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Last Gen X American Theater Review: Star Wars

I saw Star Wars last weekend. Not Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I mean Star Wars, the original. As in, the opening crawl included neither “Episode IV,” nor, “A New Hope,” just “STAR WARS” and then text, signifying that this was indeed the 1977 version. Sometime in the mid-2000s, Lucasfilm caved and offered a limited edition of the original three Star Wars movies, which included bonus DVDs of the un-CGI-ed movies I grew up with—in widescreen. I haven’t so much as tested the “Special Edition” discs.

I think I’ve seen Star Wars twice in the last decade, with the last time being the uncut version (29:22!), so with some time to let it rest in my mind, and watching it with someone who’d never seen it before, I approached the movie with as fresh a mind as I could. I’m certain I watched it scores of times since childhood (once dubbed in Japanese, which was awesome), so I’m definitely unprejudiced. Here are my thoughts:

Luke Skywalker:

Luke wasn’t as whiny as I remember, but he didn’t have much of an arc. Sure he goes on the hero’s journey, but he’s never given an opportunity to opt out. Either he runs off with Ben Kenobi on a swashbuckling adventure, or he sweeps his relatives’ charred corpses into the ditch and becomes a moisture farmer. It’s not much of a choice: “Steinbeck in Space” would’ve been a hard sell.

Part of my problem is that the movie builds up to Luke rejecting Uncle Owen’s libertarian isolationism, but Luke is cheated of that moment. It would’ve more exciting if, rather than being murdered, his aunt and uncle cooperate with the Empire to recover the droids. Uncle Owen may’ve figured the droids weren’t worth his life. He would try to convince Luke to give the droids to the stormtroopers and Luke would’ve said no, perhaps knowing that his decision would doom his relatives.

It’s dark, but Star Wars paints Luke as released when Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru are killed, like lifting a great weight from him. He never pins a stormtrooper down and blaster-rifle-butts his face in screaming, “You killed my family, you bastards!” That would’ve even offered a motivation for him to experiment with the dark side of the Force.

Imperial Savagery:

Relatedly, Star Wars depicts the Empire as alternately incompetent and downright savage—off screen. Luke asks why the Empire would want to murder Jawas, but simply answering, “It’s the droids, dummy,” isn’t good enough. Sometimes people will answer your questions without needing to shoot them or even threaten them beyond showing up with a platoon of stormtroopers. They get the hint. The Jawas had no reason to resist the Empire either. They didn’t have the droids and they’d already been paid. It’s not like they owed customer confidentiality to Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.

As stated earlier, Luke’s relatives didn’t need to resist the Empire either. The stormtroopers had every reason to give them the, “Sir, can you call your nephew and tell him to bring those droids right back here? He’ll be in deep trouble if he doesn’t” treatment. Sure, the scene of Luke returning to his burning home is iconic and superbly executed, but it’s the easy way out for the character.

So, did the Empire kill every single person they came across on Tatooine who so much as looked at R2D2? I think not. Just when it was convenient.

Han Solo:

I chuckled when he shot Greedo. First. It was a great scene to establish the character. However, this time around I found him bizarrely reckless. His fearlessness is endearing, but he runs after some stormtroopers in the Death Star for absolutely no reason. Luke rightly cries, “Where are you going?” He also fires his blaster needlessly at times, e.g. at the trash compactor monster. It’s a wonder he wasn’t killed. At least he has more of an arc than Luke because he decides to go back and join the attack on the Death Star, but it isn’t particularly deep.

The Death Star:

Watching the Death Star scenes, both the interior and the final attack, a wondered, “Just how big is it?” I’d always thought it was colossal, crammed with military arsenals for all kinds of operations and hundreds of thousands of stormtroopers. Like, mind-boggling overkill in every dimension. Watching it this time, though, I think it’s either much smaller than I imagined (or its size varies depending on the plot). I’ve always been mesmerized by its surreal, endless shafts, and vertical lighting that emphasizes them, but nevertheless the characters have no difficulty whatsoever navigating it.

Maybe that’s a case of the saying I’m told is attributed to Aristotle, “It’s better to make the impossible plausible than the implausible plausible.” I can believe in a moon-sized space station that can blow up planets, but I can’t believe the protagonists can run around inside like it’s not the Minotaur’s maze. On the other hand, Star Wars is a heroic epic, and perhaps the genre enables heroes to wander around the Death Star. I’m confident that a movie made today with a location like the Death Star would not work without more explanation of how the characters can move around so brashly. Now, I’m wondering how big it was in Lucas’ head. In my mind, it’s now much smaller in size and scope.

