Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Welcome to Student Loan Hell

This blog was birthed in anger: anger at being duped by someone supposedly out to help me. It evolved in to something much more: a place where I could write and share my words, thoughts and feelings with others. My experience, strength and hope, we say in AA. It became a vehicle and evidence of my growth as a writer, as a scribe.

Today, I am angry again. Once more, That Rebel becomes a platform. Today, the lizard brain dragon is tamed, nay friended. Today, That Rebel comes out.

I am an American. I am a doctor. I owe $263,000 in student loan debt that started out as $90,000 in 1998 when I graduated from chiropractic college. At that time the interest rate was 8 1/4%. My $90,000 has been locked in at that usurious rate for the last 14 years.

Never mind the prevailing rate dropped as low as 1 1/4% during that time. I was locked in with no way out, forbidden to refinance at a lower rate. Or so the agencies told me.

Now, today, of the balance "owed" two-thirds of it is usurious interest, funny money on some banking institution's books.

There is no provision for bankrupting/forgiving student loan debt, not since before I incurred mine, anyway. I can understand taxes being unforgivable. But bank loans? Usurious interest? Why are all other loans forgivable and not these? Is that even constitutional?

It took six years in business before I made enough as a doctor to begin paying on my student loan. By then, the $90,000 had soared to $160,000 and my payments were $1200 a month.

The following year, the recession struck my town in California. My income was slashed in half, my expenses were not. I could no longer pay. My step-father died. My mother died.

The economy tanked. I lost everything and came home to Georgia to start over. To try again. That was at the end of 2009. It's now 2012 and I am almost self-supporting, almost able to pay my bills without assistance from friends or relatives. My adjusted gross income for 2011 was $1200. Yes, that is twelve hundred measly dollars for a whole year of work. But I continue in my quest to help people get better, get well.

To think of me, and people like me as stupid and irresponsible, is the same as saying it is the fault of the sixteen year-old when a twentysomething date-rapes her at a party.

I did not consent at age sixteen, and I do not consent at age fifty-five.

Am I stupid for believing in people, and in myself? For trusting? Was I stupid for believing I could make a difference in the world and pay back a ridiculously high student loan that I received no counseling for before the fact?

Maybe. But I still believe. I still trust.

Am I irresponsible? No. I have worked within the unjust, lose/lose student loan system, done everything allowable and within my power to keep my head above water, to survive. I am not in default. But I am unable to pay. Not now. Maybe, with this dreadful economy, not never.

Until then, I have a dream. I have a dream that someone will rise up and take on the system: as undemocratic, unfair, usurious, and even unconstitutional. Then the rest of us, the ones who have hovered on the fringes for too long, will regain our sense of compassion, our understanding, our truth.

We will befriend and train our dragons one by one. And we will add our voices to the fray.

Because this one matters.

It matters to me.

~ the Voice of That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell


Roland D. Yeomans said...

I hate that this has happened to you. I, too, had a student loan, but fear of what has happened to you made me work two and three jobs while at school to stash away as much money as I could so as to pay off the loan as soon after graduation as possible.

Mother was half-Lakota. She did not trust the white man. With good reason! I pray some help comes your way, Roland

Kimber Leszczuk. said...

I feel your pain. In the past I had to drop out of school for personal reasons and financial ones kept me from keeping up with my loans. They held my tax refunds till it was paid off. I recently came back to school and I graduate in June with my bachelors and will have to start paying back my new loans shortly thereafter. I am NOT looking forward to it. I am praying I will find a good job with my new degree to help me along the way.

Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O.J. Barré said...

Roland, I made it through undergraduate and got my BBA without taking out any loans. Chiropractic school on the other hand, was a full 31 hours a week butt-in-chair for four years experience. Classes were daytime only, which left little time for work. In spite of that, I waitressed and did what I could to offset expenses. Yet, still the nut on graduation was $90thou.

Kimber, thank you for stopping by. The best of luck to you. I'll be rooting for you!!

~ Olivia

Walter Knight said...

I don't see much point in even trying to pay off that loan. Make them chatch you if they can, or offer you a drastic settlement payment plan.

Or write a nice book about the horrible death of a bank loan officer.

Also, I got this pain that radiates up from my mouse finger. I should probably cut back my computer time, but I can't cut out all my addictions. I know . . . baby steps.

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