The Great College Loan Swindle

from Rolling Stone

On a wind-swept, frigid night in February 2009, a 37-year-old schoolteacher named Scott Nailor parked his rusted ’92 Toyota Tercel in the parking lot of a Fireside Inn in Auburn, Maine. He picked this spot to have a final reckoning with himself. He was going to end his life.

Beaten down after more than a decade of struggle with student debt, after years of taking false doors and slipping into various puddles of bureaucratic quicksand, he was giving up the fight. “This is it, I’m done,” he remembers thinking. “I sat there and just sort of felt like I’m going to take my life. I’m going to find a way to park this car in the garage, with it running or whatever.”

Nailor’s problems began at 19 years old, when he borrowed for tuition so that he could pursue a bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern Maine. He graduated summa cum laude four years later and immediately got a job in his field, as an English teacher.

But he graduated with $35,000 in debt, a big hill to climb on a part-time teacher’s $18,000 salary. He struggled with payments, and he and his wife then consolidated their student debt, which soon totaled more than $50,000. They declared bankruptcy and defaulted on the loans. From there he found himself in a loan “rehabilitation” program that added to his overall balance. “That’s when the noose began to tighten,” he says.

The collectors called day and night, at work and at home. “In the middle of class too, while I was teaching,” he says. He ended up in another rehabilitation program that put him on a road toward an essentially endless cycle of rising payments. Today, he pays $471 a month toward “rehabilitation,” and, like countless other borrowers, he pays nothing at all toward his real debt, which he now calculates would cost more than $100,000 to extinguish. “Not one dollar of it goes to principal,” says Nailor. “I will never be able to pay it off. My only hope to escape from this crushing debt is to die.”

After repeated phone calls with lending agencies about his ever-rising interest payments, Nailor now believes things will only get worse with time. “At this rate, I may easily break $1 million in debt before I retire from teaching,” he says.

Nailor had more than once reached the stage in his thoughts where he was thinking about how to physically pull off his suicide. “I’d been there before, that just was the worst of it,” he says. “It scared me, bad.”

He had a young son and a younger daughter, but Nailor had been so broken by the experience of financial failure that he managed to convince himself they would be better off without him. What saved him is that he called his wife to say goodbye. “I don’t know why I called my wife. I’m glad I did,” he says. “I just wanted her or someone to tell me to pick it up, keep fighting, it’s going to be all right. And she did.”

From that moment, Nailor managed to focus on his family. Still, the core problem – the spiraling debt that has taken over his life, as it has for millions of other Americans – remains.

Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry – from Donald Trump himself to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who sets much of the federal loan policy, to Julian Schmoke, onetime dean of the infamous DeVry University, whom Trump appointed to police fraud in education.

More here.


3 Responses to The Great College Loan Swindle

  1. Nicholas Birchby December 1, 2017 at 6:16 pm #

    This article highlights the extremely difficult side of student loan debts. This man named Scott graduated from college with $35,000 in student loan debt. The bigger issue comes from the fact that his starting salary was a mere $18,000. After years and years of struggling to pay back his debts and missing payments, he began to use a rehabilitation program to pay them back. Instead, this program caused him nothing but trouble and continued to bury him deeper and deeper in debt. Collectors from this program would constantly call him asking about when he would pay them back, and with every call he began to feel worse and worse. So bad to the point that the school teacher named Scott seriously contemplated suicide. The problems with student loan debt comes from many separate issues. Up and coming students and parents typically are not informed of the various different ways that student loan debt can pile up, and how many different recovery programs are also scams in their own right. Since the market crash in 2008, college and student loans have quickly become the biggest scam in the entire country, possibly the world. Every year thousands and thousands of students agree to student loans that in four years they will not even be close to ready to begin paying back. However, receiving a college diploma still lines you up to make over $1.3 Million dollars more than someone with only a high school diploma over the course of your lifetime. Because of this statistic, students will continue to attend universities, while the prices per year at these schools will continue to rise. I have seen these issues first hand already. Being a student at Seton Hall University, I have seen the financial burdens that attending a school such as Seton Hall can place on a family and student. Many schools across the country have a tuition of over $50,000 per year, which is absolutely ridiculous. Luckily, with the help of financial aid and my parents, I am still able to attend this school. However, many people are not as fortunate as I am, like the teacher Scott. People like Scott could actually end up compiling larger amounts of debt after they graduate from college. This is due to those terrible recovery programs that I mentioned earlier. It is a scary thought truly not knowing if attending a four year university is even worth it compared to finding a job out of high school. Most kids who sign for these student loans do not even understand the process of paying them back at the time they signed, even more reasons that loan companies will find ways to bleed you dry. Interest on these loans is the real killer, people only pay the minimums, and the interest that is added will be more than the amount you are even paying! It truly is a vicious never ending cycle that is designed to make money, not help people succeed. College and student loans truly are the biggest scam in the country today. The driving factor is how the average price of attending a four year college has done nothing but get higher. When my father was 18, he chose to attend Purdue University. At the time, the tuition for an entire year there was only $6,000. My father is 45 years old. Today at Seton Hall the price for one semester is $27,000. Two entire years of college for my father, still costs less than one semester of college for me today. Perhaps the problem does not lay on the students, but the absolutely atrocious systems in place by the government. Any intelligent person should be able to see that these prices for education is not obtainable to the average person, when it sure should be.

