The term loan shark carries a negative connotation. On television, he’s the guy who sends his goons after people who don’t pay what they agreed to pay. In real life, he’s a business that lends money to high-risk recipients. Where there is a need for revenue, there will always be someone, somewhere, ready to lend it. The lender doesn’t loan money out of the goodness of their own heart. It’s a business decision made with profit in mind. The government has decided that all lending institutions must pay for the predatory loan practices of others.
In the early 2000s, I attempted to go to college. The cost of enrollment was an estimated $40,000 a year at my university of choice. As I was making minimum wage, it’s safe to say my yearly income was under $10,000. While I qualified for financial aid, it certainly didn’t cover the cost of tuition. When loans were offered amongst the obscene amount of paperwork required to begin the life of a college student, I signed on every dotted line where they told me to sign and initialed each highlighted area.
It took the entire first year of college for me to realize that I’m too neurotic for anything in the medical field and my grades reflected those challenges. I sat down in the office with a lovely woman who told me I should be on a path to get a liberal arts degree. If I’m being honest, I didn’t even know what liberal arts was. Already outclassed in every aspect of life, I’d have died before asking questions to show how ignorant I truly was. My determination to get a college education wasn’t hinged on what type of education, but to display a diploma on my wall and prove to the world that I could rise above my circumstances.
Life interrupted my college career and forced me to withdraw. Before I knew it, because I wasn’t in school, my loans became due. I ignored every notice and phone call because I had no answer to the questions they wanted to ask me. Unfortunately, I also ignored the calls from the people offering to defer my loans before they defaulted. Consequences that can be delayed are always more appealing when you’re struggling with normal day to day living.
The government is going to get its money, and it got mine. It didn’t care that I was raising four children on minimum wage. It didn’t care that my son had medical issues. It didn’t care that the only working vehicle I had died, and that made me lose the sole income responsible for keeping the lights on.
Every penny I borrowed from the government-backed loans was paid back. We lived in a two-bedroom trailer that should have been condemned prior to us moving in, but we survived. It never occurred to me to blame the government, or the banks, or the lending institutions for the state of my existence. I let ignorance and fear dictate how I handled affairs. It was a me problem from start to finish.
I’m not mad that the president followed through on a campaign promise and forgave $10,000 in student loans for borrowers who make less than a certain amount of money. I’m disappointed that other people aren’t being held to the same standard as I was. I’m devastated that I struggled unnecessarily to clothe and feed my children for the same reason that is being forgiven today.
Of course I wouldn’t wish the circumstances of my life on anyone. Only a small part of my chaotic life was because of student loans. There is nothing in the conversation about student loans that cures poverty or ignorance. It does nothing to address the stroke-inducing cost of colleges and universities around this country. Nothing is gained by social warriors fighting against poverty with memes and quotes from dead people. I find their outrage convenient and self-serving.
I understand that there are predatory loan practices that targeted minorities and those below the poverty line. It’s shameful, and every single one of those institutions should be prosecuted and banned from ever lending money to students again. The victims of those predatory practices should have their loans forgiven. For everyone else, it’s just another government handout that will do nothing to change the process of student loans.
College is expensive. Books are expensive. Life is expensive. If I could go back and do it all over again, I would have enrolled in the nearest community college or trade school. It was an option then; it is an option now. The only difference today is that I understand the importance of reading the fine print.
I paid the price for my ignorance, and now our children will all pay for the ignorance of others.