Executive order aimed at easing the burden of student loan debt

HIGH POINT, N.C. — Every day, Michael Sileno wakes up with a heavy feeling on his chest.

“It’s lingering,” he said. “It’s there. It’s stressful. It causes anxiety.”

For the past seven years, since earning his master’s degree in sociology, he’s been haunted by $80,000 worth of student loan debt.

“That’s with working during college, that’s with getting scholarships as well, some temporary relief,” Sileno said. “It’s still that high.”

He says that burden has no end in sight. In July, he’ll be laid off from his job as a network administrator for a furniture company.

“It’s scary because you think about how you’re going to take care of your family,” he said.

He’s one of many Americans struggling with student loan debt and questioning the value of higher education.

“They say ‘work hard, do well in school and it will pay off,’ and I’m not necessarily seeing that,” Sileno said.

On Monday, President Obama issued an executive order to ease that debt, capping student loan payments at 10 percent of a borrower’s income.

Last year, student loan debt reached more than a trillion dollars nationwide.

“We have people that come in everyday who are in tears, who are stressed out,” said Damon Duncan, an attorney who specializes in bankruptcy and worker’s compensation.

He says one of the main reasons his clients file for bankruptcy is to help pay off students loans.

“They’ve fallen behind on their house or car payments or any other debts,” Duncan said.

He says capping payments will be a good thing.

“It’s going to be helpful to a lot of families and especially young professionals,” he said.

“I hope they step up and help us out,” Sileno said.

19 comments

    • Michael Sileno

      I have a well paying job in Information Technology. I’ve been working in IT for years now. You have no clue what you are talking about and basing all of this on a short 20 second clip when I actually spoke for 20-30 minutes explaining my situation and my criticisms of this system. Your assumptions are offputting and ridiculous.

  • Joe

    How about getting a degree that has income potential, I’m so sick of hearing these kids complain about their student load debt and they graduated with an art degree, photography, psychology, sociology, or education. Do your homework and find out where the money is when it comes to getting a higher education!

    • Michael Sileno

      I have a well paying job in Information Technology. I’ve been working in IT for years now. You have no clue what you are talking about and basing all of this on a short 20 second clip when I actually spoke for 20-30 minutes explaining my situation and my criticisms of this system. Your assumptions are offputting and ridiculous.

  • CASHISKING

    Masters in sociology and you have been working for a furniture company? I understand you got to do what you got to do but I also think you should get on a rice and beans budget. Devise a plan to pay off your student loan as quick as you can. It is nonsense to have that much debt lingering around for that long that isn’t a home. Did you not work through collage and pay on it as you were going through school? Anyways, buddy I think the best thing you can do is call Dave Ramsey and have him explain how to fix your crazy debt mess.

    • Michael Sileno

      I have a well paying job in Information Technology for a furniture company. I’ve been working in IT for years now. You have no clue what you are talking about and basing all of this on a short 20 second clip when I actually spoke for 20-30 minutes explaining my situation and my criticisms of this system. Your assumptions are offputting and ridiculous.

      • CASHISKING

        I’m saying hypothetically you bring $80k a year home after taxes, you learn to live on $60k a year and pay $20k a year to your loan and have it paid off in 4 years. I don’t know your whole situation, I just know it’s possible. I got intense and paid off all my debt (a little over $17,000) aside from my house in 10 months on a $32,000 income while being married with a kid.

