Elderly Americans Burdened by Student Debt Too

The Wall Street Journal has an important story on a phenomenon that’s likely to get more attention by virtue of growth: that of middle aged and elderly Americans saddled by significant amounts of student debt. Past reporting has focused mainly on the older Americans who have loans outstanding by virtue of borrowing to fund education as part of a mid-life career change, and then being unable to meet the payments as a result of finding it difficult to get established on the targeted employment path. But the culprit overwhelmingly appears to be parents co-signing on private student loans, since federal loans generally don’t require a guarantor (note that, as with mortgages, there is no granular data here).

The indicator is the rapid increase in student debt owed by older Americans. According to the New York Fed, 2.2 million Americans over 60 owe $43 billion in student debt as of March 31, 2012, up from $15 billion at the end of 2007. Similarly, student debt as a percentage of all installment debt of those 65 to 74 as of year end 2007 was so small that the Fed didn’t report it; as of 2010 (the latest information available) it had risen to 13%. And remember, because student debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, Social Security payments can be garnished. Per the Treasury’s Financial Management Service, only 6 people had their Social Security payments garnished to pay student loans. For January to August of this year, it was 115,000 people and that level was nearly double the number last year.

The Journal presents several anecdotes, and the subtext is that the inability of young borrowers to meet their loan payments is producing generational warfare right at home. The first is of Cyndee Marcoux, 53, who already had $80,000 of student debt by virtue of going to school after a divorce. She co-signed both of her children’s loans. Her daughter, though employed, has developed an autoimmune disease and is swamped by medical bills and child care costs. Notice this:

The younger Ms. Marcoux feels she is taking a calculated risk, because her husband owns their home and she has little savings. “If they sue us, they can’t get anything,” she says. But her mother sees things differently; she even moved in with her 83-year-old mother to pare expenses and make payments on Jocelyn’s loans. “I have to,” she says. “I co-signed them.”

Another example of intergenerational debt:

Pam Gerke, a 49-year-old divorced fourth-grade teacher in Davison, Mich., owes $98,000 on her own student loans—too much, she says, for her to co-sign her daughter’s loans for beauty school. So Ms. Gerke’s mother, Darlene Kuhn, did so instead.

After the daughter dropped out and quit making the $200-a-month payments on her debt in 2010, the 72-year-old Ms. Kuhn took over. She says she fears her credit rating will fall, so she draws from the $1,400 a month she collects in Social Security—her only income since retiring. “I tried to do a good deed,” she says. Indeed, both Ms. Kuhn and Ms. Gerke say they are bitter about the whole experience. (The daughter declined to return phone messages.) “My mother would rather not eat than not pay her bills,” Ms. Gerke says. “I’m mortified as a mother and a daughter.”

Another example is more in the “shit happens” category. A retired Fedex employee guaranteed $50,000 of his daughter’s loans. She had gotten an associate dental degree, and evidently planned to get further training, but her mother had surgery and the daughter stopped her studies to take care of her. Even though the career/income interruption was to help her parents, her father sounds angry and resentful that she has stopped making payments (one has the sense she could be doing more but these stories are all sketches).

The Journal also includes stories of children who are paying off loans as fast as they can out of concern for the risk to their parents of having co-signed. And it has this grim warning:

Financial experts say given a whole set of affairs today—the rate school student debt is growing, the state of the economy, and the fact many parents are approaching retirement—the co-signing dilemma is only likely to escalate.

They also worry about a “cascading effect” on the next generation of parents, because one-third of college graduates in the past year are expected to be eligible for a 20-year repayment term.

America has created an indentured class in a remarkably short period of time. Having debt extend across generations institutionalizes the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

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  1. Middle Seaman

    What Lambert called legacy parties work for the loan providers. But the Greens and the Libertarians are even more legacy than that. Libertarians espouse 18th century ideas with freedom thrown in on the margin. The Greens are copies of post Stalinist European lefties with environmental roots. Our salvation will come from the likes of OWS.

    The establishment knew only too well that OWS is a grave danger to it and attacked it with utmost violence. We should try again. This time we know the weapons involved.

    1. BobW

      All for OWS, but camping in the streets will do no good. It’s not going to work for student loan debt, but OWS has a bankruptcy guide on-line (I think NC has a link to it). That is the kind of thing that will make a difference. Hit them in the bank account.

    2. Aquifer

      Hmmm – “post-Stalinist European lefties” – cute, sticking the word “Stalinist” in there guaranteed to provoke a visceral reaction, no?

