People write me about student debt

And some of them are talking about wanting to end their lives. They are not speaking from “weakness” or “stupidity.” They’re just tired. They feel done. “I’ve never had serious issues with suicidal ideation, but damnit, this is causing that for me,” one woman wrote – she ended up having trouble with her loans due to mounting health problems. Debt collectors are harassing her 81-year-old grandmother. Every time she applied for a forebearance, her paperwork was conveniently “lost,” she says. She suspects they wanted her to go into default early. Are we honestly going to be OK with it when it happens to more and more people?

Since my piece on student debt was reprinted by AlterNet, I’ve had all sorts of trolls showing up here, in the meantime. Here they are, distilled to their essence:

Pay the money, bitch!
It’s gone, baby, gone. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be willing to negotiate with the loan company for a fair amount, considering all of the money I have already sunk into my loans. If I’m in a position to negotiate, I will do so. Neither am I above asking for help with my loans. But most of the people close to me are also having financial troubles.

You’re a thief! You planned this! Got a fancy education then decided you didn’t have to pay the money back!
Ha ha. Ha ha ha.

Coward! You ran away to Russia!
I’m in Russia on a work visa. As a former USSR citizen and wife of a Russian citizen, I am entitled to residency – but in Moscow, that’s a prohibitively expensive process for me at the moment. In my husband’s hometown, it doesn’t make economic sense. I didn’t “run away” – though working abroad was ultimately a smart decision for someone with my skills and background. Many people in similar situations cannot say the same.

That’s what you get for being uppity and a part of the “me generation”
What about the generations that came before? Our collective values as such that people are considered “uppity” for wanting to get a good education. And they’re such that a good education comes attached with ridiculous costs. And they’re such that when you are 18-year-old, you are told that student loans are “a good way to build credit.”

Now responsible people like me will have to pay for your sins!
Responsible people have ended up bailing out Wall Street. At this point, we need to re-think the entire system of lending in this country. Not to mention re-thinking higher education and its costs. I could be quiet about my debt problems, or I could go public with the issue – but not as a means of going, “Hey guys! Take responsibility for my problem!”

Well, you just suck. As opposed to me. I mean, look at me! *hold on, let me dust off the halo for a second* Where was I? Ah, yes. The only thing your example proves is that some people in our society are bad apples. I worked hard all of my life – and will never be in the situation you’re in. I’m not a freeloader or a thief – and neither am I an entitled jackass who thinks that everything ought to be handed to me on a silver platter. That’s the difference between you and me. That’s why I matter. That’s why you don’t matter – aside from being an example of how not to live one’s life.
I had a guy tell me once that the only reason I *needed* student loans in the first place is because I was not smart enough to get into university “on merit.” Smart people can always score a full ride to a school of their choice, you see. Everyone else should not go to school – or have the good grace to be born rich. Of course, he and his family would never end up in my shoes. Except that years later, they did. When their eldest daughter got a rare illness and the insurance company screwed her. That was when their financial free-fall started. The man who said those hurtful words to me now works as a sales clerk – way past retirement age. His family home has been repo’ed. I’m not saying this because I want to gloat – what happened to them is a goddamn tragedy. And it goes to show. Under the current system, none of us are safe from harm.

Its your parents’ fault! They should have saved up for college!
College costs too much in the United States. Most normal families can’t afford it. It doesn’t seem like a problem at first – because of course something great ought to cost a lot! Right? It made sense to me as a kid. If we don’t think that people ought to have adequate access to health care, when it comes to education, we’re even worse. And we’ve completely devalued vocational schools and made apprenticeships obsolete, which compounds the problem.

They ought to strip you of your citizenship! You ought to have your child taken away! I hope the lenders DO drive you to suicide!
I’m including this as an example of how vicious ordinary people are to other ordinary people. Pitting us against each other is clever. It’s something that has always been done, throughout the ages, by those in power. Throw a few bones to the rabble. Let them fight each other for scraps. Sell them a convenient fairy tale about how they have every chance to become the next Bill Gates in the meantime – even though an entire economic system’s existence depends on a bunch of them being in poverty, while the rest cling desperately to middle-class status. It’s a fool-proof plan. Or is it?

