Monday, September 8, 2014

Why Student Loans Aren't Entirely Your Fault

I can hear it now.  "You borrowed this money, it's your problem that you owe it, tough shit kid!" When students rightly demand answers about how they got into the debt hole the "personal responsibility" and "Protestant Work Ethic" crowd do back flips thinking all students who borrow are financially irresponsible, or worse, slackers who have no thought for the 'morrow and require tons of money to keep up their partying schedule while earning their liberal arts degrees.  (A subset of these people think there should be no liberal arts degrees at all but that's another post.)  Needless to say we at HESAA HELL have no time for arguments that want to blame students for a system they didn't create that benefits the loan companies and their political hacks in the statehouses, governors mansions and hallowed halls of government throughout the land.

Here's why the debt that you currently owe can not entirely be laid at your tired, hard working feet.  It's not that we didn't make the personal decision to borrow, obviously we did that, it is just that in the grand scheme of the current economic crisis, the lack of decent paying jobs meant that there weren't a whole lot of better options.  In this economic context (also known as the "real world"), taking out loans was the easiest, fastest way to pay for school and in many cases stay afloat while we studied our butts off.  (Hate to break it to you but being a student is hard work too.)  Is the Great Recession the fault of students?  Hardly.  No one asks to be born without money and contrary to the claims of the "work hard and pay for it without loans" people this severely limits one's ability to get through school in a reasonable amount of time and to take advantage of all that colleges have to offer.

The fact is, the system is setting up young people for a lifetime of debt and there is a huge amount of profit being made from student debt misery.   Anyone can get a student loan from HESAA, as long as you have a cosigner, which should come as no surprise if you are at all familiar with the basic principles of loan sharking - they will come for your family if you don't pay!  It doesn't matter what your credit rating is either; for profit driven student loan companies like HESAA, everyone is asked for a cosigner. Those who take aim at students who borrow, sometimes very high sums of money must acknowledge that student loan companies have an unsustainable and morally bankrupt business model.  This has led to a generation of students who are chained to usurious loan and collections companies who pursue monthly payments with a zealots conviction, even pursuing families after a borrower dies.

This situation can and will change but it starts with borrowers themselves becoming empowered and accepting that the solution is to get together with others and come up with our own collective answers.  "Personal responsibility" won't lead to a resolution of the student debt crisis, only by organizing a massive fight back at the state and national level will we be able to garner the political muscle to go toe to toe with paid lobbyists and politicians of the student loan industry.  We've got a big job ahead of us but one of our first goals must be to work to shift public perception of student loans away from the stereotype of "lazy students who don't want to work" to the real culprits: loan and collections companies and their accomplices in state and federal government who have consistently and brutally slashed financial aid for working class students over the last few decades. 

1 comment:

  1. Read the article in WSJ: