Government gouging students with interest to benefit wealthy

Published 3:15 pm Thursday, February 7, 2019


Contributing columnist

For my column each week, I try to find something that is topical. It also needs to hit me in my gut. If I get a knot in my belly, chances are it will be the focus for the week. Some weeks are easier than others. When Matt Bevin speaks, the columns write themselves. I was at a loss for this week’s topic until I read through the headlines on Google News.

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My morning beverage of choice is hot tea. It requires patience. The water must get to a boil, then the tea steeps. It is during this time that I torture myself with reading the headlines on Google News. I like this particular app because it offers several sources on the same story. For instance, I had the option to read about the State of the Union address from CNN, Fox News, the BBC, and others.

This morning’s showstopper was particularly upsetting to me. A “conservative congressman” proposed taking student loan payments directly from the paychecks of those who owe. It was so upsetting that I closed the app and walked away from my tea ritual. I guess the next thing the government will do is send a burly dude to the homes of student loan holders to break their knees.

I graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 1984 from Berry College in Rome, Georgia. Berry is a private liberal arts college. Back in the day, I had guaranteed tuition. We were on the quarter system in the 80s. My quarterly tuition was just over $800 — $2,400 per year for four years. I was in the last class to receive that amazing gift.

Even though tuition was guaranteed for my four years, I still had to take out student loans. My loan payments were $30 a month for 10 or 15 years. The payments were deferred when I got my master’s degree from Eastern Kentucky University in 1987. Loans were required for that degree as well. All of those loans were paid off years ago. My early school loans were taken at 3-percent fixed interest rate. I paid on time because the payments were reasonable.

The difference now is how the government and their loan vendors seem to need to gouge those of us with loans. I went to law school in 2012 and graduated in 2014. I took out government loans to pay for school and an additional bar exam prep loan. I was stunned by the interest rates. My government loan interest rate is 6 percent! I won’t scare you with the rate of the bar prep loan.

There are many, many adults who have student loans. I read story after story of young adults in their 20s and 30s who can’t buy a house because of their student loan burden.

President Obama tried to help by implementing an income-based payment plan. You submit your income tax return from the previous year to determine your payments for the upcoming year. It sounds reasonable.

I went to law school before I was married. All of my law school loans are solely in my name. However, my payments are based on the combined income of my husband and myself. I have been unemployed since June, 2018 and my husband is self-employed. My student loan payments are almost $500 a month.

Another article on Google News said that employers are offering to pay student loans for employees in lieu of paid vacation. That sounds healthy. Not.

I went to law school and took out my loans with the full knowledge of the debt I was incurring and with the honest intention to repay them in full.  I’m not trying to dodge my responsibility, but it would be nice for the Department of Education to get a clue on what they are doing to the economy.

The federal government is sitting on a golden egg and they are not about to let that egg go. It’s another case of the rich getting richer on the backs of those who aren’t.

The good news is when I die, the debt dies with me. Until then, the student loan struggle is real.

G. Elaine Wilson-Reddy, JD, is a professional educator, consultant and advocate. She lives in Danville.