The New York Times has run a few stories over the past few years discussing how difficult it can be to pay back culinary school loans, but this past weekend's story is decidedly hard hitting. The common problem is that students borrow tens of thousands of dollars, graduate, and then often only earn $8-$10 an hour. With loan payments sometimes hitting $600 a month, there's no way for many students to pay back their loans.
The article references a mind-blowing Le Cordon Bleu aid package of a $14,000 loan that comes with $7,327 “finance charge” and a carries a 13% interest rate. Unrelated to this specific loan, there is a class action lawsuit underway against the Portland branch of Le Cordon Bleu, previously known as The Western Culinary Institute. Previous students are alleging fraud, breach of contract, and unlawful trade practices. Executives at the school deny the allegations and also point out that it's wrong to judge the school on the premise of its graduates’ first jobs.
It's a stern reminder that the "romantic" notion of work in a small scale restaurant may not be realistic for many culinary school grads. The responsible move is often to quickly work toward upper management positions at large scale food and beverage operations to meet school loan obligations.