I don’t think I truly understood how financially devastating an unpaid student loan can be until I talked with an engineering graduate from the University of Southern California.
I interviewed Alan Collinge for a story I was writing about student loans for Money Magazine last year. The young graduate snagged a position as an associate scientist at Cal Tech, but he left to take another job shortly before Sept. 11, 2001.
After the tragedy hit, the job he had lined up disappeared. He tried to get a temporary postponement for his loan, which is perfectly legal and doable, but the lender refused. Thanks to punitive fees and penalties, Collinge debt soared from $38,000 to more than $100,000 by the time I talked to him.
I think of Collinge when I contemplate how so many families choose loan options with very little thought. Once the excitement of the college hunt is over and the deposit is mailed in, too many families approach the business of obtaining loans as an after thought.
Collinge founded StudentLoanJustice.org to fight for the rights of families and students who borrow for college. He was profiled in a story that appeared yesterday in The New York Times Sunday business section. His book, The Student Loan Scam: The Most Oppressive Debt in U.S. History and How We Can Fight Back will be released in February.