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Education

Her mom was helping pay off her student loans. When she passed away, the debt had doubled.

Her mom was helping pay off her student loans. When she passed away, the debt had doubled.
person holding brown leather bifold wallet

College is expensive. Parents work multiple jobs, put pressure on their children to perform at the top of their class in order to earn merit scholarships, all in the hopes for college to be mostly paid in full. Inevitably many students and parents have to take out student loans in an effort to fill in the gaps left by financial aid.

In the case of one Twitter user, Michelle Miller, her mother agreed to pay back half of Michelle’s student loans to ease the burden on the new graduate. After graduation the daughter owed approximately $30,000 and, split between the two of them, it meant they would each need to pay back $15,000.

Michelle lamented on Twitter about how her mother insisted on paying back her agreed-upon portion of the student loans though the daughter offered to take over payments. When Michelle’s mother informed her that the original $15,000 turned into $40,000 after interest, Michelle decided to save money in preparation to take over payments. However, her mother refused to allow it. Miller’s mother was expected to pay $400 a month on the student loans, but this would cut into her retirement, leaving her below the poverty level. To her mother, it was worth it to hold up her end of the bargain. Unfortunately her mother became unexpectedly ill and passed away before she was able to retire or pay back the loans. When going through her mother’s paperwork after her death, Michelle was met with a shock.



The loan amount had doubled. Michelle’s mother hid that the interest rate on the loans had brought the grand total to $80k that she could never afford to pay back. But this story is not unique. Many borrowers go into debt thinking the benefit of the degree will outweigh the burden of student loan debt but the cost of an education continues to skyrocket and the interest rate on loans makes paying it back nearly impossible. When you go to school and take out loans, you expect to be able to afford monthly payments and hope to pay it back in a timely manner, eventually freeing up income, but that’s not always the case. A lot of people find themselves in a similar situation as Michelle’s mother. They take out a dollar amount that is repayable, only to look up and see they’ve repaid the original balance but they still owe more than they originally agreed to borrow.

man wearing white top using MacBookPhoto by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

If stories like Michelle’s are the norm, why aren’t we doing more to regulate student loan companies? Presidential candidates like to talk about student loan forgiveness, and some have come up with actionable plans, but it doesn’t solve the long term issue of student loan practices. The truth of the matter is that children who three months prior had to ask permission to use the bathroom are now expected to understand the long term implications of borrowing money from a company that doesn’t care that the average person can’t pay it back plus interest.

Seventeen- and 18-year olds with a dream of attending college and questionable loan practices is a perfect storm for continued crisis in the student loan arena. Until we can figure out how to better regulate the lending companies in charge of student loans, the next generation will repeat the cycle. People shouldn’t have to choose between pursuing their dreams and taking debt to the grave.

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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