Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Willing to speak up about suicide for the indentured educated class?

I am in touch with someone at CNN who is interested in my research on suicide and student loan debtors. They want to move forward with this story, but they would like someone to publicly admit that their student loan debt has made them contemplate or attempt suicide. I realize that it's asking a lot, but if you are willing to have the courage to speak out and on television about these feelings, we could get this story on CNN.

If you are willing to discuss it, please let me know ASAP. I can be reached by email (ccrynjohannsen @ gmail DOT com).


Anonymous said...

I would be willing to committ my student-debt suicide right there on the CNN interview if it would help others. We have been screwed over by the whole industry, government complicit.

Please give us bankruptcy protection! Or I and many will be killing ourselves soon!

Cryn Johannsen said...

No! We don't want that. But if you'd be willing to talk about it frankly, that would be great.

Mary said...

Just something to ask out loud:

IF you never paid a cent of your debt back ever again, what is the very WORST that could happen?

- garnishment. (so a limited piece of your income gets taken away, much like a tax)

- credit score ruined. (overblown importance. Sure, puts some limits on you, borrowing-wise, etc., but not the end of the world)

- debt collectors. (a pain in the ass. So we change our phone number)

AM I missing something? Let's converse about this.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Uh, Mary, yeah . . . you are missing something. You're missing a lot. Let me ask you something: have you defaulted on your loans yet? Curious.

Mary said...

So explain, please. Yes, I've defaulted, and these have been the consequences. I wasn't being snarky or anything - genuinely wondering what the WORST that could happen to one's life, in terms of what 'they' can do to you?

If a person is resigned to accept that their credit rating will stink (thus affecting renting, getting loans, job hunt, etc.) and that their wages will be garnished (to an amount limited by law, I think), then I'm looking to discuss/explore the further negative consequences beyond this...

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mary, I wasn't suggesting you were being snarky. I am, however, strongly disagreeing with you. I have collected thousands and thousands of testimonials from people, and their stories are a lot different from your own. I'm glad to hear that you are fine, but others are not. The consequences for most - you are, in my view, in the minority - are disastrous. And that's coming from a lot of evidence. It's fine if you think it's not a problem, but I think you're a rare case. That's all.

Cryn Johannsen said...

One more point, Mary, just because you're getting by, does not mean that there is not a student lending crisis. As you are probably aware, student loan debt no surpasses that of credit card debt in the U.S. People aren't buying homes, they aren't buying houses, they aren't having children, etc., etc. How is a debt burden like that good for an individual, let alone an entire nation? Moreover, this is costing taxpayers millions and millions of dollars each year. The problem is not easy to solve, but in the very least it needs to be acknowledged. I've been in touch with the White House (by phone), I've been on the phone with senators' offices, Sec. Arne Duncan knows who I am . . . these people are aware of the issue, and that's exactly why I continue to fight for the indentured educated class. Even for people like you who don't think it's a problem. You're not the only one out there, Mary, and I hope you realize that.

I think you have guts for posting with your first name, and I appreciate your candor.

Mary said...

Ms. Johanssen - I am not claiming to be 'getting by', nor do I think there's 'not a student lending crisis.' Why would you even think that?

I think the student debt crisis is catastrophic, disastrous, disgusting, and criminal. It creates massive distortions and deep unhappiness.

I'm just asking, though - besides the ruined credit and the garnishment, what other power do the corrupt banks and their cronies have over us? Your posting was about suicide. I've contemplated it myself at times, re financial stuff. But then I realized: okay, so my wages are garnished 15%, and I can't buy a house, but I'm not being thrown into prison or the like, and they can sue me all they want, but can't ruin my life beyond that. But I'm not saying it's not a HUGE societal problem - that's why I follow your blog!

I was just trying to get a grasp of what more I can expect them to do to me, in terms of bad consequences. I feel like I've reached the limit of what they can do to hurt me. M

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mary, rest assured, I am not making any assumptions about your life. I can only go by the few things you have stated above. It sounds like we are on the same page, but I simply misunderstood your original question. I am certainly not trying to be dismissive. My apologies if I came off as such. If you would like more details about the consequences, I'd be happy to supply them.

Anonymous said...

The worst result of a growing student debt: social unrest on a macro level and hopeless despair on the personal level.

dupednontraditional said...

Cryn, please do. I think Mary's point is worth discussing. While it's no bed of roses to be in default, and the psycological trauma is not to be trifled with, what can "the man" do to you except make it impossible to buy a home, difficult to get a job, and impose a regulated "tax" on your income?

