What’s Happening With the Proposed Student Loan Bill

My thoughts:

The accepted wisdom in the U.S. is that in order to get a ‘decent’ job, one must obtain a college degree. The problem is that tuition is prohibitively high and scholarships are scarce (even if you’re a exceptional athlete). So people take out student loans, with the implied promise that their post-commencement salary will enable them to pay off the debt.

When my brother graduated with his BA in the mid-80s, college grads were ecstatic to get $20,000 year jobs. When I and my brethren graduated college in the early 90s, we were still struggling for those $20,000 year jobs. Have early 21st century college grads fared better, overall, especially light of higher gas, food and otherwise general cost of living prices?

What do many college grads do when they realize there are no jobs? They go back to graduate school. And most likely, even if Mommy and Daddy ponied up the cash for undergrad, they’re not doing the same for their mid-to-late 20-something (at least), where does the money come from?

That’s right – MORE student loans.

Now you’re looking at MASSIVE debt, a worthless academic career placement department, and a job market that is only accessible by ‘who you know’. Each month that goes by means accrued interest on the loans, and yet folks are expected to move out of their parents’ homes, afford health insurance, and embark on a somewhat ‘expected’ (by U.S. standards) way of life.

Yet we’re in a recession, health insurance premiums are through the roof, a huge percentage of personal bankruptcies are filed by people because of medical bills but WITH health insurance, the cost of food, clothing and shelter has risen far beyond rate of median wages – in fact, if you look at the census info and an earlier blog post, you’ll find that median wages in the U.S. have been basically flat since the mid-1980s. That’s right; the cost of EVERYTHING has increased exponentially, but wages for the lower 95% of this country’s population have stagnated.

It used to be that married people could consolidate their student loans together. The divorce rate and subsequent arguing in court over who should be responsible for the debt caused this policy to change (good), which means a spouse cannot be held accountable their partner’s student loans. Which is obviously a problem if the partner with the loans is making much less than the partner without and the couple keeps separate finances (which happens).

Did I mention a 2005 law made it damned near IMPOSSIBLE to discharge student loans through bankruptcy? That’s right, student loans have NO consumer protections. None. And it doesn’t matter if you took out the loans where there WERE consumer protections, those were stripped away in 2005 and from that point on, you are screwed. Your wages can be garnished, your tax return withheld, your SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS taken away…

It is easy to ‘blame the victim’ (aka the person who took out the student loans) but no one can predict recessions, layoffs, medical crises, fire, flood, famine, business failures, lawsuits, stock market crashes, or simply a life that doesn’t go according to plans. No one should have to pay for their college education when they’re in their 60s yet many of Generation X are looking at that very real possibility. Changes must be made.

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