Twenty years later, you rise early to leave for your double-shift in the robot blood mines, still desperately trying to pay down your loan.
What The Shit Is Going On?
It wasn't always this way. Up until the '70s, student loans were dischargeable in bankruptcy, just like most other kinds of debt. Sure, you'd have a fucked-up credit rating as punishment for not paying, but at least your unwise choice to pursue a PhD thesis on why cats do that strange kneading thing with their paws wouldn't follow you around for your entire life. But in 1976, after media stories of greedy students racking up debt and then gleefully discharging it, Congress changed the rules. Student loans granted by the federal government now stick with you, even after bankruptcy. And while discharging debt unless you really, really have to is both unpleasant and a douchey thing to do, this meant that students owing federal loans would be less financially screwed if they'd just borrowed the money to buy a yacht instead.
Tragically, these people were soon also replaced with yachting robots.
Eventually, some of the lenders who give out private student loans persuaded lawmakers to make those non-government, private student loans permanent as well. I'm sure they lobbied for this change purely because of their devotion to ethics in student-loan lending, rather than any selfish motive, but whatever the case, these private student loans now also stick around forever, unless you can prove that you can't pay because of "undue hardship." In practice, this means proving a severe disability that stops you from ever working again, so unless your degree was in Clifftop Lion Wrestling, it's probably not an option.
For loans provided by the federal government, the news is slightly better: If you make payments based on your income for a measly 25 years, any remaining debt will be forgiven. There's one catch, though: The IRS will then count that forgiven debt as income and tax you for it. It's kind of like forcing someone to sit through all four Michael Bay Transformers movies eight times in a row, and then punching them in the back of the head when they're finally allowed to leave the cinema. But hey, that's what you get for trying to better yourself without having ridiculous amounts of cash on hand to pay for college upfront, so just sit back and enjoy those robot balls.
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For more from C. Coville, check out 5 Bizarre YouTube Parody Songs That Shouldn't Exist and 5 Things Your Parents Did (They'd Be Arrested For Today).