Overheard on CNN.com: 'Welcome to the cruel, harsh world,' student loan takers
President Obama discusses student loan debt this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
April 26th, 2012
08:13 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: 'Welcome to the cruel, harsh world,' student loan takers

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Anya Kamanetz of Fast Company magazine wrote about President Obama's tour of college campuses this week, addressing the interest rate on student loans that is set to double on July 1. Kamanetz argues that  bankruptcy relief also ought to be available. We received comments from readers who say we simply cannot afford to let people out of these debts when others have paid in the past. But, others argue, the world is a different place now.

Obama should push bankruptcy relief for student loans

Many of our readers said people who took out loans can't just expect to erase that debt.

onepercenter: "This is absurd. A few things to consider:
1. The kids that all buy into the hope and change, crush the 1%, save the world, anti-cronyism, anti-lobbying, anti-election buying stuff are tying their vote for Obama to a reduction in their own personal debt. I can smell the hypocrisy from here.
"2. You borrowed the money in good faith. Pay it back or suffer the consequences. Many before you were in the same situation and found a way to make it work.
"3. If you can't find a job because you spent eight years chasing a degree in Iranian Gender Studies, the only person to blame is yourself. We should not be on the hook for your bad decisions.
"It is time to grow up kids. Welcome to the cruel, harsh world. If you think student loan debt is bad, just wait until you start paying taxes. ..."

At the same time, one reader opined, there are increased costs to be aware of.

Gary Murchake: "Why does everyone talk about loans or loan interest rates? This is not the problem. I went to college 1987 to 1992. I was in-state at a state university and my full-time schedule cost $995 a semester, books were between $175 and $300 depending on classes I took. Now where exactly can you go to college for that now? The costs are crazy and no one yet has explained to me where the excess costs went to."

OhioLibraria: "You are 100% correct. I graduated with my master's two years ago. I was a stay-at-home mom while attending school, but commuted from Ohio to Michigan, and therefore, paid out-of-state tuition ($16,000 per semester). I really had no choice but to take out private loans. I am one of the fortunate graduates who received a job in my field right away, but the loans are killing me. I make a decent living, but more than half my paycheck goes to student loans and will continue to do so for a very long time."

Life is life, says this reader.

Mega RayRay: "If you signed the loan papers, spent the money and went to school that is a choice that you made. You are responsible for the repayment of the money that was lent to you for the education you couldn't afford in the first place. Stand up and be an adult and admit you made a poor decision and repay your debt. Sorry you can't find a job in your field of choice but life is never a guarantee."

This reader said we as a society are encouraging people not to survive.

Jared Knipp: "Forgiveness of student loan debt via a type of 'bankruptcy' would be yet another double taxation to individuals such as myself that did not superfluously overspend on college costs and paid back their loans in full. Continually I'm punished as a working middle-class citizen of this country. I have to bail out the rich, the poor and the foolish via tax dollars. People buy houses they have no business purchasing because they can't afford them so they get a bailout from the government. We tell our youth to go to college and do what you love. In turn, students take out $100,000 in loans for a degree that will never provide the return on investment necessary to pay them back. We pay out 99 weeks of employment benefits to those out of work and float the dream of Social Security benefits for retires, both discouraging looking for work/hustling to get by and saving. Our country has become overrun with policies and safety nets. Our grandparents and great-grandparents helped forge this nation through hard work and struggling through desperate times."

Deadbeatdadd: "Seriously, did you have to bring the grandparents into this? The dollar was worth more back in the '50s when those grandparent's ruled the roost. They didn't need both parents working 'just to get by.' They actually had middle-class jobs. They didn't have to deal with 'free markets' and the cheap slave labor from foreign nations. I can go on and on ... stop romanticizing that generation. The one thing they definitely did right was keep the corporate crooks from taking over the government."

BinaryTruth: "Translation: Let the man starve, maybe then he'll teach himself to fish. But for college kids it's even worse. The fish were all relocated to China. Now we have self-righteous wingnuts ridiculing young people because they can't get jobs that DON'T EXIST."

Know what you're doing before you take out a loan.

TexasBrando: "Here's an idea that would help everyone: Don't take out a loan that you have no idea how you are going to pay or cannot afford."

brick177: "Here's an idea. Don't tell kids that going to college will automatically get them a better job."

Would allowing loan forgiveness even the playing field for students?

CueBallSTL: "If Obama allows delinquent ex-students out of their loan obligations through bankruptcy, then I want him to pay back all the money I spent honoring my commitment and paying off my loans."

