The continuing saga of one girl’s plight with unemployment…(read vol I, vol II, vol III, vol IV, vol V, vol VI, vol VII, vol. VIII, vol IX, vol X, vol XI, vol XII, vol XIII, vol XIV, vol XV , vol XVI and vol XVII)
Sometimes I like to exaggerate a wee bit and maybe say things in an over-the-top sort of manner to try and get a laugh out of people, but it’s no exaggeration when I say: I truly believe that student loan companies like Sallie Mae are criminals on par with former evil Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic.
OK maybe that’s a tiny exaggeration, but it’s not a total embellishment. If you don’t know who or what Sallie Mae is then you just go about your day, have a martini, kick up your heels and give thanks (but keep reading please). But if you, like me, know all too well the 1-888-2-SALLIE hell that is Sallie Mae, it’s time for us to have a little talk. I don’t like to use the words “hate” or “bitch” often if at all, but in this case I‘m gonna use those words and I’m gonna mean the shit out of them. The name “Sallie Mae” may conjure up images of a cute, harmless, sweet little old lady in her Sunday best to the uninitiated, but the truth is she’s an ugly, mean-ass, evil bitch and I hate her.
“You don’t really have time to think about the student loans crouching in wait like a stealth succubus ninja down the road because you’re too consumed and stressed and crazed with getting an education …”
Hit the Jump to read more of The Elf’s call to arms…
Let’s back up a bit. Let’s take a breath — which is no easy feat when you consider the topic at hand. A few years ago, 2003 to be precise, I got into film school. When the letter came and I opened it and saw the words “congratulations” benevolently beaming up into my eyeballs, I literally broke into a full-on jig/two step/Hammer Time/krump-type dance on my sun-dappled front porch. A few innocent bystanders glanced my way but hell if I cared, my dream had come true! Film school! An experience that was sure to lead me down a tough yet flower-lined path toward ultimate creative satisfaction and financial success. Toward Academy Awards and Indie Spirit noms and that ultimate dream: an artistic life that also pays the bills. The first step was getting accepted, so, as us “artistic types” often do, the practical crap like “how do I finance this dream in a responsible way?” got bullied into a corner by the krumpalicious crap.
I krumped my way toward orientation, told my parents it was no problem — I’d get loans and everything would be super. I did some research and filled out my loan applications. The wording was confusing as all hell, but bureaucratic paperwork always is, right? I turned in the application and hoped for the best. How bad could it be, my naïve self thought. The self who hadn’t dealt with minimum-wage phone operators in India telling me I was shit out of luck and owed Sallie Mae my soul for the next thirty years. They didn’t say those exact words. They usually apathetically recite something along the lines of, “I’m sorry I can’t help you,” which actually translates to: “Your soul (and bank account) belongs to Sallie Mae, asshole.” Anyhow, at this time I actually thought a company that gave you loans to get an education was most likely — like my “congratulations” acceptance letter — benevolent. Like a sweet, harmless, little old lady in her Sunday best. I guess I am an asshole.
Some of you, like yours truly, pushed through film school. Or maybe it’s not film school; maybe it’s art school or design school or undergrad with an ever-hopeful degree like a double major in Women’s Studies and Memoir Writing. Hell, these days you’re in trouble coming out with an undergrad degree in Business and Marketing. But more on that later. I’m starting to think trade school or no school at all is the smart route in this economy.
Whatever the degree is, you work hard, hope for the best, and honestly don’t really have time to think about the loans crouching in wait like a stealth succubus ninja down the road because you’re too consumed and stressed and crazed with getting an education to confront the enemy. Towards graduation the reality slowly creeps in. You ignore it. When I graduated in 2006 the economy hadn’t dive-bombed quite yet so I got a job. That job barely covered expenses plus loans but still — I imagined raises in my future! I got a raise eventually… then swiftly got laid off.
