Businesses need to hear from us

Imagine if everybody who was struggling with student loans started talking about it.  Too many people in this situation suffer in silence.  What if everybody whose finances were tight because of these nightmare loans started telling people?  “I would love to buy your house, car, lovely new clothes, etc.  But I can’t afford it because my student loan payments make it impossible.”  If businesses had any idea how much money they are losing because of these loans, they would join in the movement to get the laws changed.

People don’t know

It happened again today.  I’d mentioned having trouble sleeping, worrying about my student loans.  A coworker said “Can’t you just send them a little bit each month?”  So many folks don’t understand just how cruel the laws are.   When trying to educate people on why the laws need changing, I’ve been asked this question repeatedly.  Folks assume that student loans have basic consumer protections, like most unsecured debt.  They used to.  But they don’t any more, not since the laws were changed in major ways in 2005.

I explained that it wouldn’t work.  I told her that if I don’t come up with the money, under current law, they could just garnish my paycheck for the full amount.  Unlike other types of debt, student loan lenders don’t need a court order to garnish wages.

My coworker then asked if I could moonlight to pay them?  She knew I tried it for months a while back.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t make enough money to pay the loans.  And my health suffered from working all those hours, so I had to go back to “just” full time.  I also told her I would have to work two jobs until I was 85 to finish paying!

If you agree with me that the laws need to be changed, talk with people.  They aren’t going to understand how bad it is until someone tells them.

An open letter to my representatives

An open letter to our elected representatives

I am writing to appeal for help for seniors who have student loans they can’t afford to pay. It is estimated that the number of American citizens who are 60 or older with student loan debt is over two million.

I’m a military veteran who got my BA with the help of the GI bill. I easily paid off the student loan debt from that degree, which I earned in the 1980’s.

Years later, as a single parent of two elementary school aged children, I went back to school for my master’s degree. I was in my 40’s at the time. I thought I would get a better job and improve life for my family. I had a plan to pay off my loans early, well before retirement.

Despite years of looking, I never found a better job. I’m now in my 60’s, and still working as a secretary. I can’t afford the payments now, and sure won’t be able to afford them after retirement. Seniors who have these loans are not likely to find better jobs and suddenly have a big increase in their incomes. Yet, if we can’t come up with the money, under current law, the lenders can garnish our paychecks and Social Security.

This is not right. People should not be hounded until death or plunged into poverty for these loans. Since I was fearful of becoming homeless if garnished, a friend helped me start a website asking for help (keepjessicaafloat.com). I’ve noticed many appeals for help with student loans on crowd funding sites and You Tube. Sometimes life doesn’t turn out like you plan. People who genuinely can’t afford to pay these loans off should not have their lives ruined just because they went back to school!

I’ve been writing to you, our elected representatives since 2010. I have also called your offices. An assistant who answered the phone told me, “We are getting hundreds of these calls.” Yet, still nothing has been done for people like me. Often when I’ve written, the only response has been a form letter saying “Thank you for your letter on student loan interest rates…” You, our representatives, seem to believe that everybody who has these loans is in their 20’s. You also seem to think that 25 year repayment plans are not a hardship. Both of these statements are wrong. Lives are being ruined because of these harsh laws. There needs to be loan forgiveness for people who can’t afford to pay and whose situation is not going to change!

Sincerely,

Jessica Hopkins

Current law and a case history

I was shocked when I found out about current student loan law.  I had thought that this was a free country and that citizens had certain protections.

Unfortunately, standard consumer protections were removed from student loans in 2005.  Unlike other unsecured debts, there is no statute of limitations.  I read of a woman in her 70’s who had taken out student loans back in the 1970’s.  At that time statute of limitations laws included student loans, so she should have been protected.  She admits that she should have paid back the $3000 she borrowed back then.  But she’d had issues including a substance abuse problem.  She’s now HIV positive.  Yet she is having her Social Security garnished to pay these loans, which because of interest, now total over $15,000.  The payments she’s making aren’t even making a dent because of the still accruing interest.  She says she will never have it paid off.  This is wrong.  Seniors should not be dogged for the rest of their lives with payments they can’t afford.

Interest on these loans

I recently bit the bullet and asked the company that services my larger loan account just how much interest it was accruing a month.  I’d looked all over the monthly statement, but couldn’t find the interest amount.

I was horrified to find it’s racking up over $300 in interest a month!  This is more than my income based payment, which itself is more than I can afford to pay.  My friends have been making up the difference.  I’m not sure how long they will be able and willing to do that…

Anyway, this loan was originally about $29,000.  It’s now nearly $48,000.  This is in spite of my paying out thousands of dollars, mostly in interest.  Their plan for me is that I will keep paying until I’m well into my 80’s, and pay them over $80,000!  Assuming I live that long.  Nobody should be trapped like this for the rest of their life.

I read about one person who had paid off more than they had originally borrowed, and still owed many thousands of dollars.  People are suffering under the current draconian laws.  This is a system long overdue for reform.  There has to be some realistic relief for people who can’t afford to pay!