The US Department of Education announced that Richard Cordray, the former director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, was selected to head the Office of Federal Student Aid.
“It is critical that students and student loan borrowers can depend on the Department of Education for help paying for college, support in repaying loans, and strong oversight of postsecondary institutions,” US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement. “Cordray has a strong track record as a dedicated public servant who can tackle big challenges and get results.”
The move signals a shift in federal student loan policy, and a potential embrace of loan cancellation policies, Politico points out, as Cordray is a longtime political ally of Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Cordray also served as attorney general of Ohio and unsuccessfully ran for governor of Ohio in 2018.
Of Cordray’s appointment, which she pushed for, Warren said: “I’m very glad he will get to apply his fearlessness and expertise to protecting student loan borrowers and bringing much needed accountability to the federal student loan program.”
The Republican response to the appointment was mixed, Politico pointed out, with some embracing him as a good pick. Others, like Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, the ranking member on the House Education and Labor Committee, expressed skepticism, in a statement to CNN, that he “has the capability and serious character required to carry out the duties of COO of FSA.”
Cordray, who starts on Tuesday, fills the position after Mark Brown, a pick from the Trump administration with a year left to serve, resigned earlier this year after pressure from progressives.
As the head of the Office of Federal Student Aid, Cordray would be tasked with figuring out how to address the $1.6 trillion of student debt owed by more than 42 million Americans. He would also be charged with figuring out what happens after student debt repayment and interest accrual has been paused for over a year during the pandemic – set to resume in September.
In prior positions, Cordray has pushed the Education Department to reform its student lending systems and has called for more oversight on student loan servicing companies.
The announcement lines up with continued progressive pressure on the Biden administration to cancel student debt.
Cordray is primed to push for regulation of the student loan servicing industry as well as the for-profit university system under Cardona.
In some countries outside of the U.S., you don’t need to go to graduate school to become a lawyer.
Take Australia, for example, where an undergraduate law degree costs as little as $11,500 (15,000 AUD).
Business Insider editors around the world have provided the required education, costs, salaries, and job opportunities for prospective attorneys in their countries.
See the comparison below.
Note: Currency conversions were made on the date of publication, and salary numbers are annual.
How long does education and training take? Four years for an undergraduate degree plus a 3-year juris doctorate program at an American Bar Association-accredited law school. Lawyers must also pass a licensing exam, called a “bar exam”, for each state in which they would like to practice, and lawyers in most jurisdictions also have to complete continuing education courses each year.
Salary for recent graduates: First-year associates at a Big Law firm can expect $190,000 as a starting salary and a pay raise of $10,000-$15,000 per year. The majority of Big Law salaries are standardized, and firms pay based on graduating class because they are competing for the same talent pool of top young lawyers. Early-career lawyers at top firms can expect a bonus of between $15,000-$20,000, although the number varies based on a firm’s financial health and the economy. For attorneys not at a Big Law firm, the average starting salary for the Class of 2019 was $72,500.
Cost of education:$26,000-$40,000 per year for a public school degree; $43,000 per year for a private school degree; and up to $61,000 per year for a top school.
Job prospects: In normal years, new attorneys have a decent shot of landing a job, and in 2019, nearly 34,000 graduated and entered the workforce. Ten months after graduation, 74.3% of the Class of 2019 reported having a full-time, long-term, bar passage-required job, with a growing number – more than half – entering private practice, according to the National Association for Law Placement. Others found work in business; as a judicial clerk; or in the government, military, public interest, or education sectors.
However, the coronavirus pandemic caused U.S. law firms to reduce salaries and lay off some attorneys and staff. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for legal occupation in December 2020 was 2.3%, up from 0.6% a year earlier.
How long does education and training take? Four years for an undergraduate law degree, plus additional time for completing practical legal training (PLT), getting admitted to the local authority in your state or territory, and applying for a practicing certificate. In total, it can take up to five to six years.
How long does education and training take? To work in the legal department of a company or an administration, completing a two-year technical university degree can be sufficient. An undergraduate degree of three years gets you a license, which can lead to careers as a legal assistant, real estate negotiator, clerk, or police lieutenant. With an additional 2-year master’s degree, graduates can become lawyers specializing in public law, private law, European, or international law.
Salary for recent graduates: The gross salary of a young graduate is around $35,000 (€30,000) for a company lawyer, according to the website L’Etudiant.
