Is Student Loan Cancellation In The Stars?

View of space and stars

 

“Either a) they’re going to resume repayments right before the election, which would be suicidal, or b) they’re going [sic] forgive loans right before the election, which would be brilliant.” ~ Michael Love

What’s it gonna be? I saw the tweet above and couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Going back several decades gives some clarity on how we got here with student loans. From many articles that I’ve read, it goes back to President Reagan. A “Common Dreams” piece is especially illuminating.

“Before Reagan became president, states paid 65 percent of the costs of colleges and federal aid covered another 15 or so percent, leaving students to cover the remaining 20 percent. Today the numbers are pretty much reversed.

As soon as he became president, Reagan went after federal aid to students with fervor. Devin Fergus documented for The Washington Post how, as a result, student debt first became a widespread thing across the United States during the early 80s:

‘No federal program suffered deeper cuts than student aid. Spending on higher education was slashed by some 25 percent between 1980 and 1985. … Students eligible for grant assistance freshmen year had to take out student loans to cover their second year.’

It became a mantra for conservatives, particularly in Reagan’s cabinet. Let the kids pay for their own damn ‘liberal’ educations.”

An article on President Reagan’s budget that was published by the American Association of University Professors discusses the reduction in student assistance back in the early 1980s. I was a freshman in college in 1982. I had a mixture of grants, work study and loans. However, I remember in my junior year losing a lot of grant money and having to take on more loans than anticipated. I didn’t understand what was happening and remember being shocked.

The article goes on to say, “With rare exception, every college campus would be affected by the proposed cuts beginning in academic year 1981-82. The degree of impact would vary depending on the current numbers of students utilizing federal student assistance programs and the income status of students and their families. We do not know at this time the impact on the size of the freshman classes of academic years 1981-82 and 1982-83.”

Well, I don’t know the impact on the size of the classes, but it was the beginning of a decades long student loan debt problem. President Reagan also contributed generally to consumer loan debt problems for those with middle and lower incomes. With the Tax Reform Act of 1986, credit card interest and other forms of personal interest were no longer tax deductible. We now know what the theory was really trickling down.

Credit Scores & Debt

Money itself means nothing. It’s a tool created by humans so that we can exchange goods and services in a way that is easier than bartering.

We reduce people to a credit score based on whether they are deemed “worthy” of credit.  Buying a home is supposed to be the American dream, but most people have to go into debt to get it. Credit scores are looked at by employers and can impact one’s ability to get employment. Unless you have other income, you can’t pay back debt without a job. It’s a truly vicious cycle.

Credit shouldn’t be needed to get the basics in life like housing, transportation, education, health care and literal freedom. Many if not most Americans go into debt to obtain at least a few of these. Most obtain mortgages to buy a house. People use loans to finance cars. Student loans are used for education. After receiving health care, many are often saddled with medical debt. For those unlucky enough to be arrested without sufficient monetary resources, if they cannot pay bail, they may remain incarcerated.

Library Fee Debt

There seems to be a collective recognition that the idea of debt is wrong and things can be different. Everything that we have in life materially, like cars, phones, houses, money, unless it already existed in nature like plants and water, all the systems in place in society (like debt and taxes) were created, built, and manufactured by people. It didn’t have to be like this from the beginning and we don’t have to continue down this path now. Things can change.

My local public library stopped collecting late fees for overdue books and many other libraries are doing the same. There never had to be late fees to begin with. It became a debt for borrowing a public book. How many people were not able to borrow books because they owed money? 130,000 just in San Diego according to a November 2021 article by the Public Library Association. So people were prevented from using a resource to gain knowledge because of debt. Does that seem right? The pandemic zeitgeist allowed the idea of pausing library fines and a collective shift to thinking that these fees are wrong.

A March 2022 New York Times article followed-up on the elimination of late fees across New York’s public library system. A flood of overdue items were returned to the branches and visitors increased as well. Debt cancellation has a positive effect. It gives power back to the people burdened by it.

