The privatization of a system meant to cure inequality
|Jessie Suren borrowed about $71,000, most of it from Sallie Mae, to attend La Salle University in Philadelphia. But a job with the U.S. Marshals Service fell through, and by her 2010 graduation, she had a soaring loan balance and no career prospects.Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos|
|When President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Higher Education Act of 1965, he hoped federal scholarships and loans would make college possible for everyone. “This nation could never rest,” he said, “while the door to knowledge remained closed to any American.”Credit: Frank Wolfe/LBJ Presidential Library|
Sallie Mae dominates the market
|Student loans have provided the road to riches for former Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord, shown at the Maryland property that he turned into a personal golf course.Credit: Susan Biddle/The Washington Post/Getty Images|
The states withdraw from funding higher education
Debt collection becomes a hot business
|San Francisco graphic designer Brandon Hill said Sallie Mae collectors began calling him at 5 a.m., “yelling and screaming” about his past-due student loan payments. After he complained to state regulators, the calls stopped. But in 2014, Sallie Mae and Navient sued him for immediate payment of $73,000, records show.Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos|
|Retired University of Cincinnati professor Mary Franklin said collectors threatened to seize her disability insurance benefits because she fell behind on a student loan for the first time in 20 years. “I tried to explain to them that I was ill and I was still coming out of it,” she said. “They said the federal government (doesn’t) care.”Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos|
Student debt becomes the worst kind of debt
|Anita Brewer borrowed $60,000 to study fashion design at the Los Angeles campus of the for-profit American InterContinental University. The campus closed in 2008, before she graduated. Today, her student loan balance is $157,000.Credit: Peter van Agtmael/Magnum Photos|
The government gets rich, too
|Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has accused the government of profiteering in student loans. “The federal government should be helping students get an education – not making a profit off their backs,” she said on the Senate floor in February.Credit: Bill Clark/AP Images/CQ Roll Call|
About The Authors
Reveal senior reporter Katharine Mieszkowski contributed to this story. It was edited by Andrew Donohue and Amy Pyle and copy edited by Sheela Kamath and Nikki Frick.
Investigative reporter James B. Steele is the co-author of eight books, including the 2012 work, “The Betrayal of the American Dream.” Steele can be reached at [email protected], and Lance Williams can be reached at [email protected] Follow Williams on Twitter: @LanceWCIR.
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