Sunday, January 3, 2010

Student Debt Advice - Is the Washington Post Helpful or Just Writing Fluff?

OK, so this little piece of advice from Michelle Singletary is hysterical. She writes blase advice columns and this one happens to have a kernel of uselessness on the topic of student loan debt. But I know exactly why she writes fluff - because the WP is kept afloat by Kaplan. So, the WP either talks about happy-go-luck grads who have no debt or they write about extraordinary cases like this one. I have to quote the snippet in its entirety:

Frustrated in D.C.: Dear Michelle, I do appreciate your advice. However, you say to pay off all your significant debt before making any major purchases, such as a house. That means I'll be 50 (right now I'm 30) before I pay off my student loans and can buy a house! There goes my motivation to pay off my debt! What to do? My budget is already trimmed and I'm not saving any money for the future.

Michelle Singletary: I know what I'm proposing is tough. And it's different.
But it can be done and before you turn 50. Just recently I had an award ceremony for the financial ministry I direct at my church.
During the program, one participant, whose husband is an educator, testified that they had gotten rid of $60,000 in student loan debt in TWO YEARS. This was debt the husband thought he would take to his grave. They weren't earning boatloads of money.
How did they do it?
The wife took all her bonuses and helped apply it to the debt. They cut their expenses -- like skipping taking vacations. They participated in the 21-day financial fast I developed (in this you don't spend money on anything that is not a necessity). They stop using credit cards.
Two years and $60,000.
Many of us cried.
What I'm asking you do to is move into your home as debt-free as possible. Get rid of that student loan bondage and when you get that house it will be so wonderful.

I think it's wonderful that this wife and husband were able to get out of debt. That's great for them! But I'd like to know why Michelle Singletary hasn't written any pieces that take a look at the macro implications of the student lending crisis - what about the hundreds of thousands of people who are drowning in student loan debt? What about the ones who can't have children because of their degrees? What about parents or grandparents who co-signed on private loans? What about the cases in which students were misled by financial aid officers on campus and directed to take out the wrong loans? I'd like to know about the 7,000 nurses and teachers in Kentucky who were denied loan forgiveness - what's been done to help those families? These are all topics - among many more - I'd prefer reading about because these anecdotes about a couple that Ms. Singletary happens to know in her Church aren't newsworthy. In fact, it doesn't say a damned thing about the actual crisis. Also, I have news for Ms. Singletary, most people who are drowning in student loan debt aren't taking any vacations. They aren't even able to put food on the table.

Author: C Cryn Johannsen

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