This is primer and introduction to an in-depth series on the American student loan crisis and its practical implications for our country and millions of student borrowers.
An investment in an education can never be a mistake. An education is not just about getting a degree. Education is the key to our future. Humans are the only species on earth with the gift of foresight. We have the ability to predict and foresee possible scenarios for our future based on past and present behaviors. Education allows us to unlock more insights into our future. Education saves lives, preserves freedom and is our only hope to save our planet. In America, though, educating oneself can lead to a life of debt and destitution. It is an offense punishable by up to 30 years of monthly loan payments that rival the cost of a mortgage, interest rates that dwarf the market cost of borrowing money from the government, and relentless financial stress.
The student loan crisis is one that is very personal to me. My student loan debt exceeds six figures at interest rates ranging from 6.5-7.9%. I never took out a private student loan and I never attended a private school. My debt stems from earning an MBA at Texas Tech University and a law degree at Florida International University College of Law. My father is an automotive technician and my mother recently retired from her job as a window clerk at the United States Post Office.
I am just one of millions of Americans with student loan debt. Each one of us is different, but we all share something in common: we did not have the financial means to pursue an education. Throughout this series I will explore various facets of the student loan crisis in depth. My concern about student loans stems from a lack of information about the alarming economic reality that is beginning to show that the United States’ student loan program is predatory, unjust and will likely lead to a financial crisis in this country like we have never seen.
There are many moving parts to this story. Therefore, the intention of this post is to preview some of the topics that I will be covering in more depth in the coming weeks, or more likely, months.
To truly understand the present crisis and the probable future collapse of the American economy, we must understand how very frail our financial system is and what “too big to fail” really means. I will explore details of the financial crisis and the effect it had, and is still having, on millions of American students.
I will breach the topics of political rhetoric and where it falls miserably short. I will also explore the cultural and societal perception of this problem and how we can, and must, change the conversation and perception of the importance of higher education.
Additionally, we must understand the legal details of the student loan system in this country. This includes tuition policies, the rising cost of college and the implications of bankruptcy on student loan debt. I will dissect the laws and explain the practical effect those laws are having on our economy and college graduates.
Thank goodness I took out a mountain of student loans for that law degree and MBA . . .
Further, we have to begin thinking about each individual student that is beginning her/his life burdened with student debt. How does this affect the economy in America? As more information becomes available through research, it is becoming apparent that the cumulative effect of each of these individuals’ burden is beginning to negatively affect many facets of society. The more numbers we have available, the more clear it becomes that this crisis is just beginning and if there is not a dramatic change in our policies, this crisis will irreversibly change American life and the “American dream” as we know it.
I will also shed light on the predatory lending practices of the federal student loan program. I will show you how the federal government’s approach to student loans is unconscionable, unjust and predatory. I will not be discussing private loan providers or for-profit schools, however. I have no experience with this part of the student loan crisis and it is my belief that even without these aggravating factors, the federal student loan program in this country is detrimental without considering profit-based student loan programs.
Additionally, I will explore the mental and physical tolls that student loan debt is having on millions of college graduates. There is evidence that we are on the precipice of an epidemic of depression, anxiety and even suicide related to the stress of student loans.
Finally, I will provide current empirical evidence to illustrate—to the best of my ability—the breadth of the effect that the student loan crisis will have on our country’s economy, culture and the general cost of living in America.
The student loan crisis is not a problem for the future. We are in crisis now and there is no relief in sight. I look forward to hearing your student loan stories and sharing mine with you. The only way to change the conversation is to educate others. Do not be silent and do not be ashamed. Do not allow others to make assumptions about a system that you know intimately. By spreading knowledge we can create empathy and action, and our ability to organize and communicate is one of the countless benefits of an education. As Uncle Ben says in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Knowledge is power and we must use it responsibly to create a better future for ourselves and any American who wants nothing more than to get an education and cannot afford it. Our democracy depends on it.