Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

The Opportunity Costs of Higher Education

November 9, 2011 Leave a comment

NPR did an excellent story a few weeks ago inviting callers to share stories about what they have had to give up because of their student loans.  People spoke about taking jobs they hated, not pursuing lower-paying public service careers, and even not having children.  I’d love to hear more stories from my readers so please share in the comment section.  In the meantime, I’ll start:

1. A bedroom.  Since graduating with my MA, the only times I have ever had a bedroom have been when I lived with someone else.  I currently live alone in a studio in a shady part of town where my dog must be walked by sundown or not at all.

2. A bed.  In fact, I’m so concerned with finances at the moment that I opted to buy a half-broken futon instead of a bed when I moved into my new place because it was cheaper.  Nothing like sleeping on a lumpy “couch,” even while holding a professional position, to make one think, as per Gob from Arrested Development, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Read more…


The Default Trap

November 8, 2011 Leave a comment

If there’s one thing worse than shelling out mortgage-sized payments on student loans each month, it’s not shelling them out. 

Here is the story of Casey Zimmerman Thompson, a resident of rural Maryland who borrowed a total of $7100 in student loans in the 1980s.  Zimmerman Thompson claims that she has paid approximately $18000 towards the loans since then.  Despite that, she still owes over $9800.  That’s right, 25 years after she took out her original loans, she still owes more than she borrowed.

The reason?  Due to various economic setbacks throughout her life, including a medical condition that ended a former career and unpaid child support from her abusive ex-husband, Zimmerman Thompson defaulted on her loans several times.  And, as anyone who has ever defaulted on a student loan knows, coming back from such a setback can be nearly impossible.  From the article:

“Short of a lottery win, for student loan borrowers like Thompson, there is literally no way out. The government can garnish the income tax refunds and eventually the Social Security checks of defaulters. Changes to bankruptcy law in 1984 and 2005 mean borrowers can’t charge off their obligations the way they can escape mortgage, credit card and even gambling debt when they file — unless they can prove “undue hardship.” But just 29 of the 72,000 student loan debtors in bankruptcy in 2008 were able to do so, according to Mark Kantrowitz, founder of the student aid website”
Read more…

A Few Student Loan Stories

November 5, 2011 Leave a comment

I found this interesting article about Occupy Albany that, among other things, covers a few protestors who are concerned about student loans.  From the article:

Jasmine Shea spoke about the frustration of having studied and worked hard only to be left struggling to survive.

 “I’m a worker. I’m 26. I went to school. I’m still paying off my student loans. I got a job in radio broadcasting. That’s what my career was. Due to the economy, the station that I was at went under and they changed their format. So I had to find a minimum wage job working at Dunkin Donuts. I finally found a part-time job working as a waitress to try to pay off my medical bills. I’m here because I make so little that if they keep on taxing me more I won’t be able to survive. I think it’s time that the rich and the corporations had to start paying their fair share of taxes. Because if I’m living off ramen noodles and dollar menus what else am I going to live off of if you’re going to take more money from me? It’s hard struggling.”

“I never slept, but at least I made the Dean’s List a few times.” – James’s Student Loan Story

November 20, 2008 1 comment

Guest Post by James Scott

This is a difficult story to tell – in part because I have to live it all over again, but also because it sounds like an exaggerated Lifetime movie, and I wonder at times if people think I made it up. I never put college on a pedestal or had the dreams that are so cliché of children. I grew up quick and spent most of my time trying to survive. I didn’t have time to dream, and it would have been too painful to try. Read more…

Categories: Stories Tags: ,

“It’s either take care of my daughter…or pay student loans.” – Terri’s Student Loan Story

November 10, 2008 Leave a comment

As a child, Terri Crothers dreamed of becoming a photojournalist, but her parents – a parts buyer for a large department store and a distribution/receiving specialist for a vehicle manufacturer – were worried about her financial prospects. “My folks believed I couldn’t make any money doing that and encouraged me to try something else,” she says.  So when Terri entered a junior college directly out of high school, she took a course in chemistry, thinking she might go into the medical field and then switched to business.  Neither clicked, and after a year, Terri left school and worked for several years at jobs she describes as “good paying but intellectually disabling.”   Read more…

“If I had to do it all over again…” – John’s Student Loan Story

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

John* was supposed to be a success story.  He grew up in a middle class home in Elk Grove, CA where his father was a captain of a dredging ship and his mother worked as a chemist for the state.  John was a precocious child, earning straight As throughout much of his early education.  When he decided to major in history at the University of California-Berkeley, his parents were happy to help to the extent they could.  He graduated in 2003 with about $5500 in student loan debt, substantial, but much lower than the national average.  He felt lucky. Read more…

Jobs You Can’t Afford – Chef

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

One of my chief reasons for starting this blog was to highlight how much our career choices are affected by student loan debt.  As The Nation once suggested, student loans have everything to do with social control, but it doesn’t always work out for the betterment of society:

How many young people turn away from low-paying but vital professions because they can’t earn enough to pay back their loans? How many potential social workers, pro bono lawyers, journalists, environmentalists, teachers, artists, secondary medical professionals and community workers are we losing?

Thus, I have decided to begin a new series – Jobs You Can’t Afford.  Here I will tell the stories, culled both from my own interviews and other sources, of the many career options that are closed to people with large amounts of student loans.  I will tell both the stories of people who have had to give up dreams and the stories of people who wouldn’t – and suffered as a result. Read more…