51 thoughts on “People write me about student debt

  1. Thank you for posting. I am appalled, but appallingly not surprised, by the responses you’ve been getting.

  2. Wow. Somebody’s wishing the people in debt would just up and kill themselves and send their kids to orphanages. The scary part is that there are lawmakers who actually listen to these people, and punish poverty by stealing children and trying to force some contrition ritual on everybody. Like if we say enough hail Mary’s, the incubi that they believe we’re carrying up our asses will magically be transformed into cash or something.

    It’s true. This system can’t sustain itself anymore. The 20%–er, make that 5% who can afford to pay for their own healthcare and education without going into debt do so on the backs of the people who keep the world economy moving with their compulsive buying habits. From the sheer volume of rhetoric and noise out there, I suspect the Overseers understand that they’re losing their hold on yet another generation of slaves.

    Same old, same old. We all know how this cycle works, and that the only possible outcomes are revolution, war, famine, and environmental devastation. I predict another World War before I’m due to die of old age.

    Fuck suicide. When the end comes, I’ll be serving the Mazeltov Cocktails till somebody walks away with my limbs, or puts a bullet in my fucking head.

  3. The financial institutions associated with student debt have paid off legislators numerous times. It’s our legalized version of corruption – lobbying. People complain all of the time, and most of the time, nothing comes from it. Some are even intimidated against complaining – “We will sue you for libel,” etc. I’m not making this stuff up. It’s a problem.

  4. This strategy is worth pursuing and more will do so in the future. A member of my family, currently in school, is a dual national. Finish your degree, fly to the other home country, and throw the US passport in the trash. Best investment you will ever make.

  5. I know, Nat. My sister and I both have Canadian student loan debt, which is bad enough. American student loan debt is way worse.

    My crass comments about spewing pointless rhetoric were not directed at you. They were directed at the Tea Baggers who seem to think that stopping by your blog to attack a suicidally poor person is acceptable. Chickenshit fucks would never say that stuff to somebody’s face.

    Our new fascist gvt. is trying to remake our formerly Rawlsian social control mechanisms in the image of Milton Friedman, too. That frikkin McCarthyist FauxNews network was the worst thing that ever happened to American television. Our crackers and hicks are actually starting to believe that BS, without understanding the first thing about American beliefs about Manifest Destiny, or how Reconstruction Era Welfare State speeches were originally used after the Civil War to put freed slaves into chains of a different kind. Europeans are just as mean to the Jews, Roma, Ukranians…the list goes on…

    My sister got the word from one of the few remaining liberal lawyers in this province, when some collection agent came at her for the last $5000 of her debt. Up here, the gvt. still owns the debt, so the gvt. can withhold our tax returns until it’s paid down. It was always pretty simple. They’ve been taking her tax returns for a number of years, now. She’s nearly paid off.

    (Personally, I’ve read really good things, written by Chechens and people who should have the exact opposite bias about the old Soviet system. I think our student loan repayment plans should work the way Gorbachev’s did. Only our student loans, tho.)

    Well, our fascists want to have their cake and eat it too. They still own the debt. They can still take it out of our tax returns. But they like to give contracts out to make their rich lawyer buddies even richer. That’s how so-called ‘Law&Order’ gvts. work. They play on the fears of the middle class and working poor, so they don’t start asking for reasonable stuff–like better healthcare–for their tax dollars. Instead, gvts. spend huge amounts of money chasing some imagined Bad Guy that’s supposed to be lurking at our borders, at our windows. Except in Canada, our lawmakers haven’t turned our country into a Tarantino-style Mexican stand-off with a bloated Firearms Industry–yet. I dread the day our Self-fulfilling Stereotype peddlars go that far with their Americanisms.

    So the only ‘bad guys’ they can chase in a country with such a low crime rate are single mothers, starving students and people who turn to prostitution to pay these assholes without going on welfare. But Prohibitionist sex work laws are another rant altogether.

