Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. The Giant and the Ant

 
St._Cathrine_Chapel
St. Catherine College’s campus, by Bbadgett – Own work, CC BY 3.0.

Here in Kentucky, we’re having exciting experiences with budgets and higher education. Mostly, I’ve been hearing about state schools facing-down pension and health costs, and laying off single-digit percents of their workforce in response, but it turns out the Federal Government can sneeze and do far more damage.

I read today of the case of St. Catharine College, an 85-year-old Dominican school just outside Louisville. The school was small (only 600 students) and, like almost every school in the United States, heavily dependent on subsidized student loans. The subsidies have strings, but they’re poorly defined. In 2011, St. Catharine started offering four-year programs (previously, I gather, they were offering only a liberal arts degree). There were no changes to their curriculum, just the opportunity for more specialization in a student’s choice of classes. The Department of Education reacted by cutting-off financial aid to students, on the grounds that the changes had not been approved. In 2014, the school pointed out that the DoE was wrong. The DoE acknowledged the error, and from 2015 to 2016, processed all the financial aid requests the school sent, as it should have for the past five years.

The damage, however, was already done: The loss of five years’ of financial aid cut the student population of St. Catharine by over a sixth, from 600 to 475 students. Without students, all the financial aid in the world is of no benefit. And so, in July, the school is closing.

Because of a single error — probably made by honest mistake but, after the IRS scandal, I’d check — that was admitted to by the government 475 students have to find a new college, 100 faculty and staff* have to find a new job, an old institution closes its doors, and another link to the country’s past is lost.

Will a single head at DoE roll? Probably not. The US Attorney for the region is trying to be helpful, but isn’t actually going to settle the case to restore the college for the damage done by the DoE.

The Leviathan tripped over its shoelaces and crushed 575 people. The Leviathan isn’t even going to notice.

* Correct from “faculty.”

There are 28 comments.

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  1. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    On the other hand, everyone has been saying there is a bubble in higher education. I know that Burlington College where Bernie Sanders wife was president went under too. Lately, it seems like few or several other smaller colleges haven’t had much room for error either.

    The Ivy League and state colleges will be able to weather the bubble. They will say, “What bubble?” However, I think some of the smaller schools could start falling.

    • #1
    • June 1, 2016, at 11:19 PM PDT
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  2. I Walton Member

    Nothing new here. Big regulation spawns big and kills little whether business, banks, or education. Does the DOE add anything positive? The state educational bureaucracy is dependent on its money, but does that bureaucracy educate or just design, coordinate, spend, not to mention crush, water down homogenize? Why do public schools need all the superstructure other than to help them get and spend Federal money?

    • #2
    • June 2, 2016, at 3:20 AM PDT
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  3. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    I started reading this in full anti-education-bubbble burn-it-all-down mode but left it profoundly sad for the people affected.

    What a mess.

    • #3
    • June 2, 2016, at 5:39 AM PDT
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  4. Fricosis Guy Listener

    I did a short stint in a highly-regulated industry. While kneeling before Zod can be lucrative, one bureaucrat’s whim can make it all go away.

    When Zod says “[expletive],” you better ask “what color?”

    • #4
    • June 2, 2016, at 5:59 AM PDT
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  5. Tim H. Member

    This is awful. In a sense, this is like a police shooting case where the policeman has accidentally wounded hundreds of people. This was done by the government, which is different from a tragedy of market forces or a bubble popping. The purpose of the government is to secure our rights, but we’ve put it in charge of all kinds of…stuff. Other stuff. Stuff it isn’t supposed to be doing, and it moves around like a bull in a china shop. It can’t help wrecking things (kindly ignore the contrast with my earlier metaphor).

    This college lasted 85 years. For the first decades, the government wasn’t involved with student loans at all. I think the Federal Government started guaranteeing them in the 1960s, right? But it wasn’t until Obama that they just took over the program entirely? And so you’ve got to have Federal oversight of the colleges they’re paying for, of course. And that means schools like this need to get the proper approvals to start a new program, of course. And that means some faceless bureaucrat has to sign of, but he might miss a few things. You know how it is. Hey, we’re not perfect. Mistakes were made. All in a day’s work. Sorry about destroying your college.

