Friday, May 20, 2011

A scary but insighful article

There is talk of bringing back "Debtor's Prison", a concept that went out in 1833...the only state I can think that has this is Nevada, due to all of the gambling done in Las Vegas and Reno...but that's understandable since it's gambling and those people do know what they're getting themselves into.
This article though, points out the scary reality of bringing Debtor's Prison back and how it will just drain taxpayer money, waste law enforcement's time away from real criminal cases and how it's just another scheme for big corporations to use the government for their own personal gain.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

To be honest...

It was 10 years ago this month that I graduated high school. And I had dreams at that time. I originally wanted to be a history teacher by 16 because I just wanted to share my passion of history onto others, despite the difficulties of being a teacher. Unfortunately, my own history teacher laughed at me and told me to chose another career since he admitted he made a mistake. So, that sent me away from that path. To this day, I regret listening to him because I did have a passion, a nearly unquestionable passion for history. I still do. But, the only way I get to teach is to the very few teenagers who seek my help.
Upon graduation, that's all the principle and staff told us, "Go to college! Get out of here. Go to college and life a normal life." That just added to the desperation of trying to find something to do with my life.
After being scared from history, I got into art and I was fairly decent at it. And then, I went to some Pixar and Dreamworks movies...the original Shrek and Toy Story 2 and I fell in love with computer animation. I thought how great it would be to work in an animation studio, creating movies for children, telling stories and having my name in movie credits. So, I took several months trying really hard to get my admissions portfolio ready for this art college that shall remain nameless...but requires an art portfolio to be considered for admission. (Note: Any art school that doesn't ask for a portfolio, don't trust them) So by the end of 2001, I had everything all drawn and painted and I sent it in.
The school replied that for the computer animation program, my portfolio was unsatisfactory. And it hurt, I was sad, but I wish the school would have said "You are not good enough for admission", but they didn't...
Instead, they recommended I study traditional art....
And keep in mind, I was still a naive guy looking to escape the small town and the rundown trailer park that I resided in...I just wanted out so badly like everyone else who went to college. I never really stopped to look over my options but there I was...with a school saying "You can still come to this campus in the fall..."
And before I knew it, I was in the financial aid office, filling out my loan papers out of desperation, the lady smiling, going "when you're creating storyboards and painting children's book covers, you can more than pay it back."
And that was just music to this small town hick's ears.
And even though my mother had bad credit from her credit cards, they still approved the PLUS loan for her...
So that's 2 things I'll always wonder about...How a fancy and prestigious art school accepted a below mediocre student and how my mother with bad credit was approved for the PLUS loan.
I get to the school and I can't wait to draw and paint while other kids in college stress over research papers and lab work...And I just plain sucked. I was in a room of DaVinci's and Picasso's, the next generations of Walt Disney and Donald Bluth hopefuls...and I was the worst student.
When we put our art in the wall for review, I was always pointed out as the weakest artist. And there were times I would go to the office and ask "Am I going to get kicked out, or do I drop out? Do I transfer?"
And each time, they replied "We are not kicking you out. And you can't really transfer since art credits get you very little at other institutions."

I wish I had been kicked out. Why was I taking out 20k loans just to be embarrassed in class? Question 3: Why wasn't anyone really straight with me? There was a time I wanted out and they talked me out of leaving.

Ten years after high school, where am I? Well, I can't even draw a straight line, I hate art that much. I'm barely able to afford rent and electricity, and because I have to little-to-no experience in anything else outside of art, I'm useless on the job field. I've had so many interviews, with plumbers, silk screeners and warehouse, who said they like me but no job. I'm left just scrapping together enough to pay off my living expenses. There is nothing left for Sallie Mae or anyone else...I'm in default and under a giant mountain of debt.

I'm not telling this story to be pitied or get sympathy. I don't need it. Chances are, I may not be alive for my 20th reunion. And that's okay, I accept that. I've kissed away dreams of getting married, owning a home, starting a family. I'm good. I don't want to drag a wife down with me, or be unable to provide for my kids.

No, I only tell this story because its something I would never wish on anyone else.

I wish I could just tell myself back in 2001...Going to college wasn't everything. I wish I could have told myself to take my time, figure out who I really was, what would really make me happy and if I had to stock shelves at a super market until I was 25, then so be it. Baz Luhrman said in that Sunscreen Song, "Don't feel bad if you don't know what you want to do with your life, at 22 or at 40." And I should have listened.
Everyone has their own pace in life, don't force it or rush it...Just be patient and you'll find what you're looking for.