    Long story short, our Tea Bag sympathizers cost me my house AND my education when they came at me with all their Incubus Possession Myths blazing. I was homeless for over 2 years, to prevent our Child Protection system from turning my autistic son into one of their psychosurgery experiments. I’m allergic to alcohol, and wouldn’t poison myself with drugs if I could afford it. I have nearly $80 000 in student loan debt, half a Bachelor’s degree, and nobody will hire me or house me because of my bad credit rating and patchy employment history.

    My mother had her student loan debts forgiven. But only because she’s paralyzed from the neck down after 2 strokes. She has partial use of her left arm. The gvt. took her housing away because she’s been hospitalized for so long. According to the haters, I’m the bitch who’s supposed to be wiping her ass every day and don’t I suck because I let her become the province’s problem. Sorry folks. It’s hard to wheel a disabled person around when you have to sleep on park benches.

    And my sister has taken on all of the responsibilities that got yanked away when the rest of the family got strung up as ‘an example’. She pays mom’s storage fees and mine, sometimes. She’s my son’s legal guardian. My adult daughter is living with her while she builds her resume. My sister makes $40k, and pays $750 in rent and $400 on food every month, with my daughter’s and my contributions. She pays $300 in gas and storage fees. The other half of her money goes on debts and taxes.

    And she is about to go to Small Claims Court against these asshole collection agents, being the brave fool who would be her own lawyer. She can’t afford a lawyer, so she’s decided to represent herself. I hope I’m right. I believe they’ll accept her terms and not make her pay court costs when they see her cane and her legs exploding from her thyroid condition. She’s 37 and already showing some of the earlier symptoms of Mom’s health problems. She works her ass off in spite of being a prime candidate for a disability leave, bc she’s terrified of losing her job and ending up homeless like the rest of us. Whether the case goes to court or not, whether she wins or loses, the lawyers don’t care.

    In a ‘Law&Order’ gvt, the lawyers still get paid, no matter what else happens.


    Here is a sure-fire way to make yourself miserably unhappy in your twenties.

    First, enroll in a college that you cannot afford, and rely on large student loans to make up the difference.

    Second, spend the next four years having as good a time as possible: hang out, hook up, and above all, take plenty of “awesome” courses.

    Third, find teachers and role models who will encourage you to develop an attitude of enlightened contempt for ordinary American middle class life, the world of business, and such bourgeois virtues as self-reliance, thrift, accountability and self-discipline. Specialize in sarcasm and snark.

    Fourth, avoid all courses with tough requirements, taking only the minimum required number of classes in science, math and foreign languages.

    Fifth, never think about acquiring marketable skills.

    Sixth, when you graduate and discover that you have to repay the loans and cannot get a job that pays enough to live comfortably while servicing your debts, be surprised. Blame society. Demand that the government or your parents or evil corporations bail you out.

    Seventh, expect anyone (except for other clueless losers who’ve been as stupid and wasteful as you) to sympathize with your plight, or to treat you with anything but an infuriating mixture of sorrow, pity and contempt.

    If you follow this recipe faithfully, Via Meadia promises that you will achieve all the unhappiness you want.

  7. Our problem is there is too much compliance. We need massive and coordinated non-payment. There must be a bank we can break entirely if we just don’t pay.

    In 1976, one semester at the local public ivy cost 1/20 of what it costs in 2011. I will leave it up to you to decide if people today earn 20 times what they did in 1976. The only way to deal with this phenomenon is to cheat.

    Marry abroad, get new citizenship, do whatever it takes but do not pay for something that should be close to free.

  8. Actually, I’ve had a good career so far (knocking on wood) and have paid these loans faithfully for years.

    The myth that it’s just the “losers” and the “slackers” who struggle in our society must be comforting – but I am actually beginning to doubt that said comfort is at all genuine.

    The vicious hatred I have gotten (I elect not to publish the worst comments, there will be on pile-ons on this blog, I think this is a good policy for now) makes me think that people are scared. And there’s more of them across various ideological divides than I’ve realized.

  9. My older brother took a modest loan to get his master’s. Then he got sick and then the economy tanked.

    He hid his problems painstakingly. We found out the full extent of them when he killed himself early this year. Debt collectors tried harassing our mother after he was already gone.

