A lot of us entered college after being wooed by pamphlets full of carefully chosen diverse stock actors promising an engaging academic environment. You certainly at some point were treated to success stories of graduates who went on to do great things with the same education you’re about to get and thought, hey, I want to do Great Things! Maybe you even went to a prestigious school to study a speciality like oh I don’t know, journalism, and were treated throughout your four years to successful journalism professional professors telling you the newspaper industry would always be around to give you jobs and not collapse like the tiles from The Last Crusade the moment you stepped off the graduation stage.
Whether or not any of those promises came true, you’re likely still stuck with student loan debt, those seemingly never ending alimony payments to a brain child you made in between tailgates and Adderall binges. You might think your college swindled you — and if so, now there’s hope: proving your college lied to you about getting a well-paying career may be your ticket out of paying your student loans back, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The paper reports people are “flooding the government” with appeals to get their student debt forgiven, saying schools deceived them with false promises of a lucrative career. They’re exploiting an obscure, rarely used federal law that “forgives debt for borrowers who prove their schools used illegal tactics to recruit them, such as by lying about their graduates’ earnings.”
So far, it’s working: 1,300 students of a former for-profit college chain have already successfully gotten the U.S. Department of Education to cancel about $28 million in debt; and the department says many more could get the same treatment. The law doesn’t say what proof is needed to prove fraud.
The program could prove to be one of the few lifelines for hundreds of thousands of Americans buried in student debt after attending disreputable schools that failed to land them a decent job. Federal law prohibits student debt from being discharged in bankruptcy, except in rare circumstances, and the Supreme Court last week declined to hear a case that could have expanded bankruptcy options.
You can already hear the cries arising on the horizon of sunsetting baby boomers screaming themselves hoarse that this is just a bunch of millennial nonsense for kids who can’t get jobs and are looking for someone to blame. And sure, maybe some of us can’t get a job because we don’t try hard enough, or maybe we chose non profitable careers like “art” or “journalism.”
But on the other hand, student loans are a scourge on our generation that’s tripled to $1.2 trillion in the last decade, causing seven million people to default on their loans. That’s debt created by the societal pressure that constantly terrifies you into believing no one will hire you without a college education, only to then leave that education finding that no one will hire you because the previous generation banged up the economy nice and good on a 40 year joy ride so it’s going to be in the shop for awhile so can’t you just walk? And then we can’t pay our student loans back and don’t buy things because we don’t have money and get blamed for ruining the economy further because we’re all not running to the store to buy a house and four SUVs the first chance we get.
So maybe hacking the student loan system is a just move. But also: Penguin Random House’s UK branch announced this week it’s no longer requiring applicants have a college degree; Ernst & Young made the same move a few months ago. So maybe no one will need to go to college soon after all.