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What $200,000 in Student Debt Looks Like
November 22, 2010 1:04 PM   Subscribe

Kelli went to Northeastern University and got loans to pay for her sociology degree. Her repayment schedule is featured in the article and it is not pretty.

From the article:

I am actually forced to live with my parents (forced = I am lucky! But...) as the monthly payments for just my private loans are currently $891 until Nov 2011 when they increase to $1600 per month for the following 20 years...
posted by reenum (261 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Shit. They are going to foreclose on her brain.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:06 PM on November 22, 2010 [14 favorites]


No, brains are repossessed.
posted by Eideteker at 1:08 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


At least, that's what that Jude Law movie about the Opera taught me.
posted by Eideteker at 1:09 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


What was her major?
posted by nomadicink at 1:09 PM on November 22, 2010


Oops, nevermind.
posted by nomadicink at 1:10 PM on November 22, 2010


$1600 a month for 20 years, good night. Those fresh out of high school should not be allowed to sign up for such a burden. The whole system is almost criminal.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:12 PM on November 22, 2010 [77 favorites]


What was her major?

Reading.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:12 PM on November 22, 2010 [19 favorites]


This sucks. Does this qualify as "undue hardship"?
posted by justkevin at 1:13 PM on November 22, 2010


I'm sorry, but what did you expect would happen after you took out a $200,000 loan? That it would magically disappear?

The system is all kinds of fucked up, but I'm having a lot of trouble gathering up any sympathy for this particular girl. Even in a miraculously-wonderful economy with plenty of jobs and no interest on loans, racking up $200k in student debt for a Sociology BS would have been suicidal.
posted by schmod at 1:14 PM on November 22, 2010 [40 favorites]


justkevin - nope. It's basically impossible to discharge student loans in bankruptcy; no judge ever finds that undue hardship exists
posted by r_nebblesworthII at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Talk about debt slavery. I am so, so grateful that I had parents who knew firsthand about how debt could ruin your life.
posted by mmmbacon at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


As draconian as some of the new bankruptcy laws are, there is the possibility of discharging student loans in bankruptcy if repayment would impose "undue hardship" on the debtor -- one test uses the standard that the debtor is unable to maintain a minimal standard of living while repaying the debts. Sounds like she'd have a very good chance of qualifying. Rather than ask for people to contribute $200,000, she should ask for $2,000 and consult with a good bankruptcy attorney.
posted by katemonster at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Shoulda gone to a state school.
posted by ghharr at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [22 favorites]


Why will banks make out a loan to someone with no prospect for adequate income after graduation? At first I was like, "Caveat emptor", but this is getting ridiculous.
posted by muddgirl at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


So, uh, bankruptcy, then? It's either that, live like a squirrel for three decades, or attempt a zany get-rich-quick scheme.
posted by Iridic at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2010


Bankruptcy law allows discharge of student loans only in cases where the borrower can show "undue hardship." With a debt approaching $200K and $1600 in monthly loan payments and a bachelor's degree in sociology, Kelli may be one of the few people who qualify for a discharge. It looks like a typical starting salary for a recent sociology graduate is about $35,000/yr. At $1600/month, her loan payments will total $19,200, which will require about $27,000 in pre-tax income to pay. She'll have a hard time making it on the remaining $8000/yr after she pays the loan.

Is the higher education bubble about to burst?
posted by fogovonslack at 1:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


They don't seem to ask her "Was it worth it?" in the article - I would think that's a very important question.
posted by XMLicious at 1:16 PM on November 22, 2010


I'm sorry, but what did you expect would happen after you took out a $200,000 loan? That it would magically disappear?

The thing about being eighteen is that you see lots of other people going to that school and it works out just fine for them - because their parents can afford it - so you assume, not unfairly, that the loan will get paid off because you're going to get a college-degree-only job.

I can't think of any spite more misdirected than that directed at students who made the mistake of assuming that a necessity to compete in the job market would be reasonably priced.
posted by mightygodking at 1:16 PM on November 22, 2010 [49 favorites]


There is an upside to all of this. My school recently had a faculty and staff seminar that was catered with coffee and cookies. A large woman with a nametag stood by the spread in an effort to scare away all us vulturous med students, but I come from a proud line of thieves and beggars and was undaunted by her presence. The woman stopped me mid-grab: "those are for faculty and staff only." Seconds later, I was eating my plate of free cookies. Want to know how I did it?

I told her, "But I owe the government a quarter million dollars."
posted by The White Hat at 1:16 PM on November 22, 2010 [41 favorites]


I was all prepared to come in here going on about how that's insane, this must represent loans taken out to cover credit card debt, kids today, get off my lawn, etc.

But nope; Northeastern itself estimates the cost of a single year with tuition, room, board, books and fees at $49,452 per year. A four year degree is indeed 200K. Jesus.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


I'm a few years out of high school, and I was scarily close to ending up in the same boat. (Invest in yourself! The only loans worth having are the ones in education! etc, etc) Thank the Lord I realized how absurd that would have been, and didn't go with the $150k-a-degree school. Instead, I'm now paying per semester what I could have been paying per class, and I don't think my education will have suffered for it.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Undergrad tuition there is $18,100 / year. What did she spend the other $128,000 on? That's $32,000 / year for non-tuition expenses, not counting any money she should have been making at the same time. $0 in scholarships? $0 in work study? $0 in a part-time job?
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010


Tuition at Northeastern is currently $18,190 per term. Assuming 8 terms to graduate, that's $145,520 in tuition (it was probably a little less, assuming it increased over the years she attended).

$145,000 buys you a pretty decent house in this market. Two words: State school!
posted by PhillC at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, but what did you expect would happen after you took out a $200,000 loan? That it would magically disappear?

Exactly. And now:
"She's so desperate that she's set up a website soliciting donations from the public, TwoHundredThou.com, with the vague hope that it might go viral like that "Million Dollar Homepage" thing did."
posted by ericb at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010


Wonders if she would qualify for the IBR (Income Based Repayment). Its a pain in the ass to file but god so worth it. Took my and wifes payments down to something we could actually pay.
posted by ShawnString at 1:17 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Copypasta from one of the gawker commenters:
The student loan process is such a joke. I remember just receiving a letter with the amount of money I could receive and little else. Oh, yeah, the loan counseling website. A 5 question quiz most people blow off.
This was exactly my experience, although I was lucky enough to walk away with an engineering degree and less than $25,000 in debt thanks to my parents being broke. IIRC they didn't even ask my major - it was based entirely off my FAFSA with the understanding that anything the school didn't cover would be signed off in loans.
posted by muddgirl at 1:18 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It is absolutely fucking criminal that eighteen-year-olds are allowed to do this to themselves. I don't want to hear any horseshit about how they're "legal adults." They were living on their parents dime not months before taking out the first pieces of these loans. If they were children the year before we, as a humane society, owe it to ourselves to protect them. If their parents aren't up to it, and aren't wise enough -- whether through ignorance or esteem -- to steer them away shouldn't matter.

I'm sorry, but what did you expect would happen after you took out a $200,000 loan? That it would magically disappear?

I bet you can name a few things you did at 18 you'd rather not have revealed in a public forum and would prefer not haunt you for the next 20 years, no?
posted by griphus at 1:18 PM on November 22, 2010 [58 favorites]


I'm thinking about going back to Uni and finishing my BA in History. I know it sounds stupid (in this economy, blah blah blah), but History is something I love. I'm willing to put an extra $10,000 in the hole (and add another $100 or so to my monthly payments) to do something that I've always wanted to do, and get something that I've always wanted to have.

But $200,000? For a degree in something I love? Fuck that. I'd invest 1/100th of that in history books, rent boys and weed and educate my own damn self, thank you.
posted by Avenger at 1:19 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


If her family (and she) are clearly in no place to afford $200,000 in education, how did she not apply for any (need-based, grant-based) financial aid? I'm astounded that she thought it was a good idea to foot an *entire* expensive education on private loans alone, and/or that this never came up in discussions with Northeastern. I came from a middle class family and even I got some decent financial aid grants to various schools with about this price tag, even before any merit scholarships. How did she navigate all these loan applications, but never have someone mention financial aid?
posted by olinerd at 1:19 PM on November 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


I guess I found the wrong Northeastern University. Either way, I'd like to see mandatory "Here's what your debt will be, look upon it and despair" classes before letting people get these loans.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:19 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Why will banks make out a loan to someone with no prospect for adequate income after graduation?

Aren't most of them guaranteed by the federal government? It's just more welfare for bankers at the expense of the debtor class.
posted by enn at 1:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [20 favorites]


Wonders if she would qualify for the IBR (Income Based Repayment). Its a pain in the ass to file but god so worth it. Took my and wifes payments down to something we could actually pay.

I was gonna snarkily suggest this, but alas IBR is for federal loans only. What was your experience with filing?
posted by nasreddin at 1:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Teaching finance in grade and high school should be mandatory. It won't fix every money related problem, but it'll help
posted by nomadicink at 1:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


I bet her parents are co-signers on her loans, too. If anything happens to her, they're in real deep shit.

Agree about the criminal aspect of student loans. I know, I, as an adult, have to subject myself to almost proctology-level scrutiny in order to qualify for a collateral-backed loan at my local credit union. A system that will hand-over such a huge amount of money to an 18-year-old without any indication the kid will actually be able to pay it back simply seems purpose-built for usury.

0xFCAF...Does that tuition figure include housing? I'm betting it doesn't. Housing can easily be double what tuition is. Then, you have to allow for books and whatever else the classes require. Merely quoting tuition doesn't reveal the entire cost.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


0xFCAF, that's per semester, not year. I assume the $50,000 between tuition and what she owes is interest.
posted by PhillC at 1:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would be agog at these fees, but I live in Manhattan and pay $22K a year for my daughter's daycare. Which is just a bit under half this woman's university fees. And my daughter is two.
posted by gaspode at 1:21 PM on November 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


It's pretty tempting to shout "But she knew what she was getting into when she signed the loan documents!" but it seems as though she probably was not equipped with basic financial literacy (at least the kind of financial literacy needed to manage 200K in loans in one's early twenties), and neither were her parents.

She's the first person in her family to graduate from university, so there must have been a lot of thinking along the lines of "well, all these other people send their kids to Ivy League Schools, somehow we'll manage!"

Then again, what the hell was she doing borrowing money to study an extra year abroad? That's nuts.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:21 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I guess I found the wrong Northeastern University.

No, you didn't. It's here in Boston.
posted by ericb at 1:21 PM on November 22, 2010


Undergrad tuition there is $18,100 / year. What did she spend the other $128,000 on?

Room and board: 12K a year
Travel: Probably about 5K a year assuming she goes home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break
Books: 1K a year if she's lucky

And so forth.
posted by mightygodking at 1:22 PM on November 22, 2010


Then again, what the hell was she doing borrowing money to study an extra year abroad? That's nuts.

I was assuming it was her junior year--not necessarily any more expensive than regular tuition, I guess.
posted by nasreddin at 1:23 PM on November 22, 2010


It is absolutely fucking criminal that eighteen-year-olds are allowed to do this to themselves.

Eighteen-year-olds? I was 16 when I signed off for my first student loan. Yes, Kelli should have worked through college, should have gone to a community college and transferred to a state school. Despite that, the system is broken. I worked all through college, went to only state schools, and still owe $400+/month on my loans.
posted by booknerd at 1:23 PM on November 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Why will banks make out a loan to someone with no prospect for adequate income after graduation?

The lending institution gives out loans to anyone who asks for them, and if the loans go sour then the government pays the bill and tries to collect itself. There's no downside if you're a "bank." And all of that aside, like most debt obligations these days student loans are usually packaged into CDOs and sold on to the investment markets. So, just like crap mortgages, why should the lenders care? Package the crap up and ship it out.
posted by 1adam12 at 1:23 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, we busted up unions in this country, so indentured servitude is the next logical step backward. I'm not sure what comes after that... formalization of a feudal state?
posted by crapmatic at 1:24 PM on November 22, 2010 [23 favorites]


I'm astounded that she thought it was a good idea to foot an *entire* expensive education on private loans alone, and/or that this never came up in discussions with Northeastern

what "Discussions with Northeastern" would those be? I come from a solidly overeducated middle-to-upper-middle-class extended family, where undergraduate degrees are taken for granted; my parents covered most-but-not-all of my (relatively cheap state school) bills for me. And for that I'm deeply grateful. But I can assure you, at no point in the process did anyone from the school talk to me for even one minute about how I was paying for things, whether my debt load would be reasonable for my plans, whether there were more scholarships I could be pursuing, or anything else along those lines. And I'm from a background that trained me very well to understand the university process and how to game the system; I knew the questions to ask, the problems to dodge, and the issues to worry about. If you don't have years and years of socialization on what "normal" looks like here, you're pretty much left to guess and hope, unless you can figure out what problems you're not anticipating.
posted by Tomorrowful at 1:26 PM on November 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


Oh, so you owe low six-figures in student loans?

Me too. Take a number and get in line.
posted by valkyryn at 1:27 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


On second thought, yes. The girl was indeed 18 at the time, etc,. although she mentions in her FAQ that she did eventually figure out how screwed she was during her Sophomore year, but decided to finish out the degree, study abroad, and take summer classes, because she was having a good time.

The bank who wrote this loan, I suppose is equally to blame. I suppose the most appalling thing about the story is that nobody seems to have ever told her that she was putting herself into an absolutely horrible situation.

