Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Stimulate the economy by cancelling student loan debt

I've been on Facebook for a few weeks. I have 29 friends, most of them far-away family members. My sister Mo in Tallahassee prompted my interest in FB, which had just been another PC time-waster until she started a family group. It's been fun to see what my four brothers and four sisters are up to. It's also educational viewing the posts by my nieces and nephews in college (and high school) in Florida -- and my son in college in Tucson. Exams, parties, rock concerts -- my niece Erin just went to a "wrock" concert, and I'm trying to figure out what it is. They post many more photos and videos that their elders. It's a multimedia melange to them. We're still figuring it out...

I've read a couple of anti-Facebook columns lately. I haven't been on long enough to be angry at this social networking site. One writer said that he didn't need FB to talk to his friends -- and didn't want to make any new friends who spend all their spare time on Facebook.

Facebook has a "groups" section. You can start your own group -- Red-headed Nazis for Christ, Recycling Geeks of America, etc. -- and you can invite all of your new friends to join. Some of these groups have gathered a huge number of joiners. One is Cancel Student Loan Debt to Stimulate the Economy. It boasts more than 83,000 members who want to wipe clean the student loan slate and spend their money on more important things, such as a faster laptop to accommodate all their new FB friends. I joined this one, as I'd like to persuade the lender of my grad-school loan to knock off some of the thousands in interest and fines it has piled onto my loan.

Some have commented that the group's members are just a bunch of whiners, people who took out loans voluntarily and now want to default on those loans, ruining the system for others. As if there was a "system" to student loans. If the act of finding, applying and receiving a student loan is systematic, I haven't seen it. My son gets tuition assistance from Pima Community College, but hasn't yet taken out a loan. I encourage him to avoid it if possible.

Pres. Obama has taken a step in the right direction, with tax credits for college expenses and other programs. But, as in the mortgage loan mess, many of us are carrying around student loans bloated by expanding interest and fees that drag us down. As is the case with "responsible homeowners" and their mortgages, we're just looking for a little relief -- not a bailout. Or default.

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