MH Miller left university with a journal full of musings on Virginia Woolf and a vast financial burden. He is one of 44 million US graduates struggling to repay a total of $1.4tn. Were they right to believe their education was priceless’?
O n Halloween in 2008, about six weeks after Lehman Brothers collapsed, my mother called me from Michigan to tell me that my father had lost his job in the sales department of Visteon, an auto https://getbadcreditloan.com/payday-loans-oh/nelsonville/ parts supplier for Ford. Two months later, my mother lost her job working for the city of Troy, a suburb about half an hour from Detroit. From there our lives seemed to accelerate, the terrible events compounding fast enough to elude immediate understanding. By June, my parents, unable to find any work in the state where they spent their entire lives, moved to New York, where my sister and I were both in school. A month later, the mortgage on my childhood home went into default.
In , Chase Bank took full possession of the house in Michigan
After several months of unemployment, my mother got a job in New York City, fundraising for a children’s choir. In the summer of 2010, I completed my studies at New York University, where I received a BA and an MA in English literature, with more than $100,000 of debt, for which my father was a guarantor. My father was still unemployed and my mother had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. She continued working, though her employer was clearly perturbed that she would have to take off every Friday for chemotherapy. To compensate for the lost time, on Mondays she rode early buses into the city from the Bronx, where, after months of harrowing uncertainty, my parents had settled. She wanted to be in the office first thing.
Our last ties were severed by an email my father received from the realtor, who had tried and failed to sell the property, telling him he could now cancel the utilities. In May, I got a freelance contract with a newspaper that within a year would hire me full-time paying me, after taxes, roughly $900 every two weeks. In , my parents were approved for bankruptcy, and in October, due to a paperwork error, their car was repossessed in the middle of the night by creditors. Meanwhile, the payments for my debt which had been borrowed from a variety of federal and private lenders, most prominently Citibank totalled about $1,100 a month.
Despite all evidence that student loan debt is a national crisis, the majority of the US government the only organisation with the power to resolve the problem refuses to acknowledge its severity
Now 30, I have been incapacitated by debt for a ily and I perform in order to make a payment each month has become the organising principle of our lives. I am just one of 44 million borrowers in the US who owe a total of more than $1.4 trillion in student loan debt. This number is almost incomprehensibly high, and yet it continues to increase, with no sign of stopping. Legislation that might help families in financial hardship has failed in Congress. A bill introduced in , the Discharge Student Loans in Bankruptcy Act, which would undo changes made to the bankruptcy code in the early 2000s, stalled in committee.
My debt was the result, in equal measure, of a chain of rotten luck and a system that is an abject failure by design. My parents never lived extravagantly. In the first years of their marriage, my father drove a cab. When they had children and my father started a career in the auto industry, we became firmly middle-class, never wanting for anything, even taking vacations once a year, to places like Myrtle Beach or Miami. Still, there was usually just enough money to cover the bills car leases, a mortgage, groceries. My sister and I both attended public school. The cost of things was discussed constantly. In my freshman year of high school, I lost my yearbook, which cost $40; my mother very nearly wept. College, which cost roughly $50,000 a year, was the only time that money did not seem to matter. We’ll find a way to pay for it, my parents said repeatedly, and if we couldn’t pay for it immediately, there was always a bank willing to give us a loan. This was true even after my parents had both lost their jobs amid the global financial meltdown. Like many well-meaning but misguided baby boomers, neither of my parents received an elite education, but they nevertheless believed that an expensive school was not a waste of money; it was the key to a better life for their children. They continued to put faith in this falsehood even after a previously unimaginable financial loss, and so we continued spending money that we didn’t have money that banks kept giving to us.