Again, not small matters - it's not debtor's prison, but it makes life more difficult to be sure. We've been told that jobs and property lead to success and financial freedom, so to take them away makes it even harder to dig out of the hole. Making it more difficult to buy a car, say, makes it more difficult to land a job and so on. But, ultimately, what is the sword over everyone's head?

Mark Dean said...

So Arnie Duncan is aware of the problem, so that means the Obama must be aware of whats happening. This means diddly when you Rep.Boner in control of the house. This person helped write the student debt enslavement decree of 2005 with the help of the student enslavement companies. You think this guy is going to let a student bankruptcy bill through the House? Ain't nothing happening for the next 2 years.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mark, I'm afraid you are right. However, that doesn't mean that we ought to give up. It disgusts me that Rep. Boehner is runnin' the show, but the fight continues.

Cryn Johannsen said...

I guess when it comes to Mary's questions about the results of the student lending crisis, and your question (Anonymous Dec 22), I'm not really sure how to answer it. Mary said she's been following my work closely, so if she isn't convinced of the dire effects the student lending crisis is having on the nation through reading all my various posts, articles, and papers, I'm not sure how I can make her agree with my perspective. I can say that on a sociological level, this is having a devastating effect, because I am in touch with thousands and thousands of debtors. It's taking a toll on their personal lives, and that has ramifications on a macro level (as someone eloquently stated above).

So, I guess I'm not sure how you want me to answer the question.

I can say with certainty that living a life of indentured servitude is soul destroying. That's why it's connected to the civil rights movement. They've rigged the system. They've fooled us. They've convinced us that education was the way to go, and look at what it's done to most people? They are drowning in debt. Their relationships are broken. They have no hope. Those are the consequences.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mark, one additional point: I am pretty confident Obama knows who I am and is aware of AEM - that frustrates me greatly.

Mary said...

Cryn and commenters - thanks for the great discussion. Cryn, again, I'm not "not convinced" of the terrible effects of the debt crisis, and I agree with your whole take on the 'indentured educated class.' The whole recent theme of suicidal thoughts just got me thinking - yes, it's been hell to be hunted down by creditors, no help from them or government, credit score to shit, etc., but once it hits rock bottom: what more can they do? Maybe that is when it's time to just say "screw you" to the whole system, to the banks and the collectors, and not have our value as people continue to be pummelled by artificial, societally-imposed criteria like a "credit score". If we all just tell them to go screw rather than being owned by them, then they ain't going to be prospering off of us - their power comes from our own feebleness and fear. Admittedly, this is not easy for someone who is, say, 35 years old with a family, but there are also BILLIONS of dollars worth of "indentured young people" who might, rather than plan and center and mess up their entire lives around paying off the banks and other tormentors, just recognize that this order of things is unsustainable and just tell the banks to go screw off. Tell them, when they call, exactly what they'd be telling YOU in other types of circumstances: "Hey, you're bad for my bottom line."

Maybe that should be the new slogan for the indentured educated class, to tell the banks (and the collectors, and the government who enables them): "HEY, YOU GUYS ARE BAD FOR MY BOTTOM LINE."

Just like any banker might tell us - for them it's just a 'business decision', but for us it's somehow a 'moral' choice.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mary, I find your remark inspiring, but here's the frustrating thing. Let's say you need a car for your job, and you try to take out a loan for a crappy car. Too bad. Your credit is shot. What about when they start calling your work, and everyone learns about it, and somehow you lose your job as a result? Then you try to get another job and you can't because of your debt. I know of a guy who jumped from a balcony because of the debt he had hanging over his head. (He'll be part of my forthcoming article on student loans and suicide). These are those grinding things that drive people to the brink. But I think your comments are fantastic, even though I don't entirely agree.

Mary said...

Cryn, thanks for your words, and you illustrate terrible situations that are all-too-common. So frustrating. And what's worse is that the folks in your illustrations got into debt because they 'did the right thing' - went to school and incurred debt thereby - yet have no recourse or bankruptcy protection WHATSOEVER, and yet someone else could go rack up $100K in consumer/credti card debt and gambling/casino loses and just go ahead and clear it in bankruptcy. System rotten to its core. Frustrating. Disturbing. Disgusting. M

Cryn Johannsen said...

Mary, I absolutely agree. It's despicable. That's why we MUST change it, and we CANNOT give up. I am returning to the U.S. and have full intentions of getting this non-profit moving. I'm ready to get involved in acts of civil disobedience - we MUST do something collectively. That's what gives me hope. People are engaged politically, and we need to get together and get some things accomplished.

M.Almeida said...

This is really a situation where 'your mileage may vary'- some people get hurt more than others.

