Full disclosure: I have massive student loans and will campaign for and vote for the first candidate who promises to forgive them.
A piece in the Business section of the Times today offers lessons in how to handle your student loan debt.
In the late 1980s, amid concern about the rising number of students who were skipping out on loan payments, the Education Department began requiring all students to undergo what it now calls “initial counseling” when they took out a federal loan, like a Perkins or Stafford loan, for the first time.
The curriculum, which the colleges are responsible for teaching, is supposed to include information on the contract that students sign when they borrow, the consequences of not paying back the loan and some basic information on the average level of indebtedness among recent graduates and the size of their monthly loan payments. Today, some students sit in a room for their counseling while many others take a short course and quiz on a Web site.
This article thinks that the "curriculum" isn't thorough enough and offers a column's worth of a lesson on how to be a good borrower. Lovely but ignorant. Let me 'splain:
When a college student goes to get her student loans, here is what's going on in her mind: "this is debt beyond my comprehension, but without it I HAVE NO FUTURE, so I must therefore jump through whatever hoops they put in front of me in order to give myself a chance at NOT BAGGING GROCERIES AT 45."
ie: this isn't about being a "good loan consumer," this is about masses of young Americans who are being herded into debt against their will, year after year, debt so large and whose laws are so punitive that the agony will probably last them long into their so-called "independent" adult lives.
I remember taking that little online debt-test: I memorized the answers and got them all right, but I don't recall a word of it, and that's not because the lesson wasn't thorough enough: it's because college students taking out educational loans are NOT consumers, they're victims, scammed of their money and cornered into debt. They and their families pay taxes into the coffers of the wealthiest country on the planet Earth, and, unlike every other modern country, they DO NOT GET HIGHER EDUCATION for their money and their merit. Instead they get a choice between wage-slavery and a lifetime of indentured servitude.
Every college student who signs on the dotted line does so because she has NO CHOICE in the matter. Everyone regrets it, but no one feels like she has another option. Yet we've all already paid in plenty of money. That money's just not going to higher eduction (or health care) where it belongs. Instead it's being blown on bullshit like profits for Halliburton, pork-barrels for Alaskan politicians, and endless streams of profit for military contractors, not to mention the leaky drip-drip into the pockets of fatcats that happens every time something gets "privatized" (if you are the taxpayer, their profit is your expense).
The solution to this problem is to forgive existing loans (talk about stimulating the economy!) and to redirect all that wasted dosh going to defense contractors and the like back towards the well-being and future strength of this country: higher education.
Let none of our best and brightest begin life in the chains of debt.