Warning, serious blog post.
I do ok with my day job, but I struggle, and a big part of it is definitely student loans. I can hear the republicans now, “Here we go. Another spoiled liberal idiot asking for handouts.” No, I’m not, but I do have some ideas. Student loans are everybody's problem. You can have whatever reason you have for what is ruining our economy, but I think the $1.2 Trillion we have amassed has a country in student loan debt is killing us. Do I wish I had never taken out a single loan and worked harder or taken a semester or two off to pay as I went? Yes. Do I have that choice now? Nope. Here is my idea.
Let me work it off! How many programs does the government have, on a federal and a local level, that needs volunteers? Let me volunteer at a rate that pays back at $10 an hour. The government is getting services for cheap, and my paid wage is higher than that, so I’m giving them work at a much discounted rate. People don’t have jobs when they come out of school, but are saddled with debt. They can essentially spend their time being full time volunteers to work off their debt. The government gets work at a lower wage than it would probably normally pay, because you wouldn’t get any of the benefits of an actual employee, and the people would get to working and staying busy being productive members of society. Imagine how clean the streets would be if street cleaners were hard working, but down on their luck, recent college graduates. How nice would it be to show up for a Habitat for Humanity build with so many people wanting to help neighbors in need that they had to turn people away? How awesome would a soup kitchen be if they had recent arts majors teaching people how to paint and enjoying art for a while, hopefully forgetting for just a little bit how down on their luck they are right now? These are just a few of the ways I can imagine this impacting the country.
Another issue I have is, why is there a limit on tax breaks for student loan interest. Hint, this is pretty much a hand out. Instead of only allowing us to claim up to $2,000 a year of interest only, let us claim all the interest we are paying on student loans. Thanks to the borderline criminal interest rate that I’m paying that company that thrives on manipulating and taking advantage of college kids who don’t understand the ramifications of what they are signing away when they take a loan through, let’s call her Mallie Sae, or whatever name she goes by these days. It’s the only girl I met in college who still sends me letters monthly and tracks me down no matter where I go. She’s the closest thing to an STD I caught in college. Looking back on it, I wish I had never borrowed a dime. So what if I would have taken a semester or two off to save money to pay for school as I went? Hindsight is 20-20.
The $2,000 tax break is helpful. I greatly appreciate anything I can get, but in a world where corporations have found loopholes to pay for all kinds of things with weird tax breaks that shouldn’t exist, then I think you letting me claim my full student loan interest is fine. For those of you keeping track, I pay almost $650 a month in interest alone.
Maybe we can also create a program where students can use their degree to help the government out? I have a Master’s Degree in Environmental Engineering. I would think that could be useful somewhere for the United States. I would gladly spend my weekends moonlighting as somebody taking water samples and examining the things that are polluting our waterways. You know what’s even better? With that $10 per hour rate of pay back I proposed earlier, the government would be saving a fortune.
You can say, well, good, this saves you money, but how does this help the country? With about $700 extra dollars a month going into my checking and savings account, I am going to be spending a lot more money. In West Virginia, that’s an additional $500 a year I would be paying in sales tax alone! Assuming a quarter of the state’s population in the working age had to do this, that’s an immediate payback of about $260,000 for the state.
Now, I’m willing to admit, this idea hasn’t been thought out. Maybe it doesn’t work. Maybe the Republicans think it’s too much like a handout and I messed up when I was 18, so tough luck. You’re financially screwed for a while. Maybe the Democrats are thinking, why should you have to work. That’s not enough, we can do better. Here’s what I know, this is something I think would go a huge way towards helping me. Just for full disclosure, I am 100% independent and proud of it. No political affiliation here.