      So, precisely, now, aside from the jingoism, what is your problem with the Greens?

    3. Ray Duray

      Middle Seaman,

      Re: “The establishment knew only too well that OWS is a grave danger to it and attacked it with utmost violence.”

      You seem to be on some sort of hyperbole high today.

      Stalinist Greens”? LOL! Too silly. Greens are sitting in the European Parliament as stymied minority bit players.

      And “utmost violence” generally involves selective and/or mass murder at a minimum. The closest we’ve come with OWS was one case of a rubber bullet attack in Oakland resulting in temporary hospitalization for a vet who was quite literally left speechless for couple of weeks. He’s OK now.

      The police have walked a fine line with OWS and the other Occupy gatherings. Oh, sure, there’s been plenty of unjustifiable violence and wanton abuse (especially near Chinatowns) on the part of the police. But they’ve drawn that fine line where they are doing a great job at intimidating fence-sitting do-gooders from attending rallies and furthermore using midnight raids to break up any significant leadership evolving in the movement. But this is no Grant Park ’68 moment. Nor is it the sort of midnight raids the police carried out on the leadership of the Black Panther Party ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Panther_Party ) with attendant murders of the likes of Fred Hampton among others.

      You really need to keep things in perspective, methinks. :)

      1. nobody

        “[L]et’s refresh our memories about what really happened… Highly-militarized, federally-coordinated police used such brutal violence to break up the Occupy protests…that the Egyptian military used the crack down on Occupy as justification for the murder of protesters in Tahir Square, Egypt.”


        “Speak with most Americans today and you will be amazed that they don’t realize…how much police violence was inflicted… The bottom line is that the powers-that-be used a combination of brutal violence and disinformation “


      2. DiamondJammies

        In fairness, he/she said “post-Stalinist,” i.e. not Stalinist.

        In any case I don’t think it is a very meaningful description. A better description of the Greens — and I’m not trying to insult anybody here — is petty bourgeois. The Greens are a petty bourgeois party. By that I mean that their platform and ideologial orientation is towards a relatively well off section of disaffected middle class liberals.

        Counterpunch has an article up Stephen Lendman. In it he goes through a long list of positions the Greens support. And most of it sounds really good. There are a couple of problems though.

        First of all, they say nothing about capitalism. The dire situation we’re in is given no real explanation. Implied throughout the piece is that capitalism is just fine if only we can put in some regulations and institute a more progressive income tax. But this totally skirts the crisis prone nature of capitalism. Deregulation is a symptom not a root cause. Deregulation was a response to the profitability crisis of the late 60s to mid 70s period. As was the concomitant phenomenon of financialization through the institution of the Dollar-Wall Street regime (see Peter Gowan’s The Global Gamble.)

        As readers of this blog surely know through the work of Minsky (folks would also be well-advised to look at Marx too, whose work Minsky was probably very familiar with even if, for career purposes, like Keynes, he was hesitant to acknowledge the old man), capitalism is a deeply unstable system. This instability stems fundamentally from the fact that production shackled by the need to realize a profit (the utter absurdity of millions of people out of work while at the same time having massive productive capacity lying fallow!)

        Nowhere is any of this acknowledged by the Greens. Some people describe them as a social democratic party, but the old social democratic parties did have a fairly deep understanding of capitalism and as a result were explicitly anti-capitalist. Now, of course they held on to the revisionist illustion that capitalism could be done away with through bourgeois parliamentarism, but at least they understood the root of the problem.

        What the greens do share with the old social democrats though is this naive belief in bourgeois parliamentarism, i.e. the belief that the radical reforms that they propose can be implemented through winning power in the official political system. And I guess the model here is the Scandenavian countries. But an examination of the Scandenavian countries will show that the social gains that they’ve made were possible mostly through the post-War worldwide capitalist boom and these gains are have been subject to roll back since neoliberalism worldwide triumph in the 80s. Social democracy is, in the end, impossible, at least in the long haul, because capitalism is a totalizing sytsem (non-autarkic), because without the working class firmly in charge the primacy of the profit motive will reproduce capitalist social relations of domination and subordination, and because the vagaries of profitabilty negatively overdetermine the solidity of social gains. In the U.S. we have the further problem that political system itself is totally rigged by the two parties. All of this I think is pretty indicative that the path of bourgeois parliamentarism as a strategy for winning and holding onto power is a dead end. Which is not to say that there aren’t circumstances under which we can engage this electoral system tactically. We can. But as a strategic orientation it’s purely utopian.

