Money, Student Loans

Gradenfreude: Loan Debt Repayment for Law Grads Is a Scam

Ed. note: Gradenfreude is a new series chronicling a recent law school graduate’s life after attending an unranked school. Feel free to email the author at, and he’ll respond ASAP. After all, it’s not like he has anything better to do.

When President Obama was debating Mitt Romney, he patted himself on the back because of the strides he took to give young people the chance to get an education by making student loans available.  I guess making loans available is all that really matters, because after all, who cares about having the loans paid off? That’s the one thing that he didn’t mention: once you accept the loans, you’ll be bent over a barrel for the rest of your life — unless, of course, you’re able to become a Senator and then write a couple of best-selling books.

I think that most students realize they’ll spend the vast majority of their lives paying off the loans they took out to further their educational pursuits.  What many may not realize is just how ridiculous the government is when it comes to getting their money back.  Their tactics and terms fall just short of being classified as Mafia-like. On the bright side, if there is one, at least no one’s broken my legs yet.

Although the government may allow for a deferment for economic hardship, if you have a full time job, it’s likely that you won’t meet the strict requirements to attain that deferment.  Because even when you work a job that only allows you to live in your parents’ basement, essentially as dependent upon them as you were in high school, the fine United States government still expects timely repayment.

That’s right: I currently make too much money to qualify for an economic hardship deferment, and I work for just over minimum wage.  Earning the least amount of money per hour that I ever have in my life, I am making too much money to earn the government’s pity….

What’s really crazy about this is that when you’re given loans, the government allows for an allocation of monies for the purpose of entertainment (“personal expenses,” if you will).  While getting your education, the government accepts the fact that in order to get through law school, you need the chance to spend money to blow off steam doing whatever you enjoy.  But after you graduate and your loan monopoly money has dried up, the government cares very little about even allowing you to have enough money to live, much less enough money to have any remote sense of fun. And by “fun,” I mean playing cards for nickels and dimes in the break room at work. I don’t even have pocket change, but I’m expected to pay off my loans. That makes sense.

Now I realize that there’s an income-based repayment option available. But if someone like me can’t even afford to live alone and be able to fully support himself, why exactly does the government expect to be repaid, at all? Am I supposed to pay some piddling amount on an IBR plan and be left to languish even further into the dregs of society with my abortion of a law degree? Apparently that also makes sense.

The government really doesn’t learn very well, does it?  The housing market crashed because hundreds of thousands of people who should never have owned homes obtained loans to purchase those homes.  And now, according to Obama himself, hundreds of thousands of students who never would have been able to attend an institute of higher education are being given loans to do so, in an economy that won’t allow them to be gainfully employed upon completion of their degrees.

Voilà, in just a couple of years, there’ll be more people like me than there are people who can successfully pay off their loans in any fashion. I can’t wait for that bubble to pop.

When not writing about life after law school for Above the Law, Tristan Taylor Thomas (not his real name) works at a retail job stocking shelves — which he admits is slightly better than being a shoeshiner. You can reach him by email at

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