by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
On Monday, The New Yorker offered a sympathetic report (“A student-loan debt revolt begins”) about 15 former students of Corinthian Colleges, a dodgy and now largely defunct operator of for-profit schools, who intend to stop repaying their student loans as a matter of principle. “They believe that they have both ethical and legal grounds for what appears to be an unprecedented collective action against the debt charged to students who attended Corinthian schools,” writes Vauhini Vara, “and they are also making a broader statement about the trillion dollars of student debt owed throughout the country.” Senator Warren has called on the federal government to simply discharge the debts of former Corinthian students. An Occupy-affiliated organization called Debt Collective is pressing a similar agenda.
What does not seem to have occurred to Senator Warren, to Debt Collective, to the Corinthian 15, or to Vauhini Vara and the editors of The New Yorker is this: The students in question do not owe money to Corinthian Colleges. They owe money to third parties, those being private lenders and the federal government. As an instrument of protest, they might as well stop making their car payments, skip their rent, or boost mocacchinos from Starbucks — the people who lent them money are no more responsible for Corinthian’s woes than are their landlords and baristas.
This is classic leftist misdirection. The students in question took out loans and used their credit to purchase a defective product, no different from putting a bucket of magic beans on a MasterCard. They made poor decisions with other people’s money, which is not entirely surprising: Access to other people’s money is an invitation to making poor decisions. There is an excellent case to be made that they were defrauded by Corinthian — or, at the very least, that Corinthian failed to deliver on services contracted — and that the students are therefore entitled to a refund of the money they paid to the firm. But just as MasterCard is not responsible if you put a lemon on your credit card (you’d be shocked how many people purchase cars with credit cards), Bank of McNasty and Uncle Stupid are not responsible for legal adults who borrow money to buy subpar educational services. This is not to say that the students in question weren’t mistreated — it certainly appears that they were — but they were not mistreated by their banks.