The Rich & Debt

There’s a reason why Elon Musk and Jamie Dimon are feeling “super bad” about the economy. Maybe because broad debt cancellation would impact companies and other institutions whose sole purpose is to make money off of student loan debt. There would be a massive reshuffling of the economy. Mitt Romney, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, has proposed legislation to prevent President Biden from cancelling student loan debt. The mega rich are not happy about the prospect.

The pandemic turned life upside down in just about every way possible. As things begin shifting toward a new normal, we can observe how things will land and hopefully imagine a different and better way.

Debt is a fundamental system in our market based economy intentionally put in place in the United States to favor the rich and control those who are not. The tax system favors debt held by the wealthy, but not debt held by others.

According to the Education Data Initiative, 43.4 million people have federal student loan debt. The average balance owed is $37,014.00. If you include private student loan debt, the amount is closer to $41,000.00. In total, the federal government is owed over $1.606 trillion dollars in student loans. Research from Insight Into Diversity states that two-thirds of the people holding this student loan debt are women and most of these women are Black.

The government spends money by incurring debt all the time and forgives it too. But this country seems to fundamentally disagree with who deserves money and who doesn’t. Business need is favored over personal need. It also disagrees with whose debt should be cancelled. According to Pandemic Oversight, many PPL loans were forgiven.

“More than 11.8 million Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans were issued as of June 30, 2021, with 708 borrowers receiving the maximum loan amount of $10 million. Of the total number of loans, 4.1 million have been forgiven. The average dollar amount forgiven was $95,700. Of the borrowers receiving the maximum amount, 323 loans have been partially or fully forgiven.”

PPL loans were issued to businesses on the premise that the money would be used to save jobs. That these companies could not pay their workers otherwise. When I heard that Tom Brady’s health and wellness company received close to a million dollars from this program, I had thoughts. Between his wealth and Gisele’s, they couldn’t otherwise afford to pay their employees? Hmmm.

Many companies didn’t have to pay back the money. The PPL program has also been called “the biggest fraud in a generation” based on the hundreds of billions of dollars spent on luxury items and not employee paychecks.

The difference in outrage between what is shown toward PPL loan forgiveness and the idea of student loan forgiveness is stark and monumental.

Who Has Student Loan Debt?

Yet, most likely voters favor student debt cancellation. Just days ago, hundreds of organizations jointly called on President Biden to keep his campaign promise and cancel student loan debt, stating that it will “strengthen the economy, tackle racial disparities, and provide much-needed relief to help all Americans weather the pandemic and record inflation.” Recent headlines state that President Biden may forgive $10,000.00 per student borrower. However, that’s just a drop in the bucket and would do nothing for anyone with debt larger than that. Myself included. Why? Interest capitalization.

From what I see personally with my own student loans, every July, the interest capitalizes. So whatever progress was made during the year in paying towards the loan, the unpaid interest is added again and the loan keeps growing. This happens every year. So the principal keeps getting exponentially bigger. It is a never ending pit. A trap. Unless you have a lot of money and can make very large payments, the loan will never be paid off. When I took out my student loans, I understood that there was interest, but not how much the interest would be repeatedly added to the principal. This issue is very personal to me and I cannot even pretend to be neutral.

So many people are caught in the student loan debt trap. It’s very difficult to make large payments unless you accumulate a certain amount of wealth or someone helps you. President Obama and Kerry Washington were both unable to pay off their student loans until they started making the kind of money that comes from fame.

Things do seem to be changing. Over the past few months on Twitter, I’ve noticed people exclaiming that their student loans were forgiven. Mostly through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program (PSLF). Over the years, graduates sought to have the loans forgiven, but virtually nobody was ever eligible. The Biden Administration has been taking another look at the programs to see the flaws in the system. Actually those flaws seem intentional. Keeping people in debt seems to be a thing with this country. Debt is as American as mass shootings.

However, the momentum shift by the federal government seems to be only for piecemeal cancellation. Forgiveness for students who attended certain for-profit schools is part of that trend.