Cost of education: A 3-year license costs $200 (€170) for the university fees, and the 2-year masters costs $290 (€243) for the university fees. Students pay nothing for tuition.
Top law schools: There is no official classification of law studies in France, but the most reputable universities for law are notably Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne and Paris 2 – Panthéon Assas. The universities of Strasbourg, of Lorraine, of Paris Saclay, of Nantes, of Aix-Marseille, of Toulouse 1 – Capitole, of Montpellier are also strong.
-Business Insider France
How long does education and training take? Four years for an undergraduate degree and two years of study at the Ghana Law School (GLS), which is the only graduate school providing access to the bar. After their studies, students undertake a pupilage for six months to a year.
Salary for recent graduates: Most law firms pay pupils between $120 and $170 per month. Top tier firms like Kimathi and Partners pay between $510 to $680 per month. Most firms in Ghana use the commission system, where the pupil or junior lawyer working with a senior lawyer can receive around 5% commission on a case or document. Senior lawyers at renowned and respected law firms can eventually earn between $20,700 and $68,000 annually.
Cost of education: Between $820 for a public university and $8,580 for a private university. Private universities have more flexible programs, with students choosing to take weekend, evening, or distance courses. The GLS costs $2,588 per year of study.
Job prospects: Many people with law degrees who have not been to the GLS cannot be admitted to the bar and often work as paralegals. Law graduates can also end up in other fields including politics. Employment data for lawyers in Ghana was not available at the time of publishing.
Top law schools in Ghana:
University of Ghana
Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology
Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration
Mountcrest University College
University of Professional Studies, Accra
University of Cape Coast
Wisconsin International University
Kings University College
-Victor Oluwole and Magdalene Teiko Larnyoh, Business Insider Africa
How long does education and training take? Completing a law degree in Italy takes five years. Graduates then complete an 18-months traineeship in a legal firm and a compulsory training course before passing a final exam that takes place once a year, typically in December. The whole process can take up to seven years.
Salary for recent graduates: According to the latest figures by Almalaurea, one year after getting a law degree the average net salary is $15,600 (€13,176), which rises to $18,200 (€15,348) after three years and $20,000 (€16,728) after five years.
Cost of education: Fees for public university range from a minimum of $180 (€151) to a maximum of $3,000 (€2,531) per year, depending on family income, according to Federconsumatori. Students that choose to attend university in a different city must pay extra for accommodation. Fees at private universities fees range from $5,900-$14,000 (€5,000-€12,000) per year, depending on family income.
Job prospects: Five years after graduating, according to the latest Almalaurea data, 71.6% of law graduates have gotten a job. Among them, 45.5% are self employed and 33.3% have a permanent contract.
How long does education and training take? Between three and five years for an undergraduate degree. Many universities’ law programs last 4.5 years. A professional license, obtained via a thesis or general knowledge exam, is required to begin practicing.
Salary for recent graduates: The average annual salary is about $7,000 (146,880 pesos).
Cost of education: At the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), the cost is $0.04 (1 peso) per year. The admission test costs $19 (400 pesos). The cost is higher at other universities, such as Tec de Monterrey, where students pay $52,000 (1.1 million pesos) for their law degrees.
Top law schools according to a ranking from the newspaper El Universal:
Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)
Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León
Universidad de las Américas Puebla
Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente (ITESO)
UNAM – Acatlán
Universidad Iberoamericana Puebla
Universidad de Guadalajara
-Liliana Corona, Business Insider Mexico
How long does education and training take? To be considered a lawyer (jurist in Dutch), which is not a protected title in the Netherlands, you need to complete a 3-year undergraduate law degree and a one-year postgraduate degree.
A specialized lawyer who practices on behalf of clients, e.g. solicitor, criminal defense lawyer, or attorney-at-law, called an advocaat in Dutch, needs the same degrees plus a 2.5-year legal apprenticeship. After their education, new graduates can register as probationary members of the Dutch bar and become full members when the apprenticeship is completed.
Salary for recent graduates: On average, junior lawyers earn roughly $40,000 (€34,000). For specialized lawyers (solicitors/attorneys) average salaries range around $86,000 (€72,000), according to Glassdoor. Those with senior positions at top-tier firms can earn over $118,000 (€100,000).
Cost of education: Universities in the Netherlands can use two types of tuition fees: statutory and institutional. Which one applies depends on your nationality and whether you have already obtained an undergraduate or postgraduate degree from a higher education institution in the Netherlands.
