The Debt That Will Never End

I have school loan debt. I had missed work for months because of my left lung collapsing three times, so I borrowed money to finish my doctorate. I started repaying the loan six months after I graduated with a PhD and found a teaching position. That was 13 years ago, minus about five months when I wasn’t working when we first moved to California.

So for roughly twelve and a half years, I have been paying the federal government back. Yet, in all of that time, I have not reached the principal. Because of the way the interest is calculated, I still basically owe the same amount as I did when I began repaying the loan. It nearly drives me bonkers when I see what I still owe. Proverbs 22:7 is correct: the borrower is slave to the lender. This is something we need to really teach the younger generations.

What is ironic is that 30 percent of my Social Security check is returned to the government for the student loan. I already know that I will die owing the government, and it causes me great shame. I believe in paying my bills, for Ecclesiastes 5:4 reminds us to pay what you vow. It is speaking of vows made to God, but it can be used here to mean any debt you promised to repay.

Douglas also is repaying student loans, from when he went to law school over 20 years ago.  Thankfully, the student debt didn’t prevent us from receiving a loan to buy our new home.We both have great credit scores, for which I am very proud. So, you can see that we are not trying to shirk our duty or not pay what we owe.

What I would like to see is a change in how the interest rates are calculated that would make the debt easier to repay. Interest accrues from the first check received, even though a person will not start to pay the loan back until after they graduate. So, by the time you start to repay, the interest has increased the initial amount considerably. I should have paid attention to that 13 years ago!

A recent study  states that many seniors face a mountain of student loan debt that will follow them to their graves. Douglas and I are blessed, in that we are able to live a relatively good life, despite the debt. But for some seniors, this debt, either created for themselves years ago or by trying to help grandchildren afford college today, presents a real hardship, as it seems to never end.

Let me be clear: I am not advocating not paying the loans or even having the loans forgiven. I am willing to pay, because I borrowed the money to make a life-long dream come true. I will continue to pay the loan until I die, or I receive some huge bequest or something else just as improbable happens that lets me pay it off. But as the Department of Education creates policies today that make student loan repayment harder,  I foresee continued anguish among young and old.

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