Sunday, March 17, 2013

So Apparently An Education Doesn't Really Last Forever

I’m dealing with some frustrations right now due to my husband’s student loans.  See, my husband graduated 3 years ago, and for the past 3 years, has looked for a job in his field. Unfortunately, his field is pastoring.  See, my husband got a degree in religion, which is 100% useless unless you want to be a pastor.  Which he does.  But for 3 years he’s worked a series of minimum wage jobs, trying to keep a roof over our heads while he hunts for a pastoring job.  Due to health concerns, he hasn’t even always managed to do that much.  I just graduated in August, so I’m able to pick up some of the slack now, but it was a tough three years.

During those three years, his student loan payments were beyond our reach.  We tried doing hardship deferments, income based payments, whatever, but somehow some paperwork slipped through the cracks and one of his loans ended up in default anyway.  So now that he’s finally come through the other side of his health issues, and is trying to pick up the pieces of the last few years, he’s trying to figure out what to do with his life.  Pretty much all of the options involve going back to school somehow.  So he’s been applying to different programs, just to explore his options and see what’s a good fit, and his college WON’T RELEASE HIS TRANSCRIPTS because his loan is in default.

Sorry for the caps instead of italics.  But I’m seriously that mad. I’m not trying to emphasize, I am shouting at the top of my lungs because how can they take an education back?  An education lasts forever, right?  But apparently, no.  Apparently, if you miss payments on your loans they can refuse to give you any sort of proof of your degree, and thus pretty much foreclose on your education.

I told my friend this, and she was like, there’s no way that’s legal.  Do some research into it; they can’t really be legally allowed to do that.  So I did some research.  Turns out, not only is it legal, the federal government encourages schools to withhold transcripts from students who haven’t paid their loans. ENCOURAGES THEM to do so.  There is something wrong here.

Now, I am not saying that it is okay to not repay your debts.  My husband took out those loans and he is responsible to pay for them.  I get that.  But I am angry because the system is broken.  I am angry because more and more students are taking out the equivalent of a brand new car or more, in some cases the equivalent of a mortgage on a house just to get through college.  And more and more college students are finding themselves, degree in hand, working at McDonalds or the local grocery store making minimum wage just because no one is hiring.  (Or at least, no one is hiring unless you have at least 3 years of “experience” and how are you supposed to get experience if no one is hiring you?)

The whole system is broken.  Unless something changes, I’m honestly not sure I’ll be encouraging my children to go to college in 16 years.  And to add insult to injury, apparently they can actually repossess your education if you fail to make payments, even if you fail to make payments because your education has, thus far, not done you one damn lick of good.

Don’t worry about me and my husband.  We’re working on getting a consolidation loan that will have payments based on our income level.  No more paperwork slipping through the cracks and causing us to default.  He’ll be able to get his transcripts and hopefully find something that works for him.  We’re working within the parameters of the broken system to make it work for us.

But do worry about the ridiculousness and futility of this situation.  College is less affordable than ever, provides less of a leg up than ever, and the debt is crippling my generation.  The American Dream is dying.  I don’t want to see that happen, but I don’t know how to fix it.

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