Of all the things to be thankful for this holiday weekend, one item certainly not worthy of thanks is the continuing crisis facing those with massive student loans.
By now you know some of the startling stats — many people leave college saddled with debt, a total exceeding $1.4 trillion nationally at last report, amounting to $17,126 per graduate. That’s just an average. It is estimated that more than 1.1 million people have college loans of between $100,000 and $150,000.
We all know the cycle this subjects such folks to, and for many years to come. Whereas the standard American Dream formula calls for leaving college, landing a good job, starting a family and buying a house, the debt load is an obstacle to all that.
Even if a graduate can find a good-paying position, he or she must delay raising a family or making major purchases due to having to meet monthly student loan payments of $1,395 or more. This puts a huge dent in one’s buying power to say the least.
It not only causes a negative chain-reaction throughout the economy — we also are losing a generation of Americans who are putting the normal course of events in their lives on hold due to being slaves to these loans.
If the picture wasn’t dire enough already, another disturbing trend regarding student loans has emerged in a report earlier this month by The New York Times. It involves a growing practice of officials going after professional licenses of debtors as a way of pursuing or punishing those who don’t pay.
This has meant thousands of nurses, firefighters, teachers, lawyers, massage therapists, barbers, psychologists and real estate brokers having their credentials suspended or revoked, the Times reported. Twenty states around the U.S. — thankfully, not North Carolina, but including Virginia — can seize professional, driver’s and other licenses from residents who default on their student debt.
My question is, what does one have to do with the other? Not to mention the contradiction this presents in trying to force people to make payments by robbing them of their means to do just that.
If you get caught driving drunk, it’s perfectly understandable for authorities to take away your operator’s license. However, whether one has paid a loan or not should have no bearing on his or her driving privileges or ability to serve as a nurse or other professional, simply because of there being no such correlation between the two.
I can understand creditors wanting to get their money back from the loans they made in good faith for students, and the government certainly has an interest in collecting if federally guaranteed loans backed by public funds are involved.
Those who refuse to pay what they rightfully owe should be made to suffer all reasonable consequences, including defaults being listed on their credit reports to getting calls from collection agencies to impacting their ability to buy a car, etc.
I have heard that student loans can’t be dissolved by declaring bankruptcy, which also is not unreasonable when you consider that too many people take this route as a way to escape debt.
As a person who did what it took to pay off my own college loans on time, I have no problem with any of those measures. That being said, a line must be drawn somewhere, and it is inexcusable for the government to try to force debtors to pay by yanking their professional licenses.
This trend concerning student loans reminds me of cases where fathers get thrown behind bars for failing to make child-support payments. Now there might be no question that jail is where a deadbeat dad belongs — after all, there are few things more detestable than a father who refuses to be financially responsible for those he brought into the world.
But how do they pay when languishing behind bars (at taxpayer expense)?
The situation with student loans is proportionately much more punitive, what with no hungry kids being involved, and because it is yet another example of government power being used to bully citizens — some who might have good excuses for defaulting. Again, undermining their ability to work is counterproductive on any level.
The various governmental agencies that are complicit in these strong-arm collection tactics seem to be saying, either do what we want or we’ll crush you with all our might.
What’s next, the debtors’ prisons that were used in the Old Country?
The situation with student loans just goes to show that despite the best efforts at reforming how Big Government operates on a day-to-day basis, there’s still much standing water in the swamp.
Tom Joyce is a staff writer for The Mount Airy News. He may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.