Student Loan Debt

As i was poring over the responses to my most recent post on student loans, I started to vent. I can’t tell you how upset I was with the prospect of student loans, and i was never able to form a complete argument over why I think they’re more of a hindrance than a help.

Let me get this straight: as young adults, we’re expected to gain an education, and if we cannot afford said education to propel ourselves (and vicariously, our society) forward, we are given two choices: (a) avoid higher education, or (b) weigh ourselves down with tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt before we’ve even had a chance to see whether or not our higher education was actually worth the price of admission.

Didn’t seem very fair to me then – and it doesn’t seem very fair to me now. I’m not saying that all educational costs aren’t justified, but isn’t America shooting itself in the foot with this increasingly self-destructive system? I was lucky – I found a NON-TRADITIONAL way to pay off my student loans (and even then, after forking over several thousand in excess interest). I barely knew anything about what I wanted to be when “I grew up” – let alone, the ins and outs of credit.

I wouldn’t trade my education for the world – but I will say that we’re not living a “free” society if we don’t give every single mind the opportunity to be shaped without the fear and stress of debt. It’s bad enough we have credit card companies preying on underinformed citizens – are the student loan organizations and the institutions which enable them equally as sociopathic? And before you dismiss this accusation as unfounded, let me remind you of the definition of a sociopath. According to The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Edited:

Sociopaths are interested only in their personal needs and desires, without concern for the effects of their behavior on others.

We’re not helping our society grow by imposing debt on those who would help it flourish – we’re handing it the disease and charging for the cure. Feh.

34 thoughts on “Student Loan Debt”

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  3. Yes Chris, we do live in a “free” society. Don’t confuse “freedom” with “free of cost.”

    Since our society is “free,” I am not forced to pay for “every single mind” to go to college (well, not completely anyway). A “free of cost” society would not be one that could last, nor would it be the one most beneficial, even if it might seem that way.

    There’s a horrible sense by some in this world that we are all entitled to things from others. We’re not. I advise anyone reading this to make your own way in this world. It will be much more rewarding.

  4. Absolutely true!! I wish *everyone* would read this. Our economic system since Reagan has become nothing more than cannibalism. Or what do they call animals that eat their young?

  5. In Sweden all higher education is publicly funded. I know this because my college roommate actually considering living with his uncle in Sweden in high school so his college would be free (he obviously didn’t do that).

    I don’t know about how bad the student loan problem is, though, because I didn’t have a problem paying mine off. I think it’s definitely more reasonable than, say, credit card debt. I graduated with a science degree, though, so I don’t know.

  6. Chris, I was one of the lucky ones who just managed to work with my parents and scrape by, getting a 4-year degree without racking up student debt. But when family finances were slim, I found myself in an odd place, where my parents’ income was too high to qualify for financial aid, but they didn’t have enough to pay the bill each month.

    Sometimes, the way I’d find out the bill was due was that my meal card stopped working, forcing me to take the little cash I had and hit the restaurants around Cal Berkeley.

    The hardest part for me was as I made the transition from school to the workforce. I needed a car to get me from home to the office in Silicon Valley, but didn’t have enough money yet to buy one. The banks didn’t want to loan me money based on future income, either, only on what I already had, which was basically nothing. I ended up turning to my grandfather, who fronted $2k that got me over the top. Luckily, I was able to get the car, and pay him back just a month before he died.

    But I do have other friends who found themselves six figures in debt and haven’t gotten out. The investment they made in higher ed just hasn’t returned the dividends they had expected, whether due to career choices or career options. It’s hard to know how they can get out of this hole, even as they enter their 30s. Something should change.

    I’ve had ideas here. I’ll post one of the ideas on my blog and send you a link via e-mail.

  7. IMO “quality” education should be a basic human right. If you have a right to free speech and a right to whatever else, education should come before everything else. It is the ultimate democratizing force as you point out. So when education becomes a privilege or a burden, something is very wrong.

  8. Education in this country is publically funded for the first 18 or so years of an individual’s life. The purpose is to enable them to become functional, productive members of society.
    Beyond that college level education is up to the individual to pursue the tools to enhance their marketability. The individual talent is the commodity to sell to employers. Here is another analogy: the auto mechanic must have the tools of the trade to be able to get a job in an ato service job. Should the tools he must acquire be bought by the public? Perhaps if the company wants them badly they can purchase the tools for him. Bottom line: a college education is an investment in the marketability of the individual. It is not a neccessity to function in life.
    It is NOT a basic human right to be paid for by public finds.

