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college loan forgiveness

I'm wondering - am I the only one beyond irritated by the whinging over unrepayable student loans?

Granted, I'm feeling pretty grouchy tonight for some reason, and so maybe this is a non-issue. Or an issue but one I wouldn't bother blogging about usually. And maybe it's an issue for me because I live and work in academia, but isn't really significant to most other people. But in the last few weeks I've seen Obama touting his student loan reforms; several blog posts and news articles; and of course all the signs at Zuccotti Park. (I approve of their cause of bringing more attention to the staggering inequality in this country, and so have been baking brownies and taking them down to their care-teams about twice a week.)

It's not just irritation at the over-exposure, though. I find myself genuinely angry at the people who complain about the $115k they've racked up in loans to get their BFA from Sarah Lawrence (or my own school; one of our students was among the profiled in a recent Times article), who now want those loans forgiven. I think a lot of it is jealousy, because there was a time that I wanted to go to a private school (a few had caught my eye) but I was living in NC which had a great public university system. So I became one of the numbered throng. I got a great education with very little debt, and I don't regret the decision. But I wonder whether my outlook would be different, whether it would feel like I really belong at Fordham, and whether I would have the undergraduate liberal arts background that I think would make me fit like I fit in more, if I'd gone to Duke or its like. I decided not to, largely because I crunched the numbers and realized I didn't want a college education that I felt like I was mortgaged up to my eyes to afford - but I think on some level I still am jealous of those people who took the plunge, and are now asking for a do-over.

This is particularly frustrating given the state of public university funding - I want to scream that you don't need to forgive extravagant amounts of loans, you need to give that money to public schools. My impulse is that a college student should be able to figure out their loan burdens, and I find myself alternately rolling my eyes or seeing red (and not of the balance-sheet variety) over it. But I don't like that. It reminds me how Americans have been much more resistant to Main Street bailouts over Wall Street bailouts and has me thinking: jealousy of people who are at least roughly on my level but slightly better off in some ways is a stronger hatred than whatever I feel toward Wall Street tycoons. That might explain a lot about the American psychology. Or at least about mine.

Incidentally, in case it's not clear: I'm not proud of this reaction. In fact, I'm pretty embarrased by it. But it's the truth of how I feel, and so I thought I'd try to lay it out.

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P.S. - I've noticed less comments lately, and I'd be interested to know why. I'm not sure whether things have gotten too complicated since I moved from LJ to here (too hard to comment, technically), or if it's that half the time I don't find the energy to comment back or comment on other peoples' blogs so I've broken their trust or if the topics just aren't interesting. I'm not trying to criticize anyone, honestly! But I would like to know if there's a specific situation I can help with.

I have actually thought about migrating back to LJ. But I get spam there regularly. Having someone graffiti up my living room (which is what it feels like) is insulting and frustrating, and getting a paid subscription with a company that would allow this much spam brings on a major case of DO. NOT. WANT. But I also feel like I've made things difficult for everyone else, and so I'm not really sure what to do. :-S *hugs to all*

This entry was originally posted at http://fidesquaerens.dreamwidth.org/15503.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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labourslamp
Oct. 27th, 2011 05:16 am (UTC)
Here is where I identify with the "student loans" people, especially the ones in the current generation of recent grads--and I fit enough into this generation that I'm going to use the first person:

We received our early education in the '90's, the height of the "healthy self-esteem" movement, when educators and parents were starting to experiment--on actual children, mind--with the idea of no more winners or losers, regardless of whether reality actually reflected this idea. Add to that the pop culture fluffy messages that even adults, but especially children, become saturated with, in Hollywood and books: "Trust your feelings. Follow your dreams. There is always hope. Do what your heart tells you. Believe in yourself."

As we got older, that translated to, "You should go to college because that is a place that you can find yourself and once you graduate you will get a good-paying job."

In essence, so many of us sold our birthright as human beings--hard work, perseverance, self-denial for greater goals, responsibility--for pottage.

I was lucky, because through a combination of parenting, church, having a crappy social life, and Tolkien, I was taught a much stabler message, one that led me to be more prepared to deal with current hardships without flipping my lid: "Don't trust your feelings, because they're unreliable. Follow your dreams, but make sure they're realistic, and be prepared to sacrifice to get them. When you have no hope, then you must do without hope. Do what your head tells you, and then, only after consulting a number of people who are wiser than you. Believe in God; He's much more reliable than you are. Life isn't fair. You don't deserve this, but God loves you anyway so He's giving it to you."

I was lucky, but I feel for those who weren't, especially because it's getting to the point where you need a degree to get employed, and often multiple degrees depending on if you're trying to get into a certain field, and simply put, there's no way that everyone is going to be able to get a cheap education anymore.

At the same time, forgiveness of all student loans strikes me as deeply unfair, because for all of what I said above, each student knew what he or she was getting into on some level. And it strikes me as deeply ironic that people who are protesting in part a huge bailout (and no, I do not think anything in this country should be "too big to fail") are asking for bailouts for themselves. It dishonors the choices that they made, and it dishonors the choices of those of us who have given up a lot more so that we could avoid that situation. If all student loans were forgiven, and if I had known that would happen when I was selecting a college, that would have changed my choices in college and collegiate lifestyle drastically.

I'm not jealous of these students. I'm bitter and vindictive towards them, because my debt-status is one of the few things I can be proud of. And I realize that's a big problem on my end, because my debt-status is due much more to the grace of God than it is to anything I've done.

At the very least, my reaction might explain why a number of people on the right can't even listen to the people in the Occupy crowd. And that is heartbreaking, because so many of their concerns are legitimate and worth engaging in dialogue over.

(Incidentally, I don't know how common this is, but I do have a friend whose loan company went under due to the President's student loan reforms. The company that picked the loan up is charging him higher interest.)

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