In yesterday’s post, I described how I believe The New York Times in a front-page story misrepresented the state of student loan borrowing. I pointed out that the Times story prominently (above the fold on page one of the Sunday Times) featured the statistic that 94 percent of all graduating bachelor’s degree recipients borrow to pay for higher education, a figure that was far in excess of other data published by the U.S. Department of Education and known to those of us who conduct research on financial aid. After having the figure questioned by a number of people, most prominently economist Sarah Turner of the University of Virginia, the Times finally issued a correction and edited the story. It now states that “About two-thirds of bachelor’s degree recipients borrow money to attend college, either from the government or private lenders, according to a Department of Education survey of 2007-8 graduates; the total number of borrowers is most likely higher since the survey does not track borrowing from family members.”
The New York Times is currently running a series on student loans, a topic that has been at the forefront of both the media and the general public for some time now. There has been widespread publicity (here’s just one recent example from USA Today) regarding the fact that student loan balances now exceed $1 trillion, an amount in excess of the balances of either consumer credit card debt or automobile loans.
The first installment of the Times series ran in a most visible location: above the fold in the Sunday paper (the headline and image above is from the web version of the article).