The REAL Student Loan Debt Crisis

You read it here first: The student loan debt problem is NOT what you think it is.  Wait, check that, there’s some pretty smart people who read The 5×5.  Ok, the student loan debt problem is NOT what you are being told it is.  It is in fact, much worse!

I read an article today filled with misplaced sympathy, false tragedy, and more hand-wringing, nail-biting and genuine worry than the waiting room of the Free Clinic the week after Spring Break.  Politicians on all levels are getting involved, including the Presidential candidates.  The message being spread loud and clear is that one of the most pressing domestic issues facing the USA today is student loan debt, and more needs to be done to save these poor, exploited victims of modern predatory Capitalism.

Seriously?

Just for the heck of it, let’s consider these FACTS:

Like ALL other LOANS (mortgages, car loans, etc.), the terms of all student loans are clearly spelled out PRIOR to acceptance.  BEFORE they sign, it is the lendee’s responsibility to determine whether they will be able to repay the loan according to the expressed terms.  What is NEVER explicitly expressed in any of the terms, either from the lender or the educational institution, is that the borrower will graduate to a “high-paying” job that will make it easy, convenient and entirely painless for borrower to repay the money that the borrower asked to borrow.

Given these facts, can someone please explain to me how these individuals are being victimized or exploited?  They knew the deal going in, and when the time comes to start paying back, suddenly it’s just not fair????  Since when?

  • Did the student ask for the money? – YES
  • Was anyone forced to take the money against their free will? Were they somehow conscripted into borrowing? – NO, and NO
  • Are they being asked to pay back money they did not receive? – NO
  • Are the interest rates even close to being that of a credit card? – NO
  • Are the interest rates at, or even below market rates for unsecured loans at the time the money was borrowed? – Yes
  • Is the lender entitled to have THEIR MONEY returned to them under the terms of the agreement explicitly expressed prior to any money changing hands? – YES

So I ask again, where is the injustice?

I had student loans.  I could not have attended college without them, and I did not graduate to a “high-paying” job (whatever THAT means).  In fact, I was unable to find work in my chosen area of study, and ended up working in entirely different fields, changing careers now 5+ times.  Regardless, it was still my responsibility to pay the loans back (as promised), and it took me about 20 years to do that.  Ironically, my final payment was made right about the time MY children were entering college.  Yes, college now costs more, a LOT more.  As a result, WE now have loans (Parent loans and Student loans) to repay, which we are doing.  But again, like me, my children could not have attended college without them.  We each did what we needed to do in order to embark upon the path of our choosing.

There is indeed a student loan crisis, and that crisis is this:  There is a growing segment of our society that thinks they should be able to forsake their responsibilities the moment any aspect of a given situation starts to go against their liking.  What ever happened to that very simple premise, so simple that it is routinely invoked by toddlers, wide-eyed and disappointed, pleading… “But you PROMISED?!?!”

The REAL crisis is an amalgamation of labor law, government regulation, tax code, trade agreements, immigration enforcement, foreign policy, political ideology, and public perception.  The only reason student loans get dragged into this mix is because it’s a lot easier to show a sympathetic public the sad faces of poor, fearful, financially-strapped former students.  Note the use of the word “former.”  Why are we not seeing pictures of, or hearing from current students in the midst of enjoying their higher education experience?  For the same reason we don’t hear people bitching during the middle of a party.  The bitching starts when the party is over and one has somehow become obligated to stick around and help clean up the mess.  They would have much rather foreseen the future an hour earlier: “Thanks for the great time, but I gotta go!”

Like former students with acquired debt, and entry-level workers who do not yet earn enough money to buy the latest iPhone AND plasma television AND vacation in the Tropics, we continue to add more and more “classes” of people to the roster of the “oppressed.”  We even have political candidates promoting the notion that somehow we will be a much better society if we simply relieve everyone of their unpleasant responsibilities.  Really?  Will that premise also apply to firefighters and hospice workers?  Military personnel?  Pediatric Oncologists?  Sanitation workers?  And by the way, regardless of whether the topic is student loans, tuition, or healthcare costs, those politicians aren’t really erasing the responsibility, they’re just imposing it onto somebody else, feeding into the ever-growing premise of “I don’t care who takes care of that particular need of mine, as long as it’s NOT ME!”

With respect to this issue, it’s time that certain members of society grow up and face reality.  Students who borrowed money are legally and morally obligated to repay the debt.  They should stop the “not fair” whining, because the rules of the game were well known before the game began, and they still CHOSE to play.  They need to just figure it out, make a budget, have a plan, and buy only what they can afford.  They may need to work more than one job, even a job they don’t really like, and don’t tell me how hard it is, because I know exactly how hard it is.  I’ve worked as a substitute teacher, a door-to-door salesman, a private cab driver, a handyman, a telemarketer, and a janitor, all AFTER earning my Master’s degree.  Along the way, I managed to pay back every single dollar of my student loans, and if a near-sighted, follically-challenged product of the Flint Public Schools can do it, then anybody can.

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