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Help A Reader – Crazy Insane Student Loan Nightmare

I receive a number of questions related to the financial aspect of the college experience. I respond to many of the emails directly but every now and again I like to share some of the questions on CheapScholar.org so that we can all learn from each other and maybe provide a little bit of a support group for our fellow readers.

The following story was brought to me by a young man named Adam. As you read through his situation, you may think that his scenario is unique, a little scary, and maybe even quite hard to stomach. However, I assure you that Adam is not alone and there are certainly others that are experiencing similar situations – just not maybe quite as severe as Adam.

Read Adam’s story and feel free to leave any advice, comments, or questions below.

Dear CheapScholar,

This situation is going to sound very “cartoonish”, but I assure you it is no joke and a fact that I’ve just recently been slapped in the face with… I myself was brought up to highly value the dollar by my family so I still don’t quite understand people who abuse both money or “bad” debt (credit cards, auto loans, student loans & etc). By 27 years old I have saved very well on my own, pay my credit cards off in full every month, have an excellent credit score, hold a steady well paying job/career, have purchased and own multiple pieces of real estate, have a healthy 401K, have an active brokerage account I trade in frequently and other misc investments. Generally I am ALWAYS trying to learn how to invest and manage myself better financially; I have a spreadsheet for everything. I feel I need to give this brief background so that one can understand better, within a few sentences or so, the personal value that I place on managing one’s money.

The slap in the face came a few weeks ago when I made my girlfriend of 2+ years now, whom I love dearly and have planned to marry, start getting her college/student loans tallied up because she had just gotten a notice that one of them will be maturing soon and payment(s) due. I always knew she had student loans, and she always knew with 7 yrs of “private school” it’d probably be a larger but manageable number. Long story short, but it wasn’t long after going through her loans that my heart stopped and I went white as a ghost… but reality quickly snapped me out of the nightmare that ¬†we just recreated on paper, and I realized how extraordinarily dreadful her and now our situation truly was. Her student loans are in excess of $340,000… That’s almost $50k/yr on average, an unfathomable amount…

The worst part about all this is that no she has not been training to become a Doctor or Lawyer. She got her undergrad, master’s and is now just finishing up an Advanced Education Specialist Degree, all in Psychology, and all of which will put her into a public school system paying her next to nothing. She is truly a sweetheart, is always wanting to learn/challenge herself educationally and has never (since I’ve known her) been careless spending with credit cards or the like. Her only real desire career-wise is to help everyday and work with mentally disabled K-12 students, she truly is a saint. In saying that, now her loans are plentiful, come from every conceivable lender, are comprised of every loan type and amount & most of which are unfortunately private rather than federal. I have plenty of moral and personal issues with this whole situation, but none of which I am willing to render an opinion on personally until I can help her figure out and start to climb out of this egregiously deep financial hole she has somehow gotten herself into. The story stems even deeper back to incredibly naive and irresponsible parents that created this loan nightmare for her; they “withdrew” or took out every loan disbursement amount and paid her tuition/expenses for her through the 7 years… My girlfriend, now only 25 years old, truly believed that a portion of her college had been being paid for by them and other family means, and that they certainly would have told her years ago if it was ever becoming a problem as terrible as this.

What boggles my mind, and I guess where my question(s) come in are how can the federal and private student loan entities possibly lend to one individual an amount of money this massive??? How has she racked up student loans of nearly $50k/yr??? To me these loan entities are borderline criminal, and seem completely vulturous in nature. Honestly this whole situation seems very similar to the Real Estate lending entities that have recently destroyed soo many lives/families/homes thru lending anyone and everyone home mortgages well outside of their financial wherewithal’s. I can only research soo much and have no idea which way to go from here. I don’t even know which way is up in all of this.

Any insight, direction or “miracle” would be wholly appreciated at this point… Please help!!! SOS!

Thanks,
Adam

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17 Responses to “Help A Reader – Crazy Insane Student Loan Nightmare”

  1. B.J. Revill says:

    For starter’s Adam’s girlfriend should look into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program offered by the US Dept. of Education: http://studentaid.ed.gov/PORTALSWebApp/students/english/PSF.jsp

    Seeing that she plans to work in the school system, this may be a very viable option for her federal student loan debt. Unfortunately, this will not apply to the private student loans.

  2. Randy Green says:

    B.J.’s suggestion is a great one, but as mentioned it only applies to the federal loans.

    Another idea would be to explore income-based repayment options, which allow students to enter preferred careers without being as constrained by their debt payments. This also only applies to the federal loans, though. The real challenge is with the private loans she’s taken.

