Yesterday, I wrote about the economic possibilities that could come from canceling all outstanding student loan debt. Over the last week, though, I’ve been reading some articles and new ideas on the entire student loan industry. At one point, I was called the national poster boy for student loan debt (what a claim to fame, huh?) and using that now rustic accolade, I have to make a comment or two about what I’m seeing out there regarding student loans.
While there are too many deceptive and shady practices in the student loan industry, many graduates who are burdened with certain levels of debt need to get over their predicament. I read a story where a guy graduated with some $35,000 in student loan debt and because he began missing payments and couldn’t find a job, over the course of five years that number skyrocketed threefold. Look, in that situation the “problem” likely is the fact that the guy isn’t willing to put himself in a position to be able to afford his payments. Doing some quick math shows that this guy was probably required to pay some $230 per month in order to make his payment.
Come on. Anyone can make $230 per month by working at a gas station or at a retail shop. I don’t want to hear about this guy complaining that he is a victim. I’ll listen to his story about how his life was torn apart and how he’s been stunted from advancing as quickly as previous generations of college graduates (trust me…I know), but don’t act like you’re a victim when – after five years – you couldn’t position yourself to pay $230 per month.
Quite a while ago I wrote an entry called “Personal Clarification on Student Loan Debt” where I stated quite clearly that I am no victim. One of the major problems that I see brewing out of the student loan debt dialogue is this victimized stance that so many people take. Hey – I signed the paperwork to get these loans and while I didn’t fully understand how much the loans would effect me post-graduation, I wasn’t taken advantage of by anyone in the student loan industry. Sure, I think that the “system” which decides who gets free rides and who has to pay is fundamentally flawed. I’m glad that it has been changing (too slowly) over the past six years since I graduated, but don’t paint me as a victim.
On a similar note, I’m not playing the old “fish story” game here either. In other words, I’m not suggesting that the guy whose story I read about only graduated with $35,000 in student loan debt and since I graduated $118,000, then I’m more deserving of pity. First, I don’t want pity (though money would be nice). Second, I’m not interested in promoting a race to the bottom between various student loan borrowers. I have a ton of student loan debt and though I’ve been diligently paying it, I’m still going to be on the hook for a while. That doesn’t mean that I deserve pity, though!
I sincerely hope that an honest national dialogue opens up about how to address the gigantic student loan debt burden that will continue to stunt our economy for the foreseeable future. Once policymakers realize that personal social advancement and personal wealth accumulation are not possible when America’s 20 and 30-somethings are saddled with unmanageable debt, then we might see some positive action. My fear, though, is that no one will realize this until it’s too late (imagine an economy that is poised to succeed but can’t figure out why drastically reduced home prices aren’t selling units and consumer spending is continuing to constrict). Here’s hoping that some forward-looking policymaker or legislator sees this problem early-on and begins addressing it as soon as possible!