Dutch students and students from an EU/EEA member state, Switzerland or Surinam are eligible to pay the statutory tuition fee of $2,500/year (€2,143).
Students with other nationalities are required to pay the higher institutional tuition fees. These range from $7,100-$18,000/year (€6,000-€15,000) for undergraduate programs and from $9,500-$24,000/year (€8,000-€20,000/year) for postgraduate programs. These higher fees also apply to students, regardless of their nationality, wishing to start a second undergraduate or postgraduate program after having already obtained a similar degree from a Dutch higher education institution.
Students wanting to become specialized lawyers will pay for the mandatory 2.5-year legal apprenticeship. This costs an additional $17,500 (€14,780) (excl VAT).
Job prospects: 70% of graduates report having found a position within a year and a half of obtaining their degree. Most graduates end up as specialised lawyers. Popular alternatives are jobs as legal advisors or paralegals.
How long does education and training take? Five years for an undergraduate degree in law (LLB or legum baccalaureus), a mandatory one-year stint in the National Youth Service Corps and one year studying law at the graduate level, after which you can get called to the bar.
Salary for recent graduates: Recent graduates who have just completed their law school training usually have between a year to two years of work experience, which can earn them a salary of $2,300-$2,800 per year. Working in a top-tier law firm could bring a salary ranging from $3,000-$3,240.
Cost of education: An undergraduate law degree in Nigeria requires a cost of $985 for the five-year program at a public school. At a private school, the cost of tuition and fees comes to $3,324 for five years. The graduate degree has an average price of $787 for tuition and all fees, including textbooks and the bar training fee.
Job prospects: Employment figures for lawyers in Nigeria are not readily available, but finding a job in the middle-tier to the top-tier law firms that pay well is very competitive. Because of this, many recent law graduates settle for jobs in the low-tier firms which are many across Nigeria.
-Victor Oluwole and Magdalene Teiko Larnyoh, Business Insider Africa
How long does education and training take? All in all, five or six years: a 4-year undergraduate law degree and a required 1.5-year master’s degree including a supervised internship in a law firm or company legal department. Future lawyers must also pass an aptitude test, which the Ministry of Justice runs annually.
Salary for recent graduates: According to the European University, a first-year junior lawyer in the private sector could take home between $17,000 and $21,000 (€14,400- €18,000) after tax. Take-home pay rises to $28,500-$43,000 (€24,000-€36,000) in the third year and could reach $143,000 (€120,000) for a lawyer with 10 years of experience working at a prestigious firm.
Lawyers in the public sector are required to pass competitive exams and can earn between $59,000 and $71,000 (€50,000-€60,000).
Cost of education: Between $5,700 and $7,100 (€4,800- €6,000) total in a public university. The price in a private university can get much higher, reaching up to $13,700 (€11,500) per year. The cost of the graduate degree also depends on the university you attend. Public universities cost between $2,400 and $7,100 (€2,000-€6,000), but private universities can cost up to $38,000 (€32,000).
Job prospects: It takes recent graduates an average of three to six months to find their first job, according to studies carried out in Spanish universities. About 80% obtain a job in line with their training with most working as lawyers (37%), in the public sector (26%), and in banking and insurance (14%).
It’s a familiar sight each year: a sea of soon-to-be college graduates, seated in their caps and gowns, with families and friends watching proudly as they march, one-by-one, across the stage to receive their hard-earned degrees.
But for many of the 35 million student-loan borrowers in the US, the celebration is short-lived. Months out of college, their debts become due and payable, and for some, it will be a heavy burden.
Since entering office, President Joe Biden has encountered immense pressure to aggressively address the student-loan crisis.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer in February announced a plan to wipe out up to $50,000 in student loans per borrower. But Biden dismissed it.
“I will not make that happen,” he said. “I’m prepared to write off $10,000 in debt, but not 50,” he said. “I don’t think I have the authority to do it.”
There is support for student debt relief across party lines. According to a national survey conducted by the Harris Poll in December, 55% of Americans favor total student loan forgiveness. And around 64% of respondents said they support writing off a fixed amount, like $10,000.
Education debt has been rising steadily for about a decade, experts told Insider. It’s also been holding people back.
“Students who graduate with debt may put off life milestones such as buying a car, owning a home, getting married, or entering certain low-paying professions like teaching or social work,” a 2006 report from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities says.
