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What Will It Take for America to Wake Up and Invest in Education?

By on October 13, 2016

Question:

Dear Steve,

I may be the #1 student loan debt holder in the USA.

I was raised in one of the most violent and abusive way, have PTSD and have suffered several TBI’s. I experienced homelessness as a teenager, and have had several incarcerations. Didn’t learn to read and write above a 5th grade level until age 24.

Average cost of annual incarceration, give or take $50k a year per individual. Average cost of suicide $1.2m. Deaths impact on the economy per individual = $?

Education was the only way ahead and out of a path to death/suicide or incarceration… 20yo trade school private alone @ 17.9% rate. Graduated to a $10hr job. That school is now closing closed and suffered the loss of a class action lawsuit.

I went on to get a bachelor’s degree and then a master’s… education was the only way to survive and out. Now making $40k annually, nothing to show for life (outside of the knowledge and experience), and being hounded with creditors and loan companies threatening with litigation. My loan payments annually are greater than my salary. So far this year, after taxes I have brought home $24k… each check I am minus $60 bucks to meet the minimum.

I work with intensive treatment foster youth and just came off of a children’s mobile suicide response team. I have single handedly prevented more suicides that I’d like to say. Even launched a non-profit to help prevent suicide.

Our society abandons the neglected and abused, and when they crawl out of their hole on their own they are preyed upon with no support to become productive members of society.

I just wanted to reach out and thank you for your continued reporting on the student loan crisis this country is facing.

I predict an increase in suicides specifically related to millennia’s inability to live up to a meaningful existence because we are plagued with insurmountable debt of student loans; we cannot escape because the cloak of debts burden blinds us from the perseverance needed to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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What will it take for society to recognize that as a developed nation we are still so far behind many other nations that have already quantified the investment value of providing affordable education to all it’s people? …will we remain reactive forever, or will we evolve and become proactive by investing into the future of human capital to harness our true potentials.

CM

Answer:

Dear CM,

First off, congratulations from turning an early history of loss into a human success story. While so many seem to blame all disadvantaged people as crooks, criminals, and lifetime lazy people; that’s a gross generalization. There are success stories out there like yours.

Your take on society and education is not one I disagree with. The current student loan mess seems to be more about a policy on higher education that had no larger plan or broader solution. If you wanted to design a higher education system that would surely lead to despair, hopelessness, suicide, and massive lifelong debt; we nailed it.

I get the desire for people to run around and brag how awesome America is, and for the record I’m a proud American, but when it comes to affordable education opportunities we just really suck at creating a solution that sets people up for success. When nearly three in four people with student loan debt never graduated, all we’ve done is create an indentured class of American’s and neither improve the country or its citizens.

But it is a very complicated and multilayered problem. So many people have bought into the dream that college and student loans are the way to a better life. But as I wrote before, maybe people should not go to college. That’s a crazy idea but only if you don’t stop and think about it for a few minutes.

While people are willingly going to school and racking up buckets of debt, good paying high-tech manufacturing jobs go unfilled.

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As evidence of what a complicated mess the current system is, take a look at this article and the section So Who is Too Blame for the Private Student Loan Problem?.

What we have created is a system that allowed easy government loans and private student loans to flood into for-profit schools that are now accused of putting profits over quality. I don’t even need to find my shocked face for that.

Then combined with a reduction in state funding for public schools and easier access to student loan debt; public schools went on a rampage of raising tuitions, fees, and expenses for students that attended.

If there is one ray of hope in your question it is that you should make sure your federal student loans are setup properly so you can have your balances forgiven tax free. In the Public Service Loan Forgiveness track you would consolidate your federal loans and drop them into an income driven repayment program. This can give you a significantly reduced monthly payment. Then, after 120 on-time qualifying payments your federal student loans can be erased on request.

I’d love to hear your feedback on my response. Please post an update in the comments below.

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About Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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