Why Their Student Loans Are Our Problem
Do you have student loans?
With the cost of higher education soaring out of control, more students are turning to student loans than ever before. But how is that affecting America as a whole? And what can we do about it?
I recently saw a picture of a young person on the Internets. She was at one of those Occupy demonstrations. We've seen all those pictures before but this one was different. She had a sign that said, "I WON'T PAY MY STUDENT LOANS!"
Had I seen this sign in the 1990s or even the 2000s, I would have busted out laughing. I'd tap the guy next to me and show him the sign. Then he'd laugh out loud as well. Then during lunch or dinner I'd tell my friends about this sign and they'd laugh out loud. We all would have laughed.
That was then. This is now. Student loans are in everyone's face and there's no denying it.
I won't pay my student loans? What does that even mean?
Before we go any further, I'd like to make it clear that this isn't one of those Occupy whatever articles. This article is about the student loan crisis and its impact on all Americans.
Now let's take a closer look at that earlier statement: I won't pay my student loans! It may have been a joke a generation ago but it's quite bold to see it today. What does it even mean? It can mean several things. The protester...
- is angry. She sees economic injustice and refuses to pay even if she had the money.
- is poor. She cannot pay because the money just isn't there.
- is lost. She has given up. There is no light at the end of the tunnel.
- is protesting. It's all of the above.
The impact here is real. Her credit will be ruined. It will be far more difficult for her to get another loan. Future employers may even turn her away. If she ever does get a job, her wages will be garnished. She may even be taken to court over this. Her life is ruined and there is no escape. This is all because she wanted an education.
If what she states on her sign is true, it will be a real mess. But she's just one person. Sadly, she is not alone. Student default rates are soaring throughout America. In 2009, they reached a ten-year high. There are millions like her. Millions of young Americans with their lives ahead of them are ruined.
So what makes student loans different?
What makes student loans different? I'm glad you asked! Let's make a quick list:
- Student loan balances are higher than ever. Massive debt is soaring with higher education costs. Student loans can easily exceed the amount the average American owes on credit cards, personal loans and even car loans. For those with graduate degrees, student loans can rival mortgages. There is little room to breathe as...
- Student loans can only be consolidated and refinanced once. While homeowners all over America can refinance their mortgages whenever interest rates tumble, college graduates cannot. It's only once. Then again, refinancing or consolidating may seem like foreign ideas because...
- Student loans focus on young Americans. Most students are fresh out of high school and have no income or credit history. To offer teenagers loans of any kind seems like an unusual investment. For this reason...
- Student loans, especially from private institutions, often require a cosigner. To help their children relatives step up to the plate and cosign a student loan. If the student loan goes bad, it can rip families apart and ruin the lives of honest, tax-paying, middle-class Americans. It doesn't matter to lenders because...
- Student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Actually, they can but it is nearly impossible to do so. This is the biggie. With student loans virtually guaranteed to make money, predatory lenders have nothing to lose. They can jack up interest rates if the graduate misses just one payment.
There is no other loan like this in America. For a lender, there is no other "investment" like it in the world. None. Students borrow money to pay for higher education and they pay until they are 60 or 70 years old. Social Security can easily be garnished. Lawyers, doctors and other highly trained professionals live in poverty. If they are unable to pay, they can lose the license in their field!
Yeah? So? How does it affect me?
With injustice, there is always "blow back". The Occupy movement is over with but it was only one symptom of this. People were sitting outside Wall Street because they had nowhere else to go! Those who were working at that time were grateful but underpaid and disappointed in their degrees.
Even if you don't have student loans, this crisis still affects you. It affects the entire economic landscape of America. With banks sucking so much money from generations of well-educated consumers willing to work, the rest of the economy rolls onto the backs of baby-boomers ready to retire.
College graduates can't afford to leave their parents' homes. This means the housing market suffers. They cannot start families so the next generation is stalled. They cannot afford durable goods which means the manufacturing sector takes a hit. They buy less consumables so the service sector takes a hit.
All this means your stocks will tumble every quarter. Or if your stocks are rising you can thank the endless war and government spending. Your savings account interest rates are nil. Your bonds barely keep up with inflation. All your assets collapse under you and you're surrounded by angry, hungry people.
What is education arbitrage? What can we do about it?
The video below makes a connection between the student loan bubble with students, higher education institutions, the government and employers. We are all to blame and we can all do something about it. If we want to save the future of our economy we have to start now.
TLDR? Here's a nice big picture for you
What is Washington doing about it? What can I do about it?
Say what you will about President Obama but during his time in office he did his part to help our students and families tackle the problem. Just one example is the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act which cuts out private student loan lenders saving taxpayers and students billions.
You can sit on your hands while all this is happening around you or you can do something about it. Democrat or Republican, Left or Right, it doesn't matter--this problem isn't going away.
Here are other resources for you
- Support the Student's Bill of Rights!
Restore basic consumer protections to student loans!
- Student Debt Crisis
Student Debt Crisis is dedicated to fairer student debt policies for all
- Rolling Jubilee
Rolling Jubilee buys debt for pennies on the dollar then simply abolishes it
- The Debt Collective
Debt Collective renegotiates and resists our debts. "Alone, our debts are a burden. Together, they make us powerful."
- Strike Debt
Strike Debt is resistance for the people