Hi reddit! I'm Christine Romans (@ChristineRomans on Twitter), CNN's explainer-in-chief of all things money. He's Andrew Rossi (@a_rossi), the director of Ivory Tower, a new CNN Film (premieres tomorrow night!) that looks at the looming crisis in higher college education. What's a college education really worth? What are the alternatives to expensive, four-year programs? Let's talk!

Update: Thanks everyone. This has been fun! We hope you watch Ivory Tower on CNN, Thursday at 9P ET/6P PT. Here's a preview.

Our Proof: https://twitter.com/CNNMoney/status/535105355609833472 More proof: [https://twitter.com/CNNMoney/status/535118035225681920]

Comments: 448 • Responses: 20  • Date: 

notwittyatall84 karma

What was the logic behind making student debt bankrupt proof? What do you think would happen if students in trouble could dismiss their student debts in bankruptcy like any other debt?

IvoryTowerCNN51 karma

This is an excellent question. Why should those with credit card debt, a mortgage or a car loan be able to discharge that debt in bankruptcy, while student loans remain an obligation for a lifetime (except in exceedingly rare cases in which a disability is accepted)? One of the reasons may relate to the way we view the "asset" that is at the heart of a student loan, versus those other kinds of debt. There is a clear tangible good that a bank can seize when they foreclose on a house or repossess an automobile because the debtor can't make their payments. But when a student is unable to get a job that would allow them to pay back their loans, what is left for the bank to take back? Students are obtaining an intangible good when they go to school. In some cases there are skills they acquire, but much of their time is spent learning from peers and growing through "character formation." And a bank cannot repossess a person's character. Nevetheless, student debtors need to be protected under bankruptcy laws just as other debtors are; this is something that absolutely must change with student debt reform.

ChristineRomansCNN7 karma

One reason federally backed student loans can't be vanquished in bankruptcy is because if you default, you are defaulting on the American public, not a private entitity. A credit card company in bankruptcy can be forced to eat your bad debts. But the American government can't. I suppose Congress could change this. Then taxpayers could eat the bad student loans, and pay for it some other way. (Tax increases or program cuts elsewhere, maybe?)

Oktember37 karma

Again, this doesn't hold water because federal income tax debts can be shed through Chapter 7. This has some restrictions, such as the debts must be 3+ years old, but student debt is often held for more than a decade. Debts to publicly-owned utilities can also be shed in bankruptcy.

ChristineRomansCNN24 karma

So the question is, who lobbies Congress for the change? Maybe we need to see student advocacy on this?

sgo3714 karma

What is going to happen when students can't pay off their debt?

ChristineRomansCNN12 karma

It's not a great prognosis. It can ruin your credit score, and run up thousands in interest and penalties. On federally-backed government student loans, the government can (and does) garnish Social Security checks. It is the one debt that is rarely vanquished in bankruptcy.

KanyeEast7 karma

But what happens when all students cannot pay their debts?

ChristineRomansCNN6 karma

A generation would be bankrupted. They can't get a mortgage loan or a car loan. If no one can repay their debts, taxpayers would have to bail them out or you'd have to dramatically change bankruptcy law.

matahoula8 karma

Why do people only look at future incomes when it comes to deciding whether college is worth it? It is much more important if our society is filled with well rounded individuals, which high school doesn't create.

ChristineRomansCNN15 karma

I agree that income after college is not the sole driver in college or career choice. But it is critical for deciding how much money you can borrow for college. The math just doesn't work to borrow $100k to get a degree in music or social work. It's not fair, but it's just a fact that a huge student loan debt and a low-paying job will keep someone out of the middle class.

KCfan65 karma

What is something I, a college student in America, can do to help try to stop the rise of college?

ChristineRomansCNN6 karma

It's critical to keep the debt down in the first place. Save if you can. Choose in-state colleges. Consider hybrid community-college/4-year program hybrids.

ism5315 karma

Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this! As a college student nearing graduation, I see more and more how the school system is just a business and a damn good one at that. That being said, I can't imagine skipping out on the college experience. What alternatives exist that provide the knowledge, experience, and personal development that college provides?

ChristineRomansCNN10 karma

I really do believe that the college experience is valuable in many ways. Hearing different opinions and theories, collaborating in groups, developing leadership and so-called "soft-skills" that will serve you well later -- all this is important. The problem is it is becoming so expensive. Do we need to be on a campus for four years? Or should we consider a hybrid model where you are taking the building blocks at a community college first? The fourth year could be an on-site paid internship or on-the-job training. I am a big fan of 3-year degree programs for motivated students.

dimplejuice4 karma

Christine and Andrew-- where did each of you go to college?

ChristineRomansCNN6 karma

I went to Iowa State University -- one of the land grand universities Andrew talks about in his film.

ChristineRomansCNN1 karma

Hey these were great questions and commentary. This is the financial story of our generation. Check out our coverage at cnn.com/ivory tower and let us know what you think of the film @christineromans Facebook Christine Romans CNN.

ChristineRomansCNN1 karma

College is worth it IF you can find the intersection of what you like to do, what you are good at, and what someone will pay you for.

Linux641 karma

I have 5 kids, am I screwed?

ChristineRomansCNN3 karma

I have 3 and am terrified whenever I run through a college cost calculator. We have a lot of skilled tradespeople in the family -- plumbers, contractors, electricians -- so a 4-year degree for each kid is not necessarily a foregone conclusion.

ChristineRomansCNN1 karma

Hi! I'm here thanks for the questions. Here we go!

zsk5-1 karma

So I decided not to go to college to pursue a creative passion and now no one will hire me. Should I go back to college?

(Please stop referencing your film... we get it, you made a film)

ChristineRomansCNN1 karma

Do you like computers? What was your creative passion? Tell me more.