of students from public and private nonprofit colleges and shows that the debt level of students who graduate with student loans continues to rise with averages from $13,000 to $61,500. Low debt states are typically in the West or Southern states. High student debt rates are concentrated in the Northeast with Iowa, Minnesota, and Alaska in the top tier as exceptions. Iowa is fourth in the nation for average debt of $28,883 and second in percentage of graduates with debt, at 74%.

A variety of factors contribute to varying debt levels including cost of tuition and fees and financial aid policies of the individual institution. Generally, higher tuition is found at private colleges, but some privates, such as Cal Tech and Princeton, are also the first to institute policies of no-loan or reduced-loan for low- and middle-income students. Student debt figures are not inclusive in that not all colleges reported figures for average debt and percent with debt. In actuality, the debt figures could be and are likely much higher.

Several issues influence the accurate collection of student debt data and are recommended for improving the scope this information. These include a lack of a comprehensive annuals source of data, data on private loans, and lack of reporting on repayment terms and debt-to-income ratios for graduates in repayment.

Student Debt and the Class of 2009 reports only federal loan data. When you consider that debt attributed to private and federal student loans has surpassed $884 billion dollars in the United States and contributes to the ballooning national debt, the effectiveness and equity of relying on student loans to finance the cost of a higher education becomes paramount to all. Lawmakers and institution officials must carefully consider the impact of their tuition decisions and educate the student population as to their debt responsibility.

Type links in student success

I am currently exploring research directed toward identifying if Psychological Type preferences affect student success at a research university. My interest is in determining if there is correlation of Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI) preferences as a gauge of academic success in college. This idea originates from my work as a type practitioner and instructor of a first-year seminar course. Through my annual lectures introducing the MBTI to link personal preferences and learning styles, I quickly detected that my student population was overrepresented in some type preferences in comparison to national samples. Additionally, I found a higher number of students with specific type preferences demonstrating academic difficulty in the first college year.

My personal experience with type is that early in my career, I began to detect interpersonal roadblocks and miscommunication, particularly in the workplace, related to what I later learned were my type preferences. As I further researched type and my own preferences, I began to see opportunities for enabling students to understand more about themselves in the transition to college. As I was already an experienced first-year seminar instructor, I sought academic training to become a type facilitator to add type education in my course. I began administering the introduction to MBTI in my first-year seminar class and to date have assessed the type preferences of more than 700 students in the seminar course during their first semester of college. My goal is to complete a longitudinal study of the academic success and graduation completion of students administered the MBTI in their first year to determine if students with specific type preferences have more academic difficulty in their path to a degree. Ideally, this information will provide early identification for students who may require enhanced programming to meet their academic needs.

Related to this research, I have found type awareness to be extremely helpful in my own relationships, work, and communications. Type has become a touchstone for me, a frame of reference that allows me to dissect and review difficult relationships, expectations, and communications that may occur with others. My knowledge and use of type has been therapeutic in allowing me to recognize that we don’t all interact, process information or produce decisions in similar manners. And our differences make us stronger.

New socks. Two socks. Whose socks?

There are some days that throw us off balance. How we react to those days is how we define ourselves.

We are in the midst of a One Week of Twitter assignment in our first-year seminar class. This is my favorite tweet of the week (so far).

May you wear no socks in the shower today.

Laws of Physics and College Transition


There is an amusement park near my home that has one of those lose your lunch inducing rides that spin faster and faster until the floor drops out. It leaves you stuck to the wall until the ride slows and you gradually resume your footing on solid ground. The science of this phenomenon is centrifugal inertial force.


My university is welcoming 4,356 new students to campus as we begin the fall semester; colleges across the country are welcoming thousands more over the next few weeks. Imagine the inertial force as these students navigate classes, new roommates, and campus cultures that are frequently in contrast to their personal experiences.

Now, imagine your campus as a giant spinning disk with a student planted firmly in place by centripetal force, moving along the curved path of the disk, going with the flow. All is fine as the student survives residence move-in, deciphers a schedule, and maneuvers the dining center. But soon the campus disk is spinning faster and the centrifugal inertial force can become greater than the centripetal friction force holding the student in place. A failing quiz grade, roommate argument, financial difficulties or homesickness can all be triggers to send our students flying right off the college ride.

As we in student affairs greet our new students and those who are returning, it is important that we keep these laws of physics in mind. Know what resources you have available to address student concerns. Advocate for your students when university networks are difficult to follow. Listen carefully for clues that a student may be struggling.

Understanding F = mv2/r may just save a student.


Transition to College

Jacques Steinberg shared gems of wisdom for soon-to-be first-year college students in The Choice column with Advice on the Transition From Applicant to College Student. It included a recommendation from my friend, W. Houston Dougharty, who advises students to live in the moment and less in their social media updates.


As frequently happens in columns such as this, the best words of counsel came from experienced students who remind first-years to treat college like a full time job and learn to do their own laundry.