On a bike tour in Northern New Mexico, I met a pilot that inspired me to become a commercial pilot. Upon returning to Ohio I began flying at a local airport with the intention of becoming a professional pilot. Knowing I needed a high-paying occupation to pay off my already accumulated student loans, I researched pilots salaries and learned pilots salaries approach $85,000 within 3-4 years after school. Wages for more experience was reported up to $150,000 after gaining 10-15 years. I always thought the loans would be insignificant compared to the initial cost. I was in top physical shape, and possessed an excellent demeanor for the rigors of flying.
I contacted a number of out of state schools, but was sold by recruiters from a community college in Colorado. I moved to Colorado in June 1994 and waited one year to begin my flight training, in order to avoid out of state tuition. I finished most all the ground classes including instrument, flight engineer, and commercial. I passed my FAA CATS instrument rating with a 94%, which is reported as the most difficult for pilots. I was on the dean’s list and had a 3.13 GPA. I received my Private Pilot Certificate
in 1996, and passed my first stage of my instrument training when the college advised me that they could no longer secure financing to continue my training. Since I had no other way to finish my training, I realized I had become the victim of a bait and switch scheme.
I have resorted to living with/imposing on various family members. I have paid $6,270. I currently owe $90,044.81 plus a reported $30,000 in collections fees. I am now 56 years of age and have been robbed of the chance to have any quality of life. I have not been able to get married and have children, and I consider what happened to me to be tantamount to genocide by financiers/ school officials. My estimate of the the wages I have lost over this period would be in excess of $1,000,000. Is the system that corrupt that the public doesn’t recognize that justice needs to be served for the miserable conditions these criminals shamelessly cause?
In an article bemoaning the value of a college education, a Massachusetts attorney commented that when he needed a plumber/tradesman, he can’t call a person with a degree in social work. Given his arrogance, I challenge this Sturbridge attorney, when needing a package overnighted, a vacation flight for his family, or a flight to attend a professional obligation, to consider calling another attorney. What makes this idiot think that his career is worthy of more merit than another occupation? This reminds me of
financiers/political officials that attempt to harbor shame on harder working individuals than themselves. My father warned me when I was a child that there are people in this world that are so crooked, they would need to be screwed into the ground when they die. The federal government had no business getting involved in funding higher education in the first place.
-Wright Way Corrigan-]]>
I went for a year and dropped out. Not really sure why now, but I got a job painting tiles with a small family business. I stayed in that job for almost 8 years. I was happy until I realized it wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t making enough money to pay the student loan, so I deferred. Maybe I paid on it for a year or so.
After a few more dead end jobs I decided to return to school and finish my degree in art. I had found my love, ceramics. Science and art, awesome! I graduated with honors in 1998. But by then manufacturing jobs, especially anything having to do with ceramics, had been shipped to Korea, Vietnam and China. All the businesses in town that made anything with clay was out of business. The only jobs in ceramics were teaching jobs at community art centers, community colleges and universities. I know everyone who has those jobs and they will die in those jobs, they know how lucky they are.
I was, however, able to get a studio tech job in one of those places. Part time with the city. It even had benefits. After a few years I again, felt like it was going no where. I wasn’t making enough money to pay the student loan and was feeling like I needed to do something drastic. I was also finding the summers in Arizona unbearable. Maybe mistake number 2.
So, I moved to Portland, the opposite of Arizona and went to engineering school, the opposite of my bent. That’s the ticket, I thought. Even with a 2 year degree I could find a better paying job than I had in Arizona. I was going to remake myself.
I hated it, I was miserable. I felt like the people in my classes didn’t understand me. They were so linear and didn’t get my jokes and snickered at me because I asked so many questions. As Barbie said, “math is hard”. My grades were fine, a mixed bag of A’s, B’s and C’s. But, I was not able to find enough financial support to get through without getting a job, and I needed all of my spare time to study. I could do math but it didn’t come easy to me.
So, I dropped out and got a job as a courier. My student loans were probably up to $30,000 or more by this time. The courier job wasn’t even paying enough to pay the interest so, I kept deferring and forbearing. Plus, Portland was not a cheap city to live in like Phoenix was. And I stress the WAS.
I moved back to Phoenix where I had friends and connections. I thought I could get a job at the one and only ceramic supply store in town. Hell, I have a degree in ceramics and I had been shopping there for years and knew most of their products. I asked for $12/hr and was offered $10/hr. This was 2004. Phoenix wasn’t so cheap anymore because of the housing bubble plus, there was that nagging student loan. They wouldn’t budge.
