Nevertheless, Rosemary is now 57 years old, and the $65,000 she originally borrowed has grown to $152,000! How did that happen?
As for so many Americans trying to survive in today's dog-eat-dog economy, life got in the way. Rosemary experienced a divorce, a job loss, and a family illness. Loans got out of hand, and she stopped making payments for a period of time. Later, she consolidated her loans at an interest rate of 8.25 percent--far higher than the prevailing rate. Interest accrued, penalties were tacked on to what she borrowed; and now Rosemary owes $$152,000.
Although the CNN article didn't make her current situation entirely clear, apparently Rosemary is now in a 25-year Income-Based Repayment Plan, because CNN reported she will be paying nearly $700 a month until she is 81 years old!
That's right--she will finally finish paying off her student loans more than 40 years after she got her undergraduate degree. "I will be working for as long as I'm employable. I will never be able to retire," Rosemary said in the CNN story.
Is that how the American dream is supposed to work? Is this how higher education is supposed to pay off?
Some people might tell Rosemary that she has no one but herself to blame. You borrowed too much money, they might tell her, or you should never have stopped paying on your loans.
Well, sure, Rosemary probably made some mistakes in financing her higher education, but a lot of people make mistakes. That's what bankruptcy is for. But people like Rosemary will find it very difficult to discharge their student loans in bankruptcy court.
But who really cares? The media is obsessed with what happened in Ferguson, Missouri and the details of Ray Rice's elevator assault on his girl friend. Rosemary Anderson got featured in a couple of CNN stories, but millions of people in similar situations suffer in silence.
Meanwhile, college and universities, both public and private, gorge on federal student loan money and the money students borrow from private banks to pay for their college education. University presidents may pretend to care about distressed student debtors, but they are focused on raising money to construct more buildings. President Obama pretends to care, but he's not doing anything much to help people like Rosemary Anderson. Maybe Rosemary could get a golf date with the President so she could explain her situation to him personally.
No sensible person can read Rosemary Anderson's story without coming to the conclusion that people like Rosemary need easier access to bankruptcy. But that's not going to happen any time soon. Why? Because the people who have the power to come to Rosemary's aid don't really care about people like Rosemary.
And that's pretty scary to think about because there are literally millions of distressed student-loan debtors, and the number grows larger every day.
Blake Ellis. Student Loan Debt Surges for Senior Citizens. CNN, September 11, 2014. http://finance.yahoo.com/news/student-loan-debt-surges-senior-211900000.html
Patrick M. Sheridan. I'm 57 and owe $152,000 in student loans. CNN, August 14, 2014. http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/13/news/economy/older-student-debt?source=yahoo_hosted