  9. Many people think a huge reason that Ireland turned its economy completely around in the past few decades is that it made higher education free (or, more accurately, funded by all taxpayers), like other levels of schooling.

  10. Many think that one of the reasons Ireland turned its economy completely around is that it made higher education free (i.e. publicly funded).

    Tim wrote that “Since our society is ‘free,’ I am not forced to pay for ‘every single mind’ to go to college.” True, but then why is it okay to pay for every single road, even if you don’t drive them, or every single warplane, even if you don’t think they should be flying?

  11. Let me see if I have this correct. I am required to attend some form of school up to a certain age under legal penalty if I don’t and if I make it all 13 years I am only qualified to do the most basic jobs on the low end of the pay scale unless I get lucky. They can only talk five year olds into this deal. If I decide to go for more school then it is gonna cost me a larger percentage than my elementary training as both are subsidized in varying degrees by the public with some exceptions. Most will likely graduate with a staggering debt. I was told that when student loans were originally guaranteed by the Gov it was preferable to give a loan than to pay for welfare. Fine. Times change and now we have clearinghouses that handle student loan payments and love it when you extend your loan as they get more money from the Gov. and you. They take everything they can take. Graduation should prepare us for higher paying jobs or give us the option to continue into free higher education should be there. Not everyone will go on but it will stop the have/have not culture we currently enjoy. The haves go to school as a birth right and only the most motivated have nots do so and they are very much the minority. This division can clearly be seen in our society. Exceptions abound but this would be the rule.

  12. UUUUG Stop this crazy nonsense. One of my patients made a very wise observation. He said “I used to watch the geese fly south every year until people started feeding them, now they don’t fly south anymore”
    Giving people an education does nothing, but create millions of Caribbean studies majors.

  13. The only way to take the burden from the person who wants a college education is to put it on everyone else. Since not everyone wants to go to college (heresy!), that would be unfair.

    The government would run the colleges like they run public school now – do we really want college grads who can’t read?

    I understand the frustration of having to go into debt for an education, but perhaps the fault lies in the institutions themselves rather than society at large or our own government that sometimes insists people make their own way in this world.

  14. Chris,
    Interesting thread.
    I’m a guest here but thought I’d include my own opinions.
    I attended college 9 years ago, and while I truly appreciate all that I got from my formal higher education, today I’m not using the core subjects I specifically studied in college.

    Don’t get me wrong. Education is important in my opinion; How would I be able to write and articulate on this thread if not for education? But, my major is not even close to the industry that I’m working in now. In fact, looking at my closest friends, a quick survey determines that most of my friends are not working in their chosen major either.

    It just makes me wonder. Is formal education really worth the price we pay? Again, I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing Education, because I’m not. I am suggesting that the Education system in this country needs an overhaul.

    There are many forms of education in my opinion. As a student, I used to scoff at those that decided to take “time off” between semesters to “find themselves” I now believe that I was immature for judging so harshly. I now believe that one’s “education experience” hiking through Europe is just as valuable as my studying a textbook in a Civics Class. Who am I to judge? I’ve been around the world twice, and can honestly admit that I gained more insight, more experience and personal growth visiting the foreign countries than reading a thousand more books on the subject. I don’t think I would replace either experience. I was fortunate to go to college and graduate, and I was also fortunate to move outside of my comfort zone and country and see what makes countries and cultures tick. Both are invaluable, in my opinion.

    To me, both experiences are educational.
    Both have merits and today I won’t judge either one more than the other.

    Here’s an article, I’d like to share. Please feel free to pass it on.

    http://collegeloan-help.com/53/school-of-hard-knocks-vs-regular-school/

  15. Well, all i can say is i went to school to better myself and make more money. Now i am in more debt then i was flipping hamburgers paying $400.00/month for the next 15 years for student loans.