I do feel bad for her, and the fact that she's in debt basically for the rest of her life is indeed unfair and tragic. However, there's still the voice in the back of my head screaming that she should have seen this coming from a mile away.
posted by schmod at 1:27 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


there's still the voice in the back of my head screaming that she should have seen this coming from a mile away.

Yeah, Marxists call that voice "false consciousness."
posted by nasreddin at 1:30 PM on November 22, 2010 [23 favorites]


"She's so desperate that she's set up a website soliciting donations from the public..."

OK, setting up a website to solicit donations is actually about the least "desperate" thing I've heard of someone doing who was desperate for money. She refuses to work a second job because it would cut into her sleep time.

When I was a youngster walking uphill in the snow to and from school, my father and mother both worked more than one job each. Neither one of them has ever used the word "desperate" to describe our situation then. And they didn't take out any loans to go fuck around abroad for a semester.
posted by Cookiebastard at 1:31 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


It is hard to understand how she ended up paying everything by loan - that she didn't have any scholarship, financial aid, or up-front payment (work during the summer, part time during school, type stuff, to cover partial costs) is unusual. Most people I knew in college who didn't have college funds (which was most of us) were always on the lookout for ways to decrease the loans we had to take out. And sure, you may not get that at 17, but hopefully by 21 it's started to occur to you... And possibly there are adults around you who have advice...

As it is, she's lucky she doesn't have to pay rent - hopefully she can get a decent job and pay down the principal a little bit while she has that advantage.
posted by mdn at 1:31 PM on November 22, 2010


What "Discussions with Northeastern" would those be?

Well, I had to fill out the FAFSA and submit it to all my schools as well as other need-based loan providers. If she went to all the trouble she did to finance her education I have to believe she filled out the FAFSA at some point. It never went to NU? They never sent any "paying for college" literature? (I definitely remember info sheets like that in my acceptance letters from various colleges) Sure, it's not a verbal discussion that would actually be useful, but when I went through the process in 2001 there seemed to be a fair amount of effort to engage prospective students in thinking about how to pay for things.

I'm not saying NU and other schools wouldn't push you toward private loans anyway, or that this effort to engage students doesn't persuade them to buy colleges they can't afford. But if she was in as dire need as she appears to have been, to have taken out loans for 100% of the costs, then I can't believe there was never any paperwork that NU saw that would have resulted in need-based grants and/or low-interest loans that could have alleviated what she's facing now. It's just confusing.
posted by olinerd at 1:32 PM on November 22, 2010


My wife and I agree that education and learning are important - we both grew up in houses filled with books, both have Masters now - but goddamn am I going to start leaving some plumber's tools or electrician's kit around the house for our fourth month old.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [29 favorites]


Sub prime seeps into everything doesn't it?
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


So stupid question.

You owe 200k in student loans.
You make 30k a year.
You do not have enough money to pay the 1600 a month fees. You cannot discharge it in bankruptcy.

Other than credit destruction, what if you don't pay? Do wage garnishments follow a different set of rules? Can they garnish your wages so that you simply cannot buy food anymore?
posted by Lord_Pall at 1:34 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yow, twenty years ago I was crying that I owed $7500 in student loans. There's no degree that would be worth $200K to me.
posted by octothorpe at 1:35 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Grasping striver, never learned her place. Pass the cake, please.
posted by dglynn at 1:36 PM on November 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


...how did she not apply for any (need-based, grant-based) financial aid?

I wonder about that myself.

From DarlingBri's link:
"Grants and loans from federal and state sources are distributed evenly throughout each academic year. Northeastern grants and scholarships are distributed in terms when tuition is charged."
Northeastern University: Student Financial Aid Details
Federal Grant Aid -- 13%
State & Local Grant Aid -- 13%
Institutional Grant Aid -- 84%
Student Loan Aid -- 65%
posted by ericb at 1:38 PM on November 22, 2010


Do wage garnishments follow a different set of rules? Can they garnish your wages so that you simply cannot buy food anymore?

25% of take home is the limit.
posted by smackfu at 1:39 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


That's a hell of a situation to be in. One thing from her FAQ (derp) kinda rubbed me the wrong way:
While, in the end, I was one of very few of my friends to obtain a job right out of college — which I’d like to thank my education, my study abroad experience, etc., for — I still didn’t make enough money to cover all of my bills.
This says to me (and I'm horrible, I guess, for thinking it) that the education received exceeded the drive to maximize its benefits. You got too much learning, and not enough ambition.
posted by boo_radley at 1:41 PM on November 22, 2010


I bet you can name a few things you did at 18 you'd rather not have revealed in a public forum and would prefer not haunt you for the next 20 years, no?

Yes. Which is why 1) I didn't sign a contract agreeing to have them haunt me for the next 20 years; and 2) I don't have a website telling the whole world about them.
posted by The World Famous at 1:42 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Other than credit destruction, what if you don't pay? Do wage garnishments follow a different set of rules? Can they garnish your wages so that you simply cannot buy food anymore?

Bonded labor is a form of debt slavery that is created when an individual begins to work for another person who holds a debt from that worker. It is also known as debt slavery. Once a bonded labor situation has been created, some individuals find it impossible to ever break out of it.

Bonded labor begins when an individual goes to another individual to borrow money and agrees to work in exchange for the money. Often, the person will be required to live on the property so that the debt holder can keep track of their whereabouts. It is also common for all members of an immediate family to share in debt bondage situation. That means that even though some of those enslaved did not borrow the money, they are still serving as slaves
From this link since wikipedia seems to be broke
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:42 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Re: need-based financial aid.

My roommate payed for the first two years of her private-school education on student loans, Her father was laid off from his job one month before the first term, FAFSA is previous-year-income.

In short, the fed gov't thought her family was making $200,000 a year when they were pulling in less than $80,000. There was literally nothing she could do: Either take the student loans or drop out of school. There was no option to re-file the FAFSA or anything.
posted by muddgirl at 1:43 PM on November 22, 2010


Travel: Probably about 5K a year assuming she goes home for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break

Wait, what the hell? She's a New Yorker going to college in Boston. Hell, even if she was from LA, how would she possibly spend that much on travel?
posted by nasreddin at 1:43 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


muddgirl: "Why will banks make out a loan to someone with no prospect for adequate income after graduation? At first I was like, "Caveat emptor", but this is getting ridiculous."

She had a AAA bond rating by the same folks that brought us the housing crisis.
posted by symbioid at 1:44 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I am a bit confused, though. I'm seeing these loans being portrayed as private loans. But, then, I'm seeing people talk about them being federally subsidized. Which is it? A combination of both? This is pretty common as even a combination of student and Parent-Plus loans don't always cover the entire cost. Many students have to resort to the private sector.

Private student loans are NOT federally subsidized and are the pure, satan's codswallop of education loans. Most are variable-rate, tied to LIBOR. This girl's story sounds a lot like she got tied up in private loans
posted by Thorzdad at 1:45 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, I can't wait for the day, 6 months after she gets her PhD in chemistry and her student loans come out of deferral, when the weight of the Metafilter community can call her a naive idiot for not dropping out and going to a community college a decade ago.
posted by muddgirl at 1:45 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also, I can't wait for the day, 6 months after she gets her PhD in chemistry and her student loans come out of deferral, when the weight of the Metafilter community can call her a naive idiot for not dropping out and going to a community college a decade ago.

I thought this place was pretty bad. Then I saw the Gawker comments. Jeeesus.
posted by nasreddin at 1:46 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


nasreddin: It's rather gauche to travel economy, darling. First class seats and spring breaks in Mexico are the only way a lady at NU can live.
posted by reenum at 1:47 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the Gawker comments are pretty awful. The Mefi $5 is wonderful thing.
posted by josher71 at 1:49 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


In short, the fed gov't thought her family was making $200,000 a year when they were pulling in less than $80,000. There was literally nothing she could do: Either take the student loans or drop out of school

Seems pretty obvious, no? Drop out of school, work for a year, and go back when the formula has caught up to her parents' financial situation. Yeah, it sucks, but on the scale of "things that suck," it's FAR from the end of the world. A speedbump at worst.

I swear, people are completely irrational about these things, which I guess is how we managed to construct a system in which scenarios like this one were even possible.
posted by schmod at 1:50 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


muddgirl: "6 months after she gets her PhD in chemistry and her student loans come out of deferral, when the weight of the Metafilter community can call her a naive idiot "

This is how my wife felt all on her own, honestly, and the situation is similar (biology, not chemistry). The root problem is (I will be maddening vague here, sorry) Very Large and spread out among (in each case, or in each institution if you'd like) many actors who have no ultimate culpability for these scenarios, but benefit directly from continued participation.
posted by boo_radley at 1:50 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Like most (every?) college/university Northeastern has a significant Financial Aid program, all sorts of scholarships and grants and student employment opportunities.

BTW -- Northeastern is known for its Coop Program. Students "gain up to 18 months of professional experience related to their major or career interest with any of more than 2,000 employers across the United States and in 49 countries around the world." Each student can spend three semesters on Co-op." "Average salary of undergraduate co-op students who worked six months in the academic year: $15,860."

Did she elect to do any Co-op semesters? If so, did she earn any money?
posted by ericb at 1:52 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


MY GOODNESS. I'm baffled as to why she got such a huge loan for a SOCIOLOGY degree. Pre-med or engineering or comp sci I can understand.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:53 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, I am going to set up a website so you all can pay for my stupid decisions.
posted by desjardins at 1:53 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Getting paid $200,000 to get a degree in sociology seems about fair value given how much lifetime income you lose in such a low-paying field.

Wait, what?
posted by GuyZero at 1:54 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


What’s even more, Sallie Mae [student loan corporation] won’t allow me to consolidate my loans, repay the loans based on my income, or defer again (as I’ve already deferred for 6 months).
posted by Mister Fabulous at 1:55 PM on November 22, 2010


Other than credit destruction, what if you don't pay?

You may get a forbearance on repaying some of the loan. Of course, any unpaid interest will be capitalized into the principal, so you'll basically end up never actually repaying the loan.

This can happen with income-based repayment as well. I don't make quite enough money for my IBR payments to be large enough to cover the interest on some of my loans. As a result, the principal actually increases by a few hundred dollars each year. Other than coming into a massive (and unexpected) inheritance, winning the lottery, or the like, I will never actually repay my loans. They'll just be forgiven once I hit the 25 year mark. Or, more likely, 10 years of working a public interest job.

So since the loan company will eventually get repaid by the federal government when the principal is forgiven, and the loan can't be discharged in bankruptcy, there's no incentive for the loan company to renegotiate or write anything off. They're happy to just take whatever they can squeeze out of you and capitalize the rest.
posted by jedicus at 1:55 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am a bit confused, though. I'm seeing these loans being portrayed as private loans. But, then, I'm seeing people talk about them being federally subsidized.

Up until this year federally-backed student loans, both subsidized and unsubsidized, were offered through private lenders. My understanding is that that stopped in July of this year — now federal loans are made only by the federal government directly.
posted by enn at 1:57 PM on November 22, 2010


desjardins: "Wow, I am going to set up a website so you all can pay for my stupid decisions"

I can help you with that. I can do a basic "I NEED DONATIONS" site for around $68,000. Call me!
posted by boo_radley at 1:59 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Thanks for the link! It's heartwarming to learn that there are people in even worse student loan situations than I am.
posted by naju at 2:03 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


... hopefully she can get a decent job and pay down the principal a little bit while she has that advantage.

She does have a job.
posted by ericb at 2:04 PM on November 22, 2010


My first instinct is that I am soooooooo glad I took the scholarship to state school.

But to be honest even state schools are getting pretty damn expensive these days. Students who go this far in debt are idiots, no doubt about it, but lots of 18-year-olds are. It's practically the definition of being 18-years old. Schools should not allow their students to take out these kinds of loans.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:06 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


She was aware of what she was getting into:
"Though I considered the debt in passing, I didn’t feel burdened until the end of sophomore year. At that point, I was already 2 years in and very pleased with my education up until that point. It kept me up some nights, but I made myself feel better by assuming my education would be enough to get a really great job. Junior year I even made the decision to study abroad the following year, thinking it would spruce up my resume even further - but also getting me into even more debt. While, in the end, I was one of very few of my friends to obtain a job right out of college — which I’d like to thank my education, my study abroad experience, etc., for — I still didn’t make enough money to cover all of my bills."
posted by ericb at 2:06 PM on November 22, 2010


Why should I donate? There are a million better charities out there!
"ABSOLUTELY. And there’s no reason for you to donate $1 or $2 to me when you’d rather donate to charities fighting hunger, poverty, disease, and the like. However, once my loans are paid off, I’ll be heading into the social sphere, career-wise, as my major was Sociology and I’m a raging liberal who just wants to do good. Think of how much better it will be to have 1 more young person going the humanitarian route?

Just think about it.

Could be so much better than donating $1 to the Red Cross and having that $1 go toward someone’s salary instead of the cause…"
posted by ericb at 2:07 PM on November 22, 2010


If this was a case of a man on the street offering a 17~18 year old person the same deal that the bank offered Kelli, then I doubt you would see many people degrading her. She made a bad decision when she was young, and now she's fucked for life. To the people saying she should have known better, don't you agree that most young people make bad choices? Haven't you made bad choices when you were young yourself? This is a systematic problem, and you can either force people to make better decisions or you can go after what would normally be termed usury. Which one of those do you think represents your own personal interests more? Are you a person, or are you a multinational corporate bank?
posted by codacorolla at 2:09 PM on November 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


Junior year I even made the decision to study abroad the following year, thinking it would spruce up my resume even further - but also getting me into even more debt.

