Thursday, November 17, 2011

Occupy Student Debt

My student debt tale has all the makings of a horror story. I made choices that have now saddled me with a hefty sum of student loans and I am not the only one.

From Danny Rubin at Brazen Life: 

$38,000. $84,000. $253,000.
Those five and six-figure sums might look like payouts from different rounds on ‘Who Wants to be Millionaire,’ but you won’t find Regis or an oversized check anywhere near this kind of money.
That’s because these totals represent what different people owe on their student loans. Some are in such deep debt that they can barely make payments on the interest of their loans. Forget actual loan payments. Those will have to wait for a better day.
Since Occupy Wall Street exploded two months ago, a website called Occupy Student Debtsprung up alongside and collected horror stories of higher education.
Some are straightforward:
Original Balance: $199.256.90
Current Balance: $253,015.63
Paid so far: $29,242.15 (I’ve never missed a payment)
Interest rates: up to 10.7% (Citibank)
Others full of panic:
I graduated college in 2005, originally borrowed a total of $54,232.62, even only paying a lower interest rate and a fluctuating repayment plan over the course of almost 7 years of paying back my loan. I still owe at this time an amount of $54,158.13. As you can see, not much has come off at all.
And plenty more seem like all is lost:
Never mind the American Dream. Now, I’d just like to be able to pay my rent. Bills take care of my health and my cat’s health. Even my cat didn’t realize what she was in for in 1996, when I started grad school at a private university. Silly me.
Universities, banks and politicians… please explain yourselves.
More than 300 people have posted on the site with tales of financial ruin. Thousands more suffer in silence just fordoing what we were taught all along: work hard, earn good grades, get into college and make something of ourselves.
Rising tuition, dried up state funding for public universities, easy access to loans (i.e. Sallie Mae) and a culture that pushes young people to four-year institutions (whether they want to go or not) have all led to statements like this:
Education debt… is a loaded gun to my head.

To me, this was the most shocking:

While we may never pinpoint the root cause of student debt, it’s quite clear where we ended up. A Pew Research study this past week revealed that a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times that of a 35-year-old. That is believed to be the biggest wealth disparity in American history, and surely student debt, along with high unemployment, factors into the equation. 

I am lucky in that my husband and I can live on his salary solely while we work to widdle away the debt. But I feel for those people who have invested so heavily in their education but aren't seeing positive results. I am not trying to argue the merits of higher education - I am just arguing that education is too expensive and students aren't given the tools they need to help themselves afford this massive expense.

So now the question is, what can we do and how can we affect change that resonates with students and those thousands of graduates with crippling debt?