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  1. #1
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    Crushing Debt for our own college students

    Crushing debt
    SUICIDE | Man who owed as much as $100,000 felt trapped by his student loans and 'lower than low' that he had no job

    September 24, 2007
    BY DAVE NEWBART Staff Reporter/dnewbart@suntimes.com
    Jan Yoder was preparing for her son's funeral when the phone rang. It was another student loan collector wanting to know when her son would pay up.

    Her terse response: Jason is dead. And, she said, "You are part of the reason he took his own life.''

    Her terse response: Jason is dead. And, she said, "You are part of the reason he took his own life.''

    It was those calls and the burden of crushing debt, she says, that led her depressed son to take the drastic action of killing himself late last month. He did so in the Illinois State University chemistry building in Normal -- in the very lab where he did his research to earn his master's degree.

    » Click to enlarge image Jan Yoder holds up pictures of her late son, Jason Yoder.
    (Jamey Davidsmeyer / The Daily V

    It was those calls and the burden of crushing debt, she says, that led her depressed son to take the drastic action of killing himself late last month. He did so in the Illinois State University chemistry building in Normal -- in the very lab where he did his research to earn his master's degree.

    "It made him feel lower than low to tell somebody every week, 'I don't have a job,'" his mother says now. "It drags you down. You feel like nothing.''

    Jason, 35, owed more than $65,000, according to the National Student Loan Data Service. But it's possible his debt was higher because that figure only includes government-backed loans and not the high-interest private loans students increasingly rely on. He told family members his debt had grown to more than $100,000.

    While relatives acknowledge Yoder had fought depression on and off for years, advocates for student borrowers say his case is another example of a student feeling trapped by student debt. Unlike most other debt, the loans cannot, by law, be discharged through bankruptcy, and collection agencies have extraordinary powers to collect them by garnisheeing wages or even Social Security benefits.

    "When it gets to the point where people are fleeing the country, going off the grid or taking their own lives, you know something has gone horribly wrong,'' said Alan Collinge, founder of Student Loan Justice, which is pushing to change student lending laws.

    The average debt load for graduate students in all fields nationwide climbed by 150 percent in the last decade to $37,600 in 2004, according to the Project on Student Debt.

    'When are you going to pay?'
    At ISU, the average debt for undergraduates is $16,000, a 15 percent increase in the last five years, although some students leave with bills as high as $60,000. ISU does not track graduate student debt.
    Jon Gudenrath, ISU's associate director of financial aid, said counselors talk to students about taking on too much debt, but "in the end it's the student's choice. We can't say, 'You can't have this [loan].'"

    ISU chemistry Professor John Hansen said Yoder did "very well'' in school but rarely spoke of his debt. However, it took him several years to finish his master's thesis in chemistry, increasing his loan total.

    When he graduated in summer 2006, he was unable to find a job despite sending out dozens of resumes. Meanwhile, he watched his loan balance grow. He moved back in with his mom, who lives in a small trailer home in Normal.

    When the collectors called, they asked him, " 'When are you going to pay? Can't you get your mom to sell her house? Couldn't you sell your car?'" according to his family.

    Although Jason helped set up a fledgling tea room his mother runs with her sisters, he was wary of taking a job outside of his field because he feared his wages would be garnisheed. That could tip potential employers to his credit woes. Collinge said many employers won't hire people with bad credit.

    Late last month, in the middle of the night, Yoder apparently let himself into the ISU lab. Then he hooked up a tube to a nitrogen valve and ran it inside a plastic bag around his head, according to sources familiar with the scene. He was pronounced dead of apparent asphyxiation later that morning.

    After his death, at least two pharmaceutical firms attempted to contact him about job openings, Jan Yoder said.





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    Guess this hit me because of the DREAM act. We have our own people struggling with debt and trying to get an education and being torn apart in 1000 different directions where it goes way beyond race and color and everything else where it angers me to no end to even think of funding something like the Dream act. Everyone pretty well knows the issue isn't being able to go to school.....it's the money. Just like it is for our own. Except here....citizens risk loosing it all why they can simply cross the border back home if times get too tough and are home free. Our students who need it don't ALL get FREE tuition. They are bogged down for years in debt.

  2. #2
    Senior Member redpony353's Avatar
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    THIS IS SAD. EDUCATION DOLLARS ARE GOING TO ILLEGALS INSTEAD OF CITIZENS. WHY DO OUR KIDS HAVE TO GO INTO DEBT FOR LIFE JUST TO GET AN EDUCATION.....OR GET NO EDUCATION. EDUCATION DOLLARS SHOULD GO TO AMERICAN CITIZENS FIRST, THEN IF THERE IS SOMETHING LEFT OVER IT CAN GO TO LEGAL IMMIGRANTS. NONE SHOULD BE GIVEN TO ILLEGALS.

  3. #3
    Senior Member realbsball's Avatar
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    Right in Dick Durbin's backyard. I'm sure he couldn't care less.

  4. #4
    Senior Member WhatMattersMost's Avatar
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    What an unbelievable tragedy. I can only imagine the burden this young man had to bare. This truly angers and sickens me. I think I'll email the story to Durbin and Obama and ask them what about AMERICAN DREAMS.

    It's Time to Rescind the 14th Amendment

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