I ended up getting a job with a faux finish painter. She paid me well as an independent contractor but the work wasn’t steady. I still was not able to pay anything on the student loan. When the housing bubble burst in 2008 there was not enough work to keep me employed and I was competing with other faux finish painters for work. I again, had to remake myself. I could see that anything in the arts was not viable anymore.
Somehow, I got into organic farming. “Hey, there you go”, I said to myself. People always need to eat and “green” is up and coming. Seemed like a good direction. I got a job with a small organic farm and became farm manager. I did everything except the tractor work and the computer work. EVERYTHING. I wasn’t getting paid much but it was a bare minimum and I was learning how to farm! And I was able to buy my house at a smokin’ deal because of the burst housing bubble. I was happier than I’d ever been. I was being creative and doing good things for the Earth and people. I loved it even though it was hard work out in the heat.
But, I lost that job this past October, 2012 because the owner had mismanaged the money. We knew he was a screw up but since he didn’t interfere with us we figured we could work around him and build the business ourselves. Since then I have worked for 2 other small organic farms, briefly, and I found both of them to be highly exploitive. Terrible work conditions. I was not willing to sacrifice my body and health at this age for very little money.
And still, that nagging student loan looms and grows. Last time I checked it was over $60,000. That was a few years ago. As of yet, I haven’t had the experiences some others have had of garnished wages or anything like that. I try to keep up on deferring and forbearing. That’s how I was able to get this house, is because I have kept up with that. But I worry that I will lose my lovely house or something worse. I can’t imagine losing my house. It has given me a semblance of stability.
My mother is getting old and will need help very soon. I’m still unemployed. I have a weird work history and it’s difficult to find a job here in Arizona that pays a decent wage (right to work for less, you know). Going back to school is not an option. I just got an email from a grocery store where I applied for a cashiers job and they told me I was “unqualified”. Really? I have a fucking degree and lots of work experience. Couldn’t they have said over qualified? If there is a job that is unskilled out there it is cashier. They don’t even have to count back change anymore.
I am talented, smart and skilled and I have somehow fallen through the cracks. Reading others stories, I don’t feel so alone. How is it that so many useful people have become useless and desperate? I see so many short sighted and stupid people doing so much better than me. I don’t understand.
I’ve been laid off for over six months and have not been able to find work anywhere; I literally can’t even get a call back from Wal-Mart or Best Buy. I’ve exhausted my UI benefits and just received a 14 week extension and that’s only if Congress approves the funding by Dec. 31.
I’ve done everything I can to cut expenses. I gave up my new car for a 15 year-old car with more than 200k miles and a lot more problems, reduced my cell phone plan to the cheapest available, moved into a studio apartment that offers week-to-week rent, been rolling my own cigarettes and getting many food from food pantries.
I’m so depressed and Sallie Mae is relentless. They won’t stop calling and, despite what they say, they’re completely unwilling to work with me at all.
My debt is preventing me from so many things I want to do in my life, and my girlfriend of two years won’t marry me because of my student loan debt and I don’t blame her. I’m 27 and I’m worse off now than when I was 17 and that is not hyperbole. At least at 17 I was working and had no debt. The right-wing Oligarchs or Plutocrats (six one, half dozen the other in this country anymore) who keep spouting off about low marriage rates among young people and the high marriage failure rate need to re-examine the leading causes of both these phenomenon: IT’S DEBT!
Next time I hear someone say something cliché like “tighten your belt strap,” “pull on your boots,” or “just get a job,” I’m going to kick their teeth in.
Things just keep compounding, pun definitely intended–if you catch my drift. I can’t cut any more from my budget between rent, gas, and the groceries I need to purchase because they aren’t at the food pantry and I have no money.
So, I’ve lost my job, and instead of flexibility or compassion the vulture capitalists line up at my door trying to get as much out of me is possible before the next one can push through.
I’m at my end. My student loan is crushing. It is literally stripping my life away. I can’t get ahead because of it and it is preventing me from ever achieving any sort of economic security.
At the age of 23, after a series of dream and soul-crushing factory temp jobs, I decided to attend college for music education.
I still have the unshakeable belief that I will be a musician, but decided that it would be good to have a backup career in a field that I love.
I attended university for three years, and was rejected from the school of music there three times (the reason I was given for one rejection was that my hair was too long, but that is an entirely different story). I auditioned and applied at two further schools and was outright rejected from both.