Additionally, the trash compactor monster bit was much sillier this time around. Then again, the Death Star’s interior is a different universe than the rest of the movie.

The Force:

The other thing we have to accept is how much subtler the Force is in Star Wars than its successors. Only when Darth Vader chokes the Death Star’s commander do we have any reason to believe that the Force permits telekinesis, but even that appears as a kind of magic or spooky mind control rather than physical action.

To be honest, I prefer this Force to what comes after. Once Luke uses Force telekinesis to pull his lightsaber to him from the snow in The Empire Strikes Back, the nature of the Force goes downhill, becoming an object of manipulation available to the chosen few. But in Star Wars there’s a possibility that if you believe in the Force, you can tap it to a degree, yet it just happens that no one believes in it. Now it’s just a vehicle for video game power-ups.

Han can question the Force as “hokey religion” in Star Wars because it’s so unobvious, but once we see Jedis whisking stuff around, it’s difficult to be incredulous. I appreciate The Force Awakens‘ attempt to remind us of this “Force doubt” when Han confesses to Rey that it’s all true, but if Kenobi just yanked Han’s blaster from his holster in the original, the issue would’ve been moot. If Han is our window into the everyday person’s perspective of the galaxy, it’s strange that anyone would be incredulous or forget about the Force and the Jedi.

The Villains:

One reason I think Star Wars works so well is that it doesn’t end with the protagonists killing the ultimate villain, the emperor. In fact, the lead villain, Tarkin, isn’t killed in personal combat with any of the main characters. Only Princess Leia ever interacts with him—or Darth Vader for that matter. Most other movies would add a scene where the (male) protagonists meet the villains (whether they’re captured or not), learn their plans, and then conspire to foil them. However, Star Wars goes nowhere near that. Only Princess Leia conveys the villains’ plans to the male protagonists, and it doesn’t matter because she’s the one in charge of the rebellion. Han bails once he’s paid, and Luke was going to join the rebellion anyway. Luke wasn’t even tasked with leading the attack on the Death Star; he’s charged with supporting the experienced commanders and only attacks himself when they fail.

Meanwhile, Tarkin isn’t a portrayed as a Ming-the-Merciless warlord, he’s a ruthless general. His motivation is to serve autocracy, and he’s fine with that. He’s evil, but professional. More importantly, Darth Vader obeys him, which is more evidence of a weaker (and I think better) conception of the Force than in all the sequels.

Princess Leia:

…Is not really a damsel-in-distress character as I imagined, other than being a princess. She isn’t captured out of her incompetence. In fact, she’s almost as trigger-happy as Han. She initiates the plot by loading the Death Star plans into R2D2 and rescues the male protagonists by discovering the trash compactor. The biggest complaint against her is that she rushes to the rebel base on Yavin knowingly allowing the Empire to track her. The movie should’ve given her a chance to explain this decision. Again, to its credit, The Force Awakens hints at this omission when Han tells Finn and Rey that they need a clean ship because the Millennium Falcon is “hot.”

Leia’s problem is that she’s introduced at the tail end of her story in order to tell us about Luke’s journey to embracing his paternal origin as galactic actor rather than withdrawn moisture farmer. That’s Star Wars‘ gender problem. Disney will never make it, but a Princess Leia prequel could be quite good. We could see her become tough as nails as she’s forced to decide whether to sacrifice innocent civilians to free the galaxy. Leia Guevara would be overboard, but it could draw the character better than Star Wars does with Luke.

I still haven’t read Dune, but…

Rewatching Star Wars left me with a somber realization: No number of re-viewings will give me the experience of seeing Star Wars as a twelve-year-old in 1977. Perhaps the First Gen X American can write that one up, but everything I know about Star Wars‘ origins and proximate impact is second hand. What I did see was a well-paced reduction of baby-boomer icons: the wild west cowboys, Buck Rogers, and WWII air battles. I haven’t read Dune, and I haven’t seen Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress, but I know they’re in there as well.

Cramming all this stuff together should fail for its cumbersomeness. Certainly the pacing, the editing (love the wipes), special effects that work with and not against the story, and undoubtedly the score lift it beyond just being good or entertaining.