And don't believe the lie that if you don't escape your hometown for a while, you're a failure. Because that is the biggest load I've ever heard. I've had several friends stay at the supermarkets and pharmacies, worked their way up from stock to manager and now own homes and have families. Like I said, everyone has their own pace in life.

In the end, do what you feel like. Go to college, stay in your hometown, work your way up the chain, just do something that will make you happy. And always know, life never goes according to plan.

As for me, I know I made mistakes. I never bothered to look at the fine print or even research Sallie Mae. I was a desperate kid, and the faults of a desperate kid have shut many doors in my life. So, I'll admit fault to that. I don't know how much time I have left here...but, I just want people to learn from my mistakes. I want that on my tombstone...Learn from Where I have failed.

To the rest, I say...Keep fighting, tell your story, write to your congressmen, talk to the media, join Alan Collinge and his mission to restore the rights.

Good Luck and God Be With You.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Feds may start to collect on defaulted loans and Alan Collinge vs C. Cryn Johansen

As news of Osama bin Laden's death dominates the news, here's a story that has been sneaked in by USA Today. And if anyone out there has their property being liened or seized by the Department of Education, please contact Alan Collinge immediately. Always remember, he can be reached through the Student Loan Justice website.

This is an article that is worth reading. I found it very interesting.

And finally, this is Alan Collinge's response to C. Cryn Johansen's AEM blog that may have been deleted:

My second response:

Hi xxxxxxxxxxxxx,

My email was down for two days...I learned only today about Cryn apparently ending the group she had going there...I assume this is what you were refering to. Just so you know, I wrote to Cryn, but I do not think she will post my comments on her blog. But here is what I wrote. I want to be clear that I support anyone truly fighting for the interests of the students, and there are very few shortcomings that I can't work with. Please read my comments below so that you can understand exactly the position I take with Cryn...

-------------------------------------------What I tried to post on the AEM blog:

Cryn, as a matter of policy, I never had any disagreements with you. I did, however, find it incredibly weird, and offputting that you never came around to stating a position on the return of bankruptcy protections to federal student loans. And you know that I tried quite hard to understand your position on this, pro, con, or otherwise. A simple, straight answer would have helped me understand where you were coming from way back then, but you never came around to do that.

So that was weird and even troubling, but I chalked it up to typical ivy league snobbery, which I am very used to at this point. Beyond that, you didn't really say anything that offended me, etc as far as policy. You were on the right side of the gainful employment debate...but I think that debate is silly, take no strong position either way. You were also right to bash Rev. Jackson, I hate to say (because his group and ours are on the same page in many other ways), and I said as much at the time...But again, these are issues I really don't take a strong interest in, so if you were being attacked on policy stands, it wasn't from me or anyone in my group.

What did cause me to make negative public comments about you was your working for a lending company, Edulender. This is a conflict that unfortunately would take anyone out of the game, and I made similar comments to the borrower who went from being featured nationally about her debt to working for them. So don't take it personally. When you work for people who absolutely don't want to see any meaningful changes in the lending system, and who will work hard to make sure that the most critical problems are neglected, this is a clear and obvious conflict around which there is no getting.

Even the established student advocates who have clearly failed students so badly (ie NCLC, the USPIRG, TICAS, et al) wouldn't dare take money from lenders...and they are almost completely incapable of actually fighting for students even so, so you see my point.

I do empathize with the lack of funding, but that is a part of this struggle that only the borrowers can fix, unfortunately. I nearly made the mistake years ago of getting funding from guarantors to run a counseling program. I backed out before that happened, but I do understand the temptation.

So if any of your comments were directed towards me (and I hope that they were not), they are misguided, because no one MORE than me wants good people fighting squarely for the interests of the students, and I support anyone who does so. I would still like to know what the deal was with that bankruptcy question...did you ever come to a position? Anyhow...

To "Anonymous": I don't understand why you are criticising Nando for his comments at the forum. While I wasn't there I understand that Nando rightfully pointed out egregious and disingenuous fundraising, and spending by a law school. Why is this counterproductive? Why is pointing out this, and a huge number of similar examples of out-of-control spending not worthwhile? I do not understand this comment.

That is all for now. And please remember, donate to the cause because Student Loan Justice needs as much support as possible.