The greatly exaggerated tales of forgiveness and more

Contrary to popular belief, student loan forgiveness is extremely rare.  First, these loans are not discharged in bankruptcy, the conditions to do so are close to impossible.

Secondly, while the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program was started ten years ago, it was only this month that the first people on it became eligible to apply for forgiveness.   And that is only to apply, there is no guarantee they will get have their loans forgiven.  The criteria are so limited that only a tiny percentage of the people who have these loans can even apply for forgiveness under this program.

The odds of completing ten years of qualifying payments on the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program are very small.  First you must obtain a public service job that is included in the program.  Then you must stay on an income based repayment plan for ten years.  These plans must be reapplied for annually.  If your income goes up, or your number of dependents goes down, you can be kicked off the program.  And there goes any chance of loan forgiveness.

Many people have already paid back what they borrowed, yet still owe thousands of dollars.  The way the interest is compounded on these loans makes the amount owed grow at an incredible pace.

It is these higher amounts that are usually quoted when the possible amounts to be forgiven are mentioned.  Some say “These people borrowed the money, they should pay it back.”  Many have already paid back what they borrowed and more, yet are expected to keep paying and paying for years.

The Department of Education said in a letter, a person’s age or whether they are “experiencing financial hardship” are not taken into account when deliberating loan forgiveness.  Common sense and conscience should dictate that if the individual is already a senior citizen, with no possibility of getting a better job, or a job at all, this should certainly be considered!

Also, currently if a student is under 24 years old and wants a federal student loan, at least one parent is required to cosign.  Then if the young person can’t pay, the lender can go after their parents.

There is no guarantee that a college degree will result in a better job.  But these days, unless the student can get a full scholarship, or has wealthy relatives, college will result in thousands of dollars of debt.  This can take decades to pay off, if it is even possible.  Some senior citizens are dying, still owing on student loans.  The system is overdue some real change.  People who can’t afford to pay, and whose situation is unlikely to change, need real loan forgiveness.  Many simply don’t have the money to ever pay off these mountains of debt.  They should not have to go to their graves with student loans still hanging over their heads.

Second student loan story

I received this some time ago and just now have time to share some of this senior’s story.  I’ll call this lady Louise, though that is not her name. Shortly after receiving her degree she became ill with a permanent condition, that while not life threatening, definitely affects her quality of life and ability to work.

Life has not been kind to her since then.  Not many years after graduating, she was widowed.  She has had more than one heart attack.  She has also been involved in an auto accident, which left her with lingering health issues.   Louise is now in her 70’s and because of her multiple health problems will never be returning to work. She is trying to get by with only Social Security coming in.  Louise is on an income based student loan repayment plan.  But even with the lower payments she is having trouble making ends meet.  Her family has no idea that she owes thousands of dollars in student loans, and she doesn’t want them to know.   She is under a lot of stress from her student loan debt and has no hope of ever paying it off.  She describes it as a never-ending nightmare.  If you are reading this and think you don’t know anybody affected by these loans, think again.  Louise’s family probably thinks the student loan system doesn’t affect anybody they care about.

This is just the kind of person who desperately needs loan forgiveness, which isn’t available to her.  People like Louise who have no way to pay off the debt should be able to get out from under it.  The laws need to change!




Student loans and marriage

I posted on Facebook that I would hesitate to get married because my spouse’s income would be assumed to be available to pay student loans.  Somebody commented that a spouse’s income goes to all kinds of bills.  So I explained.  When you get married, your credit card payments don’t go up.  Your rent or mortgage payment doesn’t go up, and neither does your car payment.  Student loans are the only type of loan where you are expected to reapply for your payment plan each year.  I hear this can vary, but it is up to the loan servicer how often you reapply.  With the type of payment plan I have, I have to send in an application form each year, along with a copy of my tax return.  One area on the student loan payment plan application is about your spouse and their income.  The spouse doesn’t have to be a co-signer on the loan, if you’re married, you must fill in the part about your spouse’s income.  This is then taken into account In figuring your payment and deciding whether or not you qualify for that plan.  An attorney told me that the lender can’t use your spouse’s income to figure the payment if you file taxes separately.  But there is no place on the payment plan application to check “married filing separately” and then to skip putting in your spouse’s income.  A young woman told me that after she got married, her student loan payment doubled!  She exclaimed, “I didn’t even know my husband when I went to school!”  But that doesn’t matter to the student loan lenders, whose only concern seems to be to get as much money out of people as they can.