  16. Student Loans are a fraudulent racketeering game by the banks to keep citizens in tow financially for the rest of our lives. As an older, “returning” student, there’s little chance I can pay off over 50K of debt for five years of college on the current system–and it is the interest that kills us, thanks to the Federal Reserve looting system now in place and holding the threat of poverty over our heads forever. My son now is setting up to be sucked in by the same system, but can avoid many of the problems if he listens to mom and educates himself outside of the college system. You don’t need a degree, and with our current monetary/financial system (a giant banking fraud), we are supposed to get in line to tow the debt until we die. We may as well have debtors prison.

    There seems to be an axiomatic assumption that the banks should always be paid their interest rates and that there is a karmic debt if we fail to do so, yet anyone who has read The Creature From Jeckle Island (Griffin), and many other books exposing the fraud of our current monetary/financial/debt system, knows that student loan debt (which has quadrupled in the 90s because of inflation), is just another way to maintain social control and prevent us from moving forward with actual freedom to improve our lives, including starting businesses that may help us to pay off those loans.

    I still had to seek Vocational Rehab funds for my current goal to go into Holistic Health, which was not granted. I fortunately am able to get help with the local Micro-business Development organization, which offers business classes and many other services for low income people–I have saved for one year to recieve matching funds for my certification, which was a pittance compared to the cost of my BA in Geography, where I had little choice but to work as a bureaucrat for the state in one institution or another–not my choice to live as a cog in the Matrix.

    Most know that many jobs have been outsourced or insourced, where an engineer, for instance, trains his replacement (who is paid much less) and then is fired. There have been a lot of suicides over these issues of career and salary and many are asking a lot of questions about the globalization looting scheme. Chosadusky (sp?) and many others are a good starting point to read to understand that the entire world is being manipulated through the Bush New World Order slavery plan.

    In college we are all indoctrinated (even in my Spanish class) to assume that we live in an international monetary / trade system (which we always have, but with the benefit of national sovereignty, not corporate rule), and we should expect to travel to Europe or somewhere out of country to work if we expect to “compete in the global marketplace.” I’m here to tell you that it’s all a huge hoax, a BIG HOAX, designed to exploit anyone not sufficiently informed on how their mind/social control system works. Check out CuttingThroughTheMatrix.com Basically, we give them the authority because we believe in them–and they are our masters, not our servants. The real American System, which has been destroyed by the bankers and the British Empire (no kidding) since the beginning, is not in use. (See LaRouchePAC.com and other LaRouche websites).

    We are slaves, folks, until we end the tyrannical Federal Reserve looting system (and corporate rule, etc.). Right now the citizens of Peru have SHUT DOWN the capital city because they are refusing to go along with privatization of social security and other globalization/fascist looting systems. This is a global problem and Americans are the last to know, because we are not even taught the truth in our collleges and have been mind-controlled since 1914, when the British Tavistock Institute of Human Relations (the mother of all mind control think tanks) was established in America in it’s satellite front groups. We have been controlled almost completely since then and need to take back our liberty or be micro-chipped and turned into full fledged Matrix Robots.

    I have considered contesting my school loan debt because it was NOT an education, but an indoctrination into globalization (overall), and becasue the debt increased dramatically as I progressed toward my puny Bachelors in Geography. I found out about this because I challendged the crap I was being taught in World Economic Geography class. Nowhere was anyone willing to face issues like planned obsolescence, which is a treatment for employees as well as products like light bulbs. I personally have no desire to be a functionary in the New World Order Plantation.

    We have no choice of how to live our lives after graduation (join the buracracy or go further into debt), and in my case, my health was so bad I didn’t know if I would be in a wheel chair for the rest of my life. Then I could have gotten debt “forgiveness” due to my being disabled. What a deal. I am actually being punished for healing my own diseases, something conventional medicine couldn’t do, thus my chosen career path. I know people on Social Security because of illnesses that are totally curable, but they don’t want the cure because they are kept by the government/taxpayer toll.

    I am continuing to research debt forgiveness and plan to challenge Congress and the loan system about the debt, especially the unsubsidized loan system, which is the cause of most of my high interests which I cannot pay. In Europe you can attend school for about $2K a year and in many places it’s free. This is an option for us as well as auditing classes and passing the department tests without having to attend the often useless classes.