You know what else would have really spruced up the resume ? A fucking job, you lazy git.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:09 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


But do you really understand how much money that really is until you get some real world life experience?
posted by mmmbacon at 2:10 PM on November 22, 2010


Wait, what the hell? She's a New Yorker going to college in Boston. Hell, even if she was from LA, how would she possibly spend that much on travel?

Yeah. The Fung Weh Bus (among others) is $30 roundtrip between Boston and New York.
posted by ericb at 2:12 PM on November 22, 2010


Fucking kids these days.

To the people saying she should have known better, don't you agree that most young people make bad choices?

Sure. Like when I went out with Sarah instead of pursuing Mary, and I got a SegaCD instead of waiting until the Playstation.

But yeah, not $200,000 worth of bad choices.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:13 PM on November 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


I can't think of any spite more misdirected than that directed at students who made the mistake of assuming that a necessity to compete in the job market would be reasonably priced.

Since when is a degree in sociology necessary to compete in the job market?
posted by ripley_ at 2:14 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


You do not have enough money to pay the 1600 a month fees. You cannot discharge it in bankruptcy.

Here's her take on bankruptcy:
"Little known fact - you cannot discharge student loans in bankruptcy; or at least, you can in very few cases. I’ve thought to myself - Well HEY, I’m sure I’d fall into the small percentage who can get their loans discharged! But, ultimately, I would have to pay my lawyer several thousand dollars and there would still be a chance we wouldn’t be able to declare.

On TOP of all of that, declaring bankruptcy is not a great solution for taxpayers in my local area - if I declare bankruptcy, someone will still pay the money, and that will be … the taxpayers. I’d rather people voluntarily donate than get a tax hike because my debt is through the roof!"
posted by ericb at 2:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


But do you really understand how much money that really is until you get some real world life experience?

That's the issue really. The banks know that the kids don't know any better, and that once they go for a year and are already in tremendous debt, they'll consider seeing it through as the only workable option. When you're 18 or 20 and in that spot, you figure, $200,000? I'll get a job making $100,000/yr and pay it off in 2 years! You think this because you are kind of an idiot at things like that.
posted by Mister_A at 2:16 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


I think one can simultaneously think the system needs serious reform and be incredulous at the student's behavior.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 2:16 PM on November 22, 2010 [20 favorites]


Once again, ericb proves my point far better than I could by simply pulling quotes from the source material.


At this point, I actually feel bad about poking fun at the FAQ. No matter how poor her decisions might have been in hindsight, this is a terrible situation for a young person to be in. I do hope she finds some way out of it.
posted by schmod at 2:16 PM on November 22, 2010


Also, can I paypal her the Wikipedia article on bankruptcy?
posted by schmod at 2:17 PM on November 22, 2010


Seems like we see one of these stories every few months. Shocking that word hasn't gotten around about student loans the way it has about credit cards. Oh wait.

If only there was a place where kids were forced to go for 17 years every day where we could teach them about these sorts of things. Oh wait.

To be fair, I would probably have done something equally stupid and it's only through sheer luck that I am free of student loans today. This was my formula for success, and I'm sharing it with all you high school kids for free: (1) go to state school, get work-study, scrounge what you can and graduate with < $20k in student loans, (2) go work for a big corporation with a tuition assistance program and stock options, (3) get an advanced degree (MS in my case) that the company pays for from a top 10 program; defer undergrad loan repayment while part-time in grad school, (4) now that you have an advanced degree and your stock options have vested exercise them to pay off your undergrad loans, (5) live a happy, debt-free life.

Then you can buy a house you can't afford at the peak of the bubble (which I did) and lead a happy life knowing that housing is always a good investment. Oh wait.

I guess you (by which I mean me) just have to learn some things the hard way.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:17 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


So what's the debt of someone with a science degree like medicine, biochemistry, etc?
posted by stormpooper at 2:17 PM on November 22, 2010


To the people saying she should have known better, don't you agree that most young people make bad choices? Haven't you made bad choices when you were young yourself?

She didn't make A bad choice.

I knocked up a stripper. That was a bad choice*. This person made mistake after repeated mistake over the course of 4+ years. Instead of changing their behavior to account for or otherwise attend to the looming issue, just put it off until now it's a house payment.

I feel sort of bad for her - I understand youthful indiscretion - but the first thing you should do when you find yourself in a deep hole is stop digging.

* but I got a son out of it whom I love dearly, so it's not purely a mistake. Still, she's made my life hell for 15 years already
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 2:17 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


You think this because you are kind of an idiot at things like that.

Yup. People are bad at making these kind of estimates. I wonder if I can start a company that tells people whether or not they are about to make a good financial decision. I will charge reasonable fees.
posted by jeffamaphone at 2:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The system is all kinds of fucked up, but I'm having a lot of trouble gathering up any sympathy for this particular girl.

I used to work for a nonprofit that focused a lot on affordable college education. I've heard a lot of stories like this, many much much worse. I don't think I have "trouble" gathering sympathy. I'm well aware that she's in trouble. I just think she found a really bad way to address it.

My friend left Emory with a $200,000 loan bill and tried to sell me his television last December because the temp job at a tax help center laid him off a month early. 50% of me understands that he also probably can't stand anyone more kneejerk questions of "why the fuck did you go to a $50,000/year school to get an English degree?" yet the other 50% keeps wondering, well, exactly that.

In other words, I am incredibly sympathetic to her plight while at the same time incredulous to the idea that she considered relaunching SaveKaryn.com only after exhausting all other plausible options, as well as the notion that this debt truly never occurred to her. My friend has been dealing with far worse, including not having free rent. (And as someone who couldn't move out until 24, anyone calling her retrospective luxury a hindrance is somewhat annoying.)

That all said, everyone's right that piling on her is not helpful for her budget or her psyche. I really just don't thing e-begging is going to be the best way for her to get the verbal and constructive support she really needs right now.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:21 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am a bit confused, though. I'm seeing these loans being portrayed as private loans.

They are. "She currently owes Sallie Mae alone nearly $190,000."*

Sallie Mae (aka SLM Corporation) is now private, but was started in 1972 as a government-sponsored enterprise (GSE), issuing federal grants. It completed its privatization in 2004.
posted by ericb at 2:21 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The federal government should simply set up a little panel to determine a student loan default rate/amount threshold for educational institutions at which to deny all future guaranteed loans to any students enrolled there until that institution falls below the threshold.

Above all, this threshold should include all past, current and future loans.

That would take care of a lot of the problem in the future and punish many of the people who brought this disgraceful state of affairs about and who have benefited from it to this point.
posted by jamjam at 2:22 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unless her parents are fairly well off her tuition was not $18,100 a year. The average discount rate at private universities is 40% these days.
posted by barake at 2:25 PM on November 22, 2010


Also, I think we should cut off the argument right now about how students "should know better" about loans. It's as silly as the "whadday MEAN you didn't know McDonald's would make ya fat GRAR! LOL!!11!" stuff.

The student loan industry- the financial industry in general- is hideous. Much of what they do should be illegal. Much of what they do IS illegal. They don't really give a shit about responsibility any more than McDonald's cares about their burger having three times the daily recommend allowance of sodium. They just want to avoid reducing ways to get your money as fast as possible.

"Word is out about student loans?" What horseshit. More money is spent than any student will ever see in their lives to convince them all that money is, as noted in the beginning of this thread, magical. Word is out that there are now Kim Kardashian branded debit cards. The financial industry would club you in the throat and take your wallet from your still-breathing body if it could get away with it.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:28 PM on November 22, 2010 [15 favorites]


Yeah, Marxists call that voice "false consciousness."
posted by nasreddin at 4:30 PM on November 22


I get the point, but I find it very hard to believe that there is a single humanities or social sciences major at any college in the country who isn't asked at least a dozen times before graduation: "So what kind of a job are you going to get with a degree in [major that doesn't involve equations]?" We used to ask math majors this question, until we learned that they all go to Wall Street and make fortunes.

Really, what job did she think she was going to get with a BA in Sociology?

How the hell did she think she was going to pay back $200 grand? I would like an answer to this question. At the time she was borrowing the money what vision did she hold in her head of paying it back?

And notice she doesn't say anything about her willingness to do errand work or manual labor. Surely she can rake leaves, shovel snow, paint walls, clean bathrooms, etc. If she had actually paid attention in her sociology classes, she could do these things and in the process write a book/blog about the humbling experiences she had, and the downward mobility of the upper middle class generally. Instead, she asks for a handout.

(Of course, I'm sure she envisions turning this website into a few TV appearances and then a book deal or maybe even a movie deal.)
posted by Pastabagel at 2:28 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Where'd she get that cool chart of all her loans, complete with end dates for repayments? I haven't seen anything like that for my federal direct loans. Or maybe I didn't look closely enough. Hmm, I actually don't really know how long it will take to pay off my loans. I just know a lot of money is getting paid out each month.
posted by naju at 2:28 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


My favorite part is how, when she goes into default and the Feds cut a check to Sallie Mae for money they know they're never going to collect from her, that's a public-private partnership which we all know makes everything better and more markety, but if they were to just cut her a check instead and forgive the debt, at the same cost to the taxpayer, that would be a moral hazard which would lead to our all slaving away in the collectivized salt mines under the cruel lash of the proletariat by next Tuesday.
posted by enn at 2:28 PM on November 22, 2010 [30 favorites]


If the government didn't subsidize private student loan lenders by making student loans almost impossible to discharge than private lenders would not be preying on financially vulnerable 18 year olds. We have bankruptcy laws for a reason - because debtors prisons are bad and the economy does better when there is a mechanism to discharge debt and return people to being productive members of society.

Sure, she made a really bad decision but this is a systematic problem that isn't going to be solved by victim shaming.
posted by ChrisHartley at 2:29 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Jesus. At least my Terrible Academic Decision (grad school, natch) is funded and is only costing me 30 months of my life. I should be grateful.
posted by auto-correct at 2:29 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Reading this thread makes me want to take a second job.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:30 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


There has to be more of a story to this. Each year Northeastern would have been provided some financial aid offer which probably would have been about $5000 in student loans for her and $45000 in Parent loans (PLUS). If her parents wouldn't take out the loans she could go to a private institution, but they wouldn't have given her these loans without a cosigner.

I'm deep in debt for my kids' educations, my kids - not so much.
posted by Edward L at 2:32 PM on November 22, 2010


Sure, she made a really bad decision but this is a systematic problem that isn't going to be solved by victim shaming.

As mentioned above, just because she's in a rough situation doesn't really make her a "victim". And, hopefully talking out loud about how going into 6 figure debt before you've worked a day at a real job is not such a great idea will maybe convince the next crop of 17 year olds that there might be better ways to go about things.

(Totally agree that the system needs changing, etc)
posted by auto-correct at 2:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oooh! I know the answer! I know! I know! GRAD SCHOOL!

(This message brought to you by Bad Decision Dinosaur.)

My wife and I agree that education and learning are important - we both grew up in houses filled with books, both have Masters now - but goddamn am I going to start leaving some plumber's tools or electrician's kit around the house for our fourth month old.

This reminds me of my husband's brilliant idea of a business venture: PhD Plumbing. They're plumbers. With PhDs. While they fix your sink, they'll teach you about quantum mechanics. Or English Lit. Or whatever. So you get an unclogged sink AND a seminar.

(Of all the ideas he has, this is one of the least bad.)
posted by sonika at 2:36 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Poor girl.
posted by flippant at 2:38 PM on November 22, 2010


[A couple comments removed. Please cut it the fuck out with the conspicuous There Is More Personal Information About This Person Available On The Internet stuff, it basically never seems like a good idea.]
posted by cortex at 2:40 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


My daughter knows to read the fine print and anticipate what stuff will cost (thanks, iphone-contract-advertisers, you were invaluable in teaching that lesson). She learned that her allowance will not finance the latest buy-now-pay-later want, because she reads the fine print and processes it. She understands that is why she has a common old Nokia pre-paid mobile phone. She understands credit and the possible traps, and has stopped nagging for an iphone. She's 12.

This woman signed up for all this debt aged 18, and it didn't dawn on her until she was a couple of years into her degree that her repayments will be huge and perhaps impossible to afford?

I'm just about speechless. (And horrified at the cost of a degree in the US... I'm almost falling to my knees in gratitude that we live in Australia.)

What job does a sociology degree qualify you for, anyway? What is the salary range like?
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:44 PM on November 22, 2010


@ ThePinkSuperhero
$1600 a month for 20 years, good night.

Maybe she pays back the complete loan in 5 years with an ounce of silver. How knows? Bernake will try his best.
posted by yoyo_nyc at 2:45 PM on November 22, 2010


If you are thinking about donating to this cause, please take a moment to reconsider. Money sent to her will go to feed fat cat bankers and prop up the system.

100% of all money donated to me will be spent on marijuana - you have my personal guarantee! Link in profile.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:46 PM on November 22, 2010 [23 favorites]


We applied for scholarships during the summer but they heard — as much as I did — that cost of tuition should never keep you from attending a great school.

