News report

NOTICE | SAVE YOURSELF: It’s time to tame the “go later” pile and tackle student loans

Do you have a “go later” stack? If it’s like mine, it’s right under your computer. It’s a bunch of really important or even not really important things that you need to get to, but not today. My “go later” pile may consist of documents from recipients or mail that has been returned and needs to be resent. Among my favorite things in my latest “get there later” pile spiral are my kids’ two report cards that would take painstaking effort to file in the open filing box next to my desk that has a smartly tabbed marked called “Kid Report Cards.”

The funny thing about the “go later” pile is that the quick task I left for tomorrow starts to take on importance and urgency in my mind, but my determination to complete it s is weakening at the same rate. Then my perception of what it would take to accomplish the task also grew. The “get there later” pile morphs from a series of simple tasks into my personal identity that changes shape as the days go by. One day, I’m afraid of becoming the kind of person who has a pile so big that it will be inaccessible.

Then every 6 months I take a Saturday and empty the “go later” pile. Take that flipped envelope and the extraordinary effort required to pull it out of the “go later” pile. First, I send a text message (30 seconds) to my friend who has moved to get her new address. Then I spend 12 seconds opening my Excel address book and 20 seconds looking up his name and typing in the updated mailing address. Forty seconds are needed to readdress and stamp the letter.

But then the real work on that returned envelope begins. I need to begin the mental unraveling of my past inability and procrastination to do such a simple thing, which can take, say, 200 seconds of negative self-reflection. This is followed by another 500 seconds to google mental health issues and “get to that later” stacks.

But the good news is that in the end, as I clear the “go later” pile, I feel freedom, lightness, and capacity. It is so clear to me at that moment that I can do anything. Run a marathon? Sign me up. I just emptied my “go there later” stack.

I want to challenge all of my readers to make Saturday, January 29 a pile-clearing day in Arkansas. Civil service workers with student loans, I’m looking at you in particular. Yes I understand. Student loans are complicated by the jargon and actions required to qualify for government loan forgiveness. But probably also in the mix are emotional and psychological hurdles to jump through to deal with loans in the first place, which is why loans can fester for years in your “get it later” piles.

The latter likely explains why little action was taken by public service employees in response to the waiver of the Extended Public Service Loans Forgiveness (TEPSLF) that I reported on in October. I thought there would be widespread excitement and thousands of Arkansans rushing to get their loans back on track for full cancellation, to the tune of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars each.

But instead, crickets.

These applications for employment certificates that should paralyze HR services?

No.

The government may know that we have over 40 million student borrowers, many of whom could qualify for forgiveness, but what the government failed to realize when it introduced the waiver is that student loans are big, gigantic “get there later” stacks. Many people feel alone with the burden of their debts and particularly ill-equipped to manage them.

Or maybe the government has completely figured it out.

Think of the October announcement as a nefarious move by the government designed to squeeze more money out of people. Student loans, after all, before covid, brought in billions of dollars in revenue. In an environment where interest rates were close to zero for savings, the federal government was raking in 6% plus interest on many of its loans.

Hmmmm, now that I think about it, what an evil genius! Announce a goodwill student loan waiver for these hard-working public servants and get all the credit. Let people think that millions of loans would be canceled for people unwittingly in bad loans or repayment plans, either immediately or in the not so distant future.

Consider Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) holders who, if they had consolidated their loans into an eligible direct consolidation loan when they started their careers at a nonprofit hospital or worked for state, would have been on track for PSLF remission after 120 months of qualifying payments and would have stopped making payments at all for the past 22 months with covid-19 forbearance.

But they never did, so they dutifully paid off that loan under a repayment program that burdened them with that debt for potentially more than 20 years.

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