        And look, I say all this not to disparage people in the Green Party or people who want to vote Green. There are plenty of good, idealistic people involved who really do have the right values and really do love humanity. I consider these folks strong allies in the struggle. The problem is that a petty bourgeois party oriented towards bourgeois parliamentarism cannot achieve the far-reaching reforms that we need.

        We need a revolutionary workers’ party.

        1. Aquifer

          Ah yes, damned with faint praise – how sweet, how nice to be patted on the head and dismissed as irrelevant, but a bit of sour grapes, perhaps? …

          So what would your worker’s party platform look like? Or is a “platform” part of the “system” that needs to be tossed? Oh, and could you please define “worker”, so we know who can join your party and who must be excluded?

          The problem with any rigid ideology – whether capitalist or anti-capitalist is precisely that – its rigidity …

          If we started with the basics – asked what is an economy for, and dismissed nothing out of hand before we measured its usefulness as a tool within a particular context we could “recycle” “reuse” and “re-purpose” lots of stuff – that’s the way MN works. I don’t toss anything until i strip it of any parts I can make use of …

        2. digi_owl

          Why is it that the production > wages > products > production cycle has to be maintained uber alles?

        3. JTFaraday

          In calling putatively representative governments, “bourgeois parliamentarianism,” I think you’re making an accurate historical description of the nature of such governments in modernity. And I think you’re also probably accurate in your assessment of the Green Party.

          But representative governments don’t have to represent first and foremost the interests of the few bourgeois–let alone solely the interests of the bourgeois, as is the case today.

          So technically, those who would work within representative systems in hopes of changing them are not tilting at the windmills of a humanly impossible dream, however much it may seem that way.

          It is true that it is excruciatingly challenging to overwhelm the power of the privileged few– and those who align with them– in a constant battle of wits, which is what such a system requires. Not to mention the challenges of working against almost universally captured institutions, as we have today. So, I agree the odds are not good.

          But realistically, even if we agree that representative governments in modernity are governments that have made their accommodations with capitalism and capitalists, it is also the case that any changing political economy will always face the challenge of inhibiting the power of the few, who put at risk the interests of the many, because supremacist thinking can potentially structure any political economy.

          It seems to me that, if anything, this is even easier to accomplish in a political system that is not representative, even in theory, than in one that at least professes the faith and in which people attempt to make it a reality. One in which us lesser humans attempt to make it a reality.

          As far as your point about the development of Scandinavian governments within a better capitalist economy, well, it seems clear to me that in attacking the welfare state, today’s putative capitalists are undermining the state protection of the population that would have permitted them to maintain the illusion that all goes on as it did before.

          In this sense, your take on the Greens as next-gen enablers of capitalism also seems accurate to me. When I say Hillary Clinton=Elizabeth Warren=Jill Stein, I’m not kidding.

          But if their current platform were successful, it would potentially be a smaller “capitalism” than the totalitarian power grab “the capitalists” decided to engage in instead, in which they privatize and extract rent from as many welfare state functions as they possibly can– as we see in the case of Obamacare, for example.

          Could a putatively “socialist” government then come along and nationalize the entire insurance industry and create the biggest, most inefficient, most redundantly redundant Big Government Program ever? Well, maybe. The so-called banking industry did a pretty good job setting itself up.

          Maybe I just have limited vision, but I don’t see an immediate path out of our history of capitalist accommodation that doesn’t lead in an even more plutocratic direction.

          So, it just doesn’t make sense to me to say, “oh, okay, if they want the entire government just let them have it.” I think that’s the way they have it now. Unless the military decides to revolt, that’s the way it’s going to stay.

          That doesn’t mean the electoral option needs to exhaust the potential for political activity. And we certainly needn’t agree to the legacy framework for electoral politics either.

    4. citalopram

      Libertarians espouse a roll back in civil and criminal law for citizens mixed with an economy running on no-rules capitalism.

  2. Richard Kline

    If spoken to the student loan scam in the past. There is virtually no reason for these funds to be loans as opposed to grants from the standpoint of funding education. They are, however, a greatly profit intermediation of rent extraction fromt he populace, enforced legally by the state no less. And they have become an negative instrument of social control—which will become their principal institutional purpose going forward I would argue.

