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