Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Musings on resistance through everyday life acts, and how has the economic downturn changed your attitude about your student loans?

The economic downturn has forced all of us to rethink fundamental things about everyday life. The most mundane and insignificant are now viewed through a "foreign" lens of lived perception (things are hard) and we realize (except for those who work for Goldman Sachs) nothing can be taken for granted - that especially goes for the those of us who are a part of the indentured educated class.

We are reminded of the increased burden of our student loans on a daily basis (for some there are hourly reminders). We have Sallie Mae loan sharks calling us in the early hours of the morning every single day. We have been stripped of our spending power (i.e., our credit cards). We have been stripped of our earnings with garnished wages, or even worse we have been stripped of possible careers that would have meant something for our now sorry futures. Sadly, many of us have been stripped of our dignity, and those who still cling to it know that it will soon be seized from them. (But do not give up hope. Even if you feel you've lost your dignity. For even when carrying out the most mundane of acts in which we "perform" in everyday life, there are endless possibilities for resistance. The texture of everyday life provides us with the ability to act and to do it together).

At the macro level, however, the indentured educated class is drowning and with it so is the middle class of America.

Many people are writing to me now and telling me they are suicidal, admitting to abusing alcohol (the age old 'remedy' to calm the nerves), and so forth. I try my best to be a resource and am humbled and honored to receive such raw, honest messages - I invite anyone to write to me. Part of my job as an advocate is to offer resources to the most desperate. More than that, I am simply here to listen to your stories. Someone must listen to you.

On another depressing note, defaulting on student loans is no longer uncommon. If it's not the norm, it's fast approaching that status. Indeed, defaults have sky-rocketed (as of October 2009, SLA reported that it was at $50.8 billion, and greater than the total GDP for Serbia!).

The macro understanding of these sorts of disasters matter to me (I was trained, after all, as a social scientist and historian). However, the personal stories that so many of you have shared with me are far more important and in my mind are far more revealing. These testaments show us the devastating affects of the student lending crisis. So, I have two questions for you, and hope that many of you will answer them (you can always post her anonymously):

(a) "how has the economic downturn changed your attitude about your student loans?"
(b) "do you have any strategic plans when or if you default?"

Note to my volunteers: Please check in with me ASAP and let me know what's going on in your local communities. If you would like to volunteer, please send me an email (ccrynjohannsen@gmail.com)

Don't be fooled by little Mary in the red dress and that embarrassing white apron-thingie on top (Yikes! Her mother should be ashamed of that despicable fashion combo!). While Mary may appear to be watching the TV in the same way as her family (i.e., like a bunch o' happy cattle chewin' on cud), she's already begun to think about the power of resistance in everyday life.


Anonymous said...

I had this festering wound that would not heal. It was torture, agony. It invaded all of my waking moments with pain and grief. I tried Anti-biotics, bandages, ointments, all to no avail. One day, determined to figure it out I poked around in there among the puss and ooze and to my surprise I found a litte piece of broken glass withe the words "Student Loan" printed on it. I'm not sure how it got in there, and not sure how I'm going to get rid of it, but by god now that I know what the problem is, that sucker has got to go!

Spencer Lord said...

fifty billion? with a "b"?! wow! good post. thnk u.

Anonymous said...

The economic downturn has changed my attitude on student loans so that I am glad that many new students are not eligible for student loans. I am glad for them that they will not have the burden and hardships that I have because of my student loans. It makes me so angry that while all of these people who made bad decisions to buy homes can just walk away from the hardships of their debts whereas those of us with student loans have no sign of hope. We are, as they say, "slaves to Sallie Mae." That statement is true for many of us who cannot afford anything after we pay sallie mae each month. It's all really sad and that is why I'm glad we have started this grassroots movement and I hope we see things start to change.
If my loans go into default I have no plan. I am close to that point and it's scary. I guess I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it...

