Greg Hinkle: Concept artist and comics creator. HinkleHaus@gmail.com.
I made the decision to go to art school. It’s a decision that I think about often, and one which- at the risk of sounding melodramatic- keeps me up some nights.
College isn’t for everyone. Art school isn’t for everyone. It’s a choice that only you can make. It’s a choice that I made, and it’s one that I can’t undo. I knew what kind of value a degree in art has in the real world. And I knew how much I was taking out in loans to attend.
However, I was under the impression that my student loans would have an income based repayment option available. (I also assumed, like so many people headed off to college, that I’d get a job upon graduation.) But I started college around the time Sallie Mae was privatizing itself. Now I have private loans that I can’t do anything with.
My initial repayment bill was about $3,500* a month. I’ve never made that kind of money in my life. And honestly, I don’t expect to.
In an effort to stay in good standing, I deferred all my Sallie Mae loans as long as I could. I believe I was allowed around 2 years. My loans, which were already monumental, accrued interest for the entire time. Before my loans were “allowed” to default, they had to sit, untouched, for another 180 days. And the interest continued to accrue.
I’m going to try and be candid. Take a look at my current Sallie Mae account:
I’ve been making ONE monthly payment, on ONE loan, since I graduated, in 2010. The original loan amount was $4,000 when I took it out in 2009. I’ve only ever been able to make the bare, interest only payment, so take a look:
I’ll total it all up for you:
Think that’s a lot? I also have outstanding Discover Student Loans and Federal Loans, which brings my current total well above $200,000.
And because they’re private student loans, there’s NOTHING I can do about it. My credit rating has been utterly destroyed. My credit limit on my credit card has been reduced so much that I can’t even use it anymore (which is probably for the best). I receive about 6 calls daily from debt collectors. Sometimes more, and sometimes less. So do my parents, my wife’s parents, and anyone else I used as a reference on my loan applications. EVERY DAY. I’m waiting for the automatic garnishing of tax refunds and all potential wages to set in.
Well, why don’t you stop wasting your time making comic books and get a REAL job? What job do you recommend that I look for, that pays that kind of money? I have the loans of a lawyer or doctor, with very little chance of earning what those professions do. As an artist, I don’t know of a position I could work to bring in that kind of money. But that was my choice. Plus, it took me 6 years to finish art school. How long do you think I’d be in law school?
I don’t want this to come across as whining, or to be misinterpreted as making excuses. I’m in this position because of decisions that I made. And a lot of people are in a similar place. I’m not necessarily a loan forgiveness advocate. I’d be happy with an income based repayment option.
The reason I’ve gone on (and on and on) about this is to hopefully draw some attention to a petition going around, which calls on Congress to pass H.R. 3892. The national student loan debt has surpassed 1 trillion dollars. Thats $1,000,000,000,000. This problem is going to have an impact on this country, and we need to start talking about it.
Please, please, please, consider signing this petition.
If you know anyone affected by student loan debt, please pass the petition along. You can even leave all my ramblings off if you’d like.
*Amount is approximate.