Thursday, June 18, 2015

Testimonials from Debtors Who Have Fled the U.S.: "I am a US expat who is 'a student loan debt fugitive'"

As I have in the past, I threw out a basic question last week: who has fled the US as a result of their student loan debt?   I also asked the exact same question a few years ago - 2012 to be precise - and received a number of responses. Moreover, in 2011, I wrote an article for USA Today titled, "Unemployed, educated, and indebted: More Millennials seeking work outside the U.S."  So it is clear, the topic is not a new one for me. Interestingly, this particular topic intersects with individuals who have high levels of medical debt, something that interests me greatly and something I am keenly aware of, despite what adversaries may claim either here or elsewhere. In any event, I want to share a recent comment from one person who decided to flee the U.S. 

There is a growing group of debtors who have left. That is clear. I knew them in South Korea when I lived there in 2010. That isn't the only place they go. While the debtors I knew there hadn't defaulted, I think it is safe to say that they fled as a result of their student loan debt. Plus, the economy was in the tank, so they needed to find work in order to service their student loan debts (Ah, yes! America, a place where you get an education in order to service debt so that some guy can own a lot of Maseratis and numerous homes in the Hamptons and elsewhere, while millions of folks remain indebted for life. That's the American dream).

Anyway, there is another group of debtors who have chosen to default on their loans and apparently flee indefinitely. One of them, who wrote a comment, and which I share his remarks below, calls himself a "student loan debt fugitive."

Here's what he had to say:

I am a US expat who is a 'student loan debt fugitive.' There are many of us here in the EU. 
If anyone wants the full text of what I typed. let [sic] me know your email or something. but here is a small piece of my total comment:

I am living outside the country with US student debt. I won't bore you all with my story, but the end game is I cannot possibly pay it back. Even if I were to enter IBR the amount forgiven would be equal to hitting the lottery and having to pay taxes on that amount would be insurmountable. In my not always humble opinion IBR is a political scam to basically kick the can down the road without actually forgiving debt. What it does is turn a civil debt into a criminal tax liability. 

Anyway, it is pretty obvious I am in default. I graduated 3 years ago and my roughly monthly net pay was not going to pay my medical school loan. I attempted to contact my creditors and work out a plan and both the federal and private lenders basically told me I could get a short term relief, but there was no solution for more than a year. They also straight out told me they had absolutely no incentive to negotiate because 'they would get their money one way or another.'

The country I am in does discharge student loans in bankruptcy. In fact, a judge can declare you bankrupt on the spot. My estimated monthly student loan payment is more than 3 times a doctor's gross salary here.

No court here would accept the amounts and penalties the US imposes. In fact, the law here has its own ideas what is an acceptable penalty and they do not include collection or attorney fees. The interest is modest at 6%. So when my creditors called I simply said 'sue me!' (I may have mentioned that any lawsuit must be in the native language and filled out in the requirements of the local law.) The reality is nobody in their right mind from the US would sue me here. They would pay enormous fees for translation and local legal aid, to watch me be declared insolvent on the first court appearance. The statute of limitations for suing over debt here is 3 years anyway, so in a few months I could just claim that.

I actually encourage people, if you can't pay your US student loans, pack up and move. I think it is foolish not to. Sometimes I feel bad about not being able to pay the money back, but I suspect just like homesickness, it will fade with time.

I know that lenders, the government, or private, have absolutely no remorse about any immorality they subject me or my family to. They created laws to benefit them. I moved somewhere that the laws benefit me. They are more than welcome to call and negotiate a reasonable settlement. But I suspect they really just don't want to bother. Neither of us has any incentive to give concessions to the other. I keep hearing that my life would be destroyed if I moved back to the US. But honestly... Move back to what? Difficulty renting a place to live? Difficulty getting a job because of student loan default? Pay garnishments? Shame? Not getting my drivers' license renewed? Not being able to have a professional license? Harassed non-stop by creditors? Give up my legal advantage? A lower quality of life and more expenses for my family? 

That is insanity. Why would anyone go back to that?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Life Beyond These Borders - Fled the US as Student Loan Debtor?

