Before we take our two-week winter publishing break, we thought we’d revive an old tradition and highlight our most popular posts from the past year.
Nearly half of our best read posts from 2012 deal with students’ lack of understanding of their financial aid options and policymakers’ efforts to try to make the system more transparent for students. Others focus on issues that HEW has long covered: student loan default rates, for profit colleges, Sallie Mae, the horrors of our student loan collection system, and President Obama’s higher education record. And of course, topping the list is a perennial reader favorite, our annual Academic Bowl Championship Series rankings, which we published just last week.
So without further ado, here are our 10 most-read posts of 2012:
1. The 2012 Academic Bowl Championship Series
For the sixth year in a row, we published our rankings of how college football teams would stack up if academic success determined a team’s Bowl Championship Series standing. And for the six year in a row, this post, written by HEW newbie Alex Holt, led the pack in terms of readership.
2. Shape Up or Lose Out: The 218 Institutions that Must Develop Default Prevention Plans
In late September, the U.S. Department of Education released the first official three-year cohort default rates for postsecondary institutions. In this post, HEW contributor Rachel Fishman – better known as @higheredrachel – took a closer look at the 218 schools that had three-year rates so high that they now must tell the Education Department how they plan on reducing them.
3. Why the Harkin Report on For-Profit Colleges Really Matters
In this piece, I revealed what I believe to be the true significance of Sen. Tom Harkin’s final report on his two-year investigation of the for-profit higher education industry. The post is a much quicker reading than the report, which contains thousands of pages of internal company records documenting widespread abuses throughout the industry.
4. NASFAA's Unfortunate Stance on the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet
In this post, Fishman took on the National Association of Financial Aid Administrators over its opposition to the “shopping sheet” – a model financial aid award letter that the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have been urging colleges to adopt.
5. An Unsettling Settlement in Class Action Lawsuit Challenging Sallie Mae's Subprime Lending Practices
In my first post after returning to HEW, I explained why a proposed settlement agreement in a shareholder lawsuit (click here for part 1 of the suit and here for part 2) challenging Sallie Mae’s subprime private loan practices was so unsettling – both for the real victims in this case (i.e. the low-income and working class students who were steered to these risky, high-cost loans) and for the important questions about Sallie Mae’s actions that were left unanswered. Unfortunately, the federal district court judge overseeing the case must have missed the post, as he signed off on the settlement agreement in September.
6. FACT or Fiction? New Online Tool Will Help Students Manage Loan Debt
In this piece, Fishman casted a critical eye on a new interactive online tool that the Education Department launched to help student loan borrowers better manage their debt. Her conclusion: the FACT tool will either revolutionize entrance and exit counseling or “languish in obscurity.”
7. President Obama’s Biggest Higher Ed Misses
A week before the election, HEW contributors Amy Laitinen and I wrote posts examining the Obama administration’s higher education accomplishments, and its biggest blunders and missed opportunities. In a campaign season marked by its negativity, is it any wonder that our readers were more interested in hearing what went wrong than what went right?
8. New Financial Aid Shopping Sheet Standardizes Award Letters — But Will Anyone Use It?
In this piece, Fishman reviewed the “shopping sheet” that the Education Department and the Consumer Bureau have developed and revealed its fatal flaw. Curious? Give the post another read to learn what it is.
9. What Borrowers Don’t Understand About Student Loans May Hurt Them
In her inaugural HEW post, Fishman examined some of the 2,000 public comments that the Consumer Bureau received on private loans. Her conclusion that “too many students are making bad borrowing decisions because they don’t understand their options” is depressing but true.
10. Getting Rid of the Student Loan Repo Man
In this post, I argued that our student loan collection system is destructive because it doesn’t distinguish between those who default on their federal loans because they want a “free ride” and those who simply don’t have the money to make their payments. Instead, the system subjects both types of borrowers to the same harsh treatment and ruins many lives in the process.
As always, we appreciate your readership and hope you have a wonderful holiday season. We’ll see you back here the second week of January.