I went to the Department of Education’s student loan payment estimator and filled in my income and loan amount.  I put down that I was single.  I then noticed the payment amounts that came up for the different plans.  I then filled in the same information, but put that I was married.  I put zero for my spouse’s income.  Some of the payment amounts nearly doubled.  This is not right.

I’ve suspected that student loans are a factor in so many young couples raising families without getting married.  I personally know of several families with unmarried parents raising kids.  Sure enough, I read in an article that a couple with children had not married because they couldn’t afford an increase in their student loan payments.  The pro-marriage groups should be all over this issue, lobbying so that only the person who actually took out the loans should have their income considered.  And yes, this affects seniors too.  They may not be raising kids.  But they should be able to get married without worrying that it will increase their student loan payments by hundreds of dollars a month.  Many seniors are barely getting by, and struggle to make these payments anyway.  To greatly increase the payment amounts could make a difference in being able to keep a roof over their heads or becoming homeless.  We don’t hear enough about the hardships student loans are causing for many people, especially for seniors.  We’re not going to be getting better jobs if we are strong enough to work at all.  I read recently online that one woman had written, that unless she won the lottery, she would never get out from under her student loans.  There needs to be real forgiveness for people who can’t afford to pay.

Not quite good bye

I posted earlier saying I was going to stop blogging, but have reconsidered.  I will keep blogging, just not as frequently as I started out doing.  I will blog when something comes up that I want to weigh in on.  I’ve spent many hours writing posts about why the system needs to change.  Little has improved, and it can get discouraging.  The blog hasn’t attracted the wide attention from readers that I was hoping for.  But perhaps readership will increase with time.  I’m a senior citizen with a full time job and a busy life.  I have to make choices about what to put my energy into.  So I won’t be blogging weekly or more often, as I was at first.  I encourage you to go back and read past posts.  You are welcome to share them, just please cite me as the source.

I will continue to advocate for change in the student loan laws.  If you want to keep up with what I’m doing, you can friend me on Facebook.  I’m on there under the name Keep Jessica Afloat.   And if what I’ve said has resonated with you, here are some things you can do.  Write or call your elected representatives.  Once helps, repeatedly is even better.  Write your newspaper.  And check out Student Loan Justice at  They are also on Facebook.  Thank you for reading.

News stories about “Student loan forgiveness”

Recently a variety of sources have run stories about how “student loan forgiveness” is going to cost so much more than previously thought.  They imply that student loans are being forgiven left and right.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  With current laws, allowing paychecks and Social Security to be garnished without a court order, it isn’t easy to walk away from a student loan.  And bankruptcy isn’t an option.  Theoretically it could work rarely, but I’ve never heard of an actual case of someone getting a bankruptcy discharge of student loans since consumer protections were removed from these loans in 2005.

Some of the articles say things like “The payments are so low, they don’t cover the interest.”  This is partially true.  Many payment plans don’t cover the interest.  But that is not because the payments are so low, it’s because the interest charges are so high!  At one point my payment was set at $153 a month.  As a single parent,  I was dipping into savings each month to make that payment, plus pay rent and buy food.  But the interest was over  $300 a month!  So the debt kept growing, even though I was making payments.  Luckily my family was able to move in with a friend, and didn’t become homeless, which was a real possibility.  But not everyone has the option to share housing.