So apparently her family got pretty much no financial aid. At all. This doesn't mean that her family is well off-- Northeastern could just as easily be a stingy school when it comes to aid. But is it worth going to Northeastern over SUNY Binghamton, or even Stony Brook?
posted by deanc at 2:46 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meatbomb, can I just give you weed then?
posted by Mister_A at 2:49 PM on November 22, 2010


On the other hand, she's raised close to eight hundred bucks in the last hour or so, while I've been criticizing her (for free) on the internet about how bad her financial decisions are.
posted by Cookiebastard at 2:49 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I think forced hyperinflation is the most obvious solution to a great many of the financial problems currently vexing the U.S. And it scares me.
posted by The World Famous at 2:52 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was applying to law school I chose not to apply for any need-based scholarships or financial aid because I figured there were bound to be many students who needed it more (e.g. my parents paid for college).

Now I owe $215,000 (this is the principal, I don't have the heart to do the math on the interest) which is scary even with a "good" law firm job. And I have all these friends with great scholarships whose circumstances were every bit as middle-class as mine.

God past prefpara is a thorn in my fucking side!
posted by prefpara at 2:53 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


In-state tuition at U-Mass Boston is $5,305.50 per semester. Yes, they have a sociology major.
posted by found missing at 2:56 PM on November 22, 2010


I bet you can name a few things you did at 18 you'd rather not have revealed in a public forum and would prefer not haunt you for the next 20 years, no?

Sure, but I didn't repeatedly commit the same actions over and over again, ignoring the consequences for years, until I realized I was under-employable with no chance of ever getting out of debt. You have to sign for those notes again and again.

Some people are here to serve as examples to others. To pretend like this woman needs special protections undermines all the other adults that didn't make the same mistakes. The banks were stupid for giving her the loans. She was stupid for taking them.

That article makes it sound like she kept coming home to find a suitcase of money in her dorm from the good money fairy. I felt like I was signing away a piece of my soul with every loan I took. I had 4 jobs while I was in college, took few loans, and went to a state school. I am still 2 years away from having my loans paid off.

The math on her job is way off as well. 35k? Fine, that's on job one. She needs another 3 jobs. Time to do some tutoring. Time to get a weekend retail job. Tine to consider joining the National Guard or some other job.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:57 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


I went to university under a system where all tuition was not only free, living costs were also fully covered.

That system is still viable. All it requires is the acknowledgement from the government and employers that education until the age of 21 needn't be necessary to get a professional, well paid job. And, of course, a willingness to go all 'socialist' on education.

Or how about offering one-year degrees? Flexible, cheap, home-based degrees?

Saddling young people with huge amounts of debt, whether that's 10k or 200k, is inhumane. There are better ways, it just needs the political will.
posted by Summer at 2:58 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


What job does a sociology degree qualify you for, anyway? What is the salary range like?

Here's my experience as an American who keeps an eye on this sort of thing in my circle of acquaintances:

Most social science and humanity degrees qualify you for something above a service level job at an entry level, usually doing office work. Occasionally you can get a well paying (though still blue collar) job (if you're independently smart enough and can write/speak well) without having a college degree.

I've known people with degrees in Economics, Kinesiology (with no desire to practice in that field), Business, English who have all gotten clerk-like jobs doing accounts receivable, office management, etc. The baseline was about 40 to 50 k per year, and they hated their jobs (usually because they were boring, and there wasn't enough work for them, therefore a lot of time spent browsing the internet). These jobs were hard to get when I graduated, and have become harder to get in the 4 years since. Most recent grads outside of hard sciences that I know currently are working in food service, or some other service level job.

The rub of this is that a degree (any degree) is becoming more and more necessary as time goes on. You have people who have no interest in college who are basically forced to be there, which changes the tone and goal of college level education. Professors suffer, students who want to learn suffer, and students who want to just get a decent job suffer. Conspicuously, loan issuers and the top level of college administration do not.

What also suffers are the degrees that you need to put less work into (English and Sociology as examples), since these are seen as "easy" options, and therefore draw populations of people who don't want to be at college in the first place, so the classes become easier to normalize for the lack of effort, and give less value to the students who care (who probably won't care for very long with low-effort, low-value classes).

To summarize: shit's fucked, dawg.
posted by codacorolla at 3:00 PM on November 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


ThePinkSuperhero: $1600 a month for 20 years, good night. Those fresh out of high school should not be allowed to sign up for such a burden. The whole system is almost criminal

And yet, cyber-begging to try to defray the debt that she agreed to shoulder is also disgusting.
posted by paisley henosis at 3:05 PM on November 22, 2010


I work in financial aid, specifically with student loans.

This student borrowed private student loan funds. Caveat Emptor certainly applies there. She dug her own hole.

FWIW, federal student loans are fairly reasonable. There are caps on how much a student can borrow at the undergraduate level ($57,500). Federal student loans provide many income sensitive repayment options as well as some debt forgiveness options.

I counsel my students to avoid private student loans like the plague. Even if they don't take on private student loan debt, many wind up with unmanageable debt levels upon graduation.

Add to the mix that student borrowing goes way up in an economy like ours (federal loans are not based on credit qualifications) and we wind up with a lot of people who are borrowing money today just for survival. When the economy recovers, they could be saddled with debt the can't get out from under.

It ain't pretty.
posted by omphale27 at 3:09 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


This student borrowed private student loan funds. Caveat Emptor certainly applies there. She dug her own hole.

No, I think the banks dug it for her.

Seriously, it is harder for me, a working engineer, to get a $200,000 mortgage backed by a physical house than it is for a 17 or 18 yr old student or her family to get private loans. Backed by nothing. And the banks simply don't care about making wise decisions because the student can't discharge that debt.

We should not expect the average family to understand the difference between a private and a subsidised loan.
posted by muddgirl at 3:17 PM on November 22, 2010 [25 favorites]


People are sending her donations? Ugh...

You know, the internet needs a counter website that goes, "Who needs your money more? Yet another internet-beggar in decent health who will still be able to eat and be housed, or FOR THIS CAUSE FOR THESE SICK/INJURED/HUNGRY PEOPLE WHO REALLY NEED IT?" And this is the "automatic goto" I will always suggest to people instead of these annoying "I-AM-UNCOMFORTABLE-PLEAZ-HALP-MEEEE" people appear.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 3:21 PM on November 22, 2010


Yeah, so when I was 18 I went to state-subsidized school. Cause I was all like, I'm not rich and so I can't afford to attend a costly private school. This was not sophisticated thinking outside comprehension of an 18-year old mind. And I wasn't exactly Mr. Responsible; all I cared about at that age was partying and women.

That said, there should be a process for discharging excess student loans in bankruptcy if aggregate loans exceed some amount. Therefore, lenders will be much less likely to loan to someone who already has a debt burden of, say, $75,000, unless the amount is guaranteed, because the borrower may default and declare bankruptcy. This would force kids who are not from affluent background to really assess the educational landscape and either try and get scholarships, save before going to school, work during school or god forbid, go to Indiana University or Ohio State rather than George Washington University. Yes, I realize that affluent children would benefit because they will have more options than less wealthy children, but I think on balance, this would work better for everyone except the banks.
posted by gagglezoomer at 3:23 PM on November 22, 2010


I get the point, but I find it very hard to believe that there is a single humanities or social sciences major at any college in the country who isn't asked at least a dozen times before graduation: "So what kind of a job are you going to get with a degree in [major that doesn't involve equations]"

I was a philosophy major in 1996 and the answer "I'll figure it out" seemed to work for most people when they asked. Sadly.
posted by josher71 at 3:29 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


> we, as a humane society, owe it to ourselves to protect them.

I thought the Humane Society put them to sleep?
posted by mmrtnt at 3:34 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Victim: I was driving down the road and a drunk driver t-boned me, paralyzing me from the waist down
Victim: Someone stole my identity and racked up thousands in debt, ruining my credit
Victim: An arsonist burned down my house, leaving me homeless while my insurance company stalls
Victim: I took out a bunch of loans I could never possibly pay back, and now they're expensive

One of these things is really, really not like the other.
posted by 0xFCAF at 3:34 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


obviously she is not a particularly sympathetic "victim" but your characterization of her situation does not really do it justice... i do not care about her personally, but the problem is widespread and real
posted by lulz at 3:43 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Victim: I took out a bunch of loans I could never possibly pay back, and now they're expensive

One of these things is really, really not like the other.


Let me fix this one for you, you seem to have left something out:

Victim: I took out a bunch of loans because I didn't know any better, and (possibly) didn't have parents who had enough financial experience to tell me otherwise. The loan companies proceeded to give me a ridiculous, cartoonish ammount of money that I will most likely never pay off, and will likely ruin my life. At no point did the loan company say "you can never pay this off, you're cut off" and at no point did the school say "you have a huge ammount of debt - talk to a financial aid counselor". Instead, because I'm relatively weak, powerless, and uninformed, it was easiest and most profitable for everyone involved to let me continue along until it reached a point where I was totally and completely fucked over.

I mean, it takes less that one sentence, but I think it's a fairer portrayal of the situation.

Let me go ahead and preempt your next reply: maybe this girl knew exactly what she was getting in to, and she went ahead with it anyway. Maybe her parents tried to dissuade her and she went ahead anyway. Maybe, maybe, maybe, whatever it takes to degrade her and make her the real villain in the story (and coincidentally you ever-so smart for not being in the same situation, and being able to sit on the sidelines and scoff at her). But the truth is that this happens every day at varying levels to many, many people. They're not 200,000 dollar examples (because that's what it takes to make headlines instead of just statistics).

So did I answer your riddle correctly?
posted by codacorolla at 3:46 PM on November 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


The student loan application process needs to be improved. At the outset, you are never asked if you're willing to take on $200,000 in debt; it comes in chunks.

The first year you are given a worksheet to calculate how much money you need, which adds together your tuition and fees, along with your anticipated living expenses, for each semester. $18,000 plus $7,000 for half a year's living expenses, making each semester $25,000. So, you borrow $50,000 for the first year, because that's what the Financial Aid worksheet and your school is telling you that you need to get your degree.

Then you get your "awards" letter. You are provided financial aid in several different forms, but all from the same private lender. The lender gives you federally backed loans and privately backed loans, and you see that the federally-backed loans are $12,800 per semester at 7.5%, and the private loans are $12,200 at 18%. Now you are borrowing a total $50,000, but it looks like it's in four separate $12K chunks.

The second year rolls around, and you see the same thing. You are borrowing four separate $12K chunks.

Never does anybody stop and say, "Hey, you're going to borrow $200,000 for the next four years, are you sure you want to do this?" This is bad on Kelli's and her parents' end, but also bad on the lender's end. The lender never says "Hey, do I really want to lend $200,000 to a girl with no work experience, no credit, which she won't have to start paying off until four and a half years have passed?" Instead, the lender says, "Do I want to give this girl one federally-backed $12,800 loan, and one private $12,200 loan, for two consecutive semesters?"

I think Kelly and the lender need to be asked at the outset, at the beginning of the four years: Do I want to lend an 18-year old with no credit and no assets $200,000, which she will not have to repay for 4.5 years? And: Do I want to eventually make repayments that equal $19,200 a year, or $1,600 per month, in 4.5 years?

I mean, it looks like a really bad financial investment at the outset. From the lender's side, they really need to take a good look at what they are getting themselves into. Like muddgirl said above, what sense does it make when a person with income, credit history, and assets have a tougher time borrowing $200,000 than an 18-year old?
posted by jabberjaw at 3:47 PM on November 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Pastabagel: And notice she doesn't say anything about her willingness to do errand work or manual labor. Surely she can rake leaves, shovel snow, paint walls, clean bathrooms, etc. If she had actually paid attention in her sociology classes, she could do these things and in the process write a book/blog about the humbling experiences she had, and the downward mobility of the upper middle class generally. Instead, she asks for a handout.

When people give comments like this, you can tell they haven't done any of those things in a hell of a long time, or had contact with anyone who has. You could do menial work 80 hours a week and still not make enough to live in a lot of places. The wages are absolute shit. You would literally do better begging.

Maybe they used to be better, but a static minimum wage (which is often disrespected), inflation, and an increased cost of living have really cut into them. You cannot live a normal lifestyle on this kind of work, even without loans. Seriously - even the entry level white-collar jobs are just barely scraping along now.

Anyway, why should she bother? The bank will just take the extra money. Putting more drops into the bucket is pointless if you still can't beat evaporation.

Plus, she'll be exhausted and miserable, which will hurt her performance at her real job, the one that offers advancement. Although the inability to move will kill her career in any case.
posted by Mitrovarr at 3:48 PM on November 22, 2010 [17 favorites]


Mcsweeneys has an interesting new columnist. Meet Bianca, who became an escort to pay back her $25000 student loan.
posted by jasper411 at 3:53 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


My comment on that Gawker thread:

I'm starting to feel like one of those people who talk about what life was like before World War II or the social revolutions of the Sixties. I went to a public university both for my undergraduate and my graduate degrees. Total student loans when I finished either degree: $0.00. I received a very small inheritance from my parents which paid for the first two years of undergrad, got through the last two years with a combo of financial aid and student jobs, and got my graduate degree by working full-time at a college civil service job and taking classes part-time, which took longer but helped me avoid loans, something which most of the other people in my program couldn't manage with the tiny stipend that they got for being graduate assistants.