    I used to joke that I would have to write a best seller to pay off the loans. It is no longer a joke, but a plan, if I cannot find some other answer to this problem. My alternative is debt slavery and I refuse to be a victim. I am voting for Ron Paul, who would shut down the Federal Reserve in his first week as President, and though he may not win, his platform is an opportunity to educate the populace about the many fraudulent looting schemes imposed upon the people–with MANY examples of their channeling in cheap labor via “weaponized immigration” and turning this country into so-called 3rd world country–they are doing it with DEBT, and as Kissinger said, to the effect that if you control the food you control the people, if you control the money, you control the world. It would be great to be an illegal alien right now, they don’t have to pay taxes and can get many subsidies for starting businesses that I can’t. I was also excluded from various other jobs because I was not Indian, Black, etc. Being a woman doesn’t even help, as usual.

    I suggest that readers at this forum work on as many fronts as possible to end globalization/fascism and inform themselves of how to learn from the Peruvians –see Aaron Russo’s America From Freedom to Fascism, and consider being a part of the “Ron Paul Revolution”, and Restore the Republic, as this country and what we should represent (liberty and justice and the right to persue happiness) is going down in flames unless we use their weakest link to end the tyranny, debt and other forms of slavery.
    Regards,
    R.Blair
    Springfield, OR

  17. I have a student loan that I had to defer for several years due to medical issues my wife was going through, as well as some very difficult times financially. At the time of the original loan re-payment date, I owed $12,000. I have now been re-paying the loans for ten years. Due to interest, the balance has ballooned to over $19,000. I pay as much as I possibly can each month, almost $190/month; the payments are scheduled to increase to @280/month in about half a year. I am currently 43. At this rate, I will have completed payoff of the loan by the time I reach 80 yrs old. I have an 8 yr old daughter to support, as well as a spouse. Now, I realize that this is my loan and that I am responsible for repayment, but I have already made payments in excess of $10,000 on a loan that was originally $12,000 and the principal has not gone down one cent. I am completely frustrated and feel that at this point, I have made a stronger attempt at paying off this loan than many folks have done in similar circumstance. I am finding myself becoming very angry with the system for having to spend a tenth of my monthly income on interest based payments into a loan program that was supposed to aid in embellishing my earning potential. I am so frustrated. I can’t afford to pay more on this loan, the principal never goes down and I am unable to save for my daughter’s education because of the interest payments I am making to a financial institution. I don’t own a home or any other equity and I really wish that there were some form of relief that could be offered.

  18. I couldn’t agree with you more, Chris. I have an online journal and just finished writing about my frustrations with student loan debt. I tried my best to not have any, but couldn’t escape without 25K. I worked part-time through college, didn’t rack up any on credit cards…but had 15K in government loans and 10K in a Sallie Mae loan. It disgusts me that people that are honestly trying to make something better of themselves and their lives are *punished* for that choice.

    I was lucky to scathe by with only 25K. My parents saved for many years and that helped a lot. Of course when I told them I was getting married, they cut off my funds. Needless to say, this is something I will never forget. They were angry that I was getting married and didn’t want me to quit school, get pregnant and never finish. Cutting off my funding nearly forced me in that direction.

    I stuck to my guns and finished, which now leaves me in a hole of debt that is tough to get out of. I’m lucky my husband is a finance major and an accountant, so we stick to a very strict budget. Over time, it will get paid off. It’s just ridiculous that a society so focused on making a better future for young people makes it so imensely difficult to start off on the right foot.

  19. Dear friends,

    I have had a unique experience in this so-called student loan operation.

    I am an old student who has defaulted due to lack of the actual information from the government about my student loan that were paid by Chase Manhattan Bank. In the later years of the Government’s lien placement on my name as a debt credit risk, I decided to check on all the schools’ payments but shocked to find that some of the schools had no record of me having attended their schools but got paid several thousands of dollar tuition in my name. This finding became mindboggling as cogitating in the manner such a thing could happen puts one to a loss.

    How could Chase Manhattan Bank send a check in the amount of several thousands dollars to any school in the name of a student who does not attend such a school? Could you advise me as to how this could have happened? I requested this information from the State’s Student Loan Service but without any answer or reasonable reply to the inquiry.

    Sincererly yours,

    Chola M.Mapoma

  20. HELP! My neice has a chance to attend a very good state school (University of Pittsburgh) for a very reasonable fee, due to several factors, not the least of which is her custodial parent’s disability. She could go and graduate with ZERO debt.