    The people calling you names for putting your kid’s needs ahead of Sallie Mae are indeed scared. And deluded like my brother was. He bought the lie that a bad credit history made him a bad person.

    I wish he was still around.

    Something is wrong with the heart of America.

  10. Good GOD.

    I am so sorry for your loss. And I can’t believe they did that to your mother in her time of grief. I just don’t even know what to say about that. I am speechless and horrified.

  11. And let me just add that health care issues often go hand-in-hand with student debt issues. We have accepted the notion that an illness ought to ruin a person’s life by sending them into a financial tailspin.

    Something’s very, very wrong here.

  12. My deepest sympathies to Lost a Relative. I wish your poor brother had consulted a debt counsellor (or other type of counsellor) before things got so bad.

    I learned a lot after my bankruptcy in 2007, and it’s not as bleak as it looks. Debt companies make money by charging you interest, and yes, there is something wrong with an entire economy–and consequently, an entire culture–based on people owing other people money. Bearing in mind that I’m not a lawyer or debt counsellor, here’s a couple of things I found out along the way.

    If creditors are harassing you and you feel they’re in the wrong (like your poor grandmother), send them a cease and desist letter. Then you’ve got it in writing that you asked them to stop. The part they don’t tell you is that once a debt goes to collections, they company you originally owed the money to has written it off and sold it to the collection agent. The collection agency bought the debt and is now trying to soak you–if they get anything, it only keeps the collection agency alive. Never give them any financial information, esp. when the first thing they ask you for is a stack of post-dated cheques. Change your phone number for an unlisted one (it’s only an extra $2 or $3 a month), and your banking info if they have that.

    Then consult a debt counsellor or bankruptcy trustee for advice on what to do next. Either they can work out a payment plan based on what you can afford, or bankruptcy is an option. It may seem expensive, but in the long run, it costs a lot less (and not just financially, by the sounds of this situation).

    While my information is based on Canada and my experiences, the system isn’t that different in the U.S. Bad credit doesn’t make you a bad person.

    For the record, neither does being young or inexperienced and making financial mistakes. If I had it to do again, yes I’d do it differently. But I don’t, and I’m not going to be ashamed. I used to work as a legal secretary and I arranged the paperwork for mortgages. You wouldn’t believe how some people treat credit like “free money.”

    Live and learn. Hell, even the very rich are in debt–Michael Jackson died owing $400 million. Makes my petty problems seem pretty insignificant.

  13. Lost, I am so sorry to hear about your brother. As a parent, I worry about something like this happening in my future as I have a child about to start college.

    It won’t stop, ever, in the US, where everything, always, is about money, and only money. It won’t even stop when parents do themselves in to help their children pay off outstanding loans.

    I am waiting, eagerly, for a degree of militancy to enter this discussion in the US.

  14. In the United States, unfortunately, you cannot declare bankruptcy on student loans.

    Also, are there debt counselors who don’t charge a fee?

  15. I liked the one about how the GI Bill conditioned the lower classes to think that they could raise themselves to the (appearance of) being in the middle class by getting a college education.

    Something did happen to the USA in the mid 1970’s. The progress of the great mass of people moving up into a comfortable “middle class” life began to slow and then it stopped. And then like a car that could not make it over the top of the mountain, the mass of people began to slide backward. Those who were nearest the bottom began to get smashed first, and the rest are piling up on top of them. I was one of the last to come to adulthood in that period when tuition was low and there was still a future.But now the upper classes are full and no longer accepting applications.

    There were a lot of reasons for it, both internal and global, (a href=””> How the Oligarchy Gets Politicized by Allen Nasser ) but the end story is that financial success and failure is no longer a matter of individual righteousness but is systemic And its not over by a long shot.

    It may get really worse within the next weeks or months depending on what the European Central Bank does. I don’t worry about my debts when I read that the greatest banks in the world cannot function from day to day without borrowing money from each other. I hope you are in a safe and secure situation.

