Older Americans need student loan relief, too

I read with interest the front-page article “Politicians try to right struggling economy” (Dec. 30): I was especially interested in the section that indicated some relieffor people who owe on student loans. But once again, I was disappointed.
I’m one of thousands of Americans over 50 years old who are trapped by these loans. I went back to school in my 40s, hoping for a better job. But the only professional job I was offered was an on-call position. I could not afford to give up my full-time job to work on-call.
I have two student loan lenders. When I graduated in 2006, I owed $40,000. In spite of many payments on the smaller of my loans, I now owe $46,000. I’ve been job hunting for years, but continue to work as a secretary. I’m a single parent of a teenager, and will be 58 in 2013. Nobody will hire me, I assume because of my age.
The lender of the larger loan indicates that my time of postponing payments is running out. I live in fear that my wages will be garnished. I can’t afford to pay rent, eat and make student loan payments of hundreds of dollars. I’m afraid that my daughter and I will become homeless if they garnish my wages. Under current law, they can do that without a court order. Twenty-year repayment plans don’t help people like me who are less than 20 years from retirement. There are already retired people having their Social Security garnished by these lenders. Older individuals are not going to find better jobs and be able to pay off these loans. There needs to be relief for older people whose financial circumstances are not going to improve and who can’t afford to pay. If we had run up credit card debt, we could file for bankruptcy, or just 
wait for the statute of limitations (six years in Oregon) for some relief. Student loans are the only loans that there is no escape from, no matter how dire your financial situation. The laws need to be changed.Consumer protections need to be restored to student loans, and they need to be retroactive, to help those of us already affected by these predatory loans.

Jessica Hopkins

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