  • Michael Sileno

    Since people think they know me based on severely edited sound bites of my long interview, I think I should lay it all out. Even though I have a Masters degree in Sociology, I’ve worked professionally in the Information Technology field for years. If you’ve never taken a sociology course, have any clue what the discipline really is, or how it does and could make tremendous contributions to society, then you have no say in the matter. That’s just plain ignorance. IT’s an extremely important and relevant discipline. I have no regrets for the choices I made to go to college and grad school making no less than a 3.8 GPA working my tail off and doing the very best I could to obtain all the knowledge and skills I could. You want to know why? Because it was a privilege to do so. I was the first in my family to go to college. I wouldn’t squander one minute to get the most of my education at both NC State and UNC-Greensboro. I firmly believe, as it is in other post-industrial nations, that education should be free for those who are highly qualified, motivated, and performing well. Colleges should not be a money making diploma mill. The only way to build and maintain a strong nation is to create a well educated class of professions who make contributions to their professions and can be consulted in order to better the economy and influence smart public policy and law. We have an inept Congress full of halfheaded plutocrats being bought and sold by corporate American while we all lose. If this country closes loopholes for millionaires, billionaires, and corporations who pay less, if at all, than we do, that’s disgusting. This idea of them being “job creators” and worthy of not paying their share is despicable. It’s getting worse and the gap of concentrated wealth is widening. The middle class is shrinking rapidly and with all the laws and policies being created in their favor, that won’t change anytime soon though legislation. They are not looking out for our best interests. We have plenty of money for corporate tax breaks and subsidies, wars, prisons while they make it easier for jobs to exist in other countries while we all suffer. We were all taught from a young age about the American Dream and how to achieve it. Many of us believed it, strove for it and for what? For this? No thanks and we shouldn’t accept it. We can’t even save for our future while they dangle threatening cutting social security over our heads. A 10% income cap on payments is a great step in the right direction, but as long as higher education costs rise, funding is cut, and well paying jobs are few and far between, we are in trouble. We need to be represented in our best interests at all levels of government. Keeping us in debt, whether it is consumer, medical, or student loan debt, is handcuffing us all. They don’t care. They are fine with us scrambling to make end’s meet while they line their pockets and further their own self interests. As long as we are occupied, struggling and divided, their reign is safe to do as they please. Also, the reason for my ballooning student loan debt is do to something called interest, which apparently those who are critical either don’t understand or don’t have a loan of their own. When you are in deferment, interest still accrues. How about attacking and criticizing the real problems and root causes instead of someone who did the right thing only to get this in return? Wake up and start a productive conversation on what can be done to better us all for the benefit of all, not just you and yours. This is really what I was saying and trying to get across in the interview I did and not come across as a “woe is me” pity party. This is real life and we can and deserve MUCH better. Don’t you?

    • Michael Sileno

      I should’ve proofread better because I see a few spelling and grammar errors, but the point behind my ferocity is there.

      • JT

        Hi Michael–
        Lesson #1 on Fox8 website: Do NOT feed the trolls! And there are a blue million of them here. Most of them have never set foot in a college classroom and have literally no idea what you are talking about (which means they do not know what THEY are talking about).

        Lesson #2 on Fox8 website: Anything that mentions the current administration brings out the trolls. The man could promise them free ice cream and they’d say something stupid like “That Muslim socialist is gonna give ice cream to the illegals using my tax money! I mean, George Washington didn’t die on the cross to see this great country…MURCA!!!!!!”

        Lesson #3 on Fox8 website (subset of lesson 1): Do not argue with them. It is pointless. Those who fail to recognize logic and reason cannot be overcome by it. Will you win said argument? Yes, you will win as you are capable of using logic and reason. Is it a hollow victory? Yes, it is like winning the 40 yard dash at the Special Olympics.

        Finally, I cannot empathize with you as my Grad School education was paid for through scholarships. However, other members of my family were not so lucky, so I can sympathize. Best of luck to you, and keep studying what you enjoy. Make your vocation a vacation and you’ll never work a day in your life! Further, you are doing this to help people–and THAT’S the reason to go into a field, $ or no.

  • maybe

    Just O_Hole letting the Taxpayers ! Pay the price for all the college flunkies that will not pay their debt back to the taxpayer !

    • Tom Sowders

      I believe this to be reductive. There are so many different kinds of people with different life stories (stories with which you would identify, Maybe) who have relied upon financial aid to pursue higher education. “Maybe” saying that they are “all…college flunkies” is a little irresponsible? “Maybe” your desire to oversimplify a very complicated issue makes it easier to just express your anger, anger that arises from stress, stress that arises from fear, fear that arises from information, information that arises from a source, a source that is interested in inspiring fear because money. MAYBE. However, it is very unfortunate that students drop out of college for any reason, and yes that leaves a financial mess, and yes something needs to be done, but how do we do that without restricting access to higher education for people who can’t afford it? I’m not a freedom fighter: I want everyone to be able to access higher education because I want a highly educated population. Because I think that education is so important to society for both financial and other reasons. The negative, combative attitude you express toward education when you use the word “flunkies” disturbs me to my core. It’s that kind of pejorative oversimplification that leads to genocide. Not cool. But I forgive you.

  • Non-helper

    How can the debt be a burden when the aseholes have all ready topped over a TRILLION !! dollars in debt to the taxpayer ?