  16. Something did happen to the USA in the mid 1970′s. The progress of the great mass of people moving up into a comfortable “middle class” life began to slow and then it stopped. And then like a car that could not make it over the top of the mountain, the mass of people began to slide backward. Those who were nearest the bottom began to get smashed first, and the rest are piling up on top of them. I was one of the last to come to adulthood in that period when tuition was low and there was still a future.But now the upper classes are full and no longer accepting applications.

    Yep. That’s why the adults in my time were telling us – “but you’ll be fine! You’ll pay it off quickly!” The landscape had changed by the time I was applying to college, but not many people had realized it.

    Also, what Kristin said wrt student debt. It doesn’t go away.

    As Lindsey Beyerstein pointed out – if someone holds up a liquor store, we let them do their time, pay their debt to society, and then they’re out. We don’t DO that with student debt. It ruins your life – and then it will keep ruining your life. That’s why this man, the brother of “lost a relative” most likely felt he had no choice.

  17. Well, we don’t actually let the person who held up a liquor store do the time, pay the debt, and reenter society either. The collateral consequences of conviction are myriad and designed to basically create a permanent underclass of people rotating in and out of prison. For a good description of how it happens–and how racialized it is–read The New Jim Crow.

  18. That’s very true – it’s like one of my old professors always said: we have a CRIMINAL Justice System, not a Criminal JUSTICE System. I mean, talk about trying to get hired if you’ve got a record.

  19. …weird, I’m trying (I’m the primary diaper changer, so there’s never time) to write a piece about disability and debt collectors. There are a lot of laws in Canada protecting people from debt collectors that few people know about, or understand. You still have to pay off the debt, but the laws protect the general public from harassment and being forced into homelessness.

    If someone is disabled, for example, there is nothing the debt collectors can do to recover their money. You’re immune to them until you’re able to work without the assistance of the disability system.

    I’m 90% sure this also applies to people on general welfare.

    The Canadian Bar Association: Harassment by Debt Collectors

    Harassment is forbidden
    The general rule is that anyone collecting a debt – either a creditor or a debt collection business – cannot communicate or attempt to communicate with a debtor or their family, acquaintances or employer in such a way that the communication constitutes harassment. Harassment is defined in the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act to include:

    – using threatening or intimidating language
    -exerting excessive or unreasonable pressure
    -publishing or threatening to publish the debtor’s failure to pay what they owe the creditor…

    There’s more if you Google it. There’s also this:

    Ontario Disability Support Program Act, 1997

    18. (1) Income support under this Act,

    (a) is not subject to alienation or transfer by the recipient; and

    (b) is not subject to garnishment, attachment, execution, seizure or receivership under any other Act. 1997, c. 25, Sched. B, s. 18 (1).

    There are similar laws in most (but really all) provinces in Canada.

    I apologize if I screwed up the HTML.

  20. Those representative comments are typical examples of what Americans have become over the past three decades (since the year 1980, if that gives you any clue as to causation). Disgusting people, Americans … and I say that as an American. An anti-American American, I guess. The people there have driven me to it.

  21. Such a shocking lack of compassion. Do they never fear that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’, or is it that fear that causes them to say these things. Maybe they have to shout loudly to convince themselves that it couldn’t happen to them.

  22. This lending practice is the sort thing that has given rise to the occupy movement. I’ve heard it said somewhere that one of things that makes for a sound democracy is a banking system that people can trust. One of the other ones was a lack of corruption in government. I can’t help but think that Duke and Gonzaga and the University of Montana where I went to school are party to this as they allowed these jackals in to take advantage of their subjects, serfs, call the students what you will.

    At the very least these loans should have the same consumer protection as a regular credit card does.

  23. I still have no sympathy for someone who takes out a loan for an expensive college, skips town, then writes an article defending herself, which far too many people who also reneged happily extol, while the rest of us pay our student loans at great cost to us. However, the death wishes are far worse, and I am sorry you received those.

  24. Are these comments for real? I realize that trolls are out there and I’ve had my own experiences being attacked, but some people are so awful!