Some might have a decent life. It might be somewhat understandable a lawyer or a doctor or some stable field that defaults. Or if you have a big family who are willing to stand by you regardless of the hells you go through in life.

I wouldn't wish my life upon anybody save short of the devil, and it's not looking any brighter. I've got 120k worth of misery, right now I'm in limbo whether or not my school will actually let me finish said degree, and because 80k of that is in private loans, if said school lets me go, I will have nothing to show for it except what is looking more and more towards default of my private loans.

(Dare I also mention my school was outed on that nice list by the Huffington Post of '13 schools that leave students in massive debt'? I have won the booby trap of life.)

But it's a kind of 'damned if I do, damned if I don't' because my field is an unstable area to begin with, regardless of that degree. My family has been splintered for years and this debt is such a social stigma to begin with, I'm only just beginning to let my friends know why the hell I've been so withdrawn and silent lately.

So here I am right now in my mother's house, unemployed, heck, I don't even have a car or a driver's license, wondering what the hell I have left in my life. Ya know, beyond harassment, 25% of whatever future wages I make being stolen, my bank accounts levied, and all my (and any future husband because I live in a community property state) property and future inheritances/property, being subject to being taken from me thanks to Sallie Mae. I have a co-signer on one of my private loans who will also suffer the same. And on top of that, I wonder about defaulting on my federal loans too, which if that happens, add 15% and my taxes.

I try not to dwell much on it, and I wish it didn't make me contemplate suicide at least once or twice a week...but I can't help but want to yell out this injustice to the world before I go. People have said I have a big mouth to that which I KNOW is immoral- This is no exception. Pray that I never find out where Sallie Mae is, and pray that I never run into the heads of the Dept of Education, or Boehner- I'd have quite a few words to spew at them whether they wanted me to or not!

But I too am frustrated on how to get things going collectively - and for the next two years at least, save short of a miracle, we are going to be thwarted and ignored in every way possible. But I am not afraid to talk, now, or in the future of what is looking like a very screwed up life. Screw the banks.

Anonymous said...

This is kind of off the subject, however, it is crucial. Apparently some network is airing a piece about how students are trillions of dollars in debt. Why has not the department of education addressed the for profit, publicly traded "universities" which have made billions for the owners, while they earn their revenues from student loans guaranteed by the government? Frontline (PBS) did a story on this (in their usual award winning style) and it is shocking that these companies are able to get away with essentially pretending to offer an education when they are really offering a bogus curriculum, certificate and once the student had "graduated," they are up to their eyes in debt with little meaningful credentials, while the school walked away with boatloads of cash, compliments of the United States Government. While student loans are imperative to education, these publicly traded schools need to be called out for what they are: fraudulent.

Anonymous said...

This is a critical issue, but one not limited to education and debt. Education has become a business, along with loans. Institutions are making a bundle off of people who are seeking to improve their stature and status and, if one is so lucky, to get an education as well. In the same way that mortgage debtors have been vilified while the bankers have walked away with the bounty. It's highly unethical and the castigation will continue so long as little people lie down and take the blame for a bogus system of work, education and employment. Don't commit suicide! Get politically involved!

Anonymous said...

If I can add something to this:

Among other problems, the student loan debt can potentially develop into a slow destruction of one's career opportunities.

In my case, my credit score reflects a massive debt to income ratio.

That is irreperable damage to my credit score, and renders me unfit to find any kind of a job in which a credit check is required.

In other words, they won't hire me.

And it has been like that for many years.

All I can do is relatively low-wage work in the trades.

And, default last year caused 40 thousand dollars in fees to be tacked on to the loan balance. (Forty Thousand)

Now I owe 300K, and growing.
Like Mary says, no one is throwing me into debtor's prison.

But it broke up my marriage.

Sorry this post is not too orgainized, as I am doing it quickly.

JPR said...

Re: Anonymous @ 6:42

He or she writes, and I agree with everything but the last three words:

"It's highly unethical and the castigation will continue so long as little people lie down and take the blame for a bogus system of work, education and employment. Don't commit suicide! Get politically involved!"

I think a big fallacy that many of us of the "educated class" still stick to is that we still put too much faith in "political" solutions, and have a misguided belief that huge systemic problems have "systemic-based" solutions - I ask, at what point has Deep Capture and other distortions of the system reached a point where it becomes a naive article of faith to believe that politicals-as-usual can solve the problems that pose existential threats to us.

We can't legislate away the now deeply entrenched income inequality that is now the reality. We couldn't legislate a solution (or even a partial fix) to the slavery problem or to the grievances of the Southern states: we fought a war. We can't legislate a solution (or even a partial fix) to the problem of modern indentured servitude and other veiled forms of slavery: politics doesn't work any more for this, and is captured.