    To get this much private loan debt, she must have had co-signers with strong credit and/or significant incomes. (Without them, she wouldn’t have been able to borrow this much.) Perhaps she can go back to those co-signers to see if they can help with the payments. If she can’t repay the loans, the obligation becomes theirs anyway. And if she defaults, their credit scores suffer as well.

    Just a thought.

  3. Danno says:

    Adam, if you’re reading this, don’t throw away everything you’ve accomplished and built up based on “true love”. Once you get married you will be stuck in a 3-way partnership with your debt-ridden bride and the State. It may be “true love” to you, but from the POV of the government and your GF it’s a contract with you on the losing end. You will never be free again, and with the divorce rate in this country being what it is, there are so many strikes against this arrangement before it’s even begun. Also, what does it say about someone’s judgment that racks up that kind of debt before they’ve gotten any marketable skills in life with which to pay it off? I’ve heard horror stories about $175,000 in student loans, but $343,000??!!

  4. ToadStool Manor says:

    Hmmm… let’s see… she’s 25, with a BA and $300,000+ in private student loans… and you don’t know what to do?? And you want to marry this loan?? Yes. That is what you will be committing to do. It will be YOUR responsibility once you say those two words, “I Do”. Then your life will be intertwined for the better or worse, and in this circumstance, unless you are rich, it definitely doesn’t look good. Think long and hard on this young man…

  5. BillH says:

    This is almost certainly not salvageable. But if it is, it must be through the money of the irresponsible parents who shafted their daughter. One must wonder if all of the $50K/year actually went to her expenses, or did they siphon some off for themselves “in return for their services”? The parents very likely cosigned on some of them, which is entirely fair. But you bailing out these lunkheads (or worse) is not.

    Remember, not even bankruptcy will clear a student loan.

  6. MDK says:

    Can you spell Pre-Nup?

  7. R. J. Francisco says:

    Howdy Adam,

    You said,

    “I have plenty of moral and personal issues with this whole situation, but none of which I am willing to render an opinion on personally…”

    Not sure where that was going but are you a Christian or a Jew? Are you a member of a Congregation of believers of some sort? Same questions apply to your intended.

    If so, find a Minister, Rabbi or Elder who believes, as I do, that government has no business or authority to “license” your marriage and will therefore NOT sign any form of government marriage license.

    Enter your wedding and date in your “Family Bible” (If you don’t have one, buy one.) Your Vows will be given before and witnessed by God, your minister, family and friends but she still may retain her Maiden name as her Professionl name (which she may do either way). That is how it was done for thousands of years before counties, states and nations realised they could, for a small fee, marry your debts as well as your fortunes together adding you to the debtors currently involved and “recorded”. Just one more fish to go after.

    I have pefrormed a number of wedding ceremonies as described. For those who wanted a marriage “license”, they had Notary Public perform a civil ceremony immediately following the religious ceremony.

    This practice is niether illegal nor unlawful. Our Constitution still guarantees us freedom of religious choice. God knows and you and your families know your intentions and commitments Why invite the county tax collector to your wedding?

    Blessings,

    Chaplain Cisco

  8. Frank Klafs says:

    she has an advanced degree and $340,000 in debt and went to private schools. RUN
    with a carreer in public education she could have gone to public schools and lived with mom and dad.

    She needs to pay off her debt by herself and learn the lesson of when you play you pay the bill.

  9. BH206L3 says:

    Well consider a couple of things, first she is the love of your life at least for now, So the debt should be a none issue. You are just not ever going to be able to buy a house or do much of anything other than pay the debt off. Figure 25 to 25 years. A good accountant could guid you on this. You will both work hard and have no real retirement, but its Love you see. No for the reality of it, you are going to have to walk away from this one, the reason is that 50% of marriages in the US ends in divorce and why should you be on the hook for 340K that by the time you pay it off you would have spend over a million dollars. And for what 2 to 5 years of maybe bliss? It’s her debt, not yours. The main thing is go to professional money managers and accountants for advise, and not to web sights and comment sections. Gee’s guy if what you wrote is the truth, you would know that and what you have to do, you don’t need this Blog’s advise for that. Some how I think its made up. Sorry if you are that savvy with finances this would be a no brainer for you.

  10. Grumpy old man, kevin says:

    And the government wants to subsidize the education system? When the cost of an advanced education outstrips your ability to repay, then someone has their fist in the cookie jar. – No make that both fists!
    Most companies that will only hire college educated people are part of the problem and most retrain the individual as well. Not to mention the liberal professors that do little educating and more indoctrinating.

  11. ZMan says:

    Hummm—7 Years of College sure as hell never did her any good!

    This is so damn stupid, that the only thing that could make it more stupid is to know she was a MATH or ECON. Major ! DAH !!!!!!!!!

