May 31, 2012

BLUMER: NY Times Unfairly Targets Ohio Northern in Student Loan Story

On Saturday online and in Sunday’s print edition, supposed sharpshooters at the New York Times singled out Ohio Northern University in its coverage of the explosive growth of federal student loans and their impact on students’ life plans and aspirations.

Concerning ONU, reporters Andrew Martin and Andrew Lehren missed the mark.

The story’s lead anecdote involved Kelsey Griffith, who graduated on Sunday. I’ll congratulate her on that accomplishment, though she seems far more upset at than proud of what is now her alma mater: “As an 18-year-old, it sounded like a good fit to me, and the school really sold it. I knew a private school would cost a lot of money. But when I graduate, I’m going to owe like $900 a month. No one told me that.”

C’mon, Kelsey. You surely were told that you would be borrowing money and signed loan documents, did you not? And you surely understand that money which is borrowed must be repaid, right? Having said that, I should and will compliment Ms. Griffith for taking on two jobs as a waitress while still in school instead of moping about it once she figured things out.

Of ONU, the Times writes: “Here at Ohio Northern, recent graduates with bachelor’s degrees are among the most indebted of any college in the country.”

It just so happens that yours truly has a relative who is attending ONU. That relative was quite offended at what Martin and Lehren wrote, reacting as follows to the “among the most indebted” claim: “ONU has come under fire by many groups because our students graduate with more debt that most other colleges. They do not take into account that about 30% of our students are in pharmacy school which requires that you go 6 years (they get a Doctorate of Pharmacy Degree) at $40,000/year in tuition. And about 15% of our students are engineers. About a third of them ‘co-op’ where they basically intern for a whole year instead of doing classwork. This co-oping forces them to go 5 years total and thus incur another year of debt. These stats are not taken into account when ‘lists of worst colleges for debt’ are complied.”

All other things being equal, of course a school which almost half of its students attend for five years or more is going to have higher-than-average student loan debt. Martin and Lehren didn’t mention that mitigating factor, and should have.

One also has to wonder if the Times and its reporters took ONU’s informal reputation as a place where conservatives at least don’t feel out of place or ostracized as they are at so many other institutions of alleged higher learning into account when deciding which school to hit the hardest in their coverage.

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2 Comments

  1. Pharmacy and engineering are loaded with hard science courses and lead to degrees that are in demand unlike most liberal arts degrees that lead directly to unemployment statistics.

    Comment by dunce — June 1, 2012 @ 1:32 am

  2. Great point.

    Comment by Tom — June 1, 2012 @ 7:23 am

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