The problem persists, and has only gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shuttered businesses across the US and canceled out millions of jobs in the last year.
“Former students have not been able to get rid of their debt,” said Andrew Pentis, a certified student-loan counselor at Student Loan Hero by LendingTree. “So it grows with interest, sometimes multiplying over years, if not decades.”
Poor education about the dangers of debt
Too often, families of first-generation Americans reviewing financial-aid packages from colleges and universities don’t realize the loans they see being offered must be repaid with interest.
Other times, families think of education loans as “good debt.” They view it as “the price to pay for investing in your future, sometimes by getting a degree from a prestigious, but more expensive, school in order to climb the social ladder, Pentis said.
The government also doesn’t do enough to explain its federal student-loan options. “A large cohort of borrowers leave school without fully understanding the weight of their debt, or their options for repaying it,” Pentis said. “The government needs to take a more direct role in educating students about how to avoid federal student loans, not just offering them without explanation.”
High schools also tend to gloss over the topic, he said.
“The family that’s dead-set on paying six figures to send their child to the prestigious university,” he said, “might not have considered that spending two years at a community college before transferring to that better four-year school could cut their overall costs and borrowing significantly.”
Student debt is on the rise because college education is an industry in the United States, experts told Insider.
“Higher education operates as a free market,” said Chris Mullin, strategy director of data and measurement at the Lumina Foundation, an organization committed to expanding higher-education access.
“As a result,” Mullins said, “the cost a student pays can be set at what the market will bear.”
The cost of tuition depends on a number of factors
College tuition is not regulated federally, and there are distinctions between the way private and public universities set them, which directly affects how much money students and their families will pay. Private university tuition costs are decided by the institutions themselves, student debt experts told Insider.
“Private schools obviously have more leeway when it comes to setting tuition and fees,” Pentis said.
That’s one of the reasons private institutions like New York University set much higher “sticker prices” on their tuitions than public colleges do. The sticker price is the tuition cost a student can expect to pay before grants, loans, and other types of financial aid kick in, which means not everyone pays the full or same amount for higher education.
And because private institutions have more leverage in setting tuition costs, the decision-making process behind it varies from one institution to another. This can lead to differences between the sticker price and the net price of tuition, with the net price being what a student ultimately pays for their education after financial aid has been applied.
Donna Desrochers, principal researcher at the education program run out of the American Institutes for Research, says higher-cost private universities may simply set those prices with the intention to subsidize the cost of tuition for students receiving financial aid.
“It may be that [for] NYU, or any other school, the higher price is taking some of those full-pay dollars from full-pay students, and trying to reallocate to provide aid for other students,” Desrochers said.
Meanwhile, public-university tuition, which is typically more affordable, is set by individual states.
“Perhaps they have a lower sticker price, and maybe they’re not reallocating as much aid to students,” Desrochers said.
Sticker prices are a type of “complex marketing,” according to Desrochers
“It’s kind of like an airline, right? And people compare it to that, sometimes. You’re paying different prices for different seats, depending on when you purchased it. And so, it’s quite similar,” she said. “They’re trying to attract the class that they want.”
Sticker prices also help institutions maintain their costs of operation, Desrochers said. Public colleges benefit from raising sticker prices, especially when states are contributing less money to higher-education budgets.
“That pays for less of the institution’s costs,” Desrochers explained. “It actually ends up shifting those costs onto students.” Because of the recession brought on by the coronavirus, Desrochers expects to see states investing less in higher education, leading to institutions shifting those costs onto students instead of trying to minimize their spending.
“We see it every time after a recession,” she said.
This means, overall, institutions “give substantial grant aid,” said Mullin, the Lumina Foundation strategy director.
Student debt-relief measures are still needed
Collectively, student-loan borrowers in the US owe more than $1.7 trillion. Trillion with a T. So conversations about how to address that debt will continue.
They will go a long way in helping borrowers “who don’t have much of a chance to end their debt on their own,” Pentis said.
But no relief measure will address the source of the problem: brand-new student loans.
If students and family members don’t recognize the dangers of accumulating large amounts of debt at high interest rates, the pattern of rising student debt will continue, experts warn.
While tuition costs are not a federal decision, the government has two levers to pull to encourage colleges to alter tuition rates, Mullin said.
The government can change the amount of money it makes available to a single student or change who is eligible to get financial aid. That way, students will have fewer restrictions like part- or full-time status to receive federal aid. Schools might then give larger aid packages to students, Mullin said.
