Here, let’s get these details out of the way now:
I graduated from graduate school in 2009, equipped with a fat student loan bill of a bit more than $75,000. Yes, I was stupid to take up that many loans for school, but, hey, we all make dumb decisions. So we can get the part where I say f*ck you to anyone who goes “well you shouldn’t have gone to school for that much” out of the way early. Good? Good.
Nine years later, I owe a little under $95,000. How did we get here? Easy: this has been the goal of student loan organizations like Navient all along. They want to increase balances as much as possible so that borrowers will be trapped in a system of payments forever. The whole thing is nefarious and crooked. My story is just one example. Here’s how it happened.
I spent the first few years after graduate school in deferment — that is, I didn’t have to pay any loans and, for some, no interest accrued. It was during this time that I did a lot of the stuff that student loans prevent millennials from doing. I got married. I had a kid. I freelanced. I lived a life free of student loans and was able to transition into adulthood. I honestly don’t think I could have done these things if I had a huge bill hovering over my head at every turn. In fact, a lot of the people from my graduate school got stuck in jobs they didn’t want solely to pay off the loans.
I did a lot of the stuff that student loans prevent millennials from doing. I got married. I had a kid.
The next few years were miserable and show the true student loan scheme. Navient (Sallie Mae at the time) started calling, telling me that it was time to pay my student loans. I was prepared, having set aside a few hundred bucks a month to start making payments. But I didn’t expect to have to beg them to take my money.
“Are you ready to make payments?”
“Sure…how much do I owe?”
“Well, it looks like your first bill is going to be $950”
“Sir…are you alive?”
I’d already hung up, and would continue to hang up on callers every time I was quoted with a monthly bill. I tried everything: income-driven, graduated, fixed, reverse cowgirl. Nothing gave me a monthly balance below $800, which I couldn’t pay.
“Okay, look, I can pay you $200 a month. Just take that money.”
“Sir, it doesn’t work like that.”
“Why? I’m paying you every month.”
“But it won’t matter. If you don’t pay it in full you still show up as delinquent.”
“So, let me get this straight. You want me to pay you. I’m trying to pay you. But you’re straight up refusing to take my money.”
“Let me run a calculation real quick.” The phone goes silent. “Okay, well we can lower your bill from $800 to $799.99 if that makes it better.”
But here’s where they get you. If you can’t pay the exorbitant balance they lay out for you then they offer you forbearance. Forbearance sounds great in theory: you get a break from your student loans because you don’t have to pay every month. That’s all anyone cares about but the catch is your interest accrues every month you’re in forbearance. And what I didn’t realize was that my interest — more than SEVEN FREAKING PERCENT — was adding hundreds of dollars to my student loan bill every single month.
So we’d continue this dance:
1. Navient calls me and quotes me with a bill that I couldn’t possibly afford, without budging
2. I say I can’t pay it
3. They offer me forbearance which is my only option besides defaulting.
4. I accept.
5. My bill grows.
Again, I used that forbearance time to do the things people without loans are allowed to do. I bought a house. I bought a car. I raised a family. The American Dream.
Then my forbearance ran out — all 36 months of it. By the time Navient called me again last year, the amount I owed in student loans was more than $90,000. Then a miracle happened. As soon as my forbearance ran out, Navient suddenly found a payment that was manageable: a little less than $600.
The problem is, my interest is about that amount every month, so all the money I pay goes to interest and zero to principal. As a result, the money I owed at the beginning of the year is pretty much exactly the same as I owe now, after having paid about $4,000 already. It was the student loan plan all along. There was never a desire to have me pay those loans off. The plan is for me to owe until I die.
The average student graduates with $37,000 in student loans…
Student loan debt is probably one of the top three most stressful aspects of my life and I’m not alone. The average student graduates with $37,000 in student loans and the overall amount owed in America is $1.5 trillion, with interest rates far higher than anyone has to pay for cars, houses or any other thing we borrow money for. Want to know why millennials aren’t buying houses? Look at student loans. Why aren’t we having kids? Student loans. Why aren’t we eating at your sh*tty chain restaurant? Because we don’t have enough money for your triple dippers with all this money we owe to student loans. Student loans are crippling an entire generation that will probably have to get our social security checks garnished to pay them off. Our whole generation is ruined and student loans are at the heart of it.
It’s really time for the government to just forgive all of our student loans, anyway. Or take away the interest. Better yet, how come none of those hackers ever hit up Navient to forgive all those loans?