    She’s headstrong, but very immature, and like many 17 and 18 year olds, she thinks 4 years is very far away in the future, and $5000 of debt might as well be $105,000 of debt.

    How can ANYONE convince her how different her life will be during her 20’s, 30’s, even 40’s, if she graduates from Pitt with no debt versus graduating from University of Boston with $100,000 of debt?? Her parents and I feel like we’re talking to a brick wall.

  21. I am a U.S. citizen living overseas. I graduated from a U.S. university in 1998 and moved to be with my husband right after. I did everything I could to have as little debt as possible. I attended community college and worked under a program that took care of part of my tuition. When I went to university, I had two scholarships. In the first few years, I did a deferment because I was unemployed (I lived in a country where I had to first learn the language) and then did a postgraduate degree in the country where I live.

    I started making payments on my loans and consolidated my loans. However, to get a check made out in U.S. funds and then to send it, I am charged $40 by the bank and post office. I tried to arrange that I could pay by credit card, which would make life easier, but they would not accept it.

    Due to financial hardship, I was unable to keep up my payments and called the loan company. I found them rude and unsympathetic. I was offered an income sensitive repayment plan. However, this was based on U.S. income, which is useless to me. I live in a country where the expenses are much higher; from housing to taxes. Plus, the wages seem to be quite decent from a U.S. perspective, but would be average here. I pointed this out and was told they could only go by U.S. standards and was told that according to their calculations, I could afford the $450 per month payments!

    After defaulting because I was too broke to send anything I was informed that I could pay $235 a month, but I will be 60 years old before they are paid off and they tacked on $5000 for good measure – in other words, a punishment for defaulting. Oh, and this will get interest, as well. A good deal for them. And I can tell you that I will never repay that $5,000.

    I am making regular payments, but I have a baby due in July. While on maternity leave, my salary will be cut by 50% and I will not be able to make any payments on the loan. I can go into deferment again (and more interest will be tacked on), but there is no way I can ever make any payments. Even if I want to send $50 a month, it will cost me $40 a month just to send the check. And I will not be able to afford even that small amount. Child care costs where I live is on average $1600 a month! And I need to pay that in order to continue working and keep a roof over our heads. So, it looks like I am heading back into default.

  22. HI
    I was one of the college student who dreamed prosper life in future, but
    it cut short. The state Univesity I graduated reported to Federal student loan as if I was withdrawn and put me in debt.

    I was applying in many companies and submitted my resume. But the response was based on carefull background study on education, you aren’t fulfill the requirement. Then I call back the school and ask for transcript, on my transcript I found 2 maths transfer credits aren’t shown on the balance sheet, but I had evidence for those class credited from maths dept. professor. And I have a copy of letter showing those class are credited.

    My question is who is responsible for my life to be miserable? And for the past 4 and half years I have been struggling working low pay jobs, I end up on debt burdon and collection call harassment.

    Please, I need your honest opinion. Do I purse a law suit to the school? or ….

  23. A solution to the student loan problem, !!!

    I am in default, very low income [way below poverty line] and at my age [late forties] with three kids, doesn’t look like I’ll ever get out of default, unless I win a lottery,

    Anyhow, in going over the math in how I can pay off the original loan plus the almost a million in interest, well, two hundred thousand is what I would wind up with over a 45,000 loan…well, I have a few options,

    1. write a book and hope it can gross in the thousands
    2. get hooked on meth and work three around the day jobs, and hope that Child Protection Services doesn’t take my kids for being home alone with no care
    3. thought about prostitution but at my age probably wouldn’t make a whole hell of a lot
    4. could Sell meth, though don’t have the funds right now to get a meth lab started [though believe me the thought is becoming More appealing]
    5. could take up arms sales to criminals, but again, don’ t have the capital to do that
    6. find a way to go work in Iran, Lebanon, Syria and tell them what I know

    or write a book about all of the above which is what I’ve decided on, after all, if I fail, I’m no worse off

    but in this process, I do think, that all of us who owe student loans, Should strike a deal with Iran, Lebanon and Syria, in business, they after all, are working [well, o.k., the US government and UK] on this type of Sharia Student loan where Muslims won’t have to pay a dime of interest,

    isn’t That nice? So, you see, as for all this debate about whether education should be free or not, well Look at it This way,

    keep up the charging 200,000 in interest penalties for a 40,000 loan, or 40,000 interest penalties on a 5,000 loan, and in meantime, give education away for free to illegals, and Muslims from other countries [esp those hostile countries LOL],

    and think, just think, in next generation, all Americans will be able to do is hold the pickle hold the lettuce,

    and all those good jobs and those with the incomes to Buy your houses and nice things, will be those who have set up Sharia courts in your back yard.

