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You Will Never Pay Off College

By CL - Posted on 27 October 2011

Put on your monocle and top hat and pretend you are part of the 1 percent for a minute. Your first task is to write a set of legal codes about the collection of debt in this country, specifically student debt. And you want to be kind of a jerk about it. What’s the one thing you could do for student debt that you don’t do for any other type of debt, one that would radically shift the relationship between student loan creditors and debtors both practically and symbolically?

How about this, from the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law … all payments due to an individual under … the Social Security Act … shall be subject to offset under this section.”

What this means is that when it comes to collecting on student loans, the government can take funds from your Social Security check. There are rules to the offset: the first $750 a month can’t be touched, and only 15 percent of benefits above can be taken to pay back student loans. But this is still a radical break in the social contract with no equivalent for private debts.