    I can’t say what the endgame will be, but I would propose an hypothesis: pursuit of advanced education will significantly decline in the following generation. —But wait: that’s a _feature_ not a bug from the standpoint of the oligarchy. A more ignorant, less engaged society as a whole, with the shrinking educated middle an intelligentsia in debt slavery. I could scarcely think of a more desirable outcome from the oligarchy’s standpoint. Just think of it: the shrinking sector of public K-12 students lured in their 16- and 17-year seasons by the giveawy of free personal electronic gizmos to sign up debt articles for the next cycle of educational socialization.

    Folks, this is what our society will be if we don’t do something about it. I mentioned in passing in another comment time back the Dumbing of Hisania. And what we’re looking at in the downbound cycle just scenarized is the Dumbing of USOnia. Don’t know much about calculus nor need no litrachur, got Jeezus on mah side . . . . *Sheesh*

    1. Ms G

      ” … with the shrinking educated middle an intelligentsia in debt slavery …” or, alternatively, signing up to be Oligarchy Mouthpieces (Stenographers) in exchange for debt-free meal tickets (e.g., Sorkin, Davidson, Kevin Baker, Malcolm Gladwell, Et Tu Taibbi, that screeching Koch-funded woman McArdle, Simon Johnson, Roger Lowenstein, etc. etc., fill-in-the-way-too-numerous-blanks . . . )

    2. Eric Patton

      pursuit of advanced education will significantly decline in the following generation. —But wait: that’s a _feature_ not a bug from the standpoint of the oligarchy.


      1. Eric Titus

        pursuit of advanced education will significantly decline in the following generation. —But wait: that’s a _feature_ not a bug from the standpoint of the oligarchy.

        The thing is, getting a college education is still generally beneficial to the “average” graduate. My guess is that we’ll have as many graduates, but their high debt levels will have widespread negative consequences.

        The other shift is that college will be even more class-based than it is now. Part of this problem, though, is the devastation of our K-12 education by spending cuts and overall neglect. It’s hard to have an equitable college system when pre-college education is so unequal.

        1. A Real Black Person

          pursuit of advanced education will significantly decline in the following generation. —But wait: that’s a _feature_ not a bug from the standpoint of the oligarchy.

          “The thing is, getting a college education is still generally beneficial to the “average” graduate. My guess is that we’ll have as many graduates, but their high debt levels will have widespread negative consequences.”
          The “average” is completely distorted by people who graduate from elite schools and selective programs. If you think we’ll have as many graduates in the future, if the negative consequences of high debt are widespread, and I assume, known about, you must think people are very stupid.

    3. bmeisen

      Thanks Yves and RK. Petrified, oppressive social structures producing debt bondage and strangling talent, almost sounds like 1774, only where’s the resistance? Today’s indentured debtors would benefit from a march on Washington.

      Since 1774 the relations have been inverted. In “socialist” western Europe accessibility to higher education is broadly treated as a public responsibility. Tuition is a pittance compared to what suckers in the USA pay. Even conservative Bavaria charges no more than 500 Euros per semester for students at their remarkable public universities. The TU München and the Maximillian Uni are gigantic, humming, well-funded powerful institutions of higher education (sorry – no football or basketball coaches earning millions) and their students pay pennies to study there. And now the ruling CSU is even considering eliminating tuition alltogether:


      Check out the interactive map on this page for details on how much students at public universities across Germany are paying.

      What is happening in the US is a failure of democracy and a death-knell for the culture.

    4. jake chase

      Everyone thinks, get an education so you can get a good job, but a real education disqualifies a person for any job he could possibly get, and makes him dissatisfied with any job he does get, because just about all the jobs for college educated people are demeaning, sociopathic, pusilanimous, ass kissing servitudes, and the very worst ones are in the giant companies that constantly crow about being marvelous engines of job creation and progress, while what those companies actually do is eliminate what little remains of quality in the production process or even in life itself. If I were a young man today I would learn a building trade and let the colleges starve.

      1. Aquifer

        Well, Jake, those in the building trades aren’t doin’ too well these days … and how many plumbers does it take to unclog a toilet (thought I suppose that depends on where the toilet is …)

        1. casino implosion

          I wouldn’t advise a young person to learn house carpentry.

          Steamfitters, heavy equipment operators, pipe welders, boilermakers…those folks have all the work they can stand and more, if they want it and are willing to travel a little bit or settle in the right area.