I submit that the entire system is rotten and unfixable, and cannot be 'solved' using internal mechanisms and methodologies. Outside shock is needed. Not sure what - the tech Singularity? (I find this a desirable contender). A cataclysmic Great Collapse? (catastrophic, but at least it will hit the 'Reset' button). But I just don't believe that in-system politics has the power, nor the mettle, to bring us toward fundamental solutions.

[sorry for any grammar errors or poor phraseology, am time-constrained]


Alexandra said...

I'd be willing to talk. I think:)....and as far as the "worst" that can happen, i'd also like to add: not being able to have a bank account (i didn't for the last 5 years) at all, or a credit card. Which makes it awfully difficult to rent an apartment, rent a car if you have to, establish credit with cable, phone, utilities, etc, basically function in a society which is now almost exclusively based on credit...I'm 41 and i realized i have NEVER had an adult vacation (i define this as going somewhere with at least one other person you actually want to be with, for more than 2 days, which does not involve sleeping in your car).....and i've heard differing lines from different collectors about how much garnishment is: one told me 15% max, another told me 25% max. If you make about 25K, 25% of your income is alot. Frankly if you're making 40K or more you should be able to work out some sort of a payment system.

Cryn Johannsen said...

Alexandra - this story is terrible. If you are willing to do it, email me (ccrynjohannsen @ gmail DOT com). Think it over. I know it's a tough thing to do, but you have a lot of guts to even agree to it now.

I'm sorry about what's happened to you. It infuriates me. I'm coming back stateside, and I'm preparing to battle for people like you. I'm ready, and D.C. better be ready to listen to us.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Cryn Johannsen said...

@December 23, 2010 6:42 AM

Your note is uplifting, and I like your final suggestion: get politically involved! You're right. This goes beyond student loan debt, and it's time we started fighting for our rights.

Wow. There are so many great comments on this post. Thanks so much everyone. Wherever you are, whatever religion you practice (or don't), I hope all of you are safe and happy over these next few days.

Laura Lynne Prater said...

I have related my story before to you on Facebook, I'm the person who has fraudulent federal student loan debt due to Identity theft that was consolidated into my legitimate loan debt while I as a Sophomore in my BA Program about 15 years ago. I am currently carrying about 50K in Student loan debt that will follow me until the day I die. Also, as I approach the eligibility age for Social Security, I have the added despair in the knowledge that it will more than likely be forfeited to the Government to repay them. It has cost me my marriage (had to get divorced so the Govt. would quit taking his tax refunds), I cannot get any job that does a credit check, I am unable to have a bank account, and when I am lucky enough to be employed (although that hasn't been the case lately, as I have been unemployed since 11/06), the harassing phone calls TO MY EMPLOYERS as well as myself and the garnishment orders are not far behind. I still receive weekly calls that I tell them every week "nothing has changed" but I will say at least that the current collection agency is a lot more empathetic to my situation than others (including SallieMae) have been in past experience. I have in the last 15 years, one way or the other, paid back my legitimate debt, (or very nearly all) but the fraudulent loans will plague me to my grave. And yes, in order to save my family's financial future, there were many times I contemplated stepping out in front of a bus, or hanging myself from the rafters of my garage, just so there might be a snowball's chance in Hell that my life insurance policy would leave them "ok" enough to cover the funeral, and that with my death certificate to discharge this overwhelming burden of astronomical debt, my family could at last have a chance at financial security. You may use any or all of this story if you like. God Bless you for your strength, passion, and activism in bringing about awareness and change to this system of government sponsored indentured servitude. Student loan debt should be subject to discharge or re-organization through Bankruptcy Courts, just like every other form of consumer debt due to its very size, scope, and its life-altering impact to the consumer. Cryn, I always share this blog with all my friends especially those in education, because I feel what you are doing is so vitally important. Have a very Merry Christmas to all of us out here, and all my hopes for a joyous and prosperous New Year. Rock their socks off on CNN!

Anonymous said...

Quick query to Laura 4:30 and others who have said this: what do you mean by "unable to have a bank account"? Do you mean everyday banks won't *let* you open a checking account? Please explain - this would be helpful to a several of us here. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I can't say I have never considered it, and I only have ~85k of Student loans, but another 15k of CC debt from being unemployed and having to live off my Credit cards. and now I am working 2 jobs that I am "overqualified" for (60hour weeks) just to break even.

if anything goes wrong I an screwed. I really wish I had ignored my Mother and Grandfather and skipped getting any degrees. (I have an AS and BS)