NY Times Op-Ed: Why I Defaulted on My Student Loans?

Dear Commons Community,

The New York Times has an op-ed piece today written by the author Lee Siegel who explains his decision to default on his student loans.  He offers advice to others considering the same decision and essentially advises don’t be afraid of the consequences.

“When the fateful day comes, and your credit looks like a war zone, don’t be afraid. The reported consequences of having no credit are scare talk, to some extent. The reliably predatory nature of American life guarantees that there will always be somebody to help you, from credit card companies charging stratospheric interest rates to subprime loans for houses and cars. Our economic system ensures that so long as you are willing to sink deeper and deeper into debt, you will keep being enthusiastically invited to play the economic game.

I am sharply aware of the strongest objection to my lapse into default. If everyone acted as I did, chaos would result. The entire structure of American higher education would change.

The collection agencies retained by the Department of Education would be exposed as the greedy vultures that they are. The government would get out of the loan-making and the loan-enforcement business. Congress might even explore a special, universal education tax that would make higher education affordable.

There would be a national shaming of colleges and universities for charging soaring tuition rates that are reaching lunatic levels. The rapacity of American colleges and universities is turning social mobility, the keystone of American freedom, into a commodified farce.

If people groaning under the weight of student loans simply said, “Enough,” then all the pieties about debt that have become absorbed into all the pieties about higher education might be brought into alignment with reality. Instead of guaranteeing loans, the government would have to guarantee a college education. There are a lot of people who could learn to live with that, too.”

We are at the point in our country where serious thought should be given to free universal higher education. Tennessee provides free community college for all state residents.  President Obama and Congressional Democrats have made free tuition proposals that are mostly symbolic and have little chance of being acted upon.  However, sometime in the future, maybe when our government leaders might cease and desist from spending a $1 trillion on pointless excursions such as the Iraq War, we as a nation might find the wherewithal of this type of investment in our young people.




One comment

  1. Dear Lee,
    So you defaulted on your student loan? My question is this: “How is that working for you?” Your late mother co-signed some of your debt. So the debt collectors hounded her for it the rest of her life. Nice going!
    You blame the government. You blame the banker. You even sort of blame your mother! But you never blame yourself.
    In your article you try to sound like a victim. You are not. You asked for the loan. You signed for the loan. You took the money. No one put a gun to your head making you borrow it. And you have never paid the money back. You are not a victim. You are a thief!