Broken Student Loan System

Most recently I’ve read that President Biden is forgiving loans for 28,000 student borrowers who attended for-profit Marinello Schools of Beauty and 560,000 student borrowers of for-profit Corinthian Colleges.

If in the past you tried to get your loans forgiven through PSLF, try again. It’s now working for some people. Hundreds of thousands of people could be eligible to have those loans forgiven. The Twitter celebrations of newfound freedom from student loan debt are beautiful. Maybe the tide is changing.

President Biden extended the pause on federal student loan payments for the 7th time since the pauses began in March 2020. This time the pause is through August 31, 2022. The student loan system is broken and exactly how broken is becoming more clear.

A recent NPR investigation reveals that the federal student loan system has been badly mismanaged. Those tasked with managing the loans have not always kept track of payments made on those loans. Often student loans are eligible for cancellation after a certain number of years or payments. But those servicing the loans don’t always have systems in place to let borrowers know when they have reached eligibility. The system is a mess and the burden of endless years of debt falls on those who can least afford it. Revelations in the article are stunning, including the portion below.

Before the days of multiple loan servicers, there was simply one. From 1992 to 2009, ACS Education Services managed the entire federal student loan portfolio.

But when the federal government ended its contract with ACS and the company began transferring borrowers’ profiles to other servicers, it became clear that ACS had made a dizzying number of errors — more than 5 million according to a 2020 report.

ACS has also faced allegations of mismanaging IDR, misleading borrowers and of taking months, even years in some cases, to correct and update borrowers’ records.

Nearly every borrower who could be eligible for cancellation under IDR in the next few years was serviced by ACS at some point. That means their current records, including the count of their progress toward cancellation, could be built on the sand of erroneous data.

This matters now more than ever, after several servicers have ended their federal contracts and more than a quarter of all borrowers have been — or soon will be — transferred to new servicers.

Broad Student Loan Cancellation?

But will President Biden’s willingness to cancel student loans ever extend to a broader group of people? Millions are bogged down with student loan debt. Not just young people, middle aged and elderly as well. And yes, still me. Some people even lose their social security benefits because of it. An AARP article detailed the problem.

“In fiscal year 2015 alone, almost 114,000 borrowers age 50 and older had Social Security benefits seized to repay defaulted federal student loans, according to a 2016 Government Accountability Office report. Half of those were receiving Social Security disability payments.”

People give money here and there to patch up problems for the moment or maybe a season. But not a lifetime. The Debt Collective, which is the nation’s first debtors’ union, recently “purchased purchased $1.7M of unpaid tuition bills that Black women previously owed to Bennett College — and canceled it all.” That’s a private organization trying to patch up the holes in a bigger system.

A Washington Post article examined how the student loan pause has greatly helped Black women especially, because we as a group, hold a disproportionate share of student loan debt. The pause has allowed some to purchase homes, accumulate savings and catch up on bills. For me, I’ve been able to catch my breath for a bit. But I’m still waiting for the full exhale.

Systemic change is necessary to change a person’s lifetime — not just a moment in time. Full student debt cancellation would change the system and right wrongs impacting generations. It would begin a fundamental shift in the underpinning of American society.

The Current Astrology

I’m certainly not an astrologer, but I believe there is something to astrology. For thousands of years, humans have looked to the sky for guidance. After all, many believe that three wise men followed a star to find a special newborn baby. I follow a few astrologers on social media and have noticed some trends.

Mercury just stationed direct yesterday and generally what was hidden from sight may now be revealed. So the time may be right for getting answers on the big picture with student loan cancellation. According to a podcast by Chani Nicholas, “Mercury retrogrades point out what has never worked. What has been broken for awhile or what is completely unsustainable.” Mercury helps us to realize exactly how problematic things are.

Pluto Return Of The United States

Nations have astrological birth charts just like people. At different times, planets travel to the same places they were located when someone was born. Some planets travel faster or slower than others. The moon travels through every astrological sign within a month. The sun travels through every sign over a year. Instead of wishing people “Happy Birthday!,” some say “Happy Solar Return!” Which is the day and time each year when the sun is in the same spot as it was when you were born.