Jennifer Martin: "I think the author is saying that students are more likely to pay off their debt if they can leverage the threat of bankruptcy against their lender. The lender would then be motivated to lower their interest rates, let them skip payments, etc. The student, wanting to avoid a black mark on their credit, could then try to pay back the loan once they get a job."

And then, a few of the people who chimed in to the conversation also mentioned the education itself.

HudsonDad: "Why does no one ever mention the bad product? Charging $40,000 plus for a useless degree? Why aren't the schools held accountable also? Make schools that grant degrees in women's studies and the like pay!"

LogicalInput: "Agree. In all fairness, I think tuition is fine. What isn't are these so-called university fees that are sometimes triple the tuition and/or just as much as room and board. College is too expensive. All we paid for was for that name brand, which doesn't even guarantee a job after graduation. I salute you sir for your observation, but out of curiosity, is there any way to punish a university short of shutting it down? Honest question here, not sarcastic in any way."

D50: "Now wait just a dad-gumed minute ... I spent a lot of my college years in 'women's studies' and was glad for it!"

Are you still paying off loans, or did you get them out of the way with ease? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. Or sound off on video via CNN iReport.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

Post by:
Filed under: Economy • Education • Overheard on CNN.com
soundoff (49 Responses)
  1. Elizabeth

    I am not looking for loan forgiveness. Not for me, my daughters or my sons-in-law. Together we have over 250k in student debt. We took on that debt, we need to pay it. However, the fed gov't does not need to charge us all over 6% for this debt. Once a person consolidates, the % does not change. I am paying far more interest on my student loans than on my house or car. In the 10 yrs I have been paying them, the principal has gone down only 17%. Since I am 53 yrs old, the built in life insurance on the loans will be paying these off for me some day.

    All we want is prime rate adjustable loan rates so we have a fighting chance to pay these things off!
    Better yet, make all the loans, past and current have a flat rate of 2% to pay the administrators and stop the gov't from making money on our backs.

    April 28, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  2. ronbro51

    How about something as simple as joining the military, giving something back to our country and let the Military fund your education in return. It is a win win situation for all parties but wait a minute, I can just get a loan, get my education and then whine about the high cost, no jobs and payback later.

    April 28, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
  3. YukonRon

    Come on...people who have voluntarily taken a path of student loans to achieve their desired level of education should surely be smart enough to realize they, and they alone, will need to pay back the loans. We as a country CANNOT be expected to forgive EVERY bad debt ever created.

    Pay back your loans and quit belly-aching about it...

    April 28, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • DoNotWorry

      I guess this means you will never support the feds refusing to pay back the $3 trillion or so they "borrowed" from social securiity. Right? Right?

      April 28, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wakeup

    Everybody seems to be missing the point here. Students and their parents seem to believe in good faith that they will be able to pay these loans back. They are told they will get a job making a certain amount of money and the school actually in most cases guarantees some job placement help upon graduation. I was there I heard all the hype. Well, its all lies. Kids and parents know that a degree is needed in this day and age. I think everyone jumps on the bandwagon sometimes because there's pressure to not be left behind, Education has gone amuck, just like the other fields in this country (medical, legal). It's all about ripping off the consumer! I don't care who you are and where you came from it effects all of us. Sure there is a percentage who never intended on paying those debts but I don't believe thats the majority. Until we start addressing the REAL issues nothing will change. These exorbitant costs are simply the need to make more and more profits. We always talk about the poor trying to get something they don't deserve (don't take my tax dollars) but we never talk about these companies who take from us and the government and then they want to take some more!

    April 28, 2012 at 10:01 am | Report abuse |
    • DoNotWorry

      Thank you for a bit of LOGIC on this subject.

      April 28, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Dana Lowell

    If the government forgives student loans, why not forgive home loans or car loans?

    April 28, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tired

    So the Librarian decides to borrow 50K to get a masters but fails to find out what a librarian makes. Now with 60K worth of debt and a job that doesn't pay enough to support the librarian's "field of choice" somehow I'm supposed to feel responsible and be willing to pay through my tax dollars for the librarian's choice. Tired just tired

    April 28, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Noah

      The problem with your scenario is that if we don't help librarians we wouldn't have any librarians. My point is that sometimes we need to subsidize education in order to provide a service for the community. Even if said service is a low paying one.

