Wage Slavery and the Student Loan Mafia

“Student debt collectors have powers that would make a mobster envious”.

Thus spake Elizabeth Warren and, if anything, she is understating the student loan crisis. We used to jail loan sharks. Now they run the likes of Wells Fargo.

Student debt as a category is now the second largest burden in the nation, trailing only home mortgage debt. This year it surpassed total credit card debt. Tuition rates have climbed astronomically, the amounts borrowed follow and the percentage of defaults has sky rocketed.

As a former New Jersey resident and a father I am familiar with Rutgers – the State University of New Jersey. Tuition, room and board for a full time undergrad student at the New Brunswick campus has reached almost $25,000 a year. A commuting full time student still must fork over about $14,000 a year.  And that’s the in-state tuition.

Tuition was maybe $2,500 a semester for a commuting student in the year 2000.

So a NJ resident student who plans to live on campus at the state university needs to plan on spending in excess of $100,000; twice that at the smaller, private Monmouth University.   College tuition rates and “fees” have soared out of control mainly due to the easy availability of student loans – the ever increasing cost of college covered by borrowings leaving the kids in ever increasing debt.

Now mind you – the banks of the old Raritan ain’t Princeton.

How did we get our kids into this mess? Well, we weren’t watching.

Once upon a time we as a people invested in education. Once upon a time there was a free college – The City University of New York – supported by all of the people of the city, rich and poor alike. I went to that free college because I had no money. It wasn’t open enrollment mind you – you had to qualify to get in. I was admitted on a trial basis – I had to do two semesters with a B average to matriculate. But I never had student debt; I bought my first house on Staten Island at 24 years old.

While CUNY is no longer free, at $6,030 a year for New York City residents it’s a bargain indeed.

I know lots of college grads and professionals who can’t buy a house or raise a family because of student debt.

Today, in the era of never ending war, tax cuts and tax breaks for the one percent and corporations, states are starving their public colleges, passing the cost on to the consumer. Arizona had the highest rate of tuition increase in public universities and the largest decline in funds earmarked for that purpose.

It all started as a good idea in 1965, part of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”. Poverty would not be a barrier to education. In the decades that followed, changes in the law turned student debt into the zombie debt that never dies.  There is no statute of limitations on student debt collection efforts.  It lives forever.

In 1978 stories surfaced of some doctors and lawyers filing bankruptcy and discharging their student debt immediately after graduation; default rates at the time were less than 1%.  No matter.  Congress immediately passed legislation that forbid discharge in bankruptcy for the first five years after graduation.

In 1990 the discharge rule was extended to seven years. In 1998 Congress completely eliminated the ability to discharge debt in bankruptcy. It also eliminated the ability to discharge the debt due to crime or fraud. Student debt is the only debt for which there is no Federal escape clause.

In 2005 the discharge rules were extended to include PRIVATE lenders. Nice.

Guess who was behind those rule changes?

This mafia like loan sharking is all your government – see chart above under “How it Works”. There are no rules – they will garnish your wages without a court order, stop your IRS refunds and take money from your social security checks.

Parents who co-sign these loans are on the hook forever – recently cases have come up where debt collectors have hounded the parents of dead students. No forgiveness even in death.

Boomers with defaulted student loans of their own or as co-signers of defaulted loans of their children will soon find that government collectors will seize/reduce their social security checks as they  approach retirement,  seeing that they have only enough to live at the poverty level.  You will pay.

Hell, the government won’t even let you refinance to a lower rate.  You can refinance your house – but not your degree.

So what do we do about this shit? More that 25% of government student loans are in default; at two year colleges it’s 40%  A cottage industry of for profit “colleges” has sprung up, preying on the unskilled,  making a living off student loans. One need only watch the ads playing during the likes of the Maury show to see what I mean.

During the great mortgage crisis a few years back, some 25% of home loans in some states were in default – but one could seek relief in bankruptcy court. The lenders were bailed out. I don’t see any bailout for student loans – after all, it’s the government doing the loan sharking and creating the future wage slaves.

At a minimum we should pressure government to begin by allowing refinancing to lower rates.  Subsequently, bankruptcy and other protections should be re-instated with perhaps no discharge for the first ten years.  I would expect a deluge of bankruptcy filings.  Alternatively, consider forgiving any unpaid debt after twenty years of payments.  I won’t even bother discussing the possibility of free tertiary education.  Why bother.

And don’t chase the parents if the student borrower is dead.  Sheesh.  I thought the Gambino’s were bad.

“No one did more than he to establish in the minds of the American people the conception that education should be universal, non-sectarian, free, and that its aims should be social efficiency, civic virtue, and character, rather than mere learning or the advancement of sectarian ends.”

Horace Mann would be turning over in his grave if he could see what we have become.





About toritto

I was born during year four of the reign of Emperor Tiberius Claudius on the outskirts of the empire in Brooklyn. I married my high school sweetheart, the girl I took to the prom and we were together for forty years until her passing in 2004. We had four kids together and buried two together. I had a successful career in Corporate America (never got rich but made a living) and traveled the world. I am currently retired in the Tampa Bay metro area and live alone. One of my daughters is close by and one within a morning’s drive. They call their pops everyday. I try to write poetry (not very well), and about family. Occasionally I will try a historical piece relating to politics. :-)
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5 Responses to Wage Slavery and the Student Loan Mafia

  1. elainecanham says:

    Fascinating stuff. And I thought student loans in the Uk were a bad idea. You’d think that this would prompt the founding of something like a cooperative loan association, or what in Britain used to be known as friendly societies, which began in similar circumstances in the Victorian era (now building societies, and mostly private). Don’t you have anything like that?


  2. New Zealand’s disastrous student loan policy is destroying our economy. We invest in training all these teachers, doctors, vets, pharmacists, etc and they all end up overseas because salaries are really low here – going abroad is the only way they can pay their student loans off.

    Until the 1980s New Zealand had free tertiary education, just like most of Europe. Then they adopted neoliberal “Rogernomics.” Since then, it’s been all downhill.


  3. Pingback: Free College Education! Just Not Here!! | toritto

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