I have occasionally wondered if I'd have had a better undergraduate experience if I'd really tried to make a scholarships-and-aid combo at a small private college work. Maybe, but I could also have ended up where I did--no real idea of what I wanted to do with my life, working crap jobs at minimum wage until I made up my mind, bore down, got that civil service job and got accepted to the program--with an additional burden of debt on my back. If I'd had the option of taking on additional student loans for things like clothes and eating out... well, let's just say that that really wasn't an option (as far as I know) in the mid-eighties. I made my youthful mistakes and got out of it with nothing worse than a few stories to tell about the shit jobs that I had.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:54 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I see a lot of people criticizing her major here and saying that she could have opted for math or the hard sciences so she could earn a living.*

But that raises a point that I'm genuinely curious about - what are people who have no aptitude for math or science supposed to do? Trades, perhaps - but what if they're not handy? Or are these people basically just fucked?

*This doesn't seem to be particularly secure either - companies can bring in engineers and scientists from the developing world much more cheaply, right?
posted by Despondent_Monkey at 4:00 PM on November 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


And for the "an 18 year old shouldn't be able to take on 200k of debt:"

I agree. The whole situation is terrible.

But it isn't like she was stuck with the whole 200k at Go, she chose to keep taking out another 50k per year, every year. Frankly, I don't think it's possible that she got through two full years and didn't realize that she could do the next two at a lower price.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:03 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Despondent_Monkey: But that raises a point that I'm genuinely curious about - what are people who have no aptitude for math or science supposed to do? Trades, perhaps - but what if they're not handy? Or are these people basically just fucked?

The thing with math or science or a trade is that so called natural gifts only get you a little tiny bit of help. No one is born knowing their times tables or the quadratic formula or the periodic table or how to hang a door. Everyone learns it, and nobody learns it perfectly after a single try. So you either work hard and improve, or you whine that you aren't gifted at this and do something else.
posted by paisley henosis at 4:06 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't care if this particular lady made bad decisions.

We USAians cannot call ourselves a civilized nation when this sort of thing is common - for whatever reason.

We wonder why we keep voting for thugs and thieves and why our businesses can't compete. Well, wonder no longer. Education: we fail at it.
posted by digitalprimate at 4:10 PM on November 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


So you either work hard and improve, or you whine that you aren't gifted at this and do something else.

The sort of condescending statement I'm not surprised to hear from someone espousing this type of opinion.
posted by codacorolla at 4:12 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Education: we fail at it.

Exactly, that's why no one wants to come to our country for our crappy higher ed.
posted by found missing at 4:12 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like these types of threads. There are two completely reasonable ways to react to a story like this:

A) Man, this person really should have thought this through, and
B) Man, we've really got to do something about this system.

These opinions are in no way contradictory or incompatible, of course, but that sure doesn't stop us from having a 200 comment argument over which one is MORE right.
posted by auto-correct at 4:18 PM on November 22, 2010 [10 favorites]


Anyone not rooting for a round of hyperinflation to wipe out debt is objectively anti-American at this point.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't see the difference between predatory home loans and predatory student loans. Both take advantage of the borrower's ignorance to loan them money on very disfavorable terms with long-term disastrous consequences. Caveat emptor only goes so far, and requiring fairness and client education as part of the loan process is perfectly legitimate.

Wouldn't hurt if we increased the pitiful amount of grants and scholarships we make available, and gave certain critical professions (science and math teachers, nurses, any other highly skilled jobs it's hard to fill) free rides at state schools.
posted by emjaybee at 4:23 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Aside from the systematic problems with loans, you also have the fact that Pell Grants and other federal and state need-based aid have been progressively gutted since Reagan took office. When I was an undergrad, my Pell grant and Illinois state scholarship together equalled a full ride (for tuition, fees, and basic room/board) at a state school. For all 3 of my undergraduate years. Now, my family had a pretty major level of need, but lots of students I knew from more middle-income families got at least partial grant aid.

Which is not to say the students themselves need to make responsible choices. My god have we infantilized our young adults when at age 18, they know nothing about basic finances. Yes, some of it can be arcane, but this learned helplessness where apparently an "average family" is incapable of using Google to look up info on these issues is ridiculous. That doesn't make it OK for lenders (and credit card companies, who also target young adult students) to be vultures.

What I want to know is what the hell a student from a modest-income (?) family from "just outside NYC" was doing going at Northeastern if she had zero other sources of financial aid/support besides loans? There are roughly 7,000 excellent schools, private and public, a stone's throw from her home. The SUNY system could have provided her a fine sociology degree with much cheaper in-state tuition.

As a high school senior, I was accepted by Northwestern and Iowa State, but even the semi-numerate dimwit I was at 17 knew that I could not afford those schools even with my federal and state grants.
posted by FelliniBlank at 4:31 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


A) Man, this person really should have thought this through, and
B) Man, we've really got to do something about this system.


I completely admit that this student made a grave mistake. But I argue that one mistake (or even 4 mistakes) shouldn't ruin someone's life.

She can't go back in time and un-sign those loans, so it seems like pointing a finger and calling her an idiot (which she might be) isn't helpful. Maybe it makes us feel a bit superior?
posted by muddgirl at 4:34 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


This seems like a fairly obvious result of having a debt which is government backed and nearly impossible to discharge. The bank literally cannot lose, so they have every incentive to load the largest amount possible per student. It's essentially printing money.
posted by Nothing at 4:37 PM on November 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


But that raises a point that I'm genuinely curious about - what are people who have no aptitude for math or science supposed to do? Trades, perhaps - but what if they're not handy? Or are these people basically just fucked?

So while I'm vaguely critical of this woman, I'm not going to go so far as to tell her what to do. But I'll tell her what not to do: take out a $200k loan to get qualified for jobs that pay roughly $60k annually.

Now, to be fair, this is why it's hard to break out of a low-income family because your parents can't afford to buy you the training to get a higher-paying job. But that doesn't change the fact that you have to get training that's cost-effective on some level - either get family to pay for it, win merit scholarships or take out loans for training that's more likely to result in a higher-paying job.

There's nothing wrong with a sociology degree per se but it's simply not worth $200k to get in terms of how much it improves your earning potential. Maybe it's worth it for other reasons. But if that's the case, maybe don't go begging for help to pay off the debt.
posted by GuyZero at 4:37 PM on November 22, 2010


Absolutely zero sympathy. I can almost forgive signing up for it at 18, but if you're paying attention to your loans after sophomore year (and with this there's no excuse), you should be able to figure out what's going to happen in two more years, and you should transfer to a more affordable state college. I would expect anyone smart enough to go to Northeastern to be smart enough to understand how a fucking $200,000 loan works. It has to be paid back, you know?

After a year and a half of school, I was faced with the option of either continuing my degree, or resorting to student loans. A year later I'm a member of the Coast Guard, riding it out until I get out and use that sweet sweet 9/11 GI Bill. Is it the storybook college experience? No. But it will work, more or less.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 4:38 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


If a high school senior walked into a bank and requested a $200,000 loan to buy a house or start a business, the bank would immediately reject them. I don't understand why these loans are so easy to obtain, and clearly they shouldn't be. If she were rejected for the loan she would likely have ended up going to a less expensive school. I also agree that personal finances should be something taught in all high schools (or even earlier)- we had mandatory health class, and in junior high we all took woodshop and cooking, yet no one ever taught us how credit cards work or anything related to managing personal finances.
posted by emd3737 at 4:42 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


A year later I'm a member of the Coast Guard, riding it out until I get out and use that sweet sweet 9/11 GI Bill. Is it the storybook college experience? No. But it will work, more or less.

The thing is, yours actually is the storybook college experience - and it was for previous generations, as well. When I was in college (not really that long ago), I had many peers who, faced with the option of either taking out loans or taking a year or two off to work, chose not to take out the loans because of what loans would mean for their future. By and large, college students are, in fact, smart enough to know that going into debt for undergrad school is outrageously irresponsible. And they also know that the GI bill is a viable option and that it doesn't necessarily require signing up to be a human target on the ground in Afghanistan.
posted by The World Famous at 4:43 PM on November 22, 2010


I'm just about speechless. (And horrified at the cost of a degree in the US... I'm almost falling to my knees in gratitude that we live in Australia.)

posted by malibustacey9999


Well... full fee study (unsubsidized by the government) for Australia isn't that much better. A humanities degree will set you back close to $80,000 in tuition alone. Total for medicine is about $370,000. (seeing as US / AUD is close to parity anyway). Just shows how much the government subsidizes education, and how bad things could be in a purely "for profit" environment.
posted by xdvesper at 4:46 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Another thing is that students are not usually told what their expected monthly payment will be at the time they take out the loan. $50,000, $200,000 -- those are just nebulous numbers with no basis in reality until you get your loan repayment schedule at graduation.
posted by jabberjaw at 4:49 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


TL;DR all the comments, but a bankruptcy lawyer will probably tell you that getting a hardship judgment from a judge is usually reserved for members of society that cannot wholly support themselves for medical reasons.
posted by Brocktoon at 4:49 PM on November 22, 2010


QuarterlyProphet: After a year and a half of school, I was faced with the option of either continuing my degree, or resorting to student loans. A year later I'm a member of the Coast Guard, riding it out until I get out and use that sweet sweet 9/11 GI Bill. Is it the storybook college experience? No. But it will work, more or less.

You know, if the point of the student loan system is to force people into the military who don't want to go, I'm pretty sure I like it even less. Anyways, everyone can't do that, the military would fill up.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:55 PM on November 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


So I guess that the only people who should be allowed a degree are those whose parents are rich enough to pay for it? Or the only people who are allowed a degree are those who are going to move into those jobs that pay a huge amount of money? (e.g. Wall Street bankers).

Or the doctors who get these huge loans have to then spend the first half of there working lives having that loan paid back by the government (medicaid) or the insurance companies that in turn get it all back from the poorest families.

This woman is not the problem. That she's got this debt is not her fault. It's the fault of a fucked up & elitist education system. If you're old enough, be thankful that you managed to get your education in a relatively socialist educational system & you don't get to be forced into a situation like this.

Also. That this model is being slowly rolled out in the UK depresses me greatly.
posted by seanyboy at 4:55 PM on November 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Someone help me out here. I see people upset at the lenders, and people upset at her for attending, but why is there no Northeastern University, for charging outrageously high tuition?

The lender doesn't earn 250k for having made that loan. They only earn interest on it, and I haven't seen anyone cry out that Sallie Mae is charging too high an interest rate.

Someone needs to hold these places of higher learning accountable, and I don't think individuals have the resources to do it. Maybe we let students discharge in bankruptcy and allow the lenders or government to go after the university?
posted by pwnguin at 4:56 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hopefully she can get a job making 70k a year and she will only have to pay half her salary to the loans for 20 years. That really does seem like the best case scenario.
posted by josher71 at 4:56 PM on November 22, 2010


Alas, I did not major in copyediting. Why is there no outrage at Northeastern University, for charging outrageously high tuition?
posted by pwnguin at 4:57 PM on November 22, 2010


Northeastern University can charge whatever they want. She didn't have to go there. Why doesn't anyone go after Bentley for charging so much for an automobile?
posted by found missing at 5:00 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Reading everything here...i dont feel bad for this girl.

Seems like another dummy from an east coast private school. The only difference is that this dummy wasn't rich.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:00 PM on November 22, 2010



Another thing is that students are not usually told what their expected monthly payment will be at the time they take out the loan. $50,000, $200,000 -- those are just nebulous numbers with no basis in reality until you get your loan repayment schedule at graduation.


This is really, really important. When you get a mortgage or a car loan, the monthly amount is front and center, as is the total cost of the loan (principal plus interest plus fees). At least when I got my (comparatively quite modest) student loans, none of that played any part in the process, and it should have.
posted by Forktine at 5:07 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm amazed at how stupid you think this young woman is/was.
posted by found missing at 5:10 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


They only earn interest on it, and I haven't seen anyone cry out that Sallie Mae is charging too high an interest rate.

So, what is LIBOR + 10.375%? Why is Sallie Mae telling me that's the interest rate, but doesn't tell me what LIBOR is? How can I know what the interest rate will be when I start paying back the loans 4.5 years from now with this information?

It seems to me a way to hide the actual interest that will be charged on the loans, and to make it difficult for students to understand and calculate what their ultimate loan repayments will be.

As far as I know, student loan interest rates were between 2 and 4 times higher within the last four years than what I had to deal with in the 1990s and early 2000's.

So, I'll complain that Sallie Mae's interest rates are too high for student loans these days.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:11 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


why is there no Northeastern University, for charging outrageously high tuition?

One can blame Northeastern for not raising red flags to the student about her debt load. However, Northeastern is not the only university in the United States. Its undergraduate school is not even especially prestigious-- there are several public universities that are much less expensive whose reputation carries as much weight, if not more, and there are at least a few of those just within the state of New York where the writer is from. Not only that, but there are plenty of wealthier private colleges and universities that would have offered a better financial aid package-- she could have at least compared.

