Student Debt: A Penalty the Poor Pay for Not Being Wealthy

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Author Peter Frase combines science fiction and Marxist theory to imagine possible outcomes, for better and for worse.

Work hard and you’ll get ahead” has now become meaningless propaganda. The student loan crisis has proved this once and for all. Until the federal government gets serious about bailing out America’s students and instituting free, public higher education for all who apply, America’s student debtors should refuse to make any further payments.

Student Debt is a Trap

Student debt is no longer just about education – it’s become a trap used to keep poor people from becoming wealthy. And if prolonged, it will lead to massive social and economic instability.

Even though President Obama has hinted that student debt from private lenders may be forgiven, he conveniently left out that 90 percent of student loans are owed to the federal government, which will make approximately $127 billion in profit from student loans over the next decade.

People who aren’t born into bottomless wealth have two options in life: struggle to stay afloat, or move up the class ladder. Those who choose the latter are told that the best way to ensure class mobility is to get a good-paying job, save money, and make smart investments.

To get a good-paying job, a college degree is almost always required to even get a response after applying. And to get that college degree, the average person has to take on approximately $30,000 in debt. When factoring in rising costs of living, steadily-increasing interest rates, plummeting wages, and a volatile job market, making regular payments on such a tremendous amount of debt is almost impossible.

If a student debtor has to default, as one in seven students do within the first three years of required payments, it blemishes their credit rating. Having bad credit can make finding an apartment, buying a car, or even getting a job that much harder. Employers who check credit scores won’t hire a student debtor due to a low credit rating, though they won’t even call an applicant for an interview if the applicant doesn’t meet the education requirements.

So for lots of potential job seekers, the game is rigged. The ones without a degree have their resume thrown in the trash, and the ones who have a degree but a credit score blemished by student loans may get the interview, but tend to get passed in favor of someone with better credit.

Defaulting on student loans can also mean that banks and the government will take big bites out of every piece of income you receive for decades. Student loans can be garnished from paychecks, income tax refunds, and even Social Security checks. Over 150,000 Americans had Social Security checks garnished due to student loans last year, and the U.S. Treasury collected $150 million in student loan payments from Social Security benefits in 2012.

If a student debtor in default happens to live in Montana or Iowa, they can lose their driver’s license. This, in turn, affects their ability to get to work and take their children to daycare, among other things. Some people, like Robert Bowman, were even fired for not making payments on student loans.

The options for our generation are either to get an education and agree to inescapable debt for the rest of our adult lives, or don’t get an education and forgo all possibilities of good-paying, gainful employment.

Read more at Occupy.com.

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