By David Dayen
Why Student Loans Are an Even Bigger Sham Than You Know
June 6, 2013 |
It’s becoming an annual ritual. Every June, Congress debates what to do about the interest rate on federally subsidized student loans, to avert what this year will be the imminent doubling from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. But interest rates alone don’t tell the whole story.
At a time when overall student debt approaches $1 trillion, the facts reveal that student loans aren’t loans, not in the traditional sense. They exhibit none of the qualities of modern consumer financial instruments, and are often sold under false pretenses, with the promise of a lifelong benefit that never materializes. We need to change how these loans work and have a broader conversation about what we should be doing — including bankruptcy and refinancing — to help future generations obtain a quality, affordable education, which is critical to our economic future.
The roughly two-thirds of U.S. students who take out loans to finance their college education can end up in a situation most resembling the historical concept of indenture. In medieval times, peasants would sign deeds to work land, which would then get cut in a jagged line (looking like teeth, or “dentures”). Each party would get half, and rejoining them would prove the authenticity of the contract. Colonial indentures would trade years of labor for the opportunity of transportation to the New World. The indentured could not alter the terms of the contract, no matter their circumstances. One way or another, the debt would get paid. MORE