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By Herman Sillas

The View from the Pier By Herman Sillas
The View from the Pier By Herman Sillas

I went to UCLA in the late 1950’s, and I paid 50 dollars a semester. Students going to universities today are paying thousands and thousands of dollars to their universities as fees or they are borrowing money to pay their tuition. The money they borrow will be paid in monthly payments for years after they graduate.

Today’s graduating high school seniors are competing with each other to get into the limited spots universities have open. Few graduating high school seniors will get into the universities they want.

Parents wonder if there is anything they can do to help their children. They don’t want their children to feel rejected by the university. They then turn to counselor folks who have good relations with decision-makers at the universities. These counselors, for a fee, will guide parents on whom to pay. All of this will cost the parents a lot of money. The parents never told their children.  The amount of the “fees” paid was in the thousands of dollars. The consultant paid off the right people to provide the paperwork needed by the student. Some students were “placed” on sports teams, even though they would never compete in on the team. Different methods were used by the consultants so that the parents’ child would be accepted by the university.

All this has now come to light and the fraud has been discovered. Consultants and parents have been arrested. Some of the parents have already pleaded guilty and will be punished by the court. Parents will be going to jail. People have lost their university jobs. Who will become the new coaches and consultants? The universities have a lot of things to clean up, including eliminating the consultants. The process of selection of students for universities will still be a challenge. But there is another item now that Robert F. Smith, founder and chief executive of Vista Equity Partners, has raised. The student’s ability to start their future and career debt free. He was asked to speak to the graduating class at Morehouse College in Atlanta. At the end of his speech, he announced to the graduating class that he would pay off all the graduating students’ loans! The graduating students went wild.  Imagine, this school will have graduating students that will not owe a dime to anyone. These students will be able to start their careers without a debt. Just like I did 70 years ago.

What a goal. Why don’t we as a society strive for this goal? Over the last 70 years, we have allowed university boards to use the students in their schools as a source of funds. These boards have made use of the students’ future earnings as a source of funds for the universities needs. The students are indebted payers for the college years they borrowed.

Rather than raise money for their universities from rich persons or from those who will contribute for the schools’ buildings, the existing school boards encourages students to use their future as a source to borrow money to pay for their education. Now the student loan will be paid off from his or her salary. The graduating students have used the money they received as a loan to pay their debt to persons who lent them money to go to school.

Boards of universities have always had a major role in getting money for universities. They seek gifts from rich folks who want a hall named for them or some other motivating factor. But somewhere in the process, the boards looked at the students’ future salary. Get that money now!

Robert F. Smith has freed the graduating students from their debts. He has provided a way to let graduating seniors start their post-graduate life without debt. Other schools should follow. That’s the view from the pier.

Herman Sillas is an author, artist, poet, and a former U.S, District Attorney.  He may be reached at




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