Frustrated, I withdrew from college, finally beginning to realize just how hopeless my situation was becoming. My original $10k in student loan debt has skyrocketed. The only jobs available to someone in my situation around here are through temp agencies, who 1) run credit checks for their “better” jobs, and 2) hold you to impossibly strict attendance and performance regulations (O once worked 14 hour days for 8 days straight; I was fired on the ninth day for being 15 minutes late to work in 16 inches of snow).
Now, I receive monthly notices and multiple-times-daily, seven-day-a-week phone calls from no fewer than five collection agencies (two of which claim to be authorized to collect the same debt).
I refuse to answer the phone, I throw away the notices unopened. They can sue me if they like, I have nothing left to give.
I’m 30 years old, single, and live with my mother. I have no life and no future, and it’s all because I was too stupid to realize just what I was getting myself into. All I can do now is try to help expose our current education-financial system for what it is: a predatory method of enslavement that replaces shackles and chains with dollar signs.
I believe lenders love it when people begin to fall behind or can’t pay because they can just continue to pile on interest knowing the borrower can’t pay it, and they will basically have the borrower in debt for years and years. What a system! No, it’s not financial aid; it’s a dangerous loan/gamble that can be very very costly and destructive.]]>
In 2003, I moved from Indianapolis to New York to begin a master’s program in cinema and media, graduating in 2005. A week after I graduated, I had to call an ambulance, because I couldn’t get out of bed other than to roll out and crawl to where my phone was charging. I was diagnosed with scoliosis, multiple herniated discs, and sciatica in both legs. I had been suffering form chronic foot pain (finally diagnosed as plantar fasciitis in 2011), already affecting the sort of work I could do, since the mid-1990s. In 2009, I was 29 years old, and my regular doctor said that the only way I could have gotten through high school without the scoliosis diagnosis was through the incompetence of others.
At that point, I had to go on welfare, which is a slave labor scam, in which they force you to work or attend programs for 40 hours per week, paying you $36.50 for each of those weeks, paid in biweekly installments of $73.
By January 2007, I was working again. My total student debt burden was $58,000 after consolidation, but my job paid $8.50 an hour, and lasted only 13 months. During that time, my father passed away, and left me $37,000, but given the nature of my training and my lack of a vehicle, I chose to remain in New York City. I eventually found a $30/hour teaching job in 2009, but it was 2.5 hours per week. I was not retained after completing the terms of the contract because they were dissatisfied with the results after throwing me into a classroom with a textbook and a confusing syllabus that I kept questioning them about for weeks and weeks, then when the class was nearly over, they told me what I should have been doing, which they had never previously bothered to tell me no matter how much I asked, insisting that my education meant that I knew the material, even though I never knew what the material they wanted taught was, and teaching from the textbook chapter by chapter was g
oing faster than they intended, and I was too inexperienced to determine wht my students’ difficulties were.
From there, I was out of work until I work from home job that I landed in September of 2010, but was let go after three months because I had a slow computer, and with an $8 an hour salary, could not possibly afford to replace. From there, I got tutoring work for $15 an hour, but never got more than 12 hours per week (and usually less, due to frequent cancellations), no matter how much I asked for more work.
By this point, my savings were gone, and I was about to get evicted. A friend hired me at $12 an hour, 30 hours per week, or $18,400 per year, but when she realized that I needed marketing training to do what she wanted from me, she let me go. The job allowed me to get a one-shot deal to keep me in my apartment, but now again without a job, I was headed straight back to housing court.
Almost immediately, I was hired by a graduate school colleague, who had me working from home, but refused to pay me unless he got usable results. He then claimed that he had work for me in Jacksonville, Florida. He told me he would give me $18,000 for the first three months, after which he would give me a raise, a relocation bonus, and health insurance, so I moved all belongings into storage and went, completely unable to stand without a cane by the time I finished loading it. The job was nowhere close to what he described, and after 3.5 months, he fired me for taking four hours to return a phone call on a Saturday, stiffing me for the entire previous week. I then contracted strep throat and had to go to the emergency room.
Soon after, I was on my way back to New York, but none of my friends could accommodate me for very long, and I was forced into the shelter system, even though I was granted $126 per week in unemployment benefits, since it’s not enough to live on, and I had penalty weeks, as well.
