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 keepjessicaafloat.com. 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.