‘Today’ Frightens Student Borrowers with Horror Music and Hype

Complete with a background track fit for an indie horror flick, NBC’s “Today” bashed student loan companies and colleges with a segment on “student loan schemes.”On June 21, consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman ignored personal responsibility as she bashed colleges and lenders without giving them a chance to rebut.

“You would assume that the college you choose would be on your side and find the best interest rate for a loan that you’ll be paying for many years. Well, think again,” said Lieberman.

Wait a minute - why should a borrower assume anyone else will find them the best deal? We all know what assuming does.Lieberman then tarred lenders and colleges with a broad generalization of misconduct and implied throughout the six minute segment that students had been harmed.

“[C]ollege administrators have been taking payments and gifts from some top lenders,” said Lieberman.

That generalization is old hype based on the perspective of New York’s liberal attorney general Andrew Cuomo who led a crusade against lenders and colleges for “cozy relationships” in past months.“Today” did not include anyone from the student lending industry, or from a college financial aid office to point out that Cuomo’s investigation only turned up two documented cases of wrongdoing.Lieberman also used an anecdote recycled from The New York Times to illustrate why “government loans just don’t cover enough of the expenses, so families must turn to a conventional lender.” The “Today” correspondent emphasized the cost of private education requiring “mortgage” sized loans, but left out the fact that students can choose from public colleges too – which usually cost much less.In fact, according to the October 2006 U.S. News and World Report the average yearly cost of tuition (including public and private) is $5,836 – far less than the $30,000 price tag mentioned by Lieberman.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.