The powers that be seem to assume that no matter how old, or hard up financially someone is, they are still able to pay on their student loans.  Don’t be fooled by these articles hinting that people who have these nightmare loans are easily able to obtain loan forgiveness.  It’s just not true.  For example, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is often mentioned as a way to get out of student loan debt.  But the conditions that the payments must be made under are very limited.  You either have to be on an income based repayment plan while making ten years of qualifying payments, or be on the 10 year standard repayment plan.  When you’re on the 10 year plan, which has high payments, your loans would be paid off in 10 years.  You wouldn’t need forgiveness!  And the chances of staying on one of those income based plans a full ten years are small.  If your income goes up, you get married, a child leaves home, etc. you can be taken off the plan.  And there is no guarantee that the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program will still be around long enough to make ten years of payments.  Here is a link and statement from the Department of Education website forgiveness page under Common Questions:

5.Can I be certain that the PSLF Program will exist by the time I have made my 120 qualifying payments?

“We cannot make any guarantees about the future availability of PSLF. The PSLF Program was created by Congress, and Congress could change or end the PSLF Program.”

So even if you manage to stay on an income based repayment plan for 10 years (Student Loan Justice estimates 85% of borrowers won’t be able to do so), there is no guarantee the plan will still be there when you have completed ten years of payments.  And there is no guarantee of forgiveness, you have to apply and see what they say.

So there is not lots of “student loan forgiveness” out there.  It does get forgiven after you die, assuming you don’t have a co-signer, who would still be stuck for the loan. Forgiveness upon death isn’t much comfort for those of us who need relief now, while we’re alive!  And it sure isn’t right to expect taxpayers to take on these huge interest payments.  My larger loan account was originally $29,000.  Assuming I make the standard payments for 25 years, which I can’t afford to do, I would pay over $70,000!  The writers of these articles seem to think that if I managed to get forgiveness (I’ve already paid thousands, putting my retirement well being at risk) that the taxpayers would need to pay back the huge amount of interest.  That isn’t right.  There needs to be real student loan forgiveness for those who can’t afford to pay.


So here we are.  Not much has changed in the eleven years since all standard consumer protections were stripped from student loans.  For specifics on that, visit my website: and click on About Student Loans.  I am encouraged that many good people are trying to change the laws, which are terrible.  A woman who used to work for Sallie Mae, (one of the largest collectors of student loans) is now regularly giving money to Student Loan Justice.  Check out Student Loan Justice on Facebook, they are working hard to try to change things.  It is striking that a former Sallie Mae employee recognizes that the laws are so bad, that she is giving money to try to change them.

Recently when I told a conservative that the student loan people go after the incomes of spouses of people who have student loans, he was surprised.  I met a young woman whose student loan payment was doubled after she got married!  On the application form for a payment plan, there are blanks to fill in all your spouse’s information, including their gross income.  You are also expected to send in your most recent tax return. It doesn’t matter that you likely didn’t even know your future spouse when the loans were taken out.  It is taken for granted that their income will go toward paying them.  I believe this is a factor in why so many young people are raising families without getting married.  I read recently that people are borrowing less money for college. This could be related to the many student loan horror stories out there.  Unfortunately, it also likely means that many prospective college students are being priced out of the market.  College costs need to be lowered, and standard consumer protections, including bankruptcy, need to be restored to student loans.  And this needs to be retroactive, for the millions already caught in the trap.

Bankruptcy and Student Loans

This article by the founder of Student Loan Justice is excellent and shows just how bad the system, and situation have become.

A right to debt relief from crushing student loans

Something unusual happened in late February. Commentators on the right and left, liberal Thom Hartmann and conservative Ike Brannon, published essays on the same day, Feb. 22, saying the same thing: Americans should have the right to discharge their student debt in bankruptcy proceedings, just like all other loans. Perhaps this historic convergence means we’re finally ready for change.

Our bankruptcy system goes back to the 18th century. When the founders — many of whom suffered at the hands of British creditors — wrote the Constitution, they specified that Congress had the authority to create a uniform, federal bankruptcy system, listing that power ahead of the power to declare war, to raise an army and navy, and to coin currency.

It wasn’t until nearly 200 years later that Congress targeted student debtors, making bankruptcy uniquely unavailable to them. The rationale was that students were fleeing, en masse, to bankruptcy court promptly upon graduation. But we now know that less than 1% of student loans were being discharged in bankruptcy court at that time.