Whether Star Wars endured because ’70s cinema was “boring” or “cynical,” redeemed the post-Vietnam American psyche, or arrived just in time for folks like me to rewatch it endlessly on VHS, I don’t know. But if a movie was going to become American pop-culture religion, there could’ve been worse candidates, and Star Wars itself could’ve been much worse.

Full-Time Students Paying Full Tuition Fell ~5 Percentage Points in 2014

Once upon a time, more than half of law students at the typical law school paid full tuition.

But that fairy tale is now over. Behold:

Percent Full-Time Law Students Paying Full Tuition

I’m astonished. Now, only about a third of law students at the average law school pay full tuition. These schools must be hemorrhaging money given how much they’re fighting over applicants.

At the average private law school in 2014, there were more students who received less-than-half tuition grants than there were students given a full bill. It appears that in a couple years, even the half-to-full-tuition crowd will outnumber the full freighters—and this is last year’s data!

No. Full-Time Private Law School Students Per School by Grant Received

Speaking of hemorrhaging money, in 2014, full-time law students paying full tuition only contributed $1 billion to private law schools. This year, it’s probably less.

Aggregate Revenue From Full-Time Private Law School Students Paying Full-Tuition

Finally, here’s what tuition discounted by the median grant looks like at private law schools by the mean of their full tuition quintiles. The idea here is to set full tuition as the independent variable and let the discounted tuition float.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition and Median Discounted Tuition by Tuition Quintile Mean

Percent Private Law School Students Receiving Median Grant by Full Tuition Quintile Mean

Last year, the mean discounted tuition among law schools in the second full-tuition quintile was lower than the third’s, meaning second-quintile schools are discounting much more than schools that nominally charge less. I think it’s trivial, but it indicates pricing competition.

That’s all for now.

It’s 2016. Where’s My ‘Hyperinflationary Great Depression’?

[The following post first appeared on the LSTB on January 1, 2012. What it said then still applies today, mutatis mutandis. Thanks for reading the blog and have a prosperous 2016!]

Behold, the curse of a long memory. Last January [2011], Google Alerts sent me an e-mail informing me that the National Inflation Association (“Preparing Americans for Hyperinflation”) issued a press release predicting that the higher ed bubble was “set to burst beginning in mid-2011. This bursting bubble will have effects that are even more far-reaching than the bursting of the Real Estate bubble in 2006.” The NIA press release then digressed into legal education (I’m guessing they’d just read David Segal’s first NYT piece a few days earlier), how evil lawyers are, how they produce nothing for society, and how 60 percent of the Senate and 37 percent of the House are lawyers who rig the economy to make jobs for lawyers. It editorializes:

“While everybody went to school to become a lawyer [really?], nobody went to school to become a farmer because Americans didn’t see any money in farming. With prices of nearly all agricultural commodities soaring through the roof in 2010 and with NIA expecting this trend to continue throughout 2011, the few new farmers out there are going to become rich while lawyers are standing at street corners with cups begging for money.”

The NIA would’ve been more helpful if it explained how lawyers could be a drain on society yet remain vulnerable to market forces. Also, one would think unemployed lawyers would try to find non-lawyer jobs instead of begging, but I think it’s important to note that agricultural prices weren’t “soaring through the roof” in 2010. They were growing, yes, but although the NIA was right that they continued to do so in 2011, (a) it’s stalled recently, and (b) they’re no worse than they were in the 1980s and early 1990s.

Oh well. The NIA sternly concluded:

“We must work hard to educate America to the truth if our country is going to have the wherewithal to survive the upcoming bursting college bubble and Hyperinflationary Great Depression.”

Whoa.

I can’t say I’m quite as disappointed as the NIA undoubtedly is that we’re not seeing much inflation these days, and in mid-2011 I didn’t see many colleges cutting their tuition, laying off faculty, closing programs, or trying to retrench themselves. I also remain unconvinced that $1 trillion in student debt can be worse than $8 trillion in mortgage debt. True, student debt is not dischargeable (unlike mortgage deficiencies) absent a showing of an undue hardship, and it’s hampering the recovery and ruining lives, but it’s not worse in quantity than the housing bubble. As for the NIA’s paranoid ranting about lawyers, all economic evidence I’ve seen indicates that legal services have all but stagnated for much of the last two decades. Apparently, those 60 percent of lawyer-senators aren’t very good at creating work for themselves. I suppose the NIA should express appreciation.

