Default on Student Debt–and Lose Your License

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Remember debtors’ prison–they throw you in the clink until you pay off your debt? Really stupid idea, wasn’t it? Eventually they discovered that it’s next to impossible to pay off anything while you’re in jail.

But if we really do know better nowadays, how come 22 states revoke your driver’s license, or even your professional license, as punishment for failure to pay off your student debt? ( You could read all about it in this recently updated Jobs With Justice article, if only WordPress hadn’t killed all my news links.

Let’s see, now… You go to collidge and run up a $200,000 student debt–and when you can’t keep up with the payments, they take away your right to drive a car, or even revoke your professional license. Either way, you probably lose your livelihood and certainly lose your ability to pay down the debt. Bad enough you’ve got a master’s degree in Gender Studies or Superhero Studies and it isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. But just try to get and keep a job if you can’t drive to work. And just try paying down a debt if you haven’t got a job.

America would be better served if there were some other punishment for student debt default–suspending the defaulter’s right to vote, that would be a good start. Refusal to grant student loans in the first place to anyone “studying” completely useless subjects.Why should the taxpayers loan anyone money to get a degree in Lesbian Chicano Studies?

But it’s just plain mean to take away some poor collidge grad’s ability to eke out a living serving up slurpees at his hometown Seven-Eleven.

17 comments on “Default on Student Debt–and Lose Your License

  1. The whole student loan system has become a huge pork barrel. Many of these debts will end up defaulted. Even more reasonable majors are far from a guaranty of employment, these days. There are MBAs a-plenty out there right now, Civic Planners and all sorts of Computer Science majors who would be better served building skills in real-world areas.

    My point is that a lot of people are coming out of college and finding that their degree is of little use in the job market. A number of years ago, I hired someone fresh out of college for a special project. He called me two days before he was scheduled to start and admitted that he had no idea what to do once he actually got to work. I told him to be there on time and that we’d help him get started. He did and it worked out fine, but the point is his college training apparently never even touched upon applying his skills to the real world.

    With the above in mind, how many people will find themselves literally unable to repay their student loans? Of the billions upon billions owed to the student loan program, how much will end up being absorbed by the taxpayers? I already pay five-figures of Federal income tax; am I paying part of this to fund employment for professors, many of whom have little or no real-world experience aside from teaching?

    A friend recently took some college courses and both of us were appalled by the poor quality of the professors. Some spoke heavily accented English and were nearly incomprehensible. Some of the required prerequisite courses struck me more as a way of employing dead-weight professors than a way to teach anything of use.

    The debtor’s prison approach seems pretty much pointless. If a parent has a hard time keeping up child-support payments they can lose their license. In some cases these are true deadbeats, but how about someone struggling to make a living and legitimately falling behind? How does taking someone’s license away allow them to ever catch up on their support? It is a debtor’s prison mentality.

  2. Maybe the student-debt defaulters could work off their debt instead of being out of work and defaulting — which actually makes the taxpayer bail them out twice, once by picking up the debt and again by paying for their unemployment or welfare handouts. I know, I know, we have a constitutional prohibition against indentured servitude. But still….

    1. Just make them keep paying as much as they can pay, and suspend their voting rights until they’re all paid up. And stop funding colleges!

  3. If you’re here illegally, you can go to school free, get an apartment free, get food free, get medical care free . . . life’s good. But if you’re a citizen of this country, you pay – for yourself and for them!

  4. The student loan liability is currently over one trillion dollars. One good thing, you can’t claim bankruptcy to get out of paying your student loan. The federal gov’t took over the student loan program so you know it will end up being a disaster. P.S. While you’re at it, why not revoke voting rights to anyone collecting welfare.

    1. Why does nobody in power seem to understand this? If everybody goes to college, it’s the same as nobody going. If everybody has a degree, it’s the same as nobody having one.

    2. Exactly, Lee. That’s why it soon became necessary to have a master’s degree for positions that once required only a bachelor’s degree — and why it then became necessary to have a Ph.D…. and who knows what will come next?

      Actually, with the fields of study being what they are today, even a Ph.D. has become laughable. It would be better for serious young people to learn a trade, get a real job, and then take some genuine college courses in their spare time as a hobby. In fact, I counseled some of my own students about doing that, when it was obvious that they were getting nothing out of college and wanted to do something useful — and lucrative — instead.

    3. I looked at a US government web site for a job similar to mine. The starting point was a Master’s in some computer-related field, along with an explanation of when you expect to earn your PHD. If you already have a PHD, they wanted an accounting of what you are doing educationally since earning the PHD. Are they hiring IT people or college professors?

    4. Sorry, can’t talk, I’m working on my 17th bachelor’s at the University of Phoenix. 🙂

      Just kidding. You are 100% correct. Right now, degrees are a dime a dozen in many fields, and overpriced at that. It hasn’t always been this way, but it sure is now. I know a fellow right now that found out he could make more managing a convenience store than working in the field he has a degree in.

      Many people coming out of college in the last 15-20 years are not all that well equipped to accomplish anything once they hit the workforce. The best and most accomplished technical people I deal with tend to be older and highly experienced. Many have no formal education past high school.

      OTOH, I’d bet my next paycheck that whomever has messed up WordPress’ interface probably has all sorts of formal education, but little experience and even less judgment.

    1. An imaginary house.

      These days, a degree is far from a guarantee of employability, especially when classes in pop culture figures and various social issues are involved.

    2. Finally, something worthwhile. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the middle of a network design problem and asked myself: “what would Beyoncé do?” 🙂

    3. You only think you’re joking. There were courses like this in my department even before I retired in 2009.

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