    To undo this mistake of Federalizing student loans, we’re going to have to wean students and colleges off the easy money. That’s going to be awfully hard.

    • #5
    • June 2, 2016, at 6:09 AM PDT
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  6. KC Mulville Inactive

    The destruction of the academy, in particular the Catholic academy, has been gradually accelerating for many years.

    The myth of the academy is that it’s dedicated to the pursuit of truth, and we just take it for granted the premise that a search for truth includes intellectual independence. But that myth is belied by the insistence that when the government contributes even one cent of funding, they acquire the right to dictate the definition of truth. Money is power.

    The monkey trap is that schools can’t avoid money, because while all of this government takeover was happening, another trend also started happening: namely, the mechanism whereby a school’s prestige (and therefore marketability) became based on its exclusivity. Exclusivity is most easily (and therefore most often) achieved by raising tuition. The schools raised tuition so high that they forced themselves to become dependent on grants and loans backed by the government.

    In other words, the schools did this to themselves. And what’s worse, the education market forced it to happen to every school, since every school had to compete in the same market. Hillsdale is an anomaly. After all, how many other schools could afford to follow that model?

    The academy is a mess. And the irony is that the academy has the nerve to “instruct” everyone else on how to behave.

    Academician, heal thyself …

    • #6
    • June 2, 2016, at 6:24 AM PDT
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  7. Saint Augustine Member

    What a shame.

    What a shame this isn’t national headline news.

    • #7
    • June 2, 2016, at 6:25 AM PDT
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  8. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    First, stories like this make me fall to my knees in gratitude for Hillsdale College, and inclined to weep that my oldest daughter has been given the opportunity to start there in the fall. Thank God!

    Second, if you think it’s accidental that a small Catholic college run by the conservative, orthodox Dominican order is stepped on by Obama’s education department? Think again. These lefties in the bureaucracy know they have to destroy the family and the Church in order to displace everything that matters in people’s lives. “Everything inside the state…”

    • #8
    • June 2, 2016, at 6:33 AM PDT
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  9. The Cloaked Gaijin Member

    Sabrdance:St._Cathrine_ChapelSt. Catherine College’s campus, by Bbadgett – Own work, CC BY 3.0.
    Because of a single error — probably made by honest mistake but, after the IRS scandal

    Looks like a beautiful building too. Now to be abandoned? Such waste.

    Wikipedia: “On June 1, 2016, St. Catharine announced that it would close at the end of July due to a $5 million deficit brought on by the construction of new residences halls, a health-sciences building, and a new library…”

    No one willing to gather up $5 million from a person or group of Catholics or some other group? Doesn’t sound like huge amount of money…

    • #9
    • June 2, 2016, at 6:50 AM PDT
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  10. Casey Inactive

    I have this kind of image in my head when thinking about these things:

    pyramid people

    When you begin stacking people in layers like this with decision making concentrating upward, you gain measurable efficiency.

    But also, if the guy on top (or near the top) screws up then then that screw up flows down to every block beneath.

    The problem with the modern focus on measurable data is that what is learned is generally that you need better blocks at the top. Not that we need smaller pyramids and less efficiency.

    We overlook the extraordinary risk inherent in this structure.

    • #10
    • June 2, 2016, at 7:16 AM PDT
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  11. Nick Stuart Inactive

    Any money with government strings is poison.

    We have to learn how to do without it.

    Everyone involved will have to do more with less. Those of us who are not involved will have to get involved.

    • #11
    • June 2, 2016, at 7:17 AM PDT
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  12. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Another reason to get rid of the Dept. of Education. There are so many stories of the havoc they’ve created and lives that have been damaged. And no accountability. But I know I’m dreaming. Good post, Sabr.

    • #12
    • June 2, 2016, at 7:43 AM PDT
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  13. JimGoneWild Coolidge

    Kill DOE. The Feds have no business messing with education.

    • #13
    • June 2, 2016, at 8:20 AM PDT
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  14. The Reticulator Member

    The power to subsidize is the power to destroy.

