Al Lord took advantage of the tuition hike. He pays for it.


Al Lord, the former chief executive of student loan giant Sallie Mae, has a complaint about higher education: The price of college is damn too high.

Paying for his grandchildren’s education in recent years, he said, has left him appalled at the tuition bills that land on his desk every semester. For those who know (or in some cases curse) Mr. Lord, this is quite the twist. He led Sallie Mae through a period of wild success and near collapse, a period when the company implemented new practices that led to a massive increase in student loan debt from the early 2000s. .

The high tuition bite hit him several years ago when a grandson enrolled at the University of Miami, which currently charges $ 75,230 per year for tuition, room and board and the cover. That’s a far cry from the $ 175 per semester that Mr. Lord remembers paying for his own studies at Penn State University in the 1960s. He also paid for the education of three other grandchildren, to attend the Villanova University, University of Miami and Davidson College. The bills approached $ 200,000 per head.

“It’s criminal,” he said of what schools charge these days. He won sympathy for families of lesser means. “Boy, I’m really glad we saved up for my grandchildren. If the average income is $ 40,000 or $ 50,000 or $ 60,000, I just don’t know how you do it.

Few people had such a precise vision of the cost of a college education as Mr. Lord, who is now 75 years old. He said he had watched in bewilderment for decades as colleges consistently raised their prices faster than inflation. Parents complained; investors and analysts predicted that schools would eventually be forced to shut down. They never did. “They are raising them because they can, and the government is making it easier,” Lord said.

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