      April 30, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Don

    So the federal government took over 100% of student loans in an obscure paragraph of the Obama medical care act, which itself seizes control of that sector of the economy. Why is the federal government involved in student loans or medical care at all? Why didn’t the auto manufacturers go through regular chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring like every other insolvent company? And why do FNMA and FDMC control seventy percent of home mortgages?
    A limited government of specific enumerated powers? Once upon a time, pre Obama socialism. This is just how Castro nationalized businessesin Cuba, and Chavez in Venezuela. Home of the free and land of the brave? Once upon a time.

    April 28, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Government contractorman

    I am paying my loans down I have more than $25 grand to go at over 8% interest. It sucks plus the fact I have not had a raise over 1% in 4 years thanks to Obama. I may have to take on a second job due to inflation, a greedy contracting company, and a president setting an example. Maybe I should get a job with the GSA.

    Life is hard, pay down you debt's.

    April 29, 2012 at 7:14 am | Report abuse |
  9. Donna

    I don't have a degree, so I can't relate, but it's my opinion that, if you borrowed money to educate yourself, which gives you a HUGE advantage in today's job market, the very least you can do is pay back the money that elevated your status. I'm "under qualified" for your jobs, but you get the jobs for which I am qualified, merely because YOU have a degree. Stop whining!

    April 29, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Weren't We all Young Once

    How easily we forget. The majority of 18 year old kids leaving home for the first time, out of their element with stars in their eyes are NOT, and I repeat are NOT thinking about how they are going to pay back the student loan debt because they have dreams in their heads. Dreams that once they get that damned degree everything will be ok. They are worrying about the economy...the unemployment rate, etc. School counselers, adults, the news...everyone they respect told them get good grades, go to college, get a career. No one said "Don't go to college because you won't be able to afford the student loans you will have to take out once you graduate".....if you had an adult tell you that in your teenage years you wouldn't be on this board complaining about all the money you have to pay back. Had someone told me this, I would have been scared silly and just went straight to work making 8.50/hr...which by the way is what I am making with my useless BA degree and skipped the 60K in student loans.

    April 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Weren't We all Young Once

    Correction: They are NOT worrying about the economy...the unemployment rate, etc. I would trade my degree and student loans in a second for a job that pays a decent wage and helps me to pay my bills. There have been times that I wanted to rip that degree to shreds.

    April 29, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Math Expert

    The cool thing is if I decide to kill myself then I dont have to worry about paying anything back.
    And the way things are headed, thats looking more and more attractive to me.
    To much debt, and its just pointless to even try to fix it, its just not worth all the effort it would take.

    April 29, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Rumplestiltskin

    The federal government should not be in the business of supplying funding for education. This is a state matter and more properly a private matter. The added money has done little more than inflate the cost of education, so not only has it failed of its intent but it places a moral hazard condition on education and at the taxpayer's expense.

    The student loan program should end and with it the ocean of federal dollars that helped drive up / inflate tuition rates. Let the schools charge what the market will bear without the distortion

    April 29, 2012 at 6:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. wendalyn

    Am I the only one who worked a full time job and took classes on a pay as I go basis? Has any one heard of work study?

    April 30, 2012 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  15. IAStudent

    The issue isn't whether or not we should pay them off (obviously we owe the money), it is whether or not our interest rate should double. I borrowed the money at 3.4%, not at 6.8%, so why should my low interest student loan cost more in interest than my car payment or mortgage?

    April 30, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • MattL

      The interest rate difference is due to collateral. If you don't pay your car loan or mortgage, the lender repossesses the car or forecloses on the house. If you don't pay your student loans, what collateral does the lender have? They can't take your education or degree away.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • MattL

      Darn. My post was supposed to be a response to you.

      The interest rate difference is due to collateral. If you don't pay your car loan or mortgage, the lender repossesses the car or forecloses on the house. If you don't pay your student loans, what collateral does the lender have? They can't take your education or degree away.

      April 30, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • max33333445555

      mattl, student loan debt isnt treated like "normal" debt. it survives bankruptcy and has collection capabilities far beyind those normally employed by collectors. a double of interest rates is ridiculous.

      if education is such a value, let the universities loan the money to the students....

      April 30, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Indrid Cold

      Student loans should be interest free. It is obscene that our nation thinks so little of its youth, that we would force them to pay interest on such a loan. If the government of this nation didn't have its priorities so bassackwards, we would be taxing our corporations and businesses to cover the cost of such interest! And no, I'm not a college kid. I'm 53 years old and have a clear understanding of how the world works, which is why I despair of the future generation's prospects for happiness.

      April 30, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3