    Here’s a story:

    I took out school loans in the late 1980s to complete my education. My parents had been recently divorced and as retribution toward one another they both flatly refused to pay for my (their eldest child) or even contribute to my college (other than “allowing” me to live at home). I was lucky enough to get the Pell Grant and some other monies, and I worked to pay for the rest. Yet, by my third year I needed more to pay for books and tuition. I took out a series of small loans from Sallie Mae.

    Skip ahead to 1988. I lived in Japan from 1988 to 1992, when my husband and I returned to the states so that he could start college after a 4-year stint in the US Navy (don’t even get me started on the GI Bill), and I could attend graduate school.

    I soon discovered that I could not get student loans to help pay for my program. It turned out that while I was living in Japan, Sallie Mae had been “attempting to contact me” about one of my two loans which I had not been paying on. I had been making payments from Japan every month, the amount they asked for using the payment coupons they sent me.

    However, after some investigation (all my footwork, as was everything else that follows) I discovered that my payments had been ONLY for the FIRST of the two loans, and did not include payments for the second. I was young and very naive and had not questioned my low monthly payment, thinking that I was lucky.

    Of course, having sent Sallie Mae my forwarding address had done little good. After MONTHS of investigation, I found out (luckily) that Sallie Mae had been sending my mail to a resident’s address in Japan nowhere near where I had been living. It was fortunate for me that I discovered this error since until that time Sallie Mae remained staunchly positioned as “in the right” and I was obviously “in the wrong”–regardless that I had been paying on the first of the two loans religiously, they did not seem convinced that something must be wrong on their end.

    After nearly nine months of this back and forth between Sallie Mae, and my local loan authority (NELA, which has since changed its name), I was able to establish, without any doubt, that Sallie Mae was at fault. [Did I mention the collection agency that harrassed me and my husband constantly? That was part of this also, but another story for another time.] I was able to obtain the name and address of one of the bigwigs in the corporate personnel department in Texas, and after writing a very heartfelt and tearful letter, I was taken out of default for the loan.

    Here’s the kicker. First, I never received an apology for the error on their part–no admission of guilt, yet throughout this process Sallie Mae spared no insult toward me without a smidgeon of evidence that I had been in the wrong. Second, they did not take the loan out of default as it had been before it was put into default–meaning they capitalized ALL THE INTEREST on the loan. So, a loan that originally had been $2500, DOUBLED by the time it was renegotiated by Sallie Mae. When I sent letters asking them to take off the accrued interest, sending copious paperwork demonstrating that the error was theirs, they barraged me with mail that “proved” the error was indeed mine. “Then, why buy back the loan?” said I. No answer. The fact remains that I paid the price–double it, actually, for an error this CORPORATION made against me. They never “admitted” wrong-doing and I suspect they probably felt they did their part in simply taking the loan out of default. Had I been a rich person I’d have sued, but what can you do when you’re living from pay check to pay check as we were at that time?

    The moral of the story: Don’t every trust student loan corporations. Hell, don’t trust corporations at all. They lie, they cheat and ultimately they steal whatever you have. They are inhuman monsters that devour whatever they can from you and then go off to graze on some other unwary soul. Those who defend them are sadly in store for sorrow–and if not, then they have been mindwashed by them. My experience isn’t the only one out there, but it was one that taught me all too well. Perhaps it was a “good” thing, in the end, because it has opened my eyes to what people are facing every day because of the corporate state.

    Good luck with your endeavors. You are not alone.

  25. God damn, that is awful.

    Yeah, a couple of people wrote in to tell me things like “if you kill yourself, at least there will be one less freeloader out there.” I don’t publish comments like that, because, well, fuck those guys – they’re not going to monopolize discussion on here. At the same time, one has to admit that they exist.

  26. Hi Natalia,
    thank you for being so brave, what you are doing is wonderful and i agree with you whole heartedly, you did what you had to

    we’ve been trying to get in touch with you because we wanted to talk to you about student debt.

    Our website is
    in support of the occupy movement,

    we’ve been bouncing around some ideas, and pushing The Occupy Student Debt campaign around (not associated with them)

    Our email is under contact us to get in touch.