“Greed is good… but make sure you don’t hurt anyone in the process and support free health care.” – G Gekko
The economy may be a wee bit better, for some, but I sure as hell would not want to be a twenty two year-old getting out of college right now. The unemployment rate for “youth”, which I guess is 16-24 according to CNN, is 17% — the highest ever. I wonder how many of those educations were “funded” by Sallie Mae and companies like that she-devil? Would the CEO of Sallie Mae advise his or her kids to take out loans if the family “lost it all” in a bad pyramid scheme? Doubt it. Why? Because student loans are EVIL. Especially when there is no one on the other end of the phone to correctly advise you and maybe tell you: “You should think twice about taking out those private loans.” But I guess that would be like Gordon Gekko saying, “Greed is good… but make sure you don’t hurt anyone in the process and support free health care.”
“Would the CEO of Sallie Mae advise his or her kids to take out loans if the family ‘lost it all’ in a bad pyramid scheme…?”
What can we do? Sallie Mae makes me feel helpless. And angry. And stupid. I don’t regret film school (I don’t think) and I know it was my choice to take this path, and in many ways I am very fortunate to have this experience and have no reason to complain. And despite how it sounds I do have hope. Still, I’m not alone in feeling like we’ve been had. Especially for you “artistic types” out there. We didn’t take out loans and get a law or engineering degree or something logical and financially viable that could justify the Sallie Mae of it all. If you really want a laugh, Ohio State came out with a mind-blowingly brilliant study earlier this month saying that college students actually feel “empowered” by taking out loans. Huh. I wonder if Sallie Mae used some of our payment bucks to fund that one? No, no. I’m sure I’m just being paranoid. The shape shifting demon Sallie Mae would never do such a thing.
I really mean it when I ask, “What can we do?” I’ve emailed politicians. I’ve paid my bills, when I can. But are we just screwed? Is there any way at all to break through to this voracious, coin-obsessed demon whore? Yes, I should have done more research and I take the blame for that. It would have been nice though to have just one single person working in the student loan office to give us solid, objective advice. Instead they just told us to call Sallie Mae — as if She would ever give us unbiased reason not to borrow hundreds of thousands of dollars from Her. I’ve heard people recite the phrase “student loans are actually a good investment” and that the interest rates are pretty low, considering. But are they?
In parting, I’d like to remind everyone of the broke, insurance-less old dude who tried to rob a bank last week for one dollar. He didn’t want cash — he wanted to get arrested so he could get medical care in jail. Jail was a better option to this guy than living free. OK I know he looks as psycho as Charles Manson but shit we might all get that look after years of dealing with Sallie Mae and rent and parking tickets and health care and of thinking about things like: “Paris Hilton built a two-story house for her dogs that cost $350K. I hope to get a house like that one day. For myself.”
Paris diligently cleaning her $350,000 two-story doghouse…
I don’t wanna be Paris Hilton, people. Don’t need yachts and jewels and J Lo pantsuits. But something’s gotta shift. This whole Sallie Mae shit ain’t right. You take out six figures in loans for a better future, are assured you’re doing the right thing for your career (and the economy in general), and then the trapdoor of employment falls out from underfoot. No one told us this could happen. No one ever told us the risk, and no one’s doing anything about it. Should we all revolt and flee to an island somewhere and paint and write and change our names? I personally love this country and would rather live here than in Johnny Depp’s French villa. But I don’t love Sallie Mae. I guess until Sallie Mae winds up the subject of an Enron-style documentary one day (please let that happen) all we can do is write emails to politicians, push ahead, try to find work and if we do hustle our asses off in the hopes that one day, very soon, we can tell that bitch to pack her bags and GTFO.
Finally, I’ll leave you with a little sampling of words that pop into people’s heads when they hear the words SALLIE MAE. These are straight from the right-brained noggins of people who know her all too well — it’s an eloquent list (I left the punctuation as it was in the emails, out of respect for people’s riled-up emotions):
SALLIE MAE word association game:
Wicked Witch of the East
It’s healthy to let out these strong emotions. Spit it out, scream it, howl, yodel if you gotta. Maybe somewhere, someone will listen…