    I will bet 2-Bits. that she is a “Spread The Wealth” Socialist OBAMAnite Believer and Supporter !

    Hey Dude– Ask yourself — what are the Benefits that you receive from her worth in dollars?

    Do the math, and assume each time you shag her you pay her $300.00– till you spend $350,000.00 that is a total of 1166.67 times that you will have to shag her to get your money’s worth.

    So, if you shag her twice a week, it will take you 11.22 YEARS to get your Money’s Worth !!

    Now think, YAH REALY THINK HARD, she is 27 years old now, and in 12 years she will be 39 years old, and you will be DEAD BROKEand still trying to pork this dumb woman, after she has spent all your money that made over the next 12 Years ! Get the Picture ??

    Dude– FIND A NEW WOMAN that has a FINANCIAL BRAIN and a nice tight Kitty !!!

  12. Saul Grabia says:

    Adam
    You read the above advice, all good, but you do Love her? The only way out is for All to declare. A bankruptcy. After all she has no way of paying this amount off. Good luck!

  13. grumpy young man says:

    “She is truly a sweetheart, is always wanting to learn/challenge herself educationally”

    You mean that she could not handle med school or an engineering curriculum despite the fact that she is always wanting to learn/challenge herself educationally???
    The problem with most people is that they like nice and easy college major’s and never give a second thought to why an employer will hire them with a nonsense degree. If she really wanted to learn/challenge herself educationally, she should have studied either petroleum & natural gas engineering or chemical engineering. These majors weed out 90%+ of the incoming freshman class. Now that would have been a knock out drag out challenge from which she would have emerged as a breadwinner capable of paying off her student loans. I read with amusement about the women outnumbering the men in college (55% of BS degrees go to women) but in what fields?! Someone who studied “women’s studies”, took on $200K in debt and is trying to buy that $650 burberry purse with the novacheck lining all while earning $27K a year at a non profit. I don’t like the societal changes that I am seeing but many of my colleagues are dating asian women with the full intent to marry them. I asked why and their response was that they have good jobs, can payoff their debts if they have any, and are extremely frugal and practical in terms of running a household. Many caucasian men are getting pressure from their families as to why are you dating outside of the race? Well mom it’s because the caucasian women generally have lots of student debt with no marketable skills to show for the expenditure. Why should I saddle myself with this when I can find someone who is unencumbered by the student debt? I do not believe in the soul mate BS and think that there are many people with which you can build and enjoyable life with who share your values.

  14. Debt Free Now says:

    She may have to put off her ‘dream job’ for some time and join a private practice as a psychologist to increase earnings probability for as many years as it takes to pay off the student loan debt. She could specialize in her field of choice and still help kids. Are you prepared to fully financially support you both while she applies ALL her net earnings to the debt for as long as it takes to pay it off? Is she seriously willing to make a few sacrifices to resolve this issue, like taking such a position for a while, restricting her wardrobe purchases and mani-pedi’s, forfeiting vacations, etc.? It would take about as long for her credit to recover from a bankruptcy (which will only clear her from private loans) as to apply herself like this and pay off the debt. I suggest this because it’s what we did and after 6 years we are debt free and have savings. A pre-nup absolving you of any responsibility toward all of her preexisting debt.

  15. harold zeckel says:

    If they live in Massachusetts and they keep separate accounts and own things separately, he will not be responsible for her debts, except if she goes into a nursing home.

  16. Andrew Lohr says:

    A prudent wife is from Jehovah. Cosigning notes is against Jehovah’s advice. (Proverbs). She and her parents can repent and learn wisdom, though.

    Worldly–some medieval law said if a woman got married buck naked in the middle of the king’s highway, she brought no debts into the marriage but only herself. I recall from Ripley’s Believe it or not that this law was used here in the 1840s, and there being no king the lady was indoors in a wooden box. A novel by F. van Wyck Mason (whom I do NOT recommend) featured a lady getting married naked indoors during the Revolution.

  17. John Keese says:

    Adam,

    If you two are truly in love and committed to one another for life, then the only moral thing for both is to wait until the debt is completely paid to marry and to consumate the marriage.

    Waiting the necessary years will add triumph to the joy of a marriage honorably begun. What now seems to be an insurmountable debt burden can be overcome in less time than you now think possible if your repentant bride-to-be and her parents marshall available resources toward the goal, and you contribute as well, not out of compulsion, but out of love and longing for your bride.

    You can also be of much help to her and her parents, if they are willing, in providing the financial education for them which has so obviously been missing in all of their lives so far. If they are unwilling, this gives you needed information about the potential success of your future together.

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