  27. We’ve imported this totally bullshit way of funding education in The UK, Voted for in parliament by people who did not have to pay and were supported through student grants in their education!

  28. Well, AJ, aren’t you generous? So you think the death wishes are wrong but have no sympathy for the author, who posted the exact numbers of her loan and payments ate Alternet? Wow. So you didn’t read that she has up to now stayed out of default and paid more than her scheduled payments for MORE THAN FIVE YEARS, and has paid more than $23,000 towards the $37,000 total, reducing her debt by only $1100? When I was younger that was called usury, and it was illegal.

    Well, I don’t have student debt–my parents and I paid for my college back in the 1970’s–and have never borrowed–ever. I have always purchased used cars I can pay cash for and I rent my home. I use credit cards for the convenience, but have never paid a penny in interest because every balance has been paid in full every month. I am disabled and in constant pain but I work full time and pay my bills, also like you “at great cost to myself.” But thanks to this system they’ve set up and you’re helping to perpetuate, I am unable to continue my cancer treatment and unable to get treatment for my debilitating nerve pain. Because I can’t afford it. I can’t afford dental care so my teeth are falling out and rotting. I am really scared about the cancer, but it’s not like I can do anything about it.

    How can you live with yourself pontificating at people who are literally SLAVES?

  29. Pontificating is an interesting vocabulary choice. Our pontiff is doing nothing, as far as I can tell, to address the absolute Perspektivlosigkeit of the youth, both in the flock and out. Where are voices from outside the victimized group about why this is all so terribly morally wrong?

    AJ, as for sticking it to the taxpayers, have you ever considered the possibility that the very folks who have, for more than 30 years, NOT paid taxes sufficient to fund university educations like the ones they got back in the day are the real deadbeats? The cost of education in the US today is overwhelmingly the cumulative result of 30 years of neglect. In Virginia, since the late 70s, state budget support for the public colleges has fallen off a cliff, from around 50% of total costs to under 10% at the best schools. Did you think that the cost of attendance, or the cost to operate, has also gone down, or what is the reason, do tell, that state funds have been steadily reduced?

    Exactly – to keep your goddamn taxes low. Well, I am here to tell every undergraduate in America there is a different way. Borrow it and never, ever, pay it back. If anyone has had a sticking-to it has been today’s generation.

    Don’t play by AJ’s (the house’s) rules.

  30. but Lisa, Mitt Romney says corporations are people…

    I listened to Romney on Charlie Rose yesterday he thinks there’s too much regulation,.. like it’s keeping (people) from making money.

  31. Thank you for writing this. Fuck the haters and stay strong. The dearth of compassion in this society makes me sick.

    I spent 4 years working on a Bachelor’s degree and decided academia was my thing. I went to graduate school and was diagnosed with early-stage cervical cancer in my second semester. I made it through and graduated, with the help of supportive friends and family, a fantastic doctor, and of course buckets of student loan money that I borrowed so I could treat my illness and stay in school. I did this because I couldn’t bear to drop out and just give up. I was too invested in my education to let even cancer stand in my way. I made it work, knowing there would be consequences. Shame on me for getting sick and being SO selfish that I refused to cut my losses and roll over, right?

    I’m now in the first year of my Ph.D. I took a pay cut to start my doctorate because my university is slashing assistantship funds, and I’m reaching the maximum I can borrow from the government. I’ve been having to pay on the loans I took out as an undergrad for about the last 6 months or so. If I miss a payment by a few hours, the loan company begins harassing me nonstop. They are vultures. My current debt is close to $80,000 with all of the interest piled on top, and I have 3 years left in my doctorate.

    I earn a $500 a month stipend from my teaching duties. I work two other jobs just to keep a roof over my head. I don’t even know what I’m going to do when it comes time to start writing the dissertation, because I may not be able to work my other jobs.

    I was an intellectual late-bloomer and came to academia after I realized how much I loved learning and the environments of learning. Now, I’m in so deep, so committed to this education thing, that I just can’t walk away. I’m already in possession of an MA that qualifies me to sweep floors at an animal shelter. If my Ph.D. becomes similarly devalued, I don’t know if I’ll be able to take it.

