Thursday, March 11, 2010

Nothing to Celebrate

Gov. Deval Patrick was at The University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth (UMD) today to celebrate the opening of the state’s first public law school. It seems to be the perfect time to open yet another law school to lure in the thousands of unemployed youth looking to do something “prestigious” (if you can call going to an unaccredited law school prestigious) to pass the time. The article states that “nearly 170 people had applied to UMass Dartmouth Law, 97 of them in February alone.” The tuition will be $23,500 per year, absolutely outrageous to attend an unaccredited law school, but “significantly less than the region’s private schools,” according to UMD.

The article makes it seem like there was clear-cut battle between SouthCoast MA citizens and Boston insiders who tried to prevent the opening of the school as well as a partisan political battle with the Democrats for the opening of UMD and the Republicans against its opening.

Wednesday's gathering at the campus amounted to a victory dance for university officials, students, legislators and Patrick, who many said made it all possible.

In an interview with The Standard-Times, Rep. John Quinn, D-Dartmouth, called UMass Dartmouth Law "a great victory" for the region."

"Boston power brokers, insiders tried everything to kill this," he said. "Southeastern Mass. won, and Boston insiders lost."

The victory came Feb. 2, when the state Board of Higher Education gave a thumbs up to UMass Dartmouth Law, five years after voting against a similar proposal. Supporters of the public law school have pointed a finger at then-Gov. Mitt Romney for publicly saying he'd remain neutral while privately lobbying for the school's defeat.

Two hulking banners proclaiming the new school's name trumpeted the win Wednesday, along with a cadre of students who stood behind the governor in "UMass Dartmouth Law" sweat shirts.

While savoring success at Wednesday's celebration, Sen. Mark C.W. Montigny, D-New Bedford, offered what he called "sobering words about the process."

When first arriving at Beacon Hill, "I thought that winning and losing was based on merit," Montigny said. "At times, that could not be further from the truth."

Montigny was one of numerous people at the event to sing Patrick's praises for his support of UMass Dartmouth Law school.

"It isn't just that we have the law school in this region," Montigny said. "It is that (Patrick) was willing and able to take on an insidious culture on Beacon Hill."

Patrick continued this theme of right versus might at the podium, describing the public law school as a gift to the state's young residents.

"And then came the naysayers," he said. "And they said ... all kinds of things."

Their questions, according to Patrick, included: Why a public law school? Why in that region? And why those students?

"My response was, 'Why not?'" Patrick said.

Still, some acknowledged that naysayers remain.

"I think all of the detractors have had their say, and all of their arguments have been answered with facts and analysis," Patrick told reporters after Wednesday's speeches. "The decision has been made. It was the right decision for the University of Massachusetts, for the SouthCoast and for the commonwealth."

Sen. Joan M. Menard, D-Fall River, said, "There's still people that are trying, at every turn and every road, to stop us. ... But don't worry, we're here. We're watching it. We're going to make sure it doesn't happen."

Governor Patrick attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School. I wonder if he would ever recommend UMD over Harvard Law, Boston College Law, or Boston University Law to his children, relatives, or close friends. My guess is that he’d tell them to attend Harvard, Boston College, or BU over UMD even if it meant spending more money for tuition because attending an unaccredited law school is like throwing $70,000 and three years of your life down the toilet.

The only battle college and graduate students should be concerned with is knowing the Democrats, Republicans and school administrators who are for student loan reform and those who have sided with Sallie Mae and Access Group. Then we need to vote the latter out of office accordingly. Little else matters and students certainly don’t need another unaccredited law school.

After reading an article in the Rolling Stone, Democrats to Student Loan Reform: Drop Dead, about a group of Democratic senators working against President Obama's student loan reform plan, it makes me question whether the Democrats in Massachusetts were really working in the best interest of students after all or if they just wanted to open another cash cow for student loan lenders. Considering that many Democrats could lose their seats this year, it makes sense that some of them would turn to the student loan industry for financial support:

The New York Times is reporting that six Democratic senators — Tom Carper, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Mark Warner and Jim Webb — are working to blow up Obama’s top education reform: Ending the corporate profiteering on government loans for college students.

