OCCUPY STUDENT DEBT

Student debtor stories submitted by the 99%

Indentured Servitude: It’s back, and better than ever!

I was the first in my family to graduate from college.  I went on for a Ph.D in Biomedical Sciences.  The day my final degree was awarded, I was laid off—just as the economy collapse was really hitting its stride.  I spent 3 months trying to find a job (and I’m lucky it was that short), but in the meantime, I couldn’t make payments on ANY of my debts.  I was still trying not to get sued by credit cards and everyone else that I couldn’t afford my payments when my loans entered repayment.  I was awarded a forbearance for all but one loan—and was never told that the ONE loan wasn’t covered.  I applied for income-based repayment—and never got ANY response at all.  Eventually I defaulted.  

I work a full-time job and a half-time job.  I HAVE to work the half-time job (teaching) to pay for PART of my loan debt and get it out of default status.  I HAVE to work the full-time job to pay part of everything else.  Even working 80+ hours/week (you don’t get paid hourly for teaching: grading & class prep are on your own time!), I can’t pay MINIMUM payments on everything.  I’m jealous of my friends who graduated with no debt; even on entry-level jobs, their quality of life is so much better than mine. They whine about not having enough money but I didn’t have a trust fund.  My parents couldn’t support my education financially.  I applied for scholarships and didn’t get any.  Federal grants supported me part way through my undergraduate studies—but it’s nearly impossible to get a job with advancement possibilities in science without an advanced degree.  Foreign language wasn’t any better.

I’m not arguing that I didn’t understand the terms of my loan agreements. I understood how much I was borrowing and the interest rates. I was INFORMED that my minimum payments would be $50/month, that they would work with me to make my payments reasonable (to THEM, not to ME), but I did not understand the draconian measures that the collectors could take on student loans.  I’ve been threatened with wage garnishment and tax return withholding.  What’s left out of my monthly income may cover rent, but it will not cover electricity, heat, phone service (I don’t think I would miss the neverending phone calls with no messages), or groceries.  I can’t afford medical care even WITH my health insurance.  What they’re leaving me with (after their “reasonable repayment amount”) won’t cover 20 gallons of gas per month to get TO my TWO jobs that I have to work.

Those wage garnishments?  I was told that they do not even service the interest on the defaulted loans.  They do not stop the collections calls or attempts.  They just take that money from you essentially AS A PENALTY because it does nothing to reduce your balance—which continues to snowball with the DAILY interest compounding.

I am now completely trapped in two dead-end jobs with no opportunities for advancement.  I’ve never regretted my education more—and I see no hope for my future.  I’ll never own a home.  I am never, EVER having children because I can’t afford them.  What’s next, debtor’s prison?  Sign me up!  I can’t handle this!  At the rate this is going, dear Sallie Mae is going to be collecting from my estate. I can’t keep up with my current workload.  I’m hemorrhaging financially and can’t stop the bleeding.  My health and mental well-being are failing and I’m actually truly terrified of my future.

Welcome to the American Nightmare!