The Poverty Trap of Federal Student Loans – “Sciencegranny’s personal experience.”

Almost 60, working as a professor at a local 2Y Community College:

Slide6First Contact and Hope?  While driving to work at the two-year community college where I teach, I received a phone call from a very sweet sounding young lady who said she worked with a company which was designed to help people find forgiveness for their student loans. I had inquired online during the summer and my phone number was passed on by the Department of Education, or at least some group which coordinated with them. At any rate, the young woman said that she had been reviewing my student loan situation and felt I would qualify for loan forgiveness because I have been teaching at a community college (a public service apparently) for over 10 years.  Hmmm….this might be a good thing I thought to myself. Right now, my net pay is well below what is needed for me to make my student loan payments (current program), my rent, my car payment, my car insurance, my phone, my gas, the IRS and my retirement loan payments.  Surely this was a break I needed, right?

Research and Reality:  NO! It would appear that my pay from two jobs, one of which is a ministry and adds very little to my gross take home pay, is too high for me to qualify for an affordable solution.   My gross take home pay had to be below $36,000/year to qualify for the 10 year, 230 dollar/month payment program.  Because I worked for a community college, I could still qualify for the 10 year forgiveness program, but my gross pay would make my monthly payment turn out to be over $500 per month for the next 10 years, with forgiveness of about six month’s worth of payments thereafter.  Are you kidding me? I can’t afford the 400 dollar a month payment that I have already!! To add insult to injury, the program that the sweet young woman worked with wanted me to pay them $800.00 to enroll with them through the Dept. of Education and get the same plan that I currently have with the current lender. Agh..

So, I contacted the current “lender” who currently owns my loan (that’s the other thing they don’t tell you. Your loan will be bought and sold to the greediest bidder over and over again.) They have me on a graduated plan, where I will have to pay more and more the older I get. By the time I reach retirement age, I will be unable to afford to pay on the loan at all. This I am told will result in my having my social security checks garnished and leaving me with nothing to live on. So…If I live to see retirement age, because I can’t afford to see a doctor or a dentist (co-pays are too high), I will still not be able to retire, ever.  Folks like T. Boone Pickens are an inspiration to me because they work and are productive well into their 80’s and 90’s. I pray I have the stamina, because I will never be able to retire.

Broken Promises and the Poverty Trap of Higher Education:  I spent so many years sacrificing, living in horrible poverty raising my children, so I could eventually be able to provide a better life for my family and for myself. When I got the loans, I was married, an undergraduate, and was going to be able to work to pay off my loans with my husband, whose name was not on the loans. As fate would have it, we divorced and I was left holding the loans and most of the responsibility for raising and providing for our children. He had some loans, but he re-married into a situation which gave him the opportunity to pay off his loan and not have to bear the brunt of the cost of raising his children.

So, now, Sciencegranny is left with the debt and no way to escape the inevitable poverty that I had always worked so hard to escape in the first place. The good thing that has come from my working so hard for an education is that I am able to teach and to minister to others who are in similar situations. I do not regret my degrees and the knowledge that I have gained and continue to pass on to my students. What I do regret however is the poverty imposed on my poor children in the process.

Hindsight is 20/20:  My advice to anyone trying to go to college…

1) Don’t get a loan. Find scholarships and other means to provide for yourself. Go part time indefinitely if you have to, but do not fall into the student loan trap.
2) Don’t get married. Don’t date. Focus on your education and your career goals first and then open yourself up to dating.
3) If you are a married couple in college, DON’T have babies until you are both finished.
4) If your spouse is asking you to take out loans for the family so they don’t have to, just remember the jerks may not be around later to help you pay it off.
5) You only have one life.  If you live in poverty and are looking to education to escape, seek grants and scholarships for education and don’t be afraid to go to school in a piecemeal fashion.  It took me over 20 years to achieve a Bachelor’s Degree.

Lastly, a college education is worthwhile, especially if you are in a career track which requires the knowledge base for advancement and success. If not, a training certificate and work experience will get you much further in the long run. You will be working instead of acquiring debt and after a number of years, your work experience is more important sometimes than the education. This is particularly true if you got a 2Y Associates or a 4Y Bachelor’s degree.

College isn’t worth as much as it used to be in the job market. It can ruin your credit and ruin your life if it is not needed for your life work goals. I don’t regret my education or the current job I have. I get to really make a difference in other people’s lives, BUT, I just wish there was a fair pay for all of my degrees and a process which would help me to afford to pay back my loans in a way that allowed for paying my other bills.

BEWARE the Student Loan Poverty Trap!!! It isn’t worth it!

Just sciencegranny’s advice for what it is worth. 🙂

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