Student Debt Relief’s Graduation Speech:
Well, even though no one asked us to speak again this year, given that it’s graduation weekend around the country, we figured it would be a good time to give our commencement speech nevertheless.
Be warned, it is not as inspirational as many of these speeches, but nothing will change with people understanding the severity and causes of the student loan crisis
Here we go..
Let me start with a perfunctory, but sincere, Congratulations.
Today we close the book on a very formative chapter in your life. Hopefully, you maximized the involved time you had at (fill in your college here). Because for 70%+ of you, this formative experience will shape your path in ways no one explained to you when you got that shining acceptance letter that used to mean a ticket to an improved financial life. Unfortunately for you, your student loans have drastically changed this equation for an improved economic life.
Let me give you the honest truth here—you have been forsaken, sold out. Forsaken by the entire system. But rather than just blame some nebulous “system” let me make this MUCH more tangible. You have been sold out by:
Its administration and faculty and . . .
You’re probably asking, “If I’ve been sold out by this ‘system,’ who have I been sold out to?”
Answer: Banks, loan servicers, and the federal government! These institutions will profit for decades from money loaned to you that probably never hit your bank account. It went straight from the government or the bank, right into your school’s coffers. And what have schools done with this manna from heaven? They’ve spent it like drunken sailors, all on your newly diploma’s back.
See, the banks and the school both benefit from you signing away your financial freedom at age 18. The banks and government can load you up with a HUGE, nay, RECKLESS amount of debt because they know that they can make your life hell in perpetuity trying to get it back. Calling you, chasing you, and taking your (and for those of you with co-signers, your family’s) paychecks and tax refunds, while they collect late fees and tack on penalty interest until they shake every penny out of you that they can. Once that approach has fully run its course, they will get bailed out by the taxpayers.
For their part, the schools can keep raising administration salaries, add staff, increase program budgets, and literally build ivory towers all over campus—how else would cost of college outpace inflation so badly?
Because of this fun, the banks and schools have had to loan you money and then promptly to spend it, and now you have to spend the next 10-20 years paying it back,
it turns out the burden of student loans is so onerous that 40% aren’t being paid back on time, reckless lending at its most extreme.
Let that sink in. .40%!
What sane person would EVER loan money, knowing there was a 40% chance it wouldn’t be paid back—you think your Uncle Johnny would do this? They wouldn’t, that’s because sane people, and your uncle Johnny, don’t have the power or connections that the large banks, financial companies, and colleges do in this country.
Look around, in a few short years, 4 out of 10 your friends with student loans will be facing sleepless night because of the time you guys spent together here–not the fun kind of sleepless night you had over the last few years while getting your degree.
I’m talking the scary, isolating, embarrassed, harrowing, sleepless nights only people getting collection calls from sun-up to sun-down understand.
The system is rigged against you at every turn once you borrow that money. Student debt is a Thanksgiving sized feast for debt collectors because often they don’t even have to sue you take your paycheck, and it can’t be wiped out in bankruptcy—another gift from the government to the banks. Isn’t this just a beautiful relationship they all have at your expense?
So what can you do?
- Pinch pennies and make pragmatic career choices. I know it’s not fun to base your decisions on debt, that’s the reality. You owe a car’s worth of debt, but didn’t get any keys
- Educate yourself about student loan forgiveness options, their millions of people aren’t who taking advantage of them—get to know and understand the Income Based Repayment programs
- Vote and advocate aggressively and immediately for:
- Lower interest rates on all federal student loans
- Student loan discharges in bankruptcy
- Loan servicer accountability
- No tax on student loan forgiveness
- Outlawing for-profit higher education
I wish I had better news, but the best I can do at this point is give you the truth. Hopefully, you’ll pass this on to you little brothers and sisters before they sign their financial future away.
That’s the only good “paying it forward” than can come from this.
As all great, clichéd graduation speeches invoke children’s books, I will leave you as the famed Lorax did. . .
like Edward R Murrow used to say “Good luck and good night.”
(Disclaimer we’re always here for you 24/7)