Anyway, if anything, inflation would be a boon to underwater homeowners and student debtors because it erodes the real value of their debts, which grew significantly in the 2000s. Here’s household debt to GDP:

Importantly, I’m no macroeconomist but I’ve never heard of a “hyperinflationary depression.” The terms contradict each other. Depressions occur when people take on excessive debt and begin paying it down simultaneously instead of spending money on other things. This is deflationary because new credit isn’t being created, even by the government. By contrast, hyperinflation has only occurred in unusual circumstances, like when a government owes debts to foreigners in a different currency. Weimar Germany, for example, owed gold-dominated war reparations to the Allied powers, and to purchase the gold, it printed money, causing hyperinflation. Zimbabwe isn’t a good comparison either because it’s a small, HIV-ridden landlocked state with an undiversified, oligopolistic agrarian economy while the U.S. is a wealthy, continent-spanning super-state.

As for inflation fears generally, maybe it’s the fact that I have no memory of high inflation, but why isn’t there a “National Personal Income Association” (NPIA) that regularly celebrates increases in Americans’ per capita personal income?

“Per capita personal income has quadrupled since 1980! Prices didn’t even triple! Hooray! We’re rich! Fiat currency forever and ever! ‘You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold!'”

I’m sure the NPIA wouldn’t’ve been too thrilled with 2008-09, but personal income is increasing again. The problem has just been that over the decades those gains haven’t been distributed equally. This isn’t a problem of inflation but one of wages and taxation.

Intuition tells me the NIA won’t spend early 2012 carefully discussing why the higher ed bubble didn’t burst in mid-2011 as it predicted, nor will it take the time to explain why Americans—many of whom are net debtors—should be concerned about inflation. Instead it will prophecy even more hyperinflation later. But here’s hoping the National Inflation Association won’t provide me entertainment come January 1, 2013. Such is the curse of a long memory.

Full-Time Law School Tuition Still (Slowly) Rising

…But it’s certainly debatable how much students are actually paying.

Here’s the dispersion of stated law-school tuition for full-time students in constant dollars as of the end of second quarter 2015. (I’m not hugely into non-resident tuition.)

Full-Time Law School Tuition Dispersion (Excl. P.R., Constant $)

The law school at the median charged about $1,300 more than last year. Inflation has been so low that real tuition fell last year, but that’s been reversed.

There has been talk recently (I forget when specifically, and I’m too lazy to look it up right now) of law schools cutting their nominal tuition, but from the above chart it’s obvious that these are isolated cases that have not influenced any trends. In fact, I did a quick check and none of the private law schools that cut their tuition in the last two years (La Verne, Brooklyn, Elon, Ohio Northern, and Roger Williams spring from my spreadsheets) saw any increase in full-time applications. Certainly there’s something to be said about the elasticity of demand for law school, but I’ll consider that later.

Still, full-time private law schools’ tuition increases are slowing, but this year they hiccuped upward.

Dispersal of FT Private LS Tuition Price Increases (Current $, excl. PR, Zoomed In)

In each of the last three years, at least 10 percent of tuition increases among private law schools was 0 percent or less. I don’t think this year’s hiccup means anything.

Finally, here’s nominal tuition increases by tuition quintile mean.

Full-Time Private Law School Tuition Increases by Tuition Quintile Mean (Current $)

As with last year, the weight of tuition increases is still on the costlier end of law schools. Surprisingly, Columbia remains the only law school that charges more than $60,000 per year. (Cornell was 19 bucks short. *clap* … *clap*)

In closing, I want to extend my thanks to the law schools for not omitting tuition information from their 509 reports. Some didn’t last year, which is bizarre to me.

Week 48: More Than 55,500 Applicants Projected for 2016

Like the lost, fictitious island of Atlantis, the LSAC’s first report of the 2016 law-school application cycle predicts an applicant rise! At 13,881 applicants as of week 48, it appears more than 55,500 people will apply to law school next year.

Importantly, the LSAC has changed its reporting from fall-term applicants only to applicants for all academic terms. I don’t like changes like these as they impair past comparisons, but it’s probably the right thing to do. It’s unclear when the 2016-17 academic year begins, so I’ll try to treat these concepts with caution until I’m sure.

As it is, in week 48 of 2014, there were 11,415 applicants for the fall term, so a substantial number of people are now being included who were not before, more than 2,000 applicants apparently. What is notable is the difference between the number of applications per applicant.

For fall 2015: 6.13

For all 2016: 5.36 (approx.)