  • Tom Sowders

    Michael and I pursued advanced degrees in the humanities and social sciences so that we could nourish our critical thinking skills, learn to question things that most people take for granted, and, especially, to get a lot of practice in imagining how others think and feel. It is so alarming that people would express hostility to a fellow citizen for pursuing higher education in a field that prepares him for more than just entering an assembly line. Education is about more than that. It saddens me that people eat up the logic they are fed by sources like Fox News and leave out the most important part: Imagination. People, muster the courage to imagine the world you want. Let’s all do that. Let’s start there. I’m sure there’s way more overlap between the world I’d like to live in and the world you’d like to live in than you think. We are all way more complicated than our stupid party affiliations. For example, I support all equal rights, believe in the separation of church and state, and think teachers should get paid a lot more, but I love shooting me some guns in the woods. I imagine the poet and silversmith Paul Revere riding and yelling “The British are coming!”, and I want to basically fire guns at the sky and scream FREEEDOMMMM! I am a Son of the American Revolution and everything. Anyway, I agree that there’s something broken with the student loan situation, but I certainly can’t consider the possibility that individuals are in the wrong for having that dream of seeking a fuller understanding of our culture, and ultimately disseminating that understanding daily in interactions with friends (and strangers on message boards). We need these people with this experience in critical thinking just as we need the people who – out of financial stress or fear of imminent demise or danger – remind us that we are animals and that self-interest guides us. I hear ya’ll. I have a kid and shamelessly I tell you that he’s more important to me than you or you or you. And I’m more important to him. Therefore I am more important than you, to me. But intellectually I know that your best interest is my best interest. Your strength is my strength. My self-interest is checked in that way, and my ultimate goal every day is to channel my self-interest into things that are good for other people. Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone strove for this? Wouldn’t it be nice if it didn’t take me six years of graduate school to arrive at these conclusions? Maybe it doesn’t have to be that way. Maybe people who think like me (and have similar student loan amounts) could help other people avoid such costly endeavors in pursuit of social consciousness. Ironically, it will first take a collective pat on the back for the ambitious, hardworking, and often brilliant individuals who achieve graduate degrees. We all agree that there’s a problem: Let’s agree also that collaborating on a solution is better than arguing and taking things personally. My argument here is twofold. I believe that it is in the self-interest of everyone in the US (and world) for the US to be composed of as many highly educated people as possible in a wide ranging set of fields, from the sciences to the arts. But I do admit readily that my argument in favor of higher education does begin to erode in cases in which educated people do not utilize their advanced educations to share the insights they’ve gained. A highly educated person who sees and understands problems, or at least understands what kinds of questions we should be asking, is obligated to speak up, I think, especially given the cost of her education. The more money you have borrowed to pay for you education, the more you owe it to society at large to speak up and to be of service. If you’re all clammed up, then, actually, some of these dudes’ criticisms might apply to you. I have a third thing to say. The reason that the arts and humanities – or, ONE of the many reasons, I should say – are vitally important to the health of the US is that their practitioners are the doctors, architects, and judges of the imagination. Imagination is the most important faculty we have as human beings. Without it, you couldn’t imagine Jesus or God. You couldn’t even imagine how you want your eggs cooked. You couldn’t plan out how you’ll make your wife feel special on her birthday. You couldn’t even plan your day on Monday morning. You couldn’t argue about student loan debt because you wouldn’t even be able to imagine it, much less imagining a better system. And the imagination gets weak without stimulation. The world becomes rigid and bland and ferocious. We need people with impressive and deft imaginations helping us improve the world. You might be thinking: “Deft? WTF are you yammering about, you elitist d-bag, who has left an even worse taste in my mouth about academics? There is an urgent problem HERE. A crisis!” I’m not saying you’re wrong; I’m just saying chill out a little. Don’t be so mad. Take a breath, and let’s talk about how to fix these problems. Stop hating on Michael. He might have loans to pay off, but he’s one of the most financially responsible people I know. And he has valid points! Ignoring them or writing them off isn’t good for you! You want to let the valid stuff in. Don’t be afraid to let it help you evolve your opinion. Do not be afraid to change because everything is always changing, and there’s nothing you can do about it anyway. Let go of your fear. Michael’s valid points combined with your valid points could actually take this from back and forth quibbling to some kind of action based on something we agree upon. Let your gratitude for democracy (where it exists) inspire your concern for our society. Be in a better mood.

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