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'Giving More to Get More Back'

November 25, 1987

While I agree generally with your sensible editorial that "Giving More to Get Back More" (Nov. 15) is the best antidote to the present student loan debt problem, I notice that your argument, like most concerning this sticky subject, overlooks a small but fatal catch in the collection process--namely, the complex web of repayment schedules that grows up quietly around the low-income student borrower only to frustrate, rather than facilitate, his eventual efforts to make good on his loans and extricate himself from debt. I present my own experience as an example.

Within nine months of my graduation in 1984 from UC Berkeley, I was swamped with bills for federal, state and college-direct loans totaling more than $6,000. I had borrowed heavily while in school due to limited personal resources, UC fee hikes and Pell Grant cuts, and was eager to reduce my own budget deficit as quickly as possible. But how? I was besieged by no less than five creditors, the majority being collection agencies which had purchased particular types of debts, each one with its own repayment timetable and interest rate.

I discovered that in an average month, I was making payments well in excess of $300. And falling further and further behind, according to my new Big Brothers. Not being independently wealthy, I wrote letters to each of my creditors detailing my predicament and pleading for any one to buy up and consolidate all my debts and send me a reasonable monthly bill at the interest rate of its choosing. In response, I received the usual weekend wake-up calls and letters marked "urgent."

So far I have been declared officially in default four times. Judging from the statistical reports published, I am not alone. My fellow delinquents and I would have had at least a fighting chance not to default on our loans had there been an agency to consolidate the various debts and administer their repayment on a case-by-case basis. Such a program, carried out on a nationwide scale, would have guaranteed taxpayers a reasonable return on their investment: money that could be reinvested in the education of future students. I suggest that lending institutions unclench their iron fists and remember that, in money matters, "getting tough" means getting smart.

KURT AMENT

Long Beach

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