    5. A Real Black Person

      Grants wouldn’t solve the problem because we don’t more people attending universities. We need more people engaged in useful work that benefits them ,not school administrators, and Sallie Mae. The money we send on grants and loans for someone to get a business degree could be better spent on preparing the population for energy descent.

    6. Aquifer

      Well considering that folks are in this predicament largely because of gov/t policy, replacing grants with loans, et al, why don’t we seriously consider changing that policy …

      Of course, one knows where i am going with this …

      Jill Stein, using the phrase “indentured servants” to describe the plight of the student “class”, points out that seeing as how, when, as a polity, we realized that society would be better off if all kids had a HS education, we decided that we, as a society, should provide it, doesn’t it make sense, that, to the extent we have now decided that kids need a college education, we should provide that, too?

      And, to address the here and now problem described in this post, we, as a society, should cancel those onerous debts that we imposed on kids doing what we told them they had to do …

      So we can bitch about it, or we can do something – sure, march in the streets, but, for crying out loud, take it to the polls!

      Or, is it that we “can’t afford it” …..

  3. A Real Black Person

    Student loans are given out way too freely and we have way too many “colleges”.

    The solution is to shrink the college industry. That means no loan guarantees. If the market decides that only the affluent and people who have high IQ deserve college education , and by college education, I mean STEM subjects, than so be it.

        1. Ms G

          Wow!*!&! Put that together with the chart of stagnating/declining wages over the same time period and you got yourself another *wow* graph (*triple wow* graphs when you add in the inflation lines for health care, housing, food, gas, etc etc etc)

          I like “ass patrol.”

    1. amateur socialist

      I might be okay with only letting poor people study STEM subjects if we only let the rich study Veblen and Dickens. Maybe Steinbeck and some Twain too for comic relief.

    2. JCC

      Actually “A Real Black Person” makes a valid point. The explosion in the quantity of private-for-profit colleges is pretty apparent since the Student Debt laws were changed and the debt was privatized. Less of these colleges would be a good thing, but we’ll only get that to happen when gauranteed payment of debt is eliminated.

      Most of them are crap anyway along with the “degrees” they offer.

  4. Andrew Watts

    As long as our economic expansion is fueled by debt this inter-generational wealth transfer will continue. It is the only way to keep the game going.

    Education like other industries these days is meant to extract as much money as possible from it’s consumers. Even if that means dipping into their last bit of savings. As far as Social Security is concerned, there aren’t a lot of Americans who expect to be able to retire anyway. Even among the wealthier Boomer generation.

    All of this could easily combine in to a explosive situation. Oh how we live in interesting times.

    1. jawbone

      Not expect to retire? Well, good luck with that, since many older workers won’t have any control over when they stop working. As in downsizing, firings, layoffs, etc.

      And then finding a decent job will be very, very difficult. Those 401K savings accounts? They may very well be needed to bridge the time between no real job, no employer paid health insurance, a health insurance plan affordable but not covering much, and finally getting on SocSec and Medicare.

      Just don’t get sick, right? Again, good luck with that.

      Even Obama has said he’ll raise the age of Medicare and SocSec. And he’s been saying that since 2007, well before he declared himself a candidate for the 2008 Dem nomination.

      Gonna be a rocky road for many.

      And, if you think you’ll be among those who won’t need SocSec and will work as long as you want, well, your genes or just plain bad luck may get in the way of “plan.” That stroke at age 66? Loss of short term memory or vision? Oh, yeah, it may be how many years under Obama or Romney before you get on Medicare?

      So, SocSec is vitally important, as is Medicare.

      Too damn bad we didn’t have a Democratic president who could understand how important and would have at least tried to get Medicare for All, Improved.

      We will rue the day we choose either of these two candidates for president.

      1. lambert strether

        Oh, he understands it. The grandmother, right? He understands it perfectly well. He doesn’t want to do it as a matter of policy, exactly as he understands what’s happening in foreclosures perfectly well, and doesn’t help with that, either, as a matter of policy.

      2. reslez

        I’m currently watching my Baby Boomer aunts and uncles sicken and die well before the age of eligibility. They all are working class. Every time someone passes I’m sure Obama and our 1% are comforted to think it helped reduce the deficit.

        Oldest uncle – dead at 62 of colon cancer. His wife – 3 strokes and counting. Oldest aunt – 2 heart attacks. Another uncle – poorly managed diabetes means he’s practically lame. Most are neck deep in debt and medical bills, struggling through the grey years of the current Depression.