Absent bankruptcy protection, the student loan industry functions without checks and balances. Lenders have no reason to seriously evaluate a prospective borrower’s ability to repay a loan, because they can make more money on defaults than on loans that remain in good stead. If a debtor lacks the funds to pay interest, lenders have collection powers that would “make a mobster envious” — in Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s words. They can extract huge sums from clients, often many multiples of what was originally borrowed.

Talking about student loans

I’ve been working on trying to change the student loans laws since 2010.  For a long time I was just writing my representatives and to newspapers.  Writing or even calling senators and congressional offices is an exercise in frustration, but we need to do it.  Usually when I write my representatives I get a form letter back that starts off something like “Thank you for writing about student loan interest rates…”  I don’t think I’ve ever written about interest rates, although it would help many people to lower them.  Better yet, cap the total amount that can be charged.  I’ve read accounts of people who have paid off more than the original debt, yet still owe more than they borrowed!  This is wrong.

I think calling is more effective at getting representatives’ attention.  One time when I called, the aide remarked “We are getting hundreds of these calls.”  I was so startled at hearing that, I couldn’t think of a good response.  I wish I’d said something like “So tell the senator to work on making meaningful change to the system!”  If there is a next time, I’ll do better.

I didn’t go public, not even telling my friends that I had student loans, until early 2015.  That was after weeks of insomnia and fearing becoming homeless.   I’d been paying on my smaller student loan account for years, but couldn’t afford the payments on the larger account.  Then I was told that I would have to make payments on the larger account, even though I couldn’t do that, plus pay rent and buy food!  When I tried to tell the student loan rep that, he talked over my words, until I finally hung up in frustration.  That was when I started a website and asking for financial help.  I never in a million years thought I’d do that, but it’s amazing what a person will do to avoid becoming homeless.  You can see my site at  If you’re trapped by these nightmare loans, and have the knowledge, or a techie friend like I did, I encourage you to start a similar site.  At the least, it will help make more people aware that the student loan system needs a major overhaul.

The government keeps coming out with more payment plans as if that solves the problem.  But nothing short of student loan forgiveness is going to do that.  I’m not talking about the folks who can comfortably afford to pay their student loans off and still be able to afford to retire.  More power to them.  But especially older former students, those 50 and above, who can’t afford their loans, let’s get real.  Chances of them finding well paying jobs and being able to pay these things off, without considerable financial hardship, are slim to none.  I recently heard from a woman in her 60’s.  She’s struggling to make her payments, and they’re not even covering the interest!  So her debt continues to grow.  Nobody should have to live like that. .  And there are younger people in situations that keep them from being able to afford to pay.   People who can’t afford to pay and whose situation is unlikely to change need student loan forgiveness. Nothing else will do.

Still here

Haven’t been posting lately,  because I’m having trouble thinking of something to write about that I haven’t already covered.  The system is terrible.  People who can’t afford to pay without considerable hardship are being forced to pay anyway.  Old loans from decades ago are being vigorously pursued, even though they were canceled, supposedly, by the statute of limitations.

Most people not affected by student loans have no idea what a nightmare they are.  Our government keeps talking along the lines of “Hey, we’ve got all these great payment plans!  Something for everyone.”  Yet even with the plans, millions of people have to pay more than they can comfortably afford.  AND continue to watch the debt grow, since they charge interest on the interest.  It is a type of hell, paying thousands of dollars a year, yet watching the debt continue to rise.

Many Americans take pride in our country.  I’m a veteran, and love America.  Yet we are the only country on earth, that I know of, that leaves people in debt for decades to further their education.  I’m not talking about the folks who find a great job and can easily pay their student loans.  I’m happy for them.  But life doesn’t always turn out like you plan.  Read my blog post, My Story, for an example.  For the millions of Americans who can’t afford to pay, there is NO meaningful relief.  There needs to be student loan forgiveness for people who can’t afford to pay, and whose situation is unlikely to change.