K-12 Student Loan Industry

K-12 Student Loan Industry

By MaryAnn Schlegel Ruegger  via AlterNet:

The GOP tax bill’s inclusion of 529 plans for K-12 private tuition has been widely criticized as yet one more provision that aids the wealthy. That’s because only wealthy families have enough money on hand to sock away $10,000 a year toward each child’s K-12 private school tuition….

… The 529 provision in the tax bill is more than anything else a boon to the growing K-12 private school loan industry.

…Unlike higher education, where a student borrower’s financial relationship with colleges and lenders is well defined by federal and state laws, K-12 private education is a largely unprotected landscape.

Take Indiana, for instance, home of the largest private school voucher program in the nation. Despite paying out $146 million last year in publicly funded tuition vouchers for private schools, the Indiana Department of Education doesn’t even have the right to see the enrollment contracts or student handbooks that govern the payment policies on that money, let alone provide any consumer protections to students who attend those schools. Unlike colleges, private schools at the K-12 level are almost completely free to impose whatever enrollment and financial policies they please. Lenders for K-12 also face far fewer restrictions than lenders for higher education.

Private schools even have the ability to double dip if they want, forcing one set of parents to pay tuition for the rest of the school year after their child withdraws (or is expelled) mid year AND enroll a replacement student and collect tuition from that one too. Churn, double dipping, and abuses in marketing and advertising can all occur in Indiana private K-12 schools, and there are currently no state or federal laws that would prevent such practices.