Although I have written about this in the past, I am revisiting the topic of debtors who have fled the United States as a direct result of being hopelessly in debt. I am in the midst of trying to help some folks become permanent expats as a result of crushing debt, but I need your help. Many of them would like to know what it is like to live abroad as a permanently indentured educated individual. Your stories would be appreciated. Indeed, if you could provide them with some hope about how you are faring outside of the United States, you might just save a life. More debtors are becoming suicidal, so we'd like to know what it is like to be in default and yet be outside of this country. How are you doing? What is your day-to-day life like? Is it better than here? Would you recommend leaving the US? What are the challenges? What are the benefits?

Thank you for sharing.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

My Teaching Past and Materials by Mentoring Minds

While I basically write about student loan debt, I wanted to write about teaching and teaching materials. When I was an instructor several years ago, I was always on the lookout for solid materials for my students, something – as, if you are an instructor, is no easy task (it can be downright daunting, irritating, and time consuming). Aside from that, at all of the locations I taught, I was always allowed to add to the curriculum provided. (In some places, it is expected that teachers and instructors augment the materials given to them). In fact, when I was head of the History and English Departments at the first Chungdahm to open in the United States - specifically in Irvine, California - I actually designed the entire syllabus and class readings for a course on journalism for a group of high school students I taught. (Chungdahm is the largest hogwon in South Korea). That was a memorable class – building it from the ground up was a huge accomplishment, and I know that the students got a lot out of it! I’ll never forget the beginning of class. We always started with “Breaking News.” All students were required to bring in a story of interest on a current event. They could bring in any story that piqued their interest, but they had to back up the reasons for why they brought it in. They also had to tell the class what they liked about the story’s framing (if it were a more complex piece), how they might have reported on it differently, and so forth.

If I were still teaching, I would certainly use the materials from Mentoring Minds. They offer a wide variety of materials in MathReading, and so forth. These are the sort of pedagogical resources that would have added to a number of courses I taught, especially those relating to reading. For those instructors who must adhere to Common Core Standards, Critical Thinking for Life is a great option as well. These tools are available in print and online, making it convenient for instructors and students. In addition, there is a Teacher’s Edition, which provides instructors lesson plans. That is such a crucial benefit, as I recall many of the supplemental materials I received did not have a Teacher’s Edition, so lesson planning would take longer because I only had a Student Edition. In this case, Critical Thinking for Life! is a great supplement to a teacher's lesson plan, something that will only enhance the things they are already teaching in the classroom.

Again, after looking through these materials, I recalled long nights before specific classes or early morning commutes while living in South Korea, and all the prep time I did before I entered the classroom. I certainly miss the rewards of teaching, but I don’t always miss the prep time! Of course, in order for a lesson plan to go well, the prep time is absolutely critical. Without doing it, your students lose out and are not engaged as effective learner. But with materials like Mentoring Minds, prep time and lesson time are optimal. 


Friday, May 22, 2015

Fallacious Claim: Infusion of Funds to State Universities Would Solve the Student Loan Debt Crisis

Even when something is well-intentioned, the outcome can oftentimes turn out nefarious, or rather nefarious people can wind up benefiting. That is especially true when it comes to policy decisions and the disbursement of funds, even when the intentions are - as already stated - admirable.

One such example is the argument about state funds and budget cuts to state funded universities. Expert argue that if states were infused with cash and the coffers for institutions of higher learning were replenished, then somehow the student loan debt crisis would be solved. At least this solution is implied in a slew of studies about the way in which tuition has skyrocketed in recent years vis-a-vis state budget cuts on expenditures for higher education. One study argues that "a primary driver of student debt continues to be reduced state expenditures on higher education." Perhaps there is a correlation, but who is to say that if, as noted, the coffers were replenished, these institutions would allocate those funds to the right place, i.e., to the pockets of the students as well as students who have graduated, the ones who truly need it in order to obtain an education and pay down the debts they accrued as result of gaining said education?

It is problematic and frankly false to assume that these institutions would actually use the funds to cut the cost of tuition. What would compel them to do that? Is there anything by law that would ensure that they would cut costs that are astronomically high when they could benefit from them in other ways? The short answer: I doubt it.

So, to put it bluntly, an infusion of cash would not solve the student loan debt crisis. Chances are, the universities would use the funds to create even more bloated administrations, erect more buildings, basically spend it on anything other than to cover the costs of students or current borrowers.