Though I have sympathy for her in the sense that no one really understands how big of an obligation debt is until the payments actually come due. Forktine raises a good point: with car loans and mortgages, they try to entice you by just pointing out the monthly payment, without any regard to whether the sticker price is actually worth it. By contrast, universities seem to just loan out lots of money without explaining to students wait the monthly costs are.
posted by deanc at 5:12 PM on November 22, 2010


The big numbers should make repayment more daunting, not less. That's why when you walk into a car dealer, they try their best to frame the deal in terms of monthly payments and distract you from the total cost.
posted by found missing at 5:14 PM on November 22, 2010


There are a number of ways to solve your student loan debt problems:

1) Peace Corps -- Get 15% of your loans forgiven and defer payment while you are in. You may be eligible to have 70% of your loans forgiven. (Perkens loans only)

2) Work for hte Feds Select positions get up to $10,000/year in student loan repayment up to $60,000 lifetime. This will allow inflation and other factors to reduce the overall debt burden until she is in her higher paying years.

3) Join the military -- The Military College Loan Repayment program -- Pays $65,000 for active duty enlisted personel (non Officer Candidates)

4) State Department -- The Student Loan repayment benefits provide up to $8500/year of service.

5) Income Based Repayment According to the College Cost Affordability Act she should be able to apply for a hardship based on her loan amounts. According to this she should be able to lower her payments to $260/month. Now this won't erase the debt, if her income rises later in life she will have to pay more.
posted by humanfont at 5:15 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


So I guess that the only people who should be allowed a degree are those whose parents are rich enough to pay for it?

No, but someone has to pay for it. And there are a lot of people who can afford to pay to have their kids attend Northeastern and they are probably not "rich". But you're correct, it is a problem that limits income-class mobility.

Or the only people who are allowed a degree are those who are going to move into those jobs that pay a huge amount of money? (e.g. Wall Street bankers).

There are plenty of degrees & trades that pay better than sociology. Nursing. Electrician. Or, per a random article, Physician Assistants, Dental Hygienists and Physical Therapists none of which I would consider considerably more inaccessible than sociology in terms of subject material.

Also, I don't want to come off like I think this is a "bad" degree or something. The world needs sociology majors. But the current market pay rates indicate that it's a poor investment to pay $200k to be a sociology major.

If you're rich you get to choose what you do with your life. If you're not rich then you've got to make some choices like only taking loans which you have a reasonable chance of success of paying off.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on November 22, 2010


The big numbers should make repayment more daunting, not less. That's why when you walk into a car dealer, they try their best to frame the deal in terms of monthly payments and distract you from the total cost.

At car dealers, you can ask how much your monthly repayment will be. You don't really have that same option when dealing with student loan companies, where you will never, ever talk to a live person; and will have a difficult time ever doing so even if you try really, really hard.

I'm pretty sure car dealers are required to tell you your monthly payments, as well. If car dealerships could get away with having you sign off on a contract without telling you your monthly payment plan until the ink was dried, they would.

Also, they don't frame it as monthly payments to distract you from the total cost -- they do it so they can show you how a $1,200 add-on won't affect your monthly payment very much.
posted by jabberjaw at 5:20 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


*This doesn't seem to be particularly secure either - companies can bring in engineers and scientists from the developing world much more cheaply, right?

Not really, at least not yet. Visas are tight, labor pool is small, etc. Plus you're still fighting with all the other companies for the good people. I'm mostly talking about computer scientists/computer engineers here, we can't fill the positions we have and the big companies (MS, Google, Facebook) are in a crazy arms race to see who can attract the best programmers. If visas were less of an issue there would be some improvement. Of course this only applies if you're in the top whatever bracket. But that's true of most jobs, I think.

Really, for $200k to be reasonable you'd not only have to be in a good paying field (let's say CS), but you'd also have to be very good at it. If so, it's reasonable to pay back (although you probably dont need it in CS!), otherwise it's always going to be a stretch.
posted by wildcrdj at 5:23 PM on November 22, 2010


Sallie Mae is charging too much interest because the risk is 0. They stand to make 150k off this loan. With 0 risk. Free money.
posted by Nothing at 5:25 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


How much do you want to bet she doesn't realize she's going to have to pay income tax on those donations she's getting?
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 5:25 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]


Sounds like she is getting an education, all right.
posted by Xoebe at 5:26 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


FWIW -- we know NOTHING about her family's financial situation, etc.

She presents herself as the first person in her family to go to college. Does that mean her family is indeed ill-advised about higher education, its costs, etc? Does she get a "free pass" for the decision to incur such debt for her education? Again, we know nothing about her familial situation -- all of which is subject to conjecture by those reading her plea.

There's the possibility that her family is financially well-off despite the fact that her parents did not graduate (has such been truly established?) with a college degree.* Hence, such might have been a reason that she did not qualify for grants and/or scholarships.

To me -- her story raises many questions. Why no work study? Why no Co-op salary, etc.?

* -- Others who do not have college degrees: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.
posted by ericb at 5:27 PM on November 22, 2010


If it turns out that she is Mark Zuckerberg's love child, I'm going to be so pissed.
posted by found missing at 5:29 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


No matter what they say I'm pretty sure not many 18 year olds realize how much 200k actually is. I'm pretty sure they think it's like a few nights out for the Kardasians.

But the world needs sociologists too I guess. We can't have 100 percent of college grads going straight to wall street.
posted by Ad hominem at 5:29 PM on November 22, 2010


jabberjaw: "So, what is LIBOR + 10.375%? Why is Sallie Mae telling me that's the interest rate, but doesn't tell me what LIBOR is?"

The one-month LIBOR rate effective on September 27, 2010 is 0.375%. But yes, that price is pretty damn high; maybe it's the legal upper limit?
posted by pwnguin at 5:31 PM on November 22, 2010


FWIW -- we know NOTHING about her family's financial situation, etc.

Well, yes and no. We can assume that if her parents are not college graduates that they are likely to make less than the average US income. Data here: in this survey, in 2008, males across all education levels averaged an income of 40,000. Those with only a high-school education have an average income of 32,000. The drop for women is similar although lower at each level in absolute terms.

But that's just statistical.
posted by GuyZero at 5:34 PM on November 22, 2010


People are blaming her naivety and youth for taking out private loans instead of financial aid, work-study, etc. But thing is, she had to re-apply to those private loans every year. Meaning she re-applied at 19, 20, 21... and it's not a simple application process. If she were gaining as much education as she was borrowing for, she should have known better than to only get private loans. And those lenders have to give you the fine print, meaning she chose not to read them.
posted by Neekee at 5:37 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


But that's just statistical.

What do the stats say when you look at the subgroup of parents of children who received no financial aid?
posted by found missing at 5:39 PM on November 22, 2010


"Please feel free to donate any amount of money — however small — and together we can be sure there will be one less student-loan-ladened young adult in our country.

Not to mention, without my debt, I can spend my money elsewhere, probably single-handedly spurring the economy. I can save my money. I can donate to charities. The possibilities are endless.

So, really, with one small donation, you’d be helping out our country.*
I'm sorry, but you don't get any sympathy from me. There are far too many deserving of my respect and financial support.
posted by ericb at 5:41 PM on November 22, 2010


companies can bring in engineers and scientists from the developing world much more cheaply, right?

No, if you are bringing in someone on a work visa in the US, you have to pay them the market rate for their position, not the going rate in their own countries.
posted by Neekee at 5:41 PM on November 22, 2010


What do the stats say when you look at the subgroup of parents of children who received no financial aid?

I'm guessing you're implying that her parents have sufficient income to disqualify her from receiving financial aid but that for whatever reason they chose not to pay for her education. Sure. Could be.

I'm not sure if that makes her decision any better.
posted by GuyZero at 5:48 PM on November 22, 2010


companies can bring in engineers and scientists from the developing world much more cheaply, right?

Seriously, the next time someone suggests that technical people in the US on work visas are here because they're cheap, one of us is going to invent a way to punch you in the face over the internet.
posted by GuyZero at 5:49 PM on November 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Others who do not have college degrees: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

These people are anomalies. With the exception of Steve Jobs (who first attended Reed College and then dropped out because his blue collar adoptive parents were spending all their savings on his tuition and he felt very guilty since he didn't know what he wanted to do and subsequently just hung around campus and slept in friends' dorms and ate the free puja offerings/meals at the Hare Krishna temple in Portland), Gates and Zuckerberg grew up in white collar families (parents were highly skilled and knowledgeable, and in the latter's case, he was taught how to program by his father). You could substitute the monetary and social/cultural capital they received growing up in tony suburbs with affluent parents for a college degree. There's a difference between growing up like those two and growing up like Sarah Palin's kids (hillbilly-ish) or like those Gotti kids.

I feel sorry for this young woman. I can see how Everybody in this country's been drumming the "Go to college! Reap the rewards of higher education and it will definitely show up in your salary because we based all our predictions on what happened in the past and everybody with a college degree ended up wealthier on average than those with a high school diploma." And then schools jacked up their tuition, built fancy dorms, and they made huge promises in their brochures.

This young girl thought going to college was a good thing, and believed that going to Northeastern would give her a special advantage somehow. Maybe all her friends from better circumstances were going to schools that were emotional "fits" and her college counselor emphasized it was important to go to a school that was an emotional "fit" rather than one that was a financial fit. People get very caught up in the idea of college, and the discussion surrounding choosing a college is rarely one that's practical in this day and age (when it should be).
posted by anniecat at 5:51 PM on November 22, 2010 [9 favorites]


Others who do not have college degrees: Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

And all someone has to do to be just like them is control and successfully market the most popular product in the history of humanity!
posted by The World Famous at 5:55 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


We wonder why we keep voting for thugs and thieves and why our businesses can't compete.

The answer is that our elites (the "professional class," the "upper middle class," and all but the very rich) are also in debt up to their necks, from expensive law and business schools, the lifestyle you need to project success and to network (the right interview suit, the right house in the right neighborhood, the right caterers, the right schools for your kids). Just to keep ahead, or to make themselves whole, as the saying used to be, they soak the rest of us.

If you paid $200,000 in loans to attend Ivy League Business School, you wouldn't choose to work for a nonprofit afterwards. You'd become a bankster, or at least a junior bankster.
posted by bad grammar at 5:59 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


And people call me a dumb ass for for working and going to school at night. Sure I'm graduating with a dual major in 8 years instead of the 5 it would take if I went full time during the day, but I'll be graduating debt free from a local state school. I hope all the frat parties and summers abroad "studying" were worth $200k.
posted by Brian Puccio at 6:07 PM on November 22, 2010


I already save a good bit of my income. Reading this makes me want to save even more.
posted by limeonaire at 6:10 PM on November 22, 2010


@griphus: I bet you can name a few things you did at 18 you'd rather not have revealed in a public forum and would prefer not haunt you for the next 20 years, no?

Plenty, but I don't pretend I'm somehow not accountable for those things. Key difference.
posted by kjs3 at 6:18 PM on November 22, 2010


Seems like another dummy from an east coast private school. The only difference is that this dummy wasn't rich.

How do we know that?
posted by ericb at 6:18 PM on November 22, 2010


she sounds like a pretentious twit. she's in a bad situation, so yeah ... that sucks. this just proves my theory, though: not everyone should go to college.
posted by msconduct at 6:23 PM on November 22, 2010


Iowa State lists current expenses for instate tuition at $18,370 a year for in state tuition. On campus jobs pay $10 an hour. That's 10k a year before taxes (and most students pay little or no taxes beyond fica).

The average ISU grad has like 40k in loans. Even that is stupid in my book, but it's far from $200k. There's absolutely no reason kids have to rack up those kinds of loans.

I blame Apple (a joke).

And to all those people pointing to the GI Bill. I went that route. I think I got a couple thousand from it. Your loans have to be a year old before they will start paying on them. That's if you qualify for loans (I didn't my first year). Then they pay like 15% of the loan, so if you took 10k a year you'd get $1,500 (or a bit over $100 a month). Now you have to stay in long enough to make it worth it. I was in 6 years, 3 of which the Guard paid on my loans. I think they paid a total of $2,500. For this paltry sum I was in for 6 years and was forced to accrue $20k in loans I should have never taken just to try to take advantage of a benefit I probably didn't need.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:35 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


It appears that ministers, pastors, and various non-profit workers can get most of their debt forgiven.
posted by MonkeySaltedNuts at 6:36 PM on November 22, 2010


The total costs for one year at Northeastern are more than my whole masters will end up being. I'm going to a state school, so even if I lose funding, loans will not be crippling.
posted by shinyshiny at 6:41 PM on November 22, 2010


I wrote her at the email address on her site, and asked if she planned to pay income tax on the donations. She actually replied surprisingly fast:

Yes I will - I thought I didn't have a choice but now I realize I actually have to be proactive about income tax. Considering it a lesson learned.
Thanks for your inquiry, [name].
Kelli


::slaps forehead::
posted by Threeway Handshake at 6:53 PM on November 22, 2010


Iiiiinteresting. Her FAQ keeps changing. I'm not sure if any of it contradicts what was up there earlier (it's certainly a lot shorter and better-written now), but all of the sudden, this started to smell of fish.
posted by schmod at 7:31 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I take issue with the reductive assumption that the only, or primary, measure of the benefits one gets from a university education are related to post-university earnings potential. The original Enlightenment ideal is that people get educated to be better decision makers, and thus better people and better citizens. We all benefit as a society when more of our members are educated (rather than merely credentialed for a white-collar job) - specifically, in a way that introduces them to a breadth of new ideas and people. This means that a quality higher education should be free for everyone who wants one, as a public good.

