Would you pay $115,000 for an online degree?
Some students at the University of South Carolina (USC) have been forking out this much, only to graduate and get stuck with massive debt and a very low salary, according to a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) analysis of recent U.S. Education Department data.
The WSJ report said that USC targeted students from low-income backgrounds who had to take heavy federal educations loans to be able to attain the two-year online degree that cost as much as an on-campus one.
The analysis found that an average student studying for a social work master’s degree at USC borrowed $112,000 in loans but half of the students from the university earned less than $52,000 annually. This was the worst combination of student debt-to-earnings compared to other similar universities.
USC is accused of hiring a for-profit firm to recruit thousands of students to its social work master’s program. The firm used status-symbol images, often with aggressive tactics, to attract students across the country, including low-income and Black students it targeted for recruitment.
Students at other universities such as California State University borrowed less than a third of what USC students borrowed and earned a median $59,000 two years later, the WSJ analysis found.
In May, professors at USC questioned the university’s plan to expand its online degree offerings. The plan was aiming to make the prestigious university No. 1 among southeast schools for the number of online undergraduate degrees offered.
Another WSJ report accused elite universities, driven by greed, of turning the U.S. master’s degree system into money-minting operations that pushed millions of U.S. students into unnecessary debt.
Some students accumulated as much as $307,000 in student loan debt, only to end up with jobs that pay $48,000 per year, according to U.S. Education Department data.
Students have accumulated massive debts while pursuing master’s degrees at elite universities in fields such as drama and film, where job prospects are limited and there is little chance of earning enough to repay the debt.
The WSJ analysis of USC’s predatory online degrees and their effect on increasing student loans has generated a debate across social media and online forums over whether students loans should be forgiven.
President Joe Biden campaigned on a promise to forgive $10,000 in student debt per borrower. His administration has detailed over the last year a plan for student loan forgiveness that may help more than a third of those enrolled in the program.
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