Student Loans

So as of yesterday, I’ve had to deal with Sallie Mae. If I didn’t say that I detest student loans as a whole, it would be a lie by omission.

Situation is this: I opted for a particular repayment plan, and as part of it, my payments dropped into double figures each month. Awesome! I budgeted around this, and laid out a pretty solid budget for the rest of the year. But then, I check Sallie Mae’s website and…surprise! My payment amount has nearly tripled.

What the F.

Yeah. I had to call and politely, but not so very nicely, tell them that either my loan gets to a manageable payment amount, or they won’t be seeing any money, because guess what: I need to eat too. They mumbled their way through various reasoning that basically boiled down to, “too bad, bitch, pay up or else.” I ended up putting it into forbearance for five months, to the tune of $150.

What the F, redux. Since when is there a fee for forbearances? When I put my US Dept. of Education loan into forbearance, they didn’t even think to charge me a fee. They simply looked at my credit, looked at the loans, saw I paid everything on time so far, and said, “next payment due in November, have a nice day.” Nowhere was there a $150 fee. And really, Sallie Mae, telling me that you’ll credit the forbearance fee after 6 months of on-time payments is crap. Don’t charge me in the FIRST PLACE, how about that little chestnut? Or is that too much to ask for?

Rep. Hansen Clarke’s student loan forgiveness bill cannot be signed fast enough. I mean it. Don’t give me the crap how “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” is the only way. The bootstrap factory is outsourced to China, and the industry – yes, industry – of education is facing the same bubble-burst as homeownership. Student loan debt is up 511% over the last decade, and colleges have little choice but to keep increasing their tuition because the Pell and TAP grant budgets are getting slashed every year, and the qualifications are getting tighter and tighter. NONE of this has any sort of control or regulation, and some colleges would actually have you lie on the FAFSA to get more in student loans.

Yes, lie. Because they’re the ones who profit immediately and very well, to boot, but you, the student, are fucked. Because with the exception of junior colleges and barely accredited schools, you are very hard-pressed to find a college with a four-figure annual tuition, and with all the “education is a must for anything in life!” that is hammered down our throats from an early age, what else, aside from getting into heavy debt, can you do to keep yourself in school?

You may say “Trade school!” but you know what, trade schools need tuition paid too. And if there was any emphasis on trade schools right now, we wouldn’t be having the situation that we have now: metric ton of college grads, none of them able to find a job, because the degree that they had killed thousands of dollars on is suddenly not enough, and because the majority of work has already been outsourced.

Lovely, innit? And by this, I mean absolutely fucking terrible.

Seriously. Jobs don’t rain from the sky. The economy is only now feebly showing signs of recovery. There’s still a competition of a minimum of 30 people for an open position. For every one person who gets the job, there’s 29 more who have no idea how they’re going to pay their bills, or pay for that student loan. About half of the college grads have no choice now but to live with their parents because they’re unable to afford loans and pay for an apartment at the same time. It’s simple math: you can only stretch a $1,000 biweekly check so far when you’re in the hole for a high five-figure sum, if you’re lucky to get that per month.

“Get a better job and stop being lazy!”

“You have an education, you can just get another job!”

“Just pay them, it’s not a big deal.”

“Why can’t you afford it? You have a job, right?”

I’ve heard it all, and you know what, none of it answers the main and very pressing question of why the hell had this predicament been allowed in the first place – not just to me but for every college grad laden with debt in this country. Tuition for a small local private university should not have ever gotten near the 20K/year mark and allowed to double within five years since then, as is the case with Pace University, my alma mater. If I ever wanted to return to it for grad school, I can kiss that dream goodbye. At this point in time, Pace is more expensive than NYU will ever be. Pace’s financial aid had started to slash while I was still in school, and I’ve begged for grants to keep tuition to where covering the gap with loans was a plausible option. And considering my debt load and the average debt load of a Pace graduate, I still got away easy, and I’m still in bad straits. Why? Because I can’t support my living expenses, and the expenses of my business, and pay back $60K at the same time. And mind you, that $60K? Still less than what I had started with.

I’m about to start looking for another job, because even though my salary has been steadily climbing, it’s still not enough. I need to find a job that will pay me significantly more than what I’m receiving now. Why? Because I really don’t want to be in debt for the rest of my life. And with the way that the student loan bubble is going right now, that’s what it’s looking like.

And you know what? It should have all been regulated. There should be caps on tuition, even for private universities. There should be caps on student loan percentages. There should definitely be a massive improvement with job placement programs for schools. There should be a massive improvement in high schools, where guidance counselors offer trade school as a viable option for careers. Instead, what do we have? A loan bubble that’s about to burst hard, because there will be a huge number of college grads who will outright default on their student loans. They will do so knowing that their credit will be shot, and they will do it en masse because they want to actually have some semblance of a life that doesn’t involve constantly thinking about debt. And since bankruptcy laws now do not discharge student loan debt, then what? Wage garnishment? It’s a lose-lose situation one way or another.

This is a very, very preventable situation. One way or the next, I have to come up with 60K to pay everything off. Unless I win the lottery, this won’t be happening.

And yes, I’ve done research on bankruptcy. Because believe me, when you’re looking at your finances and no matter how much of a raise you’re getting, you’re not seeing anything actually become different, you begin to consider drastic measures if only out of panic’s sake.

And that’s no way to live.

K.G.

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