That said, one can get this sort of an education at a wide variety of institutions, including expensive private schools, state universities, and community colleges; or one can completely fail to get this sort of an education (not learn better reasoning skills, grow as a person, or get introduced to a breadth of new ideas or people) at the same wide variety of institutions. Also, private universities spend an awful lot of advertising money building their "prestige" and trying to convince college-bound young adults that they will not only have higher post-university earnings potential than if they attended a cheaper (and thus less prestigious), public university, but also will get all sorts of other intangible benefits toward their life and personal character, and that they should therefore not worry about the cost of their education or try to compare it to future wages that they are likely to earn to determine if said education is affordable. -- So yeah, I would blame Northeastern, and other expensive private universities, for contributing to Kelli's current student loan predicament (as well as predatory student lending and the other structural issues mentioned in everyone else's comments).

This sort of advertising by expensive private universities is really insidious, although not *entirely* false (just almost entirely false): I spent two years at an expensive, small, private liberal arts college, then transfered to my state university to finish my undergrad degree. There were quality teachers and very smart students at both schools, and I believe that I got a comparable quality education at both institutions (it was nice to do my intro classes at the small college with smaller class sizes, but in some ways I got a more interesting and broader second half of my education at the state university). The major difference that I saw between the expensive (and more exclusive) private school and the state school was that lots of well-connected rich kids went to the private school, which put a lot of work into maintaining alumni networks, which many students (primarily the already well-connected rich kids, but sometimes the small number of proletariat kids who were let in and managed to cobble together enough financial aid to make it all the way through four years) were able to take advantage of to land sweet post-college jobs on the fast track toward being corporate executives, etc. (irrespective of what they majored in). Or, for example, one of the grad schools that I applied to had an online application, with a pull-down list to select my undergrad university, and for some reason my state university was not an option on this pull-down list, although the small, private, liberal arts college was.... In other words, the class structure in U.S. society is alive and well, expensive private universities specifically play on this in their advertising, and so huge student loans can seem like quite a reasonable gamble for working class/middle class students seeking upward class mobility.
posted by eviemath at 7:35 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The system worked exactly as designed: The school got a giant quantity of money and the banks are earning money on all that interest at no risk.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 7:37 PM on November 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Just for perspective (and a partial response to stormpooper) this level of debt is equivalent to a four-year medical degree at a top med school. Once out of med school, a physician can look forward to steadily increasing pay, and generally secure employment, which can increase to ten times or more than that of a sociology major.

Science grads may wind up with a similar level of student loan debt if they decided to go to Northeastern without any scholarships or grants, but have to potential to join a PhD program where they get paid (a pittance) to get an education. Combined with deferments to student loans, they can postpone payment until they get a job in the high five figures.

I never would tell anyone not to get a degree in the humanities or social sciences; these fields are more valuable than the pay scales indicate. Hell, I was considering trying to get into a conservatory before I opted for a chemistry PhD. But you have to consider employment opportunities before making a decision of this magnitude.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:55 PM on November 22, 2010


It's not like they won't tell you what your payments will look like. You just have to ask, and sometimes not even that.

I remember very vividly being told what I was going to have to pay every month for 20 years when I signed for my student loans. That's why I ended up going to state school instead of one of the "cooler" and/or "more prestigious" private schools I could have attended.

I also remember being told what my payments would be, without even asking, when I took out an educational loan from my bank half way through my education as well. So, I guess not every bank out there is heartless and predatory. But maybe I just had the benefit of going through my family's long-time personal account handler.

(My loan payments still suck, but I can feed myself so I guess that's a plus!)
posted by erstwhile at 7:59 PM on November 22, 2010


:( Now I'm really scared because I'm taking out 20.5k/yr in federal loans for my masters degree. Luckily it's only two years. Am I an abomination to society too?
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 8:15 PM on November 22, 2010


Only if you come back in two years wondering how you managed to accrue 41k in student loans.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:31 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I take issue with the reductive assumption that the only, or primary, measure of the benefits one gets from a university education are related to post-university earnings potential.

So, just for myself, I would like to say I have taken some pains to try to indicate that I do not hold that position. I do, however, have reductive assumptions about measuring the benefits of taking out a $200,000 loan. As others have pointed out, it is hardly likely that attending this one university while taking out massive loans was the woman's only option.
posted by GuyZero at 8:52 PM on November 22, 2010


Existential Dread: Science grads may wind up with a similar level of student loan debt if they decided to go to Northeastern without any scholarships or grants, but have to potential to join a PhD program where they get paid (a pittance) to get an education. Combined with deferments to student loans, they can postpone payment until they get a job in the high five figures.

Depends on the science, maybe. I don't expect to ever exceed $50,000 in biology. Maybe with a doctorate, but even then I would only expect to do that well at the height of my career, decades down the road.
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:29 PM on November 22, 2010


Combined with deferments to student loans, they can postpone payment until they get a job in the high five figures.

Do postdocs get to defer? They don't make very much money, and the idea of the high-five-figure salary immediately after getting a PhD is hilariously wrong (at least, in Academia).
posted by schmod at 10:09 PM on November 22, 2010


Am I an abomination to society too?

Are you going to cry foul and put up a page where we get to pay for it instead of you?
posted by Threeway Handshake at 10:13 PM on November 22, 2010


I agree that this woman probably had other choices than to go to Northeastern University (of all places) on nothing but private loans, and it wasn't the best idea for her to publish a website that has a tagline that reads "together we can make these loans disappear faster than you can ask why I went to such an expensive school!"

But it never ceases to amaze me how venomous some here get when it comes to people who have financial problems, whether they're of their own making or not. I particularly relish the comment above that insists that, in an economy in which almost one out of five people is having trouble finding one job, that she find and land four jobs before she has a leg to stand on.
posted by blucevalo at 10:34 PM on November 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


[A couple comments removed. Please cut it the fuck out with the conspicuous There Is More Personal Information About This Person Available On The Internet stuff, it basically never seems like a good idea.]
posted by cortex at 2:40 PM on November 22 [1 favorite +] [!]



Without going to The Bad Place noted above, and without snark - has anyone seen this reported somewhere with any evidence of actual contact with Kelli Space? You know, somewhere that goes beyond reporting what's on the website?

I swear, no snark - I ask only because I haven't seen any actual evidence she actually, you know, exists, much less actually has that amount of debt. But I am currently in a suspicious, perhaps paranoid, frame of mind because of the Alexa DiCarlo hoax (and the many that preceded it), and because everything I've seen cites that Gawker article, which sounds like it's just reporting what the website says.
posted by gingerest at 11:33 PM on November 22, 2010


It says a lot about the demographics of a place when they think health care should be free, but think that a University level education should be paid for.

Self interest apart, I know which one I'd rather pay my taxes for.
posted by seanyboy at 12:20 AM on November 23, 2010


Do postdocs get to defer? They don't make very much money, and the idea of the high-five-figure salary immediately after getting a PhD is hilariously wrong (at least, in Academia).

Depending on your definition of "high", the mean starting salary of inexperienced chemistry Ph.D. graduates is in the 70k range.
posted by madajb at 1:10 AM on November 23, 2010


It says a lot about the demographics of a place when they think health care should be free, but think that a University level education should be paid for. Self interest apart, I know which one I'd rather pay my taxes for.

It's healthcare, right? That thing that everyone can benefit directly from and would best create a level playing field? I guarantee you that more people would pursue more interesting work, projects and education if they knew that getting sick was going to break them.

I think both should be free, but not everyone needs, wants, or should go to a university. If you expand "university" to mean "college but also trade schools, genuine apprentice programs and perhaps small business kickstarter funds" I'd be right there with you.
posted by maxwelton at 2:33 AM on November 23, 2010


Er, NOT going to break them. Cough.
posted by maxwelton at 2:33 AM on November 23, 2010


I'm happy with expanding that to "trade schools and genuine apprentice programs". Not sure about small business kickstarter funds.

I don't have any problem with a state sponsored education being expanded to people aged 18 to 21. There's not so many jobs around and those that we have seem to require a higher level of information processing. So yeah - Teach kids 'til they're 21 or 22 or even 25. And do it for free.

Health is more important initially, but I worry about the rising costs associated with moving from "how do we keep people healthy" to "how do we keep people alive 'til they're 120 years old". I really do think that after a base level of free support, education should be given a higher priority.

This isn't what's happening in the UK. I put this down to normal selfishness and the high average voter age. Governments seem more likely to ring fence NHS spending over education spending.
posted by seanyboy at 2:58 AM on November 23, 2010


And continuing seanyboy's point, I think once we are in to students running up large debts then we will be locked in as grads become voters, and start with the whole 'Well I had to pay so they can too'. and whatever crap is being spouted about bursaries, they are just not going to be available from UK institutions on anything like the scale they are in the US. From 2012 average 3 yr UGs will be looking at about £36K of debt and average 4yr UGs £48K with that figure rising annually, with interest they will be paying well beyond those figures.

Its also notable that a PhD actually earns you less money (though it will get a you a deferral on repayment) so will be interested to see what effect big fees (and attendant loans) has on recuitment there.
posted by biffa at 4:30 AM on November 23, 2010


time to consider moving overseas permanently
posted by jannw at 5:06 AM on November 23, 2010


Just one more person who didn't work through college to pay for her school, lived off of student loans, never bothered with the massive amounts of "free" scholarship and grant money available, and thought that everything would be awesome after she graduated.

It's hard for me to feel sorry for her.
posted by bradth27 at 5:24 AM on November 23, 2010


and to everyone on here stating that "it's too easy to get these loans. She's not at fault here."

It's ridiculously easy to do a LOT of things in this world - that doesn't automatically void the responsibility of our actions.
posted by bradth27 at 5:31 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also bradth27, GOOGLE RON PAUL.
amirite?

There's a whole bunch of stupid stuff people do that require state intervention or help. Drugs are illegal, tobacco and alcohol are stated as harmful, People need to be forced to drive at non-lethal speeds and to go to school. They need to be forced to pay for Police and Fire services. Society needs to pay for the idiots who have more children than they can afford.

I'd be more willing to discuss the edges of personal responsibility with you if your default position didn't read like a crazy libertarian who thinks that we are responsible for everything we do, and must always pay for our own mistakes.

Heads up. Yeah - It is ridiculously easy to do a lot of things in this world. And we do need to take responsibility for what we do. But this isn't some axiomatic rule which applies to all situations NO MATTER WHAT.

Personally, I think that if your society punishes you for not having a degree, actively tries to fool you into believing that you can afford that degree, excessively fines you when falling into arrears from that degree & litigates into stopping you declaring bankruptcy when you cannot afford that degree. Well, that's some fucked up shit, and picking on some girl who's trying to dig herself out from underneath that fucked up shit ignores the real problems.

She made a mistake, but she's not stupid. This is a common occurrence. Something needs to happen to the US educational system. Unfortunately I can't see this happening until a large number of disconnected 18 year olds work out how to unionise and refuse to go to university until this is sorted out. (In other words - I don't see it happening)
posted by seanyboy at 6:25 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I have three in college right now, and one entering in three years. Don't get me started.
posted by VicNebulous at 6:42 AM on November 23, 2010


Her case is extreme but the cost of college (and its corresponding debt for many) has outpaced inflation for years now. Maybe the focus should be on the mathematical illiteracy (innumeracy?) of young people to not see the failing proposition of getting a liberal arts degree on credit from a major university.

Let's all make a point of talking with our teenage relatives and helping them do a quick calculation of the post college debt burden. They really need help understanding this because evidently learning when something is too damned expensive isn't taught reliability in secondary school.
posted by dgran at 6:53 AM on November 23, 2010


Maybe the focus should be on the mathematical illiteracy (innumeracy?) of young people to not see the failing proposition of getting a liberal arts degree on credit from a major university.

Yes, of course it's all the kids' fault.

It's a myth that a liberal arts degree makes you unemployable. Up until the crash people with liberal arts degrees did fine on the job market.
posted by nasreddin at 7:00 AM on November 23, 2010


Are you going to cry foul and put up a page where we get to pay for it instead of you?

She's already earned like almost 2k! And my sob story's way better than hers, even if my debt won't be as terrifying. Though I would more likely ask for advice/job connections rather than for direct monetary payment.

All kidding aside..
I am tempted to show my fiance this thread every time he tries to tell me to not take on random jobs that're unrelated to my degree to pay for school (dishwasher? office assistant? I'd love to! but I think he, the fully-funded engineering PhD, sees it as beneath me). -_-
posted by The Biggest Dreamer at 7:02 AM on November 23, 2010


I found this informative
posted by seanyboy at 7:19 AM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


But it never ceases to amaze me how venomous some here get when it comes to people who have financial problems,

I get what you're saying, and I hope whatever comment I made above didn't sound "venomous" since I only meant it to sound more or less indifferent... It sounds like a somewhat sucky situation, but one that was due to some bad choices, and which it would also be entirely possible to pay off, eventually. She has no rent for the moment, so can overpay for a while, and as her salary goes up, more of it goes to the student loan instead of to those areas it might usually go, like nice clothes or a down payment on a house.

So she'll have to live on a tighter budget than some of her peers, but I think she can do it (and if it's really impossible to meet a monthly amount, I'd bet the student loan companies would renegotiate the loan). I mean, it's perfectly within her rights to try to get the internet to help her out, and if it works more power to her, but there really are better causes out there.
posted by mdn at 7:28 AM on November 23, 2010


"Northeastern University can charge whatever they want. She didn't have to go there. Why doesn't anyone go after Bentley for charging so much for an automobile?"

