Negotiating with the Government

Standard

Student Loans = Student Debt

I went into college unaware of the consequences of student loans.  I knew I wanted to go to college, the sole goal was to get a degree so I could get a job that paid well.  At that point in time, I had an inkling that I would be leaving my husband and I wanted to be able to support myself.  I looked online and asked for advice on how to pay for school, and everyone said to talk to an adviser, they’d lead me in the right direction.

So I went in, stupid and blind, and sat down with my adviser, picked a major and asked questions.  My biggest mistake was listening to these people with out a second thought.  How could an adviser lead me wrong?  They encouraged student loans, they explained that aid would cover half of it, and loans would cover the rest, and that in my degree I’d easily be able to make the “low monthly” payments once my loans came due, which wouldn’t be for a long time.

So I enrolled in school, selected my classes and started.  Nine semesters in, (including summer semesters… yeah I was over-doing it) I decided I needed a break.  I took a semester off and took time to myself.  When it was time to pick my classes and start back up, I cracked open my student loans.  I was shocked, they didn’t come due for 2 years, but really?  I called and spoke to someone who informed me a rough estimate of what my monthly payments would be.  By this time, I had left Tim and was a single mom, that amount was definitely not do-able, even if I made $10,000 more yearly than I did then (hell, even now).  I debated for a while, and decided that I could NOT afford to go back and finish my degree.  I had an idea of what I was looking at after finishing, and quite frankly, looking at my friends who had already graduated, who still hadn’t found work in their major, and were struggling to pay rent on top of student loans, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Fast forward 2 years.  My loans have now come due, and to say the government has been harassing me, puts it lightly.  Yesterday, I finally decided to answer the phone when they called, and say something beyond “The Dept of Education can blow me.”  I hate owing money, and decided to settle.  I explained my finances on the phone, and the lady was quite helpful.  The way it is, is that while finances aren’t completely in dire straights, we are technically living from paycheck to paycheck.  At this current time I cannot put away anything in my savings account, which means I cannot fit another major bill into my budget, especially not one for a few hundred a month.

So I spoke with her for almost an hour, and intermittently with her supervisor.  I’m able to enter into a payment plan because of hardship and in 9 months, I’ll be out of delinquency and will be able to sign up for a new plan and continue.  The lady I was speaking to made a comment about how in 9 months I’ll be eligible for another loan to go back to school.  I laughed and told her I’d never put myself in that much debt again.

I got off the phone and explained what happened to my coworker.  We talked about it for a while, and I reiterated that I will never go to school again, unless I can pay for it out of pocket, which won’t happen anytime soon.  She talked about her student debt, and we came to the conclusion that.. well.. it sucks.

I am not lucky enough to have someone pay for my school, and I don’t make enough money to pay for classes each month.  I was a fuck-off in high school so no scholarships were given to me.  Do I regret it?  Not particularly.  Honestly school isn’t in my game plan right now anyway.  I’d much rather take my money and save what little I can (or will be able to) for Noodle to go to school.  However, what it comes down to is what do kids do now days?

What about the kids who parents couldn’t save money?  What about the kids who didn’t earn scholarships?  Who don’t make enough money to pay out of pocket?  I know a huge chunk of people who are not eligible for aid.  Those kids are stuck getting loans to go to school, and while a chunk of them might make enough money to pay them off, a lot of them will be paying well into their fifties.  Maybe I’m too pessimistic, but it looks quite bleak to me.

Did I make a mistake and go in blind?  Yes.  But if I hadn’t been blind, I wouldn’t have gone to school at all.  I’m not the first, and I’m not the last, going to college on student loans was one of the worst financial mistakes I have made yet, and it won’t be one I’ll repeat.

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