Monthly Archives: August 2016

Pianko on student loan forgiveness

Daniel Pianko:

With only 37% of borrowers actually paying down their loans, the federal student-loan program more closely resembles the payday-lending industry than a benevolent source of funds for college…

the federal government may have to deal with as much as a $500 billion write-down when future defaults and loan-forgiveness programs are factored in…

Jay P. Greene on what online education is missing

Jay P. Greene:

The problem of learning is not how to provide information to students.  Almost all of human knowledge is available to students at virtually no cost — it’s called the internet.  Students could look up and learn anything they want right now.  The trick is motivating students to acquire that knowledge.

Online courses appear to be less effective in getting the average student to learn and I suspect the problem is that teaching online is less able to create social communities and authentic relationships that are necessary to motivate students.  Having a human being in front of students who would be disappointed if students did not learn the material seems important and something that online instruction has not been able to simulate…

Kothari and Ray on varying student loan amounts by field of study

S.P. Kothari and Korok Ray:

Restructure the Federal Direct Loan Program to target loans based on field of study…

When the government is in the business of offering credit, as it is now with student loans, it should think hard about credit risk. One of the chief lessons of the 2008 financial crisis was that mispricing credit risk can have catastrophic consequences.

Yet the government’s Direct Loan Program mostly ignores the credit risk of students, treating them largely as identical in their long-term employment outcomes…

Our proposal is to target the loan amount for each student based on field of study. First, we restrict attention to the loan amount rather than the interest rate since a partial loan (rather than higher rate) is better at ensuring that students have “skin in the game.”

Second, the field of study category need not be determined by government alone but can rely on market data. The Boston-based company Burning Glass Technologies collects data on earnings and collegiate educational choices to quantify the value of different majors in college. Relying on such an index would allow government officials to peg the loan size to market data rather than by government fiat alone…

Government Accountability Office on the Need for Patent Office Reforms

Government Accountability Office:

GAO found that district court filings of new patent infringement lawsuits increased from about 2,000 in 2007 to more than 5,000 in 2015, while the number of defendants named in these lawsuits increased from 5,000 to 8,000 over the same period. In 2007, about 20 percent of all defendants named in new patent infringement lawsuits were sued in the Eastern District of Texas, and by 2015 this had risen to almost 50 percent. According to stakeholders, patent infringement suits are increasingly being tried in the predominantly rural Eastern District of Texas, likely due to recent practices in that district that are favorable to the patent owners who bring these infringement suits. GAO also found that most patent suits involve software-related patents and computer and communications technologies. Several stakeholders told GAO that it is easy to unintentionally infringe on patents associated with these technologies because the patents can be unclear and overly broad, which several stakeholders believe is a characteristic of low patent quality.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO)… does not currently have a consistent definition for patent quality… Without a consistent definition, USPTO is unable to fully measure progress toward meeting its patent quality goals. Additionally… time pressures on examiners are a central challenge for patent quality… Without assessing the effects of current incentives for examiners or the time allotted for examination, USPTO cannot be assured that its time allotments and incentives support the agency’s patent quality goals…