        My family may have bad genes, but I think the toxic, carcinogenic, and adipodogenic environment contributes its fair share. Raise the age of eligibilty? Oh dear Lord.

        1. dan h

          “My family may have bad genes, but I think the toxic, carcinogenic, and adipodogenic environment contributes its fair share.”

          Well said. My perspective is the same.

  5. Ms G

    “But her mother sees things differently; she even moved in with her 83-year-old mother to pare expenses and make payments on Jocelyn’s loans. “I have to,” she says. “I co-signed them.””

    Here’s one of the obstacles to solving this disaster: the co-signer/debtor’s misplaced moral sense of duty to make payments. Totally asymmetry vis a vis the lender’s predatory amorality and dependence on tax-payer (i.e., the debtor’s) bailouts any time, just for the asking.

    In this Education Tranche of metastasized debt-servitude, as in all the others (e.g., mortgages), change will really begin when 10 million debtors start to say: “go away” instead of depriving themselves of food and shelter money to pay Lenders.

    1. Aquifer

      Well here’s the problem – if SS can be garnished for non payment, saying “go away” and $3.50 will get you a cup of coffee (or has it gone up?)

      1. Ms G

        Aquifer, you’re absolutely right. This was a huge error on my part. The edit would be that it is all those who are not *yet* on SS who need to say “go away” (but in large enough numbers that paramilitary response or disappearing won’t be “sustainable”).

        For those on SS, the solution would be an organization like AARP heading to Congress with a loud request for total amnesty. If AARP actually cared about the 99% anymore than the .01% do. This is such a horrible situation.

        1. Ms G

          @Klassy! — Do you think they will bother giving the cats rabies (etc.) shots before serving them to us?

          1. Enraged

            Maybe not cat food but… squirrel meat is pretty healthy. Lean, not raised with hormones, nut-fed, I’d go for squirrel any day. And they’re plentiful. Might even be what the doctor prescribed… A nice stew of squirrel meat cooked with dandelion, thistle and hickory nuts (a pain to crack, though…) We’ll all get healthy in no time! And we’ll have pelt to make coats with!

  6. PaulArt

    [THIS IS SATIRE, so READ IT AS SUCH] Sometime back we moved back to Bangalore, India because we were told that ‘you could afford a Chauffeur, Maid, Cook and Gardner’. I never knew what the ‘Servant Problem’ was then. I was a naive Clintonite but an angry one nevertheless because I was unable to explain why all the jobs were heading to India and China. Following the jobs to where they go to me was the clever thing to do. Once we got there we did have a Chauffeur, Maid and Cook but eventually the Chauffeur quit because he got a job at Intel driving employees, the Maid quit because she got a job in one of the several 5-star Hotels that sprung up a year after we moved. The Cook asked us for a loan to start her own Restaurant and when we refused she also quit so start her own ‘Meals on Wheels’ venture. We then understood what the ‘Servant Problem’ was. When we met our friends and relatives in Church we frequently discussed how hard, goddamn hard it was to find good, faithful, loyal servants. We all knew why this was happening, it was all because of those damned Multi Nationals that come over here from USA and Europe! These Servants, they get these great jobs and they just leave! Monstrous! It is heartening and glad to note that in America we are going about it the right way. I mean, we are creating the permanent Servant class. It will never be like Upstairs Downstairs where the Servants Downstairs keep leaving one after another as the Industrial Revolution picks up more and more steam. We first exported our Industrial Revolution abroad to India and China, so where would the Servants find jobs? Bingo! Good work guys, keep it up. Soon we will be able to have our own Chauffeur, Maid, Cook and Footman.

  7. Norman

    We already eat cat food, Ms G. That said, when are the rest of the poor, downtrodden, etc. etc. going to say the hell with this B.S. and do something about the plight this countrys leaders have produced? Sittig on ones ass bitching about it wont produce a solution. It’s going to take the YOUTH with the backing of those parents-those saddled with debt-as a stimulus, throwing away the iphones as well as all the other crappy electronic gizmos, to break the addiction the U.S. finds itself in today, along with that Alberta tar sand goop and bags of chicken/turkey feathers, which I might add are very plentiful at this time of year.

    1. A Real Black Person

      No one is going to do that because no one knows how to do anything for themselves anymore. They’ve come to rely on large corporations and governments to provide them with their basic needs.