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

Anon - thanks for sharing. I am sorry that you are so close to defaulting. Have you reached out to your lender(s)? I imagined your answer to that question is, 'yes, and they haven't offered an alternative plan.' What about the FSA Ombudsman of the Dept. of Education is the following:

U.S. Department of Education
FSA Ombudsman
830 First Street, NE
Fourth Floor
Washington, DC 20202-5144

Their phone is 1-877-557-2575.

I am trying every possible avenue to help you and others. It's time to raise awareness and change this disastrous situation.

Anonymous said...

The recession itself actually hasn't changed my own perspective on my student loans or student loans in general. That's because I have had trouble with Sallie Mae going back years - never any defaults or garnishments, but, to be frank, my own inability and lack of experience in understanding what I was borrowing and how much to begin with... which is a long, winding way of saying that PAST recessions already set the stage for my Sallie Mae relationship being screwy. My degree(s) have never paid off, and I graduated from some highly rated programs - so I've had more than my share of unemployment or underemployment and have used up my forebearance and deferment privileges.

What gauls me most is trying to figure out how the f--- is it that I now owe DOUBLE my original borrowed principal, when in fact I HAVE made payments over the years in the several thousands of dollars?

As for default plan, I don't know.

Anonymous said...

My default plan is to go to Washington DC and harass Congress, make a spectacle of myself, a big spectacle, and hope the country will notice.
Maybe all the defaulters could form a community there and perhaps the public will kindly throw us some food now and then.
And I think I would just stop working, so that there would be no way for them to get any money from me since they have ruined my life.
Second plan is to flee the country. To where, Im not sure, I'll think about that if it comes to that.
I have to admit I have considered suicide in my darkest moments, when I consider all that could go wrong. But no, I would rather just not pay than hand over my life to the evil debt collectors.

Anonymous said...

Federal Student Loans are absolved upon death... if you plan on leaving the country, stage your own death first.

Anonymous said...

Am I supposed to believe the US is going to try to hunt debtors in other countries? As if it had the resources to do that when it has several more important problems and real criminals to find?

dzyns said...

death by slow painful drips. . .that's what student loan whose interest alone is as big as the original total. . .and we pay and pay. . .in the past we have had taxes kept. . .

anytime i ask for a break down of where all this extra money has come from. . .i get 'no'. not no with an explanation. . .sometimes no with a 'go here' and then 'here' says 'no'.

the total amount now owed on a student loan for my husband who was 17 when he signed for the first one back in 1981 is 400% larger.

over 24 yrs we have been actively screwed.

i hate my pitiless country.

Anonymous said...

Whether the country is in economic downturn, recession, depression or whatever name you want to hang on it Sallie Mae is still a legalized loan shark! I don't understand how they can be so above the laws of this country. So how much do they put in your pockets Congress?
I don't know if my loans are in default or not anymore, it depends on who calls me and what time of day it is...some reps say it is and some say it isn't, who knows, who cares! You can't get blood from a rock!

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

Thanks for all the comments. What about owning a home? Will it ever happen for any of you? I like to think of this Russian saying when discussing such heavy topics: "smekh cherez slyozy," which means "laughter through tears."

Anonymous said...

Right now, I can pay my student loans because I live rent free.

While I feel deeply ashamed of living at home at 30 yrs of age and with an Ivy League masters degree, I can't cut much more out of my budget. I'm trying to decide if it's prudent to sell my car, which I bought used, to pay cash for a clunker that might be marginally reliable and require multiple repairs.

My mom has just lost her job and will probably have to sell her house and move in with HER parents out of state.

If my ex husband forces me to stay in the state,which he is currently trying to do, I will probably loose my daughter for not being able to afford a place to live in the NY metro area in which I currently live.

At 40k/yr, I do not make a livable wage for the area AND I make too much to get state health insurance, food stamps, or section 8.

If I didn't have to pay for my student loans, I could afford the average $1,500/mon in rent and wouldn't worry as much about declaring bankruptcy or loosing my daughter.

If I have to default and I loose my daughter, I'm with the one who said he/she would not work and camp out on the White House steps.
I will leave the country and make it their problem to come find me.