For all 2016: 5.12

In fact, according to the current report, applicants are up slightly for 2016, but applications have fallen by 4.1 percent. Although final predictions based on the first reported week are volatile, these numbers suggest that while some people might believe now is the best time ever to go to law school, they don’t believe it for all law schools. I’ve posited that the distribution of applications matters too and will continue to do so going forward.

Here are links to my past reporting on the opening of the applicant horse race: November 2013 and November 2014, both predicting applicant declines that didn’t pan out. In both those years, the final applicant count rose above the initial projections, meaning that the number of applicants “accelerated” into the cycle. Here’s an illustration starting in January of the application year:

No. Applicants as a Percent of Preliminary Final Count by Week

(Note: This is based on old LSAC data that applies to the fall term only.)

Over the last three years, a growing proportion of applicants didn’t apply until later in the cycle. If this phenomenon continues, i.e. back-loading applicants, then we can expect more than 55,500 total applicants by fall 2016.

I’m not sure why applicants are appearing later than the in past. It’s possibly due to law schools moving their application deadlines further back to capture more bodies and those applicants obliging. Alternatively, the applicant crash that started in 2010 might have affected the earlier chunk of the application cycle. In other words, the type of people who chose not apply to law school are the ones who would’ve first applied in November-January.

Between back-loading applicants, rising applicants, and falling applications, this cycle might throw us some curve balls.

A Thanksgiving Troll From The New America Foundation

The New America Foundation’s article, “Income-Based Repayment Tops Repayment Plan Choice for First Time,” is such blatant policy trolling that you might wonder if it’s still Halloween and not Thanksgiving.

The NAF discovered that income-based-repayment program-enrollment efforts have borne fruit: It’s now the most popular plan among direct loan borrowers. (I haven’t checked myself, but let’s roll with it.) But the NAF’s response is confused: On the one hand, it likes low-income people enrolling in IBR, and it wants IBR to be the default repayment plan. This position is neither unusual or, superficially, disagreeable.

But on the other hand, growing IBR hordes keep the NAF awake at night:

Policymakers have to ask themselves, if college is a good investment, why are borrowers flocking to this insurance program? And why are those trends occurring while other economic indicators, like unemployment rates, are looking pretty good?

The easy answer is that college is not a good investment and “other economic indicators” are not looking pretty good. For one, the unemployment rate isn’t such a good measure of work when so many people leave the labor force.

Here’s the percent of 25-34-year-olds with zero earnings by education.

Percent of 25-to-34-Year-Olds With Zero Earnings by Education

(More here.)

In 2014, 13 percent of college-educated young ‘uns weren’t working; in 1997 that was 7.1 percent, equivalent to 640,000 people. It’s possible many of these folks are back in school, but that just tells us the opportunity cost of education is low—because there aren’t any good jobs. And yes, incomes are down too.

The NAF then trots out (trolls out?) the discredited IBR deadbeat after linking to the GAO finding that only a fraction of IBR enrollees have high incomes:

Maybe IBR enrollment is not a good proxy for borrowers falling on hard times — at least not since the Obama administration … [changed the program] from what was a safety net in 2009 to a heavily subsidized loan program for even well-off borrowers if they borrow for graduate school.

Except the NAF’s research on the changes to IBR didn’t show anything of the kind. Its “Safety Net or Windfall” report never documented a single IBR deadbeat. Instead it crafted nothing other than hypotheticals: Its “narrated borrower examples” even included a law grad who went to California Western, a law school with bad employment outcomes, yet managed to start a job at $65,000 per year. After ten years “Robert” miraculously switched to a job that paid him more than $100,000 per year, and after 25 years, he was make more than $200,000.

Why not just say that he inherited $40,000,000,000 from his wealthy uncle who also happened to be the pretender to both the Qing dynasty’s and Ottoman Empire’s thrones? It’d still fit the NAF’s definition of research.

In truth, only 14 of California Western’s 219 graduates in 2014 found full-time, long-term work at law firms with more than 25 lawyers. 58 were either unemployed or couldn’t be found. The Pay-As-You-Earn changes to IBR benefited these people quite a bit because they will never repay their loans anyway. Income is the independent variable, not debt, and it’s pretty unlikely that after 30 years any California Western grads will be earning $240,000 annually like “Robert”—unless you live in the NAF’s world where one can pass off fantasy as policy analysis.