      Liberals and Conservatives both call this Progress.
      We have more literacy ,yes, but we also have more desperate people, who are at the mercy of their employers and governments. We have more bondage. Instead of using wars to bring new slaves into the system, we use student loans and immigration. Only problem now, is the amount of slaves is greater than the amount of work needed.

      1. dan h

        “No one is going to do that because no one knows how to do anything for themselves anymore.”

        I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement in the macro sense.

  8. tyler

    I currently have a massive amount of student loan debt, but on the bright side I did not use a co-signer. The problem that i forsee in the future is what happens after the student loan bubble bursts?

    An intergal part of a society are their human capital. If colleges go “bust” due to the student loan mess, then will there be any colleges left to educate the next generation?

    1. Lambert Strether

      Up here in the great state of Maine we have an entity called “the system” that consumes 1/3 of the university system’s resources, but nobody can say what it actually does (rather like the health insurance companies, if it comes that). Our last President got a raise when he came here, and got another raise when he left — these guys backscratch their way up the ladder — and then got fired for corruption. Gawd knows what he got away with up here.

      So for starters, fire all the deans and the administrators, and let the colleges and universities get back to their primary missions of teaching and scholarship. (The Deans that want to be teachers again, with a teacher’s salary and job description, let them do that. I’m not a vindictive sort.)

      If our reactionary Republican governor did that, and threw some of the freed up millions to professors and the adjunct labor pool, and passed out the rest of savings to students in the form of tuition cuts, he’d get a lot of votes.

    2. A Real Black Person

      Your comment would have merit if the vast majority of students have actually been preparing for something other than the status quo.

      The next generation needs to be prepared for a world of less white collar jobs , declining energy availability and decentralization of human society. A college education is not there to prepare them for anything but the status quo.

      1. Ms G

        Well, that would really depend on what that world that the “next generation” is going into looks like. Assuming that it’s going to look like a third world country under IMF authority ignores the strong possibility of non-linear events that may just rearrange things.

        1. A Real Black Person

          Do you really believe that something like the IMF is going to survive as oil becomes increasingly expensive?

      2. Elliot

        No, you ridiculous concern troll, we need more college education, especially in the humanities, not only for the good of the students–in things like critical thinking and logic, history and such), but for the good of society. Crippling loans, and that anathema, undischargeable student loans, are a new and monstrous feature brought to us by, I’m thinking, your overlords. Certainly noone I swear fealty to.

        What we, and the students, need, is student grants, a debt amnesty for current college loan debt, and to stop cannibalizing our citizenry to sweeten the banks’ tea.

        1. A Real Black Person

          “No, you ridiculous concern troll, we need more college education, especially in the humanities, not only for the good of the students–in things like critical thinking and logic, history and such), but for the good of society.”

          Federal and state funding for colleges wasn’t initiated for self-enrichment of the general public. The government did it for economic reasons. There’s no economic reason for why we need more graduates with humanities degrees, so, I’m guessing you think college should serve as a vehicle for social engineering.

          “Crippling loans, and that anathema, undischargeable student loans, are a new and monstrous feature brought to us by, I’m thinking, your overlords. Certainly noone I swear fealty to.”

          They were brought to you by you, by the politicians you voted for and the banks where you park your money.

          “What we, and the students, need, is student grants, a debt amnesty for current college loan debt, and to stop cannibalizing our citizenry to sweeten the banks’ You’re letting the schools completely off the hook. Yes, the banks provide most of the credit that has inflated costs, but it’s the schools that vote to increase tuition, lower standards, and fail to provide their graduates with inadequate preparation for the workforce in many cases. And what about those educational-complex pundits who keep telling us that everyone needs a college degree in order to get any job? Aren’t those educational-complex pundits in bed with financial elites that dismantled America’s industrial base and said our economy is going to be based around “knowledge”? Don’t tell me you believe all that b.s. about a vast majority of the workforce working in “the knowledge economy”.

    3. Bert_S

      I think if we could somehow organize a “student strike” and all students refuse to enroll for the next semester until tuition is reduced TO 1/3 of what it is now, that it would be 1/3 of what it is now within 6 months. That assumes also all state and federal aid gets cut off too for the strike period.

      Or the really easy way is to cut off loans, and that probably would accomplish the same thing.

      It’s the same as with health care, somehow they have been raising the price far too much for far too long*. In the late 70s, state tuition was $400-%500/ semester for in state schools. Private schools were maybe $2000 – $2500/ semester.

