Thousands of student loan borrowers wrote occasionally heartbreaking complaints about dealing with their debt burden to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is soliciting comments from people who have taken out private student loans to finance their education.
"My own children will not be able to get the help they need to go to college because I will STILL be shackled to my debt," one woman wrote.
[Related: Wiping out $90K in college debt in 7 months]
"I want to work hard, marry my girlfriend, buy a house, and start a family. I am barely treading water right now," a young lawyer said of his $130,000 loan burden.
The consumer protection group asked the public for responses to help the Department of Education conduct a study on the private student loan market, and it published nearly 2,000 comments and complaints on its website. The group also released a student loan complaint system, where borrowers can report their grievances.
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Private student loans often have higher interest rates than public ones and do not always offer income-based repayment plans for borrowers who get into financial trouble. Neither type of loan can be discharged in bankruptcy.
Many of the commenters say they are unable to pay their student loans or their children's loans, and some complained that the loan companies have aggressively gone after their cash, driving them into poverty. Some borrowers wrote that they regret going to college altogether, or that they were uninformed about how quickly the debt would balloon. Many mentioned that they are unable to consolidate their various loans into one, lower-interest loan. A few people, however, wrote in to defend private loans, saying they had no difficulty paying them off.
Read some of the comments—spelling and grammar unchanged from the originals—below:
When I left my job in 2007 to remarry late in my 40's, I had no idea that it would be so difficult finding a new job. My youngest son (17) has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Each year at tax time I receive the child tax credit. Recently, our taxes have been intercepted due to my stepdaughter's PLUS loan which was taken by my husband before we were ever married. They laugh at me when I tell them how needed that child tax credit is for our family of five, making just over $45k per year. Are they allowed to take my tax credit when I had nothing to do with taking the PLUS loan?
As a single mother, I put off getting my degree until my children were raised. I obtained my Bachelor's degree Summa Cum Laude. Since then, I make 25% less money than when I had no degree. I cannot afford to pay. The collection agency said it doesn't matter if I can't afford to pay. They will take the money from my bank accounts, retirement, and social security until it is paid in full. I do not make enough money now to feed myself and pay rent. PLEASE HELP.
I am writing to simply share my story in hopes that others will have more information when making the decision to pursue post-graduate education by taking out massive educational loans. I spent three years in law school and borrowed approximately $130,000 to pay for tuition and living costs in San Francisco. To pursue a law degree, I had no other option to fund my education - both my parents being disabled. Currently, my financial situation is abysmal, and frankly it is quite depressing to even think about. I have been practicing law for well over a year now, however earning annually only about $70K, which is the median for graduates in my position. I pay $800 in interest each month, which is more than my rent. Note: that is interest alone. I attempt to make payments towards my principal too, however it is grim. In over a year and a half of working and making dutiful payments, I have whittled my previous balance down to about $120,000. In 2011 alone, I have paid a total of about $16K in interest. That is clearly not progress. (Sidenote: After the economic crisis caused by the banks in 2009, why are they still profiting at the the expense of honest people's livelihood?) I'm not quite sure what other people's experience is, but this doesn't feel like what I signed up for. Part of the problem is that I anticipated earning $120K-$160K upon graduating from law school, but that is another story. No matter how hard I work, I am unable to save money to fulfill those dreams that truly make life meaningful. I want to work hard, marry my girlfriend, buy a house, and start a family. I am barely treading water right now. It is ironic because, as the first attorney in my immigrant family, we were all elated -- I even thought that the age-old American Dream would unfold for me. None of us realized the full financial extent of my education. We were only overjoyed that I would have the opportunity to become an attorney.
I am a mother of 2 children with student loans. My son is 26 and has completed his education online with 2 different colleges. He has about $52,000 in loan money and a degree in forensic science in computers and teaching but is working as security for a carbon company and a second job in an auto parts company just to start making payments on his loan which will take him 30 years to pay off. He has tried to consolidate all his bills but they refuse to give him a low rate of interest on them. My daughter has about $22,000 in loans, didn't finish her degree online in web graphic design and has no work. My ex husband thinks they double billed the amount as it seems strange that 2 different organizations she owes the same amount. My ex co-signed the first loan so he is paying on this loan and he is on disablilty and the second loan they told us we have to make 6 payments and then she can re-apply for yet another loan as she would like to change fields and study to be a veteranian assistant. Both loans she has now are not low interest and my husband who is retired from the UK and living legally with me in this country (Im not working) cannot afford this but were told that if she finds work they will go after her earnings. She has no car, no drivers license (she is 22) and can't get a job without a car. It's like both are trying to do something with their lives but can't.
I paid $500 a month for 8 years on my student loans, which repaid the principal that I borrowed. Then my spouse fell into drugs and I had to file chapter 7 bankruptcy, and I wound up getting divorced for fear for my life. I have , for the last 8 years, had financial hardship as a single parent of 2 children who gets no spousal support or child support. I work full time as an art teacher in a public school. I will not be able to retire until 25 years has passed since I refinanced my student loans- and because I supposedly "make too much", I am unable to get a deferment for financial hardship- which means my loans continue to accrue interest. My total student loan amount I borrowed was about $55,000-- and thanks to capitalized interest, I now owe in excess of $130,000. The education I signed in blood for is going to keep me enslaved until I am at least 68 years old. People who are public school teachers, medical professionals, or social workers should have their loans completely forgiven after ten years. My own children will not be able to get the help they need to go to college because I will STILL be shackled to my debt. It is predatory, and I grew up poor- so there was no other way but to sign in blood with good intentions. You need to loans so you can afford the education- but you are enslaved for the rest of your adult life. How does this make anything better for future generations?