My Art Institute Student Loans Have Left Me Feeling Hopeless and in Parent PLUS Hell


Dear Steve,

Hi, I’m Jessica. I moved to other state 3 hours away from my hometown to go to AI The Art Institute International-Kansas City. I graduated with a Bachelor Degree in graphic design. I wish I was smarter when I was 20 about signing the dotted line. But I wanted to go to this school and now I’m 25 years old struggling to find a job in my field and I have over $130,000 in student loan. Well I have two loan…mine is $29,000. I’m ok paying that. The one that give me a heart attack is my parent plus loan. It is now $122,000. It keep going up.

I was living over in Kansas but not working in my field. I was a cocktail server at a casino. Wasn’t making smart choices. I ended up moving back home 3 months ago. No job, broken car, and everything I worked for is at my parents garage in boxes.

I been dealing with depression for a while now. Way before I moved. It got worse so I moved back home. I tired to commit suicide and failed. I have research that if the student die the parent are still responsible for the loan. Well my parents have never helped me in school not one penny. I didn’t qualified for financial aid because they “make too much money ” so I’m the one stuck with these two loan.

I don’t have a kid one I’m married. And I probably won’t ever be because of this. I don’t know what to do anymore. Please help.

What can I do about the parent plus loan. It is under my mother name and it Great Lakes. Is it a good idea to have my mom file bankruptcy or get a lawyer to maybe cut that loan in half? What should I do?



Dear Jessica,

Thank you so much for writing me and letting me help you. My first concern is to make sure you can find help and assistance with your depression and suicidal thoughts and attempts. There is no way you can get a clear view of the road ahead when it is masked in the fog of depression and hopelessness.

Before even worrying about the student loans I would urge you to seek help for a local medical professional or therapist. If you are unemployed you most likely can qualify for Medicaid coverage and seek help using Medicaid. Medicaid is actually the largest provider of mental health services in the United States.

Without clarity you will be making bad choices that are not based in logic.

So let’s talk about the Parent PLUS loans for a minute. The bottom line on those loans is they are not yours and not your responsibility. When you were faced with needing loans for school, you were probably the least capable person in the room to understand complex financing arrangements and responsibilities. Your parents had the obligation to understand what they were signing up for. And that was that they were solely responsible for the loans.

If you want to direct your parents for help on those loans then send them to The Best Way to Lower Parent PLUS Loan Payments.

But let’s say you did think suicide was the way out to deal with the debt. Can you freaking imagine the guilt and trauma that would cause for those that love you. At some point they would realize that because they enabled you to go that far in debt for a graphic design degree that they pushed you to kill yourself. Is that really what you want to do, punish your parents for the rest of their lives because they tried to help you?

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So let’s talk for a moment about the Art Institute at Kansas City. They sold you a graphic arts degree for a current $170,623 balance in loans.

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I wonder if at any time anyone even considered the future earnings versus the cost of the education or did you get sold a bill of goods?

For example, if we look at what the Art Institute knew, they most likely understood the average salary of graduates, 10 years after graduation, was $25,200. How was that ever going to support the $170,623 worth of student loans you currently owe? – Source

Jessica, you are a living human who is free to take whatever unreasonable and poorly thought out action you want but you are not thinking clearly. Rather than considering checking out, you need to check in and get medical help first and then get into the fight over these loans and your situation.

There are options. Art institute loans are a mess. They even get reduced or discharged in bankruptcy. Here is a recent case that concluded, “ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED that the student loan debt owed by Plaintiff, CHRISTINA RICHELLE MASCH, to Defendant(s) ART INSTITUTE OF SEATTLE and WESTERN CULINARY INSTITUTE LE CORDON BLEU be and it hereby is declared to be discharged in bankruptcy.” – Source

But one of my favorite Art institute cases is Opp. You can find detail about this case on this page about a quarter way down. But in that case the Plaintiff graduated with a graphic design degree and $185,000 worth of student loan debt. The court found, “It is unlikely that Plaintiff/Debtor will be in a position to repay these loans during the duration of the repayment period. Although her financial position has improved in the few years since she incurred the loan obligations and based on the earning potential in her career field, it seems highly unlikely that her financial situation will improve to a level where she could afford to repay her loan obligation.” Portions of her debt were completely discharged, others reduced.

Now your situation is a little different in that these Parent PLUS loans are not your loans, as I’ve said. Your parents will have to fight for some reasonableness here and once you are back in the game of life you can help lead the charge.

I have no clue what the financial status is of your parents so I can’t give you any advice about their situation or plan of action. What I am showing you with the examples I’ve given is people have taken action and have won victories.

But perhaps the biggest option you and your parents have right now is the expansion of the Department of Education Borrower Defense program. With the help of the Department of Education the total amount of the federal student loans may be forgiven if the “school committed fraud by doing something or failing to do something, misrepresented its services, or otherwise violated applicable state law related to your loans or the educational services you paid for.”

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It is critically important for you to review this program and understand that the most important part of the process is to submit a detailed and well documented claim. Your parents would have to do this for their Parent PLUS loans. Again, they are not your loans. The claim process and information required is described on this page.

If you want some professional help completing this complaint, I would recommend Michael Bovee at Consumer Recovery Network.

The key to a better chance of a successful outcome is going to be the quality and completeness of the information submitted for consideration.

For valid claims there is one side benefit of submitting a borrower defense claim, the loans go into forbearance and collections stop. This is a feature that will bite people who don’t have valid complaints like I think you do. See The Borrower Defense Pothole That Will Swallow Many Trying to Forgive Student Loans.

Regarding getting legal advice or help, it never hurts. You can always contact a bankruptcy attorney who is licensed in your state or one of these student loan lawyers in your state. Most will give you a free consultation and you should feel free to forward them my answer as well.

But, let me say again, the very first step in this process is to get your depression and suicidal thoughts addressed. Get assistance for that first and dealing with the rest of this will be much, much easier.

We need to turn this around from hopeless to hopeful. It can be done and I want you to become an amazing success story. You can do it!


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

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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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1 thought on “My Art Institute Student Loans Have Left Me Feeling Hopeless and in Parent PLUS Hell”

  1. Leslie, the spousal consolidation loan situation is a mess. But I think it is a situation that could use a legal challenge. See my article https://getoutofdebt.org//85500/department-ed-ffel-joint-consolidation-rules-arbitrary-punitive

    Before you even start to consider radical solutions I think you should challenge the conventional wisdom that servicers give. I think you should contact your Congressional representatives and ask for help, file a CFPB student loan complaint, and ask the Department of Education Ombudsman for a review of your situation.

    Ultimately I firmly believe this is a problem with spousal consolidation loans that is just begging for a Congressional solution. The Department of Education knows that as well. They no longer make such loans.


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