In the years leading up to the late 1980s, it wasn't necessary to go to college to become financially successful. Many people started working in high school and in some cases before. They gained experience and moved up the ladder in their careers. College graduates were the minority. If you did decide on the college route you could typically afford to put yourself through college with a side job, a little help from family, and maybe a small loan.
As our society advanced and jobs became increasingly technical and fast paced, employers started requiring degrees for positions. Unfortunately, as more people started to seek the college track, banks and lending institutions only saw profit and the predatory lending cycle began. Today, it is almost impossible to become successful for the ordinary citizen without a college degree. Except in a few rare cases, decent, good paying jobs, all require a college degree to even be considered for the position. Those that do not are either extremely dangerous or so undesirable a high paying wage is the only way to get people to do it.
So, with our eyes glowing with anticipation of the American Dream and of an exciting and successful future, millions of high school graduates, and others, seek student loans to reach that goal. After all, it is a small risk, and with the possible income it will generate, it is well worth the cost. Or so we have been told.
College tuition has tripled since the 1980s, some statistics show an even higher percentage. Cost of living has also sky rocketed and job income has not been adjusted to meet those needs. The American Dream isn't so much American anymore and should be renamed The Bankers Dream. When college enrollment increased the financial market lobbied for bankruptcy protection to be removed from student loans. They were successful and now private and federal student loans are the only type of debt that is not dischargeable after a bankruptcy. That means after you've successfully emerged from bankruptcy, student loans will still be weighing on your credit and your conscious.
While students continued to enroll in colleges, the positions promised by society after they graduated ceased to exist. Now a responsible college graduate with student debt of $30,000 - $150,000 or more, is fighting for the same typical low wage jobs a high school drop out or graduate has. The anticipation of a bright future quickly dwindles and while these individuals now struggle just to provide the basic necessities for survival, they are being pursued for hundreds to thousands of dollars per month they do not have. Some have literally been arrested and jailed for student loan debt. It sounds unbelievable but it happened to a Texas man in 2012 for a $1,500 student loan.
It is hard to understand how this scenario is fair. Take this for example. Bob did not finish high school. He was young and irresponsible. He did not go to college and works in a factory. He has no debt. Bob used his credit to buy boats, motorcycles, a house, and maxed out credit cards on entertainment expenses. Bob has hit a point where he is unable to continue to make payments on his outstanding debts. He is unable to get a better paying job due to his education. Bob files for bankruptcy, and he no longer owes any debts. 3 days later, Bob is able to start fresh and re obtain his credit and financial freedom.
Tom graduated from high school. He was encouraged to seek further education to allow him the ability to climb the career ladder and begin post education life more successfully. Tom is a standard American whose parents are unable to afford the total costs of tuition for his education. He takes out student loans to pay for his education. During school, Tom lives in a dorm or student apartment with other students, he has no car, no extras, and very little money for entertainment. He graduates from college after 4 years of this lifestyle and is now $80,000 in debt. He is unable to obtain a job using his degree so takes a job at a factory. He has no house, no credit cards, and is living off the same income Bob had. He is unable to obtain credit and is declined for most apartment communities and car loans. Student loan companies begin to garnish his wages so Tom filed for bankruptcy protection to stop it. 3 days later, Tom still owes the student loans and is still unable to progress towards a sustainable life because the interest on the loans is barely covered by the small payments he is able to make per month. Tom is forced to move back in with his parents.
These scenarios are very common today. This problem needs to be corrected for the country and society to improve. Very little has been done to fix this problem because financial institutions still have the upper hand with legislation in congress. Fortunately, there is an organization fighting to re-establish bankruptcy protections for people like Tom. Alan Collinge and the members of StudentLoanJustice.Org have been in Washington D.C. reaching out to congressman and government contacts about the situation. Recently, they have appeared at the Republican National Convention that was held in Cleveland, OH in July, and the Democratic National Convention hosted a week later in Philadelphia, PA.
Decisions need to be made for the good of the people and not the pocketbooks of corporations. It is possible to create prosperity for the people while also creating profit for companies but it will take the collective cooperation of the citizenry, corporations, and governments to make this a reality. By reactivating the bankruptcy protections for student loans, people will be able to return to a standard of living which allows them to achieve success. Once people feel they have achieved a greater level of success, they will invest more in companies, work harder at their careers, and be able to live that dream that we all have and are working for.