    • #14
    • June 2, 2016, at 8:23 AM PDT
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  15. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Western Chauvinist:First, stories like this make me fall to my knees in gratitude for Hillsdale College, and inclined to weep that my oldest daughter has been given the opportunity to start there in the fall. Thank God!

    Second, if you think it’s accidental that a small Catholic college run by the conservative, orthodox Dominican order is stepped on by Obama’s education department? Think again. These lefties in the bureaucracy know they have to destroy the family and the Church in order to displace everything that matters in people’s lives. “Everything inside the state…”

    I should bring up another college that gets far less press than Hillsdale – Grove City College fought the strings attached to student loans and grants back in the 1980s (the Reagan administration sided against Grove City in a Supreme Court case). They saw what was coming, saw that ever more strings would be attached, and thus spent the next 20 years building up a private loan and grant program so that the feds could never touch them through error or malice.

    It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    • #15
    • June 2, 2016, at 8:26 AM PDT
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  16. The Reticulator Member

    skipsul: It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    Why do you say, “but”? What’s that doing in the sentence?

    • #16
    • June 2, 2016, at 8:31 AM PDT
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  17. Pelayo Inactive

    I am a big supporter of Catholic education and would like our next President to abolish the Department of Education. Having said that, am I the only one who finds it odd that a school of 475 students has 100 faculty members? That is the lowest ratio of students to faculty I have ever seen.

    • #17
    • June 2, 2016, at 8:39 AM PDT
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  18. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul: It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    Why do you say, “but”? What’s that doing in the sentence?

    They should have seen this coming.

    • #18
    • June 2, 2016, at 9:01 AM PDT
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  19. James Gawron Thatcher
    James Gawron Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sabr,

    The Department of Education reacted by cutting-off financial aid to students, on the grounds that the changes had not been approved. In 2014, the school pointed out that the DoE was wrong. The DoE acknowledged the error, and from 2015 to 2016, processed all the financial aid requests the school sent, as it should have for the past five years.

    The damage, however, was already done: The loss of five years’ of financial aid cut the student population of St. Catharine by over a sixth, from 600 to 475 students. Without students, all the financial aid in the world is of no benefit. And so, in July, the school is closing.

    This has nothing to do with the institution accepting the subidies. This is a capricious tyranical overlord bureacracy running loose. I would certainly check to see if there is anything more involved than just general callous incompetence.

    Unacceptable!

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #19
    • June 2, 2016, at 9:16 AM PDT
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  20. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance

    The Cloaked Gaijin:

    Sabrdance:
    Because of a single error — probably made by honest mistake but, after the IRS scandal

    Looks like a beautiful building too. Now to be abandoned? Such waste.

    Wikipedia: “On June 1, 2016, St. Catharine announced that it would close at the end of July due to a $5 million deficit brought on by the construction of new residences halls, a health-sciences building, and a new library…”

    No one willing to gather up $5 million from a person or group of Catholics or some other group? Doesn’t sound like huge amount of money…

    According to the college, a number of alumni tried to raise the money, but couldn’t do it before the deadline. I don’t know the structure of Catholic Education to say why the Bishops aren’t stepping in (that’s a common question in the newspaper comment sections).

    Pelayo:I am a big supporter of Catholic education and would like our next President to abolish the Department of Education. Having said that, am I the only one who finds it odd that a school of 475 students has 100 faculty members? That is the lowest ratio of students to faculty I have ever seen.

    It’s 118 faculty and staff. I didn’t report it quite right. Thanks for the catch.

    • #20
    • June 2, 2016, at 9:45 AM PDT
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  21. Mark Hunter Member

    Sabrdance:

    Pelayo:I am a big supporter of Catholic education … a school of 475 students has 100 faculty members? That is the lowest ratio of students to faculty I have ever seen.

    It’s 118 faculty and staff. I didn’t report it quite right. Thanks for the catch.

    There is likely a point where you have a minimum number of faculty members and can’t operate at a lower number. It looks like they hit that and then went bankrupt because of it (and the other matters). Also, people tend to count the faculty in odd ways.