As I reported in Obama’s Real Reform, privatized government loans to students create a massive cash cow for notorious lenders like Sallie Mae and Nelnet:

The system essentially operates as a lucrative form of corporate welfare, offering a guaranteed rate of return for banks and other middlemen who provide capital for student loans. The government not only makes all the decisions — who is eligible for loans, for what amount and at what rate — but it protects private lenders from virtually any risk: When college students are unable to repay their debts, taxpayers are required by law to reimburse the banks for 97 percent of the losses. “The government is doing all the work and taking all the risk,” says Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

The lending reform — cutting out the private middleman and having the government administer its own loans — has never flirted with 60-vote support in the Senate. The plan has always been to pass this Sallie Mae slayer through reconciliation. But the Times is raising the specter that college loan reform could become “a casualty of the health care battle.”

With the margin for victory on health care so tenuous in the Senate, it appears the gang of six Democrats is seeking to Lieberman reforms that are undoubtedly in the best interests of college students and the federal budget:

Democrats in the Senate, where the private student lending industry has strong allies, predicted on Wednesday night that the education bill would not be part of an expedited budget measure containing the final revisions to the health care legislation. Some Democrats said that such a move would stall the student loan changes at a minimum for several months, and perhaps kill the overhaul altogether.

This isn’t an ideological battle. It’s a matter of common sense versus corporate greed. And right now too many Democratic senators are on the side of corporate greed:

As the president puts it: “It’s not a free market when we have a student-loan system that’s rigged to reward private lenders without any risk.” The real question, he says, is “whether we want to give tens of billions of tax dollars to special interests or whether we want to make college more affordable for 8.5 million more students.”

Remember those six names - Tom Carper, Blanche Lincoln, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Mark Warner and Jim Webb - and remember not to vote for them or send them a dime of your money if you live in their state. If Patrick or the Senators mentioned in the article really want to help Massachusetts students, they would come out publicly in support of President Obama's plan. Now.


  1. I haven't followed all of the Senators listed closely, but I did spend some time in Arkansas. Senator Lincoln is a Republican in Democrat's labeling. Her opposition to loan reform doesn't surprise me given her opposition to health care too. Luckily, these positions seem to be costing her in the Arkansas polls.

  2. UMD Law was opened because the State sees it as a cash cow. They are making sacrificial lambs out of the law students for the betterment of the state. When those same students go on welfare, how quickly will they realize that it was a mistake? This is a disgrace! The last thing that this entire country needs is another law school!

  3. Leave it to economically illiterate members of the Democrat Party to support a new law school in a region already SATURATED with them AND during a recession where the average J.D. can't get hired at Starbucks. This is the same bunch that thinks socialized healthcare will INCREASE services and LOWER costs.

  4. We welcome people of all political views here since I tend to disagree with both sides anyway. But let's just get a few things clarified so that some of you will walk away better informed or at least reconsider some of your opinions.

    Obama is most definitely not a socialist nor are any of the Democrats in Washington. The most "liberal" president we've had in the last two decades was Bill Clinton and he was a moderate Democrat, though you could even argue that he was right of center.

    I support single payer health care or what anon @10:10 would probably consider to be "socialized" health care, however, I do not support the president's current health care plan. Why? Because it's a crappy bill that doesn't even include a weak public option and is a windfall for the health insurance industry. So Senator Lincoln, anon@10:10pm, and I oppose the health care bill but for very different reasons.

    Once more people understand that most Democrats and Republicans in Washington are open to the highest bidder, things might start to make more sense for both Republican and Democratic voters. The one thing that Obama has worked on that I approve of is student loan reform but it looks like an uphill battle to get that through the Sallie Mae bought Senate.

  5. What the hell is the difference between an oligarchy and the system of government we have in place now?

  6. HK, once again I agree with you (on single payer and on student loan reform being the only decent effort the big O has made), with the (perhaps) wrinkle that I don't believe any of it will ever happen.

  7. In the last decade, I have stood strong with the Democrats because I thought they would get the economy moving and create jobs for all of us underemployed/unemployed/temporarily employed JDs. However, if the Dems are pushing for all these new schools and the Repubs are against, I may just have to change parties! ;) P.S. This is meant as a light-hearted comment; not to be taken too seriously...



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