    So since that is happening Anyway, why not give Bush and the Admin and the Sallie Mae’s of the world a helping hand in destroying the future of America, and strike business deals, sell our loan balances to the governments of Iran, Syria and Lebanon and Saudi, and pay Them the loan balance instead.

    Works for me…

    and believe me, I’m looking into it,

    SERIOUSLY.

  24. BTW, the above idea is not that different than what our Government does on a daily basis, the recent [or not too recent] trade deal made with Oman is example of that,

    so here’s the deal, I have about 92,000 in loans, I’m figuring penalities and interests added to that, and with my income, LOL ROFL, well I could pay my entire monthly gross,

    which would leave me homeless and I don’t believe I can get TANF, though I might be able to get food stamps [haven’t checked that math out yet], forget childcare, just hope my kids don’ t burn down the place while I’m working…

    but I figure doing that, by time I am on the streets, eventually I’ll get fired for not having an address or a place to bathe, so I’ll go back Into default,

    So, looking into self-employment, LOL, which ironically seems to be a better alternative, so due to the type of business I’m thinking of, I’m looking for investors from Middle East–women especially. To sell hand made goods,

    in other words, investing in countries that there is money and where our government invests in anyway, like Saudi, Oman, Syria, Lebanon, etc.,

    maybe stock options/investments…I could take five months of savings and invest in Those countries and use the dividends to pay student loans. If Uncle Sam can do it,

    why can’t we?

    And I’m SURE, Sallie Mae and Citibank and the DOE would have not a problem with how we made the money, as long as they got paid and Then some…

  25. It’s all true. Our so called American Democracy is nothing but a manipulative fascism that preys on the weak and uninformed. I have my share of debt due to student loans and am outraged that the education that I damned my future for has landed me nothing but a chance in an industry that has been outsourced to other countries. I am ready to revolt and become the modern day road warrior just as ol’ Mel Gibson portrayed in his classic movie debut…

  26. The problem with student loans is they hurt the very people they are supposed to help. This is a class issue, because the children of the rich (or rich enough) don’t need loans to go to college. They have no debt when they graduate. If they have the opportunity to do a job that pays well or not there are no consequences. The consequences are laid on the backs of those that are the most vulnerable – the poor. Student loans first offer hope, however education is no guarantee of a well paying job. Education is a “social good”. Some will earn well and some will not. Some will be able to repay their loans and some will not (this is no different than with students that don’t need loans.). The very fact that a student needs to borrow so much is a symptom that the educational system is sick and doesn’t work for the majority and helps to camouflage the real disparities between rich and poor. I think there needs to be a national discussion with all points of view about the student loan system. Hard questions need to be asked and politicians need to be held accountable for policies that overlook the interests of the society on behalf of business and a fast buck. To get more involved go to http://www.studentloanjustice.org

  27. My daughter graduated from Grinnel in Iowa, at the time, the best educational value you could find in 1992. Me (the dum a$$) cosigned for her loans. when my wife and I divorced, my daughter felt the need to “screw” Dad and make him pay for her college degree, and at last communication, with younger daughter (oldest) had 2 businesses and teaches, and plays in a band. I’m supposed to pay for an education that I didn’t receive? You can take your Stafford loans and file them where the sun doesn’t shine. She (daughter) had the gall to say (direct quote) “I’m sorry you had a daughters smart enough to f*** her dad in the a**”. I haven’t talked to her since,.I find it hard to believe I raised that type of attitude, but my youngest has finally realized “Moms” fabrications, the oldest doesn’t care “Dads got the debt, not me”. My advice to all parents male and female alike, they want the education, make them pay for it.

  28. I didn’t read the latter heading well enough, thus, what I entered wasn’t a website. It was the “subject,” i.e., “Sign this petition to assuage student loan debt:”

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