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College Loans Debt and Unemployment Linked to Suicide

Student suicide
The economic recession has continued to follow the nation like a shadow. Child hunger has never been higher—despite America being the world’s leading global superpower and arguably the wealthiest country in recorded history— unemployment rates are at their highest since the Great Depression, and college graduates, indebted with college loans, are committing suicide in record numbers.

Despite the benefits a college education was supposed to give them, graduates are among the throngs of the unemployed.

The implied reward of a college education has always been a job. This reward has evaporated just as the country’s jobs have evaporated. Graduates face a dismal economy upon completing their studies, forcing them to drag their college loans debt behind them like a ball and chain. Further hindering graduates is their lack of job-related experience.

Unlike out-of-work experienced adults, who often have extensive resumes, graduates have no such experience. While some out-of-work adults may find themselves “over-qualified” for certain positions, that does not eliminate the fact that young graduates going toe-to-toe with them may seem like workplace novices. Regardless of their eagerness to work to pay off their college loans and start careers, graduates entering the workforce are at a disadvantage due to this lack of experience.

This lack of job opportunities for graduates has led to a rise in student loan defaults, according to statistics from the Department of Education (DOE). The DOE statistics show that in 2007, the start of the financial crisis and recession, defaults for borrowers in their first year of repayment rose by several percentage points. This rate, the cohort default rate, rose from 5.2 percent in 2006 to 8.8 percent in 2011.

These defaulting students do not default on their college loans out of choice. Few people would willingly bludgeon their credit history and score, especially when looking forward to the purchase of homes and new cars. Instead, these students default out of their inability to make payments. Without jobs—or being forced to settle with jobs that give only the barest of income thanks to underemployment—these students are only able to pay for necessities; necessities that come before their college loans.

Many of these struggling students blame the government.

A 2010 survey by the website Forgive Student Loan Debt found that 10% of those polled would be “comfortable” with suicide as a form of college loans protest to Congress.

According to a statement from the American Association of Suicidology (AAS), “There is a clear and direct relationship between rates of unemployment and suicide. The peak rate of suicide in 1933 occurred one year after the total US unemployment rate reached 25 percent of the labor force… At the individual level, unemployed individuals have between two and four times the suicide rate of those employed. Economic strain and personal financial crises have been well documented as precipitating events in individual deaths by suicide.”

This problem is not isolated to the United States, as the AAS reported that “similar findings have been documented internationally.”

Across the Atlantic in the UK, the Department of Health’s Ministerial Advisory Group in Great Britain reported that the European economic crisis would have an impact on mental health. In 2011, Andreas Loverdos, the Minister of Health in Greece, perhaps the nation most affected by the ongoing Euro crisis, announced a 40 percent increase in suicides within the first half of 2011 when compared to 2010.

According to the Huffington Post, Doctor Peter Kinderman, a University of Liverpool clinical psychologist, said that, “There are psychological consequences when economies fall into decay. Feeling suicidal is understandable. It is not a disease, it’s a problem.”

Holding the viewpoint that college loans debt can lead to suicide is a group of American law graduates who have learned firsthand about the impact their college loans debt is having on their lives.

This group of law graduates turned bloggers, or “scambloggers” as they refer to themselves, has taken the view that the U.S. legal educational system is simply a scam. According to scambloggers, law graduates enter the economy in record numbers with equally record levels of debt and are welcomed with far too few legal jobs to pay off their debt. Scambloggers maintain that comments on their blogs reveal an emotional outpouring of suicidal law school graduates who struggle to pay their six-digit college loans.

According to Brian Tamanaha, a law professor at Washington University Law in St. Louis, “attending law school is a highly risky proposition that turns out badly for many students, who end up with a huge debt and no law job.”