I’ve got about $70,000 worth of student loans —some of them federal and some private — because it took me a long time to get through school while working full-time to make ends meet.
During almost all the years I was in college, I also was working as a newspaper editor. Since I didn’t make a lot of money, I spent much of the time living off student loans. In hindsight this was a dumb idea, but I assumed one day I would make enough money that paying off those loans would be no big deal.
The recession hit just about the same time I was done with school, and I’ve just felt fortunate to have a job these past few years.
Fast forward to today. The two private banks that I borrowed money from to go to college get half of every one of my paychecks. Half.
Why do I pay so much? I have to. If you can’t or don’t make your student loan payments, they’ll simply garnish your wages.
It isn’t that I don’t intend to pay back the money I borrowed. I fully intend to.
Fair is fair, right?
Fair is fair unless you are a major bank or corporation that the government bails out because you can’t manage your finances. Fair is fair unless you ARE the government, in which case, you can spend trillions of dollars you don’t have.
Here’s the best part of my situation (note the sarcasm): Three of my private student loans came from Wells Fargo, one of the nine banks that was merely holding on for dear life when it received government bailout money in 2008. Wells Fargo also is the one lender I have that has refused to work with me even the slightest bit while I am in a financial crisis of my own.
Over the past few months, I have done everything but get down on the ground and kiss Wells Fargo’s feet in asking the bank to give me a little break. I’ve asked on numerous occasions if the bank would grant a short hardship forbearance while I get my finances and personal life in order.
I’ve explained that I fully intend to pay every cent of the loans back, but just need a bit of time to get on my feet. Their answer is always: “No, how much can you pay today?”
So, let me get this straight, Wells Fargo, when you were in dire financial straits it was perfectly acceptable for the taxpayers (including me) to bail you out? But when I need some wiggle room, you are unwilling to bend? That seems fair.
A large number of people my age today are faced with this same dilemma. They took out large student loans to go to college, and now find themselves unable to make the payments. Many of them are without jobs and on unemployment, but still have to make student loan payments to private lenders (believe me, I asked Wells Fargo how they handle that situation).
It would make more sense to the revitalization of the economy if the banks would set up some sort of forbearance program for people who have been making payments on their loans and then find themselves in financial trouble. Wells Fargo only offers a forbearance period during the first year of loan repayment. After that, if you have problems paying, too damn bad.
It would be better to give people a chance to get back on their feet and then ask them to begin repaying student loans, rather than sucking every last cent they earn out of them during a recession. Ah, but who listens to me? I’m just a little newspaper reporter.
Jessica Carner is a reporter at the Sparks Tribune. She can be reached by email at email@example.com.