Additionally, the government can “provide consumer information” with the goal of disclosing data and supplying comparison points intended to help students make informed decisions about their college education.
“It can inform the public by effectively placing a warning on institutions, like the US Surgeon General’s warning on a pack of cigarettes,” Mullin said.
“This kind of ‘warning’ can take the shape of a requirement, for example, that institutions make public the workforce outcomes of their programs,” he said, effectively showing students what kind of return on investment they can expect after graduating college.
For decades, the pay TV industry functioned mostly unchanged. Consumers paid for a service package based on how many channels they wished to watch. They then watched content on a single kind of device – a television.
This paradigm is gone. Now consumers pick among a range of content providers like Netflix and Hulu. They may also purchase traditional cable TV packages, or they may purchase channels a la carte. In effect, consumers are unbundling and rebundling their entertainment offerings to suit what they want and can afford. And they are consuming content from a wide range of devices.
A similar process is taking hold in higher education. Students are starting to depend more on a range of different entities to meet their needs. Viewed the right way, this is an opportunity for universities to better serve students and for students to have more control over their education.
One of the strengths of US higher education is the range of institutions that can meet a myriad of student needs.
As time goes on, more young people will choose to forego traditional higher education and instead pull together a quick set of credentialed skills that can help them land a job. They will then acquire more education as they need it over time to build a career.
Master programs will also be unbundled. Students rarely need most of what these programs provide, and they often overpay for them. Students will find that LinkedIn Learning, IDEOU, and Pathstream create quicker and cheaper pathways to upskilling. Others will move into this space, including universities that will continue to bite-size their master’s programs into quick upskilling programs. Harvard Business School Online’s short certified courses are one example.
The opportunity ahead
None of this means that the traditional four-year undergraduate residential college is going away – but it will unbundle in interesting ways.
Over the decades, colleges have provided more amenities and services at mixed quality. At larger universities, students often pay for amenities and services they don’t want or can’t access, whereas smaller colleges lack the size and resources to provide the range of amenities and services students need and want. New entrants are now moving into these spaces, which will level the playing field and benefit students. Here are four examples:
Healthcare will increasingly be provided by tele-heath organizations like TimelyMD or Doctor on Demand which can connect students to a wider range of health professionals 24/7. Students may stop paying universities a healthcare fee but will pay an outside provider directly.
Career services, which remain underfunded at most universities, will be provided from multiple entities. Students will find it easier to get internships through entities like Riipen and we will see more efforts like The Denison University Launch Lab, which seeks to be a resource for any liberal arts student who needs career support.
Alumni may bypass their alma mater to connect with fellow alumni through other platforms. For decades universities have owned their alumni lists, but by aggregating data available on social media platforms, a new entrant could create a more up-to-date alumni database and make it easier for alumni to access and use. LinkedIn has already opened this door.
On the academic side, more students are collecting academic credits from a range of institutions. They need ways to aggregate credits into a degree. In the future, a student might get a degree from a university system, rather than a particular university. Or a new kind of entity will figure out how to award degrees through aggregation of credits, experiences and competencies. Platforms like Transferology will help in this process.
Even faculty will unbundle, relying less on their college’s learning management system and the campus (or any) bookstore. Instead, they will work directly with companies like Top Hat to develop their courses on standalone platforms. We may see faculty who develop courses on these kinds of platforms sell to or deliver them in partnership with multiple universities.
From unbundling to rebundling
Just like cable TV consumers, we will see students rebundle offerings to create their own unique college experience. They will find what they want and need from a variety of universities and entities, and many will be able to do this at a reduced cost.
Universities will experience this process in different ways, depending upon where they sit in the higher education landscape. Struggling institutions will be threatened by new entrants that seek to replicate what they do, but they will also find opportunities to develop new kinds of partnerships that allow them to pivot and reimagine their future.
More prestigious colleges and universities will find a lot of upside. They will have opportunities to reimagine how they meet students’ needs. This may allow them to focus more on their core purpose – the academic enterprise and the student experience. It will also generate revenue for institutions that can be creative.
In other words, smart institutions will focus with precision on who they serve and what those students need and want. They will be self-reflective on what they do well and where they want to devote institutional resources. They will use a combination of unbundling and rebundling to better meet the needs of the students they serve.
Adam Weinberg is the president of Denison University in Granville, Ohio.