    This is why people are driven to suicide – that old joke about “Ph.D” standing for “Piled higher and deeper”? They aren’t kidding.

  32. I’m reminded of a news story regarding a guy down in Louisiana who held up a store like 7-11, except they kept something like $100 in the register. Strangely the guy gave all except for $1.75 back. He wanted to buy a sandwich because he was homeless.

    Second story…The leaders of the company’s on Wall Street, the banks that knowingly sold worthless bonds and such to banks around the world that brought forth worldwide recession…Gets no jail time. His company gets bailed out.

    The guy who stole $1.75 drum roll please..Got 25 years in the State Pen.

    But guess what the guy who stole the $1.75 was given a 25 year prison sentence.

  33. Perhaps you can find a way to fight the banksters on their own terms, even using their own devices. Their recent financial plunderings suggest there is always a bail-out hidden somewhere in that graveyard of greed. Is it possible to roll over your SM (!) loan into a conventional loan? For example, if you, or someone close to you, were to assume some other type of debt instrument (a conventional loan, mortgage, etc.) of equal value and use the proceeds to pay off all of your SM oblligation, then you would be free of the uniquely predatory restrictions and penalties of SM. You might then even pleasure-pain the pigs with a bankruptcy. Good luck to a good person.

  34. Stan, you would have to make payments on the loan used to pay off the student loan for something like 180 days before filing bankruptcy, possibly longer in your state. There is a “look-back” period where they look at what debts you incurred and what debts you paid, and if the period is too short between paying off the student loan and the bankruptcy filing, the court will probably rule that you took out the loan with the intent of committing fraud (i.e. never paying it back).

    Second, the banks WILL come after your co-signer and there are fairly low limits on assets that you can keep in the bankruptcy in many states (retirement plans are exempt assets, so go bankrupt before you spend that money), so you also risk forcing your co-signer into bankruptcy. Most people who are having trouble paying their student do not have access to enough credit to pay off the student loans.

    This isn’t the question that I was going to post about. Someone else posted that student loans should have consumer protections at least as good as credit cards. Consumer protections on credit cards aren’t that great. I know that when the CARD Act passed, many of my credit cards had their rated jacked up by the issuer, despite having a zero balance on them and a perfect payment records. Your “protection” is mostly in the form that you have to be given NOTICE of the changes in terms, and it can happen unilaterally at any time. You do retain the right to pay off the existing balance under the old terms, but then you can’t use the credit card anymore

  35. @Stan Collins

    To add to comments by “itsallmadness”:

    It’s unlikely that any U.S. or Russian retail lender would give Natalia Antonova a $37K unsecured loan. Her current financial status and student-loan credit history (with forebearances and deferrals) makes her ineligible for that much unsecured credit.

  36. Hi, Natalia. You have my best wishes and my sympathy for successfully resolving your situation one way or another, and my admiration for your willingness to go public about it. Student loans helped finance my education many years ago, but I had the good fortune to get a good paying job right out of college at a time of relatively high inflation, so my debt was a much smaller fraction of my income within a few years. Also, back then student debt was dischargeable in bankruptcy, for those who weren’t so fortunate as I.

    Anyhow, I saw this a couple of days ago, and thought you might be interested. It’s kind of pessimistic about the real chances of a general debtor’s strike working, but still interesting:

  37. I didn’t make it to college after high school, thought I’d be cool and join the Marine Corps…in 1963. Very bad timing but after reading some of the student debt horror stories I’m starting to feel like the lucky one. I absolutely cannot understand the rude, bordering on feral animal, responses you and others caught in that trap are getting.

  38. Hey, things don’t look that bad for you! I borrowed $48k over six years of grad schooland the bank “capitalized the interest,” so the principal became $60k. Got a job as a professor and made tenure, but I couldn’t always make the $550 payments for a few months, so they capitalized that, too. Now I owe $72k and the payoff is $196,000 at 8.3%. I’ve made more than $72k in payments over 14 years, but have yet to touch the principal. My best hope is forgiveness after 25 years. good luck to you! -TonyC

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