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.

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