I learned recently that I have nearly $300 in tax debts due to a miscalculation in 2009, proving Mitt Romney’s 47% claim false, since I have never earned a total yearly income above the poverty line and owe income taxes. I also owe nearly $300 because Shands Hospital rejected my New York state Medicaid; therefore, they are still trying to pursue me. My student loan debt is expected to be $87,000 by the time I pay it off, but it seems like it will never happen when I have to keep getting it deferred. I also owe another $3,000 for my old apartment, since I had a lease, and Verizon and ConEdison are continuing to hound me, even though I contest the latter, charging me for time after I had moved away. The debts really aren’t high enough to justify another bankruptcy, but thy are also impossible to pay until or unless I am able to get a job commensurate with my education. I have applied for approximately 740 jobs between May 5, when I was let got from the job in Jacksonville,
and yesterday, September 24. To date, I have interviewed with six companies, two staffing agencies, and a “business opportunity” to which the tutoring service supposedly recommended me, even though I had no money to pay the startup fees and have never last more than a few weeks in a sales job. The vast majority of the time, I get no response, or a form letter that they have gone with someone who has more experience. Even earning certifications in Adobe products has done nothing but get my foot in the door long enough for an interview with a company that finds my experience lacking. I am being faulted for taking the only work made available to me.
As a result of outsourcing I was laid off as a Software Development Project Manager making a six-figure income. I spent the next three years or so seeking employment in the field I passionately pursued to no avail. Ironically the CEO of the corporation I worked for received a nice 7 digit bonus while Americans were displaced from the work force.
As I fell further and further behind in repayment of the student loans to Sallie Mae, Sallie Mae called incessantly in the morning, afternoon, and evening and then proceeded to call my references to further embarrass me. They then offered forbearance after forbearance after forbearance. Never explaining that interest would continue to accrue on the account.
For some reason I am not eligible to take advantage of current extremely low Federal interest rates of approximately 4.0% but I am forced to adhere to 8.0% rate.
As I stated earlier, the original loan in it’s entirety was approximately $42,000.00. The capitalized interest amount is approximately $78,000.00 for a totally repayment of approximately $120,000.00. By the time the loan is totally paid off I will have paid in excess of $250,000.00 to borrow $42,000.00.
I would also like to address the fact that while Sallie Mae Corporation continues to pillage the American people with their deceptive practices, each and every time I call Customer Service for the organization I am forced to deal with a representative from the “Asian Pacific” who will never clearly identify where they are in the world nor can they be understood. Seems like and interesting formula to me. Fix the interest rate of the Student Loans to a hard 8% and outsource the Customer Service department to a place in the world that is not identified, therefore taking jobs away from Americans and increasing the bottom line for CEO’s to enjoy seven digit income and bonus packages.
I am fearful that this debt will go into default.
The action was organized by Strike Debt, a group of occupiers who are organizing a campaign that specifically targets debt and its impact on the 99%. This was their inaugural action; a symbolic first step to building a union of debtors and mounting an out-right debt refusal movement.
After a meeting about the group’s #S17 plan, we gathered in a half circle a few yards from the water and lay down banners that declared “SILENCE = DEBT” and featured images of the word DEBT alight in a blaze.
People came up and told their debt stories and then using an empty coffee can (in the style of the draft burnings during the Vietnam War), they burned their statements and collections notices. It was a symbolic act, but also strangely powerful. Students told stories of taking out loans in pursuit of a degree and a job, only to find themselves in a dead-end and underwater. A young woman told about having to choose between going to the doctor and being financially stable and taking on thousands of dollars of debt after getting sick. Some had mortgages that were underwater, some burned credit card bills.
The power of this action didn’t come from the burning itself, but from the telling of those stories. Society tells us that debt is shameful and that defaulting on credit is a moral outrage. This unspoken cultural rule is an important part of the mechanisms that keep us all indebted. It was truly inspiring to watch people confront this stigma head-on, and release that cultural shame. It made me wish I had brought a credit bill to burn.
After the stories were told and statements were burned in the coffee can, we walked as a group out to the water’s edge, on a makeshift beach on the western side of the park. We pseudo-ceremoniously dumped the ashes of our debt into the East River, narrowly avoiding a “Big Lebowski” moment when the wind blew some of the ashes back onto the beach. Then we did what occupy does best: we built community.
We continued sharing our stories and contacts with one another and talked about how to create a viable movement against debt. Oh, and we also ate cake.
Here a short video from the event:
I was not so sure I wanted to go to school though. I had (and technically still do have) a lot of issues I needed to sort though. Trying to manage my IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), clinical depression, manic states, anxiety, and any other number of things. School was the last thing on my mind. It didn’t help that I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do. All I knew was I loved my art classes.
So at some point I came to the conclusion I needed to go to art school. My parents were wary, but my art teacher and I assured them that there were ways to make money as an artist. This was before the Great Recession, as the economists call it.