    As a professor in a public university, I’ve dealt with governance & accreditation. I’m not aware of the DoEd involvement in approving program changes. There is a lot I don’t know, but we deal with approvals for new programs through the state agencies and then at the regional accreditation level.

    Two things: 1) I too am a fan of Catholic education. In fact, Catholic, Episcopal, and SDA schools do very good work. 2) If the DoEd shut off student loans, that is another reason why it needs to go away – and why student loans should be privatized.

    When Lamar Alexander went to Washington as Sec of Ed, he said he was going to close the DoEd – I wish he had. An erstwhile Republican condemned him for being against education. My response was, “Why would you think that giving a profession its own federal bureaucracy was a reward?”

    • #21
    • June 2, 2016, at 10:15 AM PDT
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  22. The Reticulator Member

    skipsul:

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul: It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    Why do you say, “but”? What’s that doing in the sentence?

    They should have seen this coming.

    That doesn’t make it right for us to stand back and let the government abuse its power over them.

    • #22
    • June 2, 2016, at 1:36 PM PDT
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  23. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul:

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul: It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    Why do you say, “but”? What’s that doing in the sentence?

    They should have seen this coming.

    That doesn’t make it right for us to stand back and let the government abuse its power over them.

    I never suggested otherwise.

    • #23
    • June 2, 2016, at 1:39 PM PDT
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  24. Fake John/Jane Galt Coolidge

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul:

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul: It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    Why do you say, “but”? What’s that doing in the sentence?

    They should have seen this coming.

    That doesn’t make it right for us to stand back and let the government abuse its power over them.

    What abuse of power? When you dance with the devil you are gonna get burned. St. Catharine College gambled with their soul and lost. That is what usually happens when you deal with Satan. The Church should know better.

    • #24
    • June 2, 2016, at 2:06 PM PDT
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  25. The Reticulator Member

    skipsul:

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul:

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul: It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    Why do you say, “but”? What’s that doing in the sentence?

    They should have seen this coming.

    That doesn’t make it right for us to stand back and let the government abuse its power over them.

    I never suggested otherwise.

    Then what is the point of blaming the victim at this time? I agree with what you said, and I would hope it is not the sum total of your views on the matter, but I see people making comments like that on occasions when it lends aid and comfort to those who want to wash their hands of the matter.

    • #25
    • June 2, 2016, at 4:00 PM PDT
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  26. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul:

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul:

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul: It is a shame about St. Catherine, but the dangers of relying on federal student loans have been apparent for generations now.

    Why do you say, “but”? What’s that doing in the sentence?

    They should have seen this coming.

    That doesn’t make it right for us to stand back and let the government abuse its power over them.

    I never suggested otherwise.

    Then what is the point of blaming the victim at this time? I agree with what you said, and I would hope it is not the sum total of your views on the matter, but I see people making comments like that on occasions when it lends aid and comfort to those who want to wash their hands of the matter.

    How is pointing out the obvious either blaming the victim or lending aid to the enemy? Why should others not observe the lessons of St. Catherine’s mistake?

    • #26
    • June 2, 2016, at 4:40 PM PDT
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  27. The Reticulator Member

    skipsul: How is pointing out the obvious either blaming the victim or lending aid to the enemy? Why should others not observe the lessons of St. Catherine’s mistake?

    No problem with that, but if we want to make changes we need to be emphasizing the inappropriate actions of the government.

    • #27
    • June 2, 2016, at 7:53 PM PDT
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  28. The Reticulator Member

    The Reticulator:

    skipsul: How is pointing out the obvious either blaming the victim or lending aid to the enemy? Why should others not observe the lessons of St. Catherine’s mistake?

    No problem with that, but if we want to make changes we need to be emphasizing the inappropriate actions of the government.

    I should also point out that if St Catherine had avoided the mistake of government involvement, it would have gone out of business sooner rather than later. It is extremely difficult for a college to do what Hillsdale does; I question whether there is a government-free financial base in the whole country to support more than 2 or 3 Hillsdales. The money and power are mostly on the government side. So to say the college should have avoided governmental involvement is basically to walk away from confronting the problem.

    • #28
    • June 2, 2016, at 8:23 PM PDT
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