Because a Civic will still get you to the job interview. But when you're told you need to go to the best college possible to have a chance in a crashing employment market, you grasp. I know some people have scoffed, but when I was looking at colleges 10-15 years ago, Northeastern was considered a pretty prestigious college (more so than OSU or The College of New Jersey). When I was offered the chance to go to an Ivy League school (only the 2nd person in my family to go to any college, period), it was a case of "any means necessary." I was fortunate to get a LOT of grant (Ivies tend to have large endowments, or tended to before the crash). So yeah, I sympathize. I didn't do a year abroad, and I worked part-time, when possible (I was also suffering major undiagnosed depression, which I didn't get looked at because I was scared about the cost of possible treatment, yay healthcare), but I can understand the rose-tinted glasses one wears in that situation. When you have nothing, come from nothing, this looks to you like a golden opportunity. Like a life preserver thrown to you on the open sea. You don't worry about the fact that there might be pirates on the boat looking to do unsavory things when they get you aboard. There will be time to worry about that later.
posted by Eideteker at 8:34 AM on November 23, 2010 [5 favorites]


I work at a small university that offers four-year degrees in what many people might consider trades: Culinary Arts (our speciality!), business, and some tech subjects. Several years ago our administration realized that too many students were dropping out before graduation, with now-crippling debt loads.

So they tightened up the acceptance standards, well knowing that the student population would shrink and income would drop. That year the global economy made a Giant Sucking Noise -- but they'd planned for it and we came through fine.

Note that some schools *do* recognize this situation for what it is: unfair to not only the kids on the bubble who fail/drop out with a lot of debt, but also the ones who make it through with a lot of debt. We're trying to shrink the first populaiton and also better-prepae the second group so they're more likely to get a job and get to work on paying down those loans. (As I understand it, we're also doing a lot more direct aid instead of letting people go to banks or the .gov.)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:30 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


(And I got an English degree from Boston College. I work as a sysadmin and manager in .edu IT now. Neither at BC nor at Tufts -- where I spent two years -- did anyone really tell me, "Son, there is NO WAY you will ever repay these loans. Abandon your love of literature right now and start taking accounting classes like your roomate Scary Gary.")
posted by wenestvedt at 9:31 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


So she'll have to live on a tighter budget than some of her peers, but I think she can do it (and if it's really impossible to meet a monthly amount, I'd bet the student loan companies would renegotiate the loan).

You'd lose that bet, big time.
posted by blucevalo at 10:02 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, as the link seanyboy posted points out, if she does not make the correct monthly payment and fails to make a full payment for 270 days, the loans automatically go into default and her life is effectively ruined. The link also makes clear that one out of every four student loans is now in default.
posted by blucevalo at 10:13 AM on November 23, 2010


It strikes me that in 50 years we've gone from a social model of in loco parentis higher education where the institution had an actual legal duty of care for your well being and development, to a business model where the university doesn't even need to point out that the kids they're admitting will never be able to use that education to pay back the loans that bought them the education in the first place.

I'm not arguing we should go back to the days where we threw young women out of school for missing curfew, but this current state of affairs does seem something of a market over-correction.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:15 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, unless you live in a state with debtors prisons (Indiana and Illinois), plan on get your degree, rack up a massive debt, and leave the U.S.

Your debts can't follow you to Europe, China, or the Middle East. You can still come visit your folks, you just won't be able to get a mortgage, car loan, or credit card in the U.S.
posted by exhilaration at 10:48 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Also bradth27, GOOGLE RON PAUL.
amirite?


I stopped really listening to you there. Maybe you should have put that at the bottom, so I might have taken more of what you had to say seriously.
posted by bradth27 at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2010


From wikipedia: Sociology is the study of society [...] a social science [...] which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop and refine a body of knowledge about human social activity, often with the goal of applying such knowledge to the pursuit of social welfare.

Perhaps she learned quite a bit and may well be on her way to a promising career in her chosen field. Look at the debate she's spawned. Let's wait and see where this goes. I'm generally against internet-begging, but in this case I hope there's another layer to the onion. She's already at about 1% of her donations goal. I hope she gets every penny.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:06 AM on November 23, 2010


Mitrovarr: You know, if the point of the student loan system is to force people into the military who don't want to go, I'm pretty sure I like it even less.


There are other options pointed out in this thread, including NOT GOING TO A SCHOOL THAT REQUIRES A TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLAR loan.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 11:09 AM on November 23, 2010


Your shouty use of all-caps really makes your point strikingly clear. Thanks.
posted by blucevalo at 11:27 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


There used to be this idea in some countries that educating young people was an investment in that country's future, and that it was a Good Thing in general to support and help citizens get an education. Tuition in Australia used to be free. There were student grants in England, and in Canada too. When did education become a private indulgence to be sneered at, rather than something that would, overall, make a better and more civil society?
posted by jokeefe at 11:28 AM on November 23, 2010 [11 favorites]


Thanks jk. Best post of the thread.
posted by Summer at 11:46 AM on November 23, 2010


When did education become a private indulgence to be sneered at, rather than something that would, overall, make a better and more civil society?

In the US, at about the same time that George Bush Sr. signed into law the Higher Education Technical Amendments of 1992, which (a) vastly increased the number of students receiving loans (versus grants) as a major part of their financial aid packages and (b) eliminated the statute of limitations to recover unpaid student loan debt.
posted by blucevalo at 11:46 AM on November 23, 2010


College Student Borrowing On The Rise: Pew Report.
posted by ericb at 12:24 PM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Honestly, unless you live in a state with debtors prisons (Indiana and Illinois), plan on get your degree, rack up a massive debt, and leave the U.S.

Your debts can't follow you to Europe, China, or the Middle East. You can still come visit your folks, you just won't be able to get a mortgage, car loan, or credit card in the U.S.


GO ON!?

Seriously though, does this work? Please, somebody tell me this works.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 1:18 PM on November 23, 2010


Well, what are they going to do? Extradite you? Really, their only leverage is your credit score and your US wages. If you don't care about either, I don't know what else they can do.
posted by desjardins at 1:29 PM on November 23, 2010


thsmchnekllsfascists: Seriously though, does this work? Please, somebody tell me this works

Eh. It means you can never repatriate, for a start, which is fine with me in theory but doesn't suit everyone. Never is a very long time, and would make caring for my parents in their old age somewhere down the line extremely complicated though YMMV.

But in general it depends on who holds the loans and on the laws in your country of residence. In Ireland, my student debt pre-dates my marriage; our house is our only asset and is our marital home; ergo under Irish law it is unlikely in the extreme that it would ever be used to settle a US debt.

It took consultation with a US-educated local Irish solicitor and large bill for that time for me to be confident enough in the Irish law to tell my US loan company that repayments would be on a schedule I dictated and that while they were welcome to attempt to take me to court here, that wasn't going to work out for them quite the way they were hoping - under Irish law I am essentially what they would think of as judgement proof.

This was not at all the circumstance when I lived in the UK. It really does depend on where abroad you live, among other circumstances. There are about a dozen other factors I'm not even mentioning here, but in my experience it is not as simple as exhilaration states it is.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


If you really wanted to evade your creditors that badly, you could do this. Though it's often impossible to get out from under a mountain, it seems to me that that category of solution is pretty much one of last resort.
posted by blucevalo at 1:46 PM on November 23, 2010


> But it never ceases to amaze me how venomous some here get when it comes to people who have financial problems, whether they're of their own making or not.

I wasn't being venomous. I just don't see her situation being deserving of special attention or sympathy. A lot of people are in similar situations whether is be unemployment or mortgages or whatnot. I think there is going to be derision piled on anyone that seeks a the "viral website" solution to personal economic problems. It's laughable.

I particularly relish the comment above that insists that, in an economy in which almost one out of five people is having trouble finding one job, that she find and land four jobs before she has a leg to stand on.

You misread me. I said she should have had 4 jobs while she was in college. You know, pay as you go, or at least mitigate the financial ruin she was setting herself up for. And if times are tough and she can't manage 4 jobs then maybe it's time to put education on hold while she saves up. Maybe she does part time classes while living at home. Obviously I am not talking 4 full time jobs. I'm also not talking great paying jobs, but even a pizza driver pulls home a grand a month. 12k a year would have reduced her nut by a 25%. Throw in another on-campus job and she's down considerably. It can be done. Now pick a reasonable school and she gets a decent education with the same earning potential and no where near the debt.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:41 PM on November 23, 2010


According to the actual website where she's soliciting the donations, she worked throughout school. At more then 4 jobs.

Which doesn't really raise my opinion of her.
posted by GuyZero at 2:57 PM on November 23, 2010


It is hard to understand how she ended up paying everything by loan - that she didn't have any scholarship ...

According to a very reliable source, she didn't apply for any NU or private scholarships for which she now wishes she had done -- as per this interview.
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on November 23, 2010


The entire system is stacked against middle-class families. If you could possibly be eligible for financial aid, there's no way of knowing how much a school costs until you apply and are accepted. So are students advised to apply to many schools so that they can compare prices? No, they are advised to do the opposite. Applying to many schools, according to The New York Times' education section, is "application inflation," a symptom of a hypercompetitive, narcissistic generation. Instead, students should just relax -- less stress, more success, in the words of MIT's disgraced former admissions director Marilee Jones -- and apply to two or three schools that are a good "fit" for them (as anniecat pointed out upthread.) It's not surprising that students actually listen to this advice and come away thinking that whatever price they're offered is reasonable. Read publications like Inside Higher Ed sometime -- the educational establishment is bitterly opposed to merit aid or negotiating over prices. The only acceptable option to lower costs is community college, which is apparently a great option for the children of people who don't write for Inside Higher Ed.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 3:45 PM on November 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


There's no way of knowing how much a school costs until you apply and are accepted.

What? Most schools openly post their current/recent/upcoming tuition, fee, and room and board rates on their websites. This is how I know that for NY residents, SUNY Albany (which offers a sociology major) is half as expensive as Northeastern, and CUNY, which was right next door to this woman's home, is about half as much as SUNY, if she lived at home.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:47 PM on November 23, 2010


What? Most schools openly post their current/recent/upcoming tuition, fee, and room and board rates on their websites.

Financial aid determines how much a school costs for most (well, many, depending on how you define it) people middle-class and below. Private schools can be a lot cheaper than public, depending on how much they have available in student aid and how much they determine that a family needs. And then there's grants, loans, work-study -- it's been about 15 years since I applied, but I was offered wildly divergent financial aid packages at the schools where I was accepted, from nothing to almost full tuition.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:56 PM on November 23, 2010


("So, just for myself, I would like to say I have taken some pains to try to indicate that I do not hold that position." GuyZero

Point taken that I need to be less lazy when posting late at night (when I really should be asleep instead) and refer to specific comments that I'm responding to!)
posted by eviemath at 9:00 PM on November 23, 2010


How much does it cost US students to study in the UK? I'm amazed at how much it costs. When I was a student (2000-03) UK universities charged a flat tuition fee which was means-tested, and we could also take out a max loan of £3k per year (this is also means-tested, which I think is wrong - should we be expecting our parents to pay for our food at 21?) My degree, at a UK equivalent to an Ivy League university, cost me a total of £320 in tuition fees, £2k in overdraft, and £12k in student loans. (Also some storecard debts from knowing fuck all about how to manage money, but that's another story.)

If I'd been born five years earlier, I'd have paid no tuition and got a grant for my living expenses. This is why students are protesting today - because soon the 'better' universities will charge more, and it will be harder for poorer kids to get good educations. Despite the relative low costs here, I had to give up on the idea of applying to UCL and LSE as I knew that I'd never be able to manage on my loans in London.
posted by mippy at 3:56 AM on November 24, 2010


Yes, of course it's all the kids' fault.

Not all, but at least some. I don't have anything against liberal arts degrees, but some have low prospects for earning good money.

Besides, I concluded my point about innumeracy reminding people here to talk this stuff through with teenagers we know. They need some help to see the long view.
posted by dgran at 8:16 PM on November 26, 2010


or comp sci I can understand.

I can't. Of all the things you can teach yourself without going to any kind of college, computers are way at the top of the list.

That said, unless there are significant changes (and of course, since this is at least 18+ years in the future since I don't even *have* kids of my own yet) I will absolutely be pushing my future kids to work immediately after high school and *then* go to college once they've figured out the career they'd like to have.

I think the habit of everyone going straight to college is really unwise unless the student knows exactly what they want to study and are in a field where being young is an advantage over being slightly older. For so many people college is really just their first chance to experience parents-free living, so they might as well have that experience while making rather than while costing money.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:49 PM on December 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


I can't. Of all the things you can teach yourself without going to any kind of college, computers are way at the top of the list.

No, YOUR CAREER is really simple and can be self-taught by anyone.

Let's see - I did an embedded operating systems course, did microprocessor design, control systems, antennas and network theory. It would be very, very difficult to teach yourself these topics. A comp sci or comp eng education is about a lot more than a couple courses in programming java/python/erlang or whatever.
posted by GuyZero at 3:08 PM on December 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kelli: "My page has a new home! Check out Why I'm Joining EduLender. I'm really excited that pages like mine will be available to everyone soon."
posted by ericb at 3:36 PM on December 21, 2010


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