Originally I was going to go to a local college, and just generalize in all sorts of art. Until I found Hallmark. It was, at the time, the number one photography school in the country. It has nothing to do with the cards though, bummer.
But I applied to go to the Hallmark Institute of Photography. What a mouthful. And I listened with rapt ears to everything they told me. That there was no such thing as a degree in photography, so what they could offer (a certificate of completion) was the best I could hope for. That $50,000 for ten months of schooling was worth it because it was like cramming two years into that ten months. That they were state-of-the-art (perhaps the only thing they didn’t lie about), and they would always help their alumni to find work.
Well, being the naive 17 year old I was at the time, I was sold. I signed the papers as soon as my portfolio was approved. That’s right, only 300 people at the time were accepted to attend each year. They were elitists, and I was on cloud nine for having been chosen.
Hallmark killed everything in me. Creativity meant nothing when it came to being a Hallmark Photographer. They were looking for a certain high-city look with the photographs their students produced, and I was not producing. Of course, this wasn’t all the teachers; just the ones that mattered. I am not a city girl. I live in the middle of nowhere out where the buses don’t run, and I prefer it that way
So even though I passed all my classes, and even though I went through hell to make it to the end, it was for nothing. I failed my initial portfolio review in which my artistic sense was torn apart by well-known photographers from outside the school brought in for that very purpose. But not to worry, there was always re-review! Which, I was told, was impossible to fail so long as you completed the list of corrections given to you.
So, I had three days to fix half of my portfolio. I don’t remember those three days at all, as it was murder on the depression, and between that and the meds I killed my memory.
What I do know is regardless of the efforts I put in, I still failed. The day before graduation, with no explanation, I was told I failed and I was to sign the papers saying I quit.
I told the dean of the college through tears that this wasn’t the end, I would be a photographer anyway. He agreed to meet with me a week later to review my portfolio in depth. He would later reveal that I probably should have passed, but he couldn’t reverse the decision.
In two years’ time I would find out that this dean had been cooking the books. All the money spent during my year at Hallmark, he had been swindling away our money to pay for things he wanted and possibly bribing people. He was being sued for two million dollars. As if I weren’t already upset that I couldn’t get a photography job because of the economy, and I could hardly pay the students loan when I DID have a job, now I learned that much of my student loan money had gone to lining the pockets of this man who couldn’t allow me to at least be considered a success and not a failure of the school.
I thought about starting a class-action lawsuit, but in the end I didn’t. I didn’t have the time, nor the energy. After all, I’m over $50,000 in debt, and working to pay it back is all I can do. And in this economy, in my area, that means you do your damnedest not to lose your job.
I was in and out of work from 2008 to 2010, enough so that my parents had to pay my loans for a while. I felt like a failure of a child, because they weren’t exactly swimming in money either. But even when I could get a job, it was usually in retail and all I could manage was the car loan I had. It was a horrible feeling.
I did finally manage to secure a job that allowed me to pay my own bills by myself, but I was later laid off. Thankfully rehired. But regardless of that, I’m still buried in debt. I’ve managed to bring it down by maybe $3,000, but under the 6% interest rates it’s not much. I’ll be paying them off until I’m about to retire at this rate.
I’d like to move out, get my own place. Go back to living on my own, being independent, and stop relying so much on my parents. But the only way I can survive with this debt is by living at home. And as I’ve gotten older (I’m 23 now), I’ve accumulated more and more stuff. And it doesn’t all fit in my one little bedroom very well. It’s a cramped lifestyle. But with this debt I’m fairly stuck.
I’d also like to have my own photo studio. Regardless of what Hallmark told me, I have continued to pursue photography. Even though I have to freelance, I do fairly well for myself. And I always pay my assistants well for their time, because it’s the right thing to do. But photography is a luxury and I don’t have enough of a client base yet for it to sustain its own studio.
Sad to say I’m thinking of going back to school, because these days you can’t get a job without the piece of paper I don’t have. It’d mean more debt, and a longer life sentence to it.
If I didn’t have educational debt, I might have a mortgage. Or a studio, and perhaps I’d be employing a couple other people to help. Or heck, I’d just plain have spending money to put back into the economy to help fix it. But I don’t. I pay over $400 a month to a bank for a loan that hasn’t gotten me very far at all. Over $400 that could be propelling me to a much more promising future.
I am the future of America, and my future says that I will be struggling to survive right up until the end. At this rate, I will pay off my loans just in time to retire and lack a nest egg, and probably lack social security. It’s not a pretty picture.