  2. Vincent Scorese December 8, 2017 at 7:26 pm #

    Student loans is something that although people may not bring into too much light in the news is one of the biggest issues facing our country and its youth today. This article about this man who has gone his whole life for go and find his dream to pursue higher education and pursue his dream of being a teacher were almost thwarted by the idea and almost execution of his suicide. This is a good article to read because for those who don’t understand the real troubles and issues facing people with student debt this was a great example of the reason why something needs to be done. President Trump was quoted saying “Horror stories about student debt are nothing new. But this school year marks a considerable worsening of a tale that ought to have been a national emergency years ago. The government in charge of regulating this mess is now filled with predatory monsters who have extensive ties to the exploitative for-profit education industry”
    The pure fact of the matter was that the predatory monsters as they rightfully deserved to be called, nearly made this man who was married and had two young children, contemplate taking his own life because he didn’t feel like living was worth it anymore or that the only way her could get out of his debt is to take his own physical life. There is no way that is even remotely close to okay or even that being close to the American dream that so many hold dear to their hearts.
    Besides this man’s example there are plenty of people who take on these massive amounts of debts after college must move back home with mom or dad quickly after they graduate because they can’t afford to pay the loan and other costs of living that are required. Is that what the people who want to further their own higher education and try to put themselves in a better position or simply live a dream deserve? I don’t think so and I think that something needs to be done about student loans and it either starts with the rates on those loans or the actual cost of college itself which most could say is a bit high in price which leads to these amounts on these student loans that these people cannot afford to pay back and in some cases like this one they must declare bankruptcy. We are better than this and I just hope that something gets done sooner than later so we can have more people continue to live their dreams and be the future of the workforce we need them to be.

  3. Arielle Fortes December 8, 2017 at 8:13 pm #

    In today’s world many people know what they will do or have a general idea what they will do when they get out of their high school. They will go to college. America used to be a society where children would enter the workforce right out of school. However, that changed when higher education seemingly seemed to become more important to people, and America transitioned to a society where the majority of people decide to go to college instead of taking another option .This is due to a variety of reason but most people go to college because they need to go to college to get a decent job. Nowadays most employers do not want people without a college education. So unless the job is mostly unskilled work most people feel the need to get a degree in something, so they can be something. Unfortunately for almost everybody, college prices have been continually rising, and so it has become an increased burden to continue to try and pay for it. Most people have to resort to student loans because it costs so much money to go to college than it used to. And student loans and debt have become more and more horrifying for people.
    IN the article, it mentioned someone who was attempting suicide due to their student debt. Quite tragically, that is not too uncommon anymore. Debt seems to be something that is like quicksand and is continually something that once you stepped in it, it is extremely hard to step out of it. I think that if we want people to continue to get an education then colleges should find a way to make their prices more affordable. Scholarships naturally help people to do so, but scholarships are being cut which make it harder for people to continue with the rewarding systems of scholarships. Without going to college it is harder to find a decent well-paying job, so many people have no choice but to go to college. I think that if we had more options it would be better. On option that some people have been trying are overseas degrees. These degrees are much cheaper than degrees that are being gained here. Unfortunately this is not an option for people who cannot go overseas for the degree. Another problem with that option is that some employer would not like if people got their degrees overseas or some jobs require you to have a in country degree. I think that to fic this we need to continue to support scholarship and grants. We should also try and vote for people you are more based on trying to continue to support education and who are trying to ease the student debt problems that we have in our country. If we don’t try and fix the student debt problem we will see an increase on people not wanting to attend college as to avoid the financial burden or more people attempting to kill themselves because they cannot take the burden that came with their student debt,

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