Because the economy is improving, the NAF reasons, there must—must—be another reason those folks are signing onto IBR:

Borrowers may be enrolling in IBR because they know a good deal when they see one. And as word gets out, more and more students are likely to borrow larger sums to pursue graduate school because they plan to use IBR. That is especially true if they qualify for earlier loan forgiveness under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness benefit. [Emphasis original.]

If this were true, then we’d expect law-school enrollments to swell, even at schools where the credential leads nowhere. Hey, who are students to argue if the government gives Grad PLUS dollars toward their living expenses and not demand they pay it back?

Except that’s still not happening, even three years after the NAF’s Kevin Carey predicted it would. It’s more likely that prospective applicants are sensitive to whether graduate programs lead to jobs at the other end, not whether they can get free money today. Here’s law school applicants:

Applicants, Admitted Applicants, 1Ls

(More here.)

I’ve asserted elsewhere that the law-school applicant crunch has slowed because of articles blathering about how now is the best time ever to go to law school. IBR is a secondary concern, if at all. Really, it’s bizarre that anyone would think that applicants are sophisticated enough to base their decision to go to law school on the existence of IBR but shallow enough to overlook evidence suggesting that J.D.s do not lead to long-term professional careers.

Moving on, the NAF then appears to argue that the Obama administration is wrong to characterize IBR as an insurance policy against student-loan defaults because defaults are still increasing. The NAF says this is a “strange trend” even though it offers no reason to believe that savvy borrowers might be signing on to IBR instead of defaulting, while others haven’t received the message. Maybe both types of borrowers have low incomes and can’t otherwise repay their loans in full, but this assumption negates the NAF’s position that the economy is improving. Oh well.

Finally, the NAF worries that outstanding student loans are growing despite falling issuances because either (a) debtors’ incomes are alarmingly low, or (b) IBR is too generous. Again, only a few paragraphs earlier, the NAF cited the GAO study that found 80 percent of IBR enrollees earn $20,000 or less. Incredible. The ghoulish IBR deadbeat lives on.

So there you have it: In one post the NAF starts by arguing that more people should enroll in IBR to avoid default and then concludes that we should be troubled by … more people enrolling in IBR to avoid default. If it’s (a), then the problem is underemployment and low-wage jobs, not IBR; if it’s (b), then the problem is excessive government lending for unneeded education, not IBR.

That’s enough troll, I’m ready for turkey now. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, too.

**********

Post-script: In case any of you were wondering, Congress can change or revoke IBR at any time because the Higher Education Act is incorporated by reference into student-loan promissory notes. Because the number of IBR variants is increasing, it’s probable that the government is hoping to simplify all of them into one that will probably not be so generous to graduate students as PAYE is. This is a compelling reason to stay away from grad school just because IBR is around. (More here.)

How Many PSLF Deadbeats Are There?

Answer: Don’t Ask The Wall Street Journal.

According to Josh Mitchell’s, “U.S. Student-Loan Forgiveness Program Proves Costly,” 295,000 people are signed up for Public Service Loan Forgiveness, which cancels federal student loans after 10 years of payments with no tax liability afterwards, unlike other income-based repayment plans.

But before going further, a few compliments:

(1) The WSJ is correct that PSLF is a “forgiveness program,” in contrast to at least one past instance when the WSJ called IBR a “student-debt forgiveness program.” More accurately, IBR is a monthly-payment-reduction program.

(2) Moreover, I don’t think I’ve ever defended PSLF, so the WSJ’s examples of doctors taking advantage of the program, even though there’s a good chance they could repay their loans, are more believable than past reporting.

(3) Again, it’s nice to see the spotlight turned away from law grads.

However, the WSJ still doesn’t answer the question: How many of the 295,000 debtors (and projected 600,000 over the next decade) on PSLF will earn high enough incomes to compromise PSLF? Does the program work on net? If the IBR deadbeat is a myth, then shouldn’t we be just as critical of the PSLF deadbeat?

I don’t really have a dog in the PSLF fight, and it should be fairly easy to reform it to take the advantages away from the deadbeats, but the right questions still aren’t being asked. If the unfair beneficiaries are few in number, then they shouldn’t be sensationalized. (Amusingly, the New America Foundation argues that PSLF should be eliminated entirely because the WSJ made it look so bad that it could lead to further backlash against IBR, which, of course, the NAF has never engaged in.)

Speaking of asking the right questions: Is the problem PSLF, or is it the Grad PLUS Loan Program?