Sold: Our Souls On Credit To Get These Degrees

Wage slaves has been given an entirely new meaning in this world of profession oppression set in motion by the high cost of student loans. Those of us who had pursued, and most of us attained, our Bachelor, Masters, or even Doctoral level degrees will soon be—if we haven’t already been—besieged with the heavy burden of student loans that bind us in as effective a fashion as shackles and chains. Our minds, our wills are siphoned off in the face of crippling debts that cannot be fathomed or comprehended…we took out loans to work in careers and now we are married to those careers for good or ill to meet the loans. The student loan crisis is a snake that eats its own tail. Worse yet, many of us who have gotten our student loans in the past few years have been duped by the Federal Government into thinking that these loans would somehow benefit us better than dealing with a bank. What we got instead was a fiddle duel with the devil, and we lost our souls.


Case in point, I was recently on the phone with the Department of Education regarding my own student loans and I inquired about my options in dealing with the interest that is endlessly piling up while my debts sit in forbearance—my deferment time has come and gone. Not only was I very near a nervous breakdown when I found out that my payments will almost be in excess of my bimonthly paycheck, but also that the variety of repayment options are equally crippling as they don’t provide very much in the way of relief. The very nice gentleman on the line offered me a variety of plans that reduced my monthly sum by approximately seventy-five dollars. As if seventy-five dollars was the issue.


Going through the variety of ways to, in reality, work the system I was eventually told to use an additional seven months of forbearance out of an increasingly shrinking amount of “get of jail free” time that I have in regard to my student loans in order to pursue the possibility of filing my taxes separately from my wife in order to appear to make less money. An amount of money that regardless of no matter how you slice it is finite and stretched beyond the breaking point. For supposedly middle class people (professional, mortgage paying, suburbanites) we sure are scared every off-pay week that we are going to be faced with some horrible choice should we be besieged by a flat tire or unpaid sick day. In filing separately from my wife, I would still be well over my breaking point under the Federal Government’s income based repayment options.


When I inquired about the income based repayment options I was informed that mortgages, car notes, daycare, credit cards, food, gas, and utilities are considered “discretionary”. So I should be homeless, hungry, unbathed, and sleeping in an alleyway by my job, while my wife has our children slung over her shoulder like Sacagawea so that I can pay almost 10% in interest on student loans my Uncle Sam promised me would be easily manageable once I joined the professional workforce. My head spun when I tried to explain that even my mortgage is fairly comparable to what I’d be paying in rent given the crashed housing market deal we were able to get. It doesn’t matter. Income based is income based not overhead predicated.


In the face of what seemed to be an inevitable default waiting to happen I asked what happens if I can’t pay after my forbearance has run out. They ran two scenarios by me: one in which I file taxes with my wife, and one where I file separately. In the latter scenario they garnish my wages, kill my credit rating, lean on my assets, and eventually revoke my teaching certification. Yes. If I cannot pay, they will actually revoke my legal right to earn money in the profession I took out the damn loans for in the first place. So the old adage that “they can’t take your education away” is still true, but what the hell use will it be if I can’t implement it to my, and indeed my debtors, financial benefit? In the former scenario both of our professional rights will be revoked, essentially leaving us with no credit, no assets, no jobs: destitute. So our fancy New York University degrees in Education and Social Work will be the most expensive pieces of kindling in the train yard as we huddle close to each other to keep the kids warm.

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