A young man sat in his car sipping on a drink. It appeared he had purchased it from the convenience store in whose parking lot he sat.
After a final sip, he opened his door and sat the cup on the ground beside his vehicle. He then closed the door and slowly drove away, leaving the drink cup in the parking lot.
The driver looked relatively put together. His vehicle was not dilapidated. He obviously cared some about his appearance. So I tried to imagine his thought process.
Maybe he thought picking up trash around the premises was a service the convenience store provided. It was included in the drink price.
Or maybe he had no cognizant thought at all. His mind was simply on to the next gig.
Whatever the explanation, a Styrofoam cup sat in a parking lot waiting for a responsible party to pick it up.
A separate instance: As I walked into a big box retail store, a twenty-something took a final drag on a cigarette and threw it on the ground in front of me.
“Who do you think is going to pick that up? I asked.
He huffed a bit and then lumbered over to pick up the butt.
“Don’t mess with Texas” is not my point. Litter happens every day. But these instances represent a growing belief among a generation of people:
“Someone else will pick up the pieces. Mom or the government, perhaps. My actions don’t really have an impact.”
Notwithstanding these anecdotes, I was shocked when I read about the thousands of people trying to get out of paying their student loans. They claim their colleges defrauded them with misleading messages.
The obscure federal law that allows for such claims was used five times in the twenty years after its passing in 1994. Then, in the last two years, 7,500 complaints have been filed. Thank you, social media.
The plaintiffs argue their schools lied to them about earning potential and graduate salaries. Some claim their instructors were inept. Evidently they were not inept enough to quit taking out loans and paying tuition.
According to The Wall Street Journal, The debtors seek a total of $164 million in loan forgiveness. That’s a big cup in the parking lot. But it’s a fraction of the $1.2 trillion in U.S. student loan debt outstanding, a figure that has tripled in the last ten years.
Total nationwide education debt surpassed credit card debt in 2011. While university administrators warned students about the credit card offers in the campus center, they should have warned them about the gambit in the financial aid office.
That didn’t happen. The money was too good and too easy. Tuitions increased to match the federal funding available. Salaries and benefits of faculty and administrators rose with the tide.
Now a generation of young people try to pay off the windfalls – or not.
The Federal Reserve estimates that 11.5 per cent of outstanding student loans are greater than 90 days past due. This percentage gets worse when one considers that half of outstanding debt is in forbearance. Those borrowers are still in school.
We may have a big problem on our hands. We usually do whenever government pays or guarantees big bucks to make something “affordable.”
Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.