The Real Problem With WIOA

I’m still confused over why the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) is already considered an abject failure because it didn’t do anything about the predatory lending practiced by institutions covered by an entirely different piece of legislation, but in the meantime, while watching this, I was pleased to see someone mention, even if somewhat obliquely (and then completely ignored by the host), the one clear aspect of WIOA (and its predecessor, the Workforce Investment Act) that really does work to the advantage of those schools that rip people off: the fact that there isn’t nearly enough funding in WIOA to provide quality training to people who are eligible for the program. If people had better options, maybe they wouldn’t be in a position to be taken advantage of by these terrible schools.

I’ve written about the completely inadequate funding levels for adult education in WIOA here. I’m not an expert by any stretch on the job training programs covered in WIOA, but I gather from what little I do know that the funding for these programs is inadequate as well. If people think that it’s the WIOA-funded one-stops that should be counseling people about higher ed student loans, then in their next breath it night be good to talk a little about whether one-stop staff capacity is sufficient—or sufficiently knowledgable—to do this, and if not, what kind of money it might take to  make that happen.

Again, I’m really interested in how workforce investment advocates might do more to stop the higher education scam artists that prey on the unemployed and unskilled, but most of the discussion over the last week or so hasn’t been very clear about the differences between higher eduction and WIOA, how they actually work together, and how they could work together better, given such a restrictive funding environment. Without such clarity, it’s hard to know which policy choices, if any, will make a difference. This is one area where your comments would be much appreciated!

Curious Comment About Rise in Student Loan Defaults

In a recent essay for Voices In Society, Anthony Carnevale, Director of the Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, makes an offhand remark about student loan defaults that caught my attention:

Sure, college is expensive—stories of students racking up tens of thousands of dollars in student-loan debt are common. Federal student-loan default rates jumped from 7 percent in 2008 to 8.8 percent in 2009, so it’s clear that not everyone is handling that debt responsibly. (my emphasis)

Maybe some of those borrowers were irresponsible, but that 7 percent default rate jump occurred just after the worst recession in decades—one that was characterized by double digit unemployment in many states. I wonder how many borrowers during this period suddenly found themselves in a position, through no fault of their own, where it became impossible to continue to make their payments.

Something else was going on around this time, too:

“I hear a lot of talk that these are just rogue actors,” Mr. Harkin began one question to Gregory D. Kutz, who led the undercover investigation for the Government Accountability Office. “Would you say that misleading and deceptive practices are the exception, or are these more widespread?”

Mr. Kutz responded that while investigators found “good practices” at a handful of colleges, none of the 15 colleges it visited were “completely clean.” At each of them, recruiters and admissions officers made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to investigators posing as applicants.