      Otherwise it just grows and next thing you know the USG can’t collect on the loans and the taxpayer will be on the hook for another $5 trillion.

      And it is a fiction in the US anyway that everyone should go to college.

      * Actually worse – can they say teaching technology has become so much more expensive? Miracle books at the student book store?

      1. Bert_S

        And once again the US does not make a good showing on price/efficacy in education. This is about International PISA tests at high school level, but I’ve read elsewhere that China is doing the same at university level. And Europe never really agreed with the mantra we hear in the US about our college system being the best in the world.


  9. Max424

    Student debt carriers have the power!


    They have the same power the coal miners had, you say, back in the day?

    Ah whaaaat?

    Future/present post-graduates will be like the old coal miners all right, working 6 twelves, for The Man, for shit pay, forced then to take that shit pay and give all of it back* to The Man on Sunday.

    All the time preaching The Man’s Gospel, as it’s all they know, having learned nothing else, in The Man’s Chapels.

    *And then some.

  10. leafleaper

    There is a Government Program that offers Loan Consolidation and Income Based Repayment

    Of course Romney wants to repeal it.


    “You may be able to combine your existing Federal education loans into one new consolidated loan that offers several advantages. Click on “Borrower Info” topics to the left for more information about advantages of consolidation.

    Here you will find what borrowers need to know about Direct Consolidation Loans. If you don’t find it here, Ask Us.”

  11. red cell

    Schooling as peonage is going to amputate liberal education from institutions, for everybody but the dominant class. That could end up beneficial. People wind up with the choice of centrally-planned indoctrination or free, collectively-directed liberal education. What would you pick? The archetype is the Hutchins-Adler great books, http://www.greatbooks.org/programs-for-all-ages/gb/gbgroups/ . Our much-maligned middlebrow culture deserves another look. The canon could be made much more subversive.

  12. Paul P

    The GI Bill, the post war boom, and the flood of middle class kids going to college caused a “Crisis of Democracy” when the Vietnam War draft called these kids to the war.
    Teach ins, SDS organizing, and just something better to do than join the war effort errupted in a broad opposition to elite run foreign policy. How can elites govern with this “excess of democracy?” Michael Crozier, Samuel Huntington, and Joji Watanuki raised this question in a Trilateral Commission Paper entilted, “The Crisis of Democracy.” So, college is now unaffordable. A student with her nose to her school books and check book has little time for the all night bull session in which to discuss alternative ways to organize society. QED.

  13. JohnL

    State colleges are becoming more expensive as subsidies are rolled back. Expect the same in K-12 via the charter school trojan horse. Once charters have killed off the public schools the government money will dry up and they will be fee paying. Student loans for kindergarten? I give it 10 years max.

  14. DavidA

    I’ve often wondered if there’s a way for debtors to organize themselves into some sort of collective agent, along lines similar to labor unions. That is, everyone gets together online and makes demands upon the banks and the political system, by threatening to simultaneously withhold or reduce their loan payments. I can’t imagine the courts are set up to deal with the that many cases at once. Does anyone know of any work along those lines?

    1. Ms G

      In the legal system that would be a mass declaratory judgment action seeking mod/recission of the loans — the affidavits alleging the individual circumstances of each debtor might just pierce the iron curtain of MSM non-news.

      It would It would be great if Legal Aid offices could organize that, but sometime in the last 15 years their Federal funding was made contingent on not bringing class actions — effective, eh?

      Beyond courts. No reason why Occupy Debt chapters across the country couldn’t try to figure out how to create an umbrella structure to concretize this very real constituency of millions with a view either towards legal or political action.

      1. Aquifer

        Political action – we have a venue for that right now – in less than 2 weeks …

        What if all the students and parents of students up to their suspenders in loans voted for Stein? Hot damn – methinks you would see some action, then ….

  15. psychohistorian

    Eliminating basic education for the public will assure the global inherited rich stay in control of Western societies. Only the rich can afford a serious education.

    Its all part of the Shock Doctrine plan to eliminate the social safety nets for the EU and US and increase pressure on population increases with a little global genocide thrown in for good measure.

    We only lack the collective will to laugh these folks out of this repressive control of society.

    1. ZygmuntFraud

      I thought of something.
      Student walk-outs could be organanized for
      Tuesday, November 6 2012.

      It could be a “silent protest”, as in:
      don’t talk to the media.

      The point being: in these days, what could be
      the point of talking to the corporate media?

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