Readings — From the January 2013 issue

Class Struggle

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From almost 2,000 comments about student loans sent to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and released on its website last June. Americans currently owe more than $1 trillion in outstanding student loans.

I am the president of the New Hampshire Academy of Audiology, voted by my patients as Northeast Hearing Care Professional of the Year. As a doctor who washes dishes at a restaurant in her spare time to make ends meet, it is really hard to tell future audiologists to “stick with it.”

Psychologists save lives. We prevent suicides and homicides. Yet there are no loan-forgiveness programs for us, aside from selling our soul to live in a tent to help the poor with no guarantee loans will even be paid.

I am currently repaying over $200,000 in student-loan debt accumulated during undergraduate study and law school. After graduation, I had to turn down offers to work in the White House because I simply could not afford to do so.

After six years in the military as a physician, my bonuses reached a level where I could afford to pay my loans. Since then I have only been able to get the balance down to about $95,000. I have served with the Special Forces and put myself in dangerous situations for my country multiple times. I have served three combat tours. Yet I am enslaved by my student debt at a level of about twice what I borrowed. I feel betrayed by my government.

I borrowed $65,000 for medical school. By the time I completed my residency in psychiatry my loan balance was well over $200,000 because of the 20-plus percent interest Chase charged me while I was still in training. I have made minimum payments for over twenty years. My current student-loan balance is $580,000. In another ten years, my balance will approach $1 million!

With interest and penalties, my student-loan debt is now over $300,000. I drive a thirty-two- year-old vehicle. A recent hospitalization combined with the hardship caused by student loan garnishment forced me to give up my home. Without any other choices, I continue to work, disabled and homeless. I assume that when my vehicle stops running and I can no longer commute, I will also lose my employment.

My legal education was very expensive — the total federal and private loans total more than $160,000. After graduation, I took out a bar study loan from Citibank for $12,000 at 11.875% interest. I applied for dozens of jobs. I got one interview. After a few bleak months, I was selling my personal property to pay rent and to buy food. With no prospects, I decided to open up my own practice. I worked for myself for a year, scratching out a living and making ends meet with the help of food stamps.

When I was nineteen I had no credit, but I searched the Internet looking for student loans based upon something other than credit. One was MyRichUncle.com, which promises private student loans without consideration of credit score. The company has since filed Chapter 7. Now I cannot find the account anywhere except for on my credit report, and it continues to grow exponentially. I have no idea what the interest rate is, and I have not yet found a way to make payments.

I have a government loan, but I suppose because I’m a woman I’m not allowed to receive any kind of pay that would ever be sustainable in this shit world. I have a degree, but it’s useless to my financial needs. It’s a fucking joke. I’ll be thirty-five in April, and I want to fucking kill myself because of money. Thanks a fucking lot for goddamned nothing.

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