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This week: Student Lenders "Ruthless," Loan Cover "Outrageous," and Values Upside Down

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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Student Lenders "Ruthless"

I appreciated your article "Killer Loans: Student loan borrowers drown in debt as lenders make billions" in the October 14, 2010 edition of the Advocate.

Being the first person in my immediate family to attend college, I started out my educational career at 27 years of age at a community college, thereafter moving to Massachusetts to attend Mount Holyoke College and finally, law school. At 38 years of age, I am now $150,000 in student loan debt, and, not having yet passed the bar exam, I am finding it impossible to pay back my student loans.

The government loan [managers] have been good about approving loan deferments for me, but the private student loan companies are ruthless. They have strung me along, leading me to believe that I would be approved for a deferral, only to finally find that I was put in default and being negatively reported to the credit bureaus. After years of having perfect credit, I now find myself with damaged credit. Fearing the loan company would try to take my home away, I am forced to make monthly payments that my unemployment check barely covers, and with the continuing poor economy, I have been unsuccessful at securing employment that will cover the cost of my student loan payments.

It astonishes me that those of us who took out student loans as a means to better ourselves and our families' lives are penalized and forced to live in poverty just in order to pay back student loans. There must be a program put in place to help the millions of people in this situation.

Thank you so much for publishing this article, and for bringing this topic to the forefront of local news. Thank you also for listing [Alan] Collinge's book [The Student Loan Scam] and the various student loan justice websites that are available. I look forward to contacting as many people as I can about this topic and working hard to bring justice to the many students and graduates who find themselves in similar situations to myself.

Jessica A. Levy
South Hadley

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Without bankruptcy rights, or any other borrower rights, the lenders have no reason to negotiate with borrowers. My loan has grown from $8,500 to $30,000 over the past 22 years. I have paid back close to $9,000, but due to divorce, underemployment, unemployment, etc., I have been forced to place my loan into forbearance on several occasions. The lenders love interest capitalization and offer no other options to borrowers who cannot afford to pay. If we had bankruptcy rights, lenders would be more likely to strike a deal (reduced interest, reduced principal) instead of forcing us deeper into debt and closer to bankruptcy.

To make matters worse, many of us should qualify for teacher loan forgiveness, but do not because we didn't graduate during the special "window" of time. In my opinion this is age discrimination against older teachers who are doing the same exact job (with more experience) as younger teachers but are denied loan forgiveness because they graduated prior to 1998.

There should also be a cap on the amount a lender can add on to the principal of a student loan. Without controls in place, the lender is free to take advantage of borrowers who fall behind by increasing their debt and payment amounts with no limits. This situation makes it impossible for borrowers to regain control of their debt. Unless we have bankruptcy rights, we have nothing to hold over the lenders to force a more reasonable outcome.

Mona McCormack
via Online Comments

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Loan Cover Outrageous

I just hope I'm not the only one that writes you to state the obvious: that the cover of this week's paper is simply outrageous. It seems that your incessant need to shock and sensationalize in the name of an otherwise "important issue" outweighs any possibility of sensitivity, in this case to the very real possibilities (and facts) of suicides from burdensome debt. There are other ways to depict crushing debt. Or are we to assume you're now also pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable in depictions of death in mass media?

Andy Voda
Brattleboro

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I cannot begin to fathom how it totally escaped you that a simulated hanging [of a] young student would not be the most timely cover for your newest issue of the Advocate. Have you completely missed the recent series of suicides among young gay or perceived gay students? It's nothing new; suicide is disproportionately high among LGBT teens. I just don't understand how not a one of the people working for you took two minutes to think that there are a lot of people hurting because of the deaths of those young people, and this cover is playing with imagery that invokes those same feelings. Of all the possible images you could have used, this just seems totally wrong. I am not exactly the alarmist type, and I was shocked.

Elizabeth Ankje Byl
via email

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Values Upside Down

I for one am so tired of hearing the poor and middle class in this country scapegoated by the uber-wealthy, cutthroat, snakes in suits, corporate leeches who are destroying the country and planet due to their greed and lust for power. It is not the poor and middle class who control policy, media, politicians, transportation, resources, energy, the military and commerce. Through their stranglehold on all these resources, the super-rich and their puppets have managed to twist reality. The poor have little or no way to effect any real changes, while those who do mask their deeds in lies, misperceptions and smokescreens.

The wealthy religious fanatics who do the bidding for these snakes show unbridled hypocrisy. If they were true Christians, they would not rest until every child had enough to eat, until all people had access to health care, till every person had a decent place to live. Did not Jesus say, "As you do unto the least you do unto Me"? To throw off the shackles of the past, we must create a new paradigm and recognize the worth of every being, not just the wealthy and religiously intolerant.

While we're on the subject, why are all these snakes donating their money to the elephants?

Amanda Plaise
Greenfield

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We are in a crucial time. Our technology has exceeded our understanding, our governing institutions do not display wisdom, our social mores lack common sense and thus we teeter on the edge.

We are told that love between different races or the same gender is immoral, but that war, bigotry and fear-mongering are okay. Caring for others is not Christian, not democratic. Making sure we all have our minimal needs taken care of is bad, while giving to those of great wealth is good. Building sustainable energy systems that are renewable and pose no danger to life is impractical and wrong. The dangerous, polluting and centralized systems that we know will destroy life, and will run out, are necessary. War is good; love is bad.

To those who think that that might be true but that Republicans are pro-life, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, pro-family and pro-whatever wedge issue is popular, I'd like to point out one thing: in all the years they were in power, they did nothing about these issues. They just used them to get elected, and still do. That is why we have arguments about building mosques in New York City when we could be having discussions about rebuilding our economy—a discussion they don't want to have because they are the party of No. No new ideas, no facts, no substance and no concern for the welfare of the common people of this country.

Jaffrey Harp
Greenfield

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