There are other planetary returns too. Cycles are different for each. If we live to be 84 years old, we could experience a Uranus return. Many people talk about our first Saturn return at around 29 years of age. Depending on how long we live, we could have two or three Saturn returns.

Now Pluto is another story. A Pluto return is 248 years. No human will experience a Pluto return. But a nation can. And the buzz about the Pluto return of the United States has been ever increasing over the last few years.

Astrologer Chani Nicholas was interviewed on a podcast about this important time that we’re living through. Her interview starts around 21 minutes into the show. She says that the Pluto return started in 2008 and makes us reckon with everything. It all gets exposed and we have to heal from the past.

According to what Pluto impacts, it was no coincidence that during 2008, we were in a financial crisis and that we elected President Obama as the first Black president. The unsustainable housing market was exposed for what it was. Shaky at best. Racism that has always been a part of this country became louder and uglier.

Nicholas says that Pluto asks what we have learned about our resources and what are we going to do about it. It’s a reckoning point.

An article by Astrologer Whitney Will also states that the impacts of the Pluto return started in 2008 and that there are “three exact hits” that happen in 2022.

“At the time of the signing of the Declaration, Pluto was toward the end of Capricorn at 27 degrees, falling in the part of the chart that relates to resources, how they are acquired and how one manages finances. In this position, Pluto describes a fixation or complex that the United States will and does have with economics, and a difficulty in relating to this topic with any kind of moderation. When it comes to money, the United States as an entity is likely to relate in compulsive ways and with a great deal of psychological shadow involved. When Pluto comes back around, we will have to reconcile with the darker parts of our history.”

The Hoodwitch refers to the Pluto return of the United States as a “historic event that will rock the country and change our lives.” She continues.

“The foundation of the U.S. has many cracks in it, which is why we can expect to see it being rebuilt in a better way in which the people hold the power. The government has to be accountable and responsible for the wrong doings of its past — particularly the racist and misogynistic roots that the country was founded on. The time and reckoning has come for the country to make reparations and redefine the culture that its founders built. A restoration is necessary.”

It’s no revelation to most that Nancy Reagan had an astrologer that she often consulted. A PBS article about the death of the astrologer, Joan Quigley, says that neither President Reagan nor his wife ever admitted to using astrology to make policies or decisions. However, Quigley denied that. In the end, we’ll never know.

Astrology doesn’t give definite answers or predict the future. But it can help with the timing of things that we are trying to accomplish and guide us in other ways. Wouldn’t it be quite cinematic, if the astrology for this country could help undo the decades of damage done by America’s first actor president?

+ + +
Image Credit: ESA/NASA

Color Palette For Spring Using Astrology

color palette for spring with astrology

Here in New England, solar spring and meteorological spring have passed. The only thing left is the real deal. Astronomical spring (aka the spring or vernal equinox) arrives in two weeks on March 20th. Yay! I am loving all the daylight now. It’s such a mood lifter.

On Twitter, I saw a meme that lets you create your own personal color palette for spring using your astrological placements. Since I love Pantone colors, spring and astrology, how could I not try it?

The meme uses the “Big Three” (your sun sign, moon sign, rising/ascendant sign) and Venus signs. If you want to find yours, you can easily do your chart for free on Chani Nicholas’ website. Generally our sun sign is considered our zodiac sign, but there is far more to astrology than that.

I’m a Virgo sun. Taurus rising, Scorpio moon and Venus is in Leo. The picture above shows my color palette for spring! I prefer the taste of peach and smell of lavender. For clothing, I have a lot of forest green and some of that shade of yellow. Not as fun (or frustrating) as Wordle, but I like it!

Will you try it?

When It’s Your Season

squrirel and acorn season

It’s September! I love summer and never wish it away, but September is a favorite month. As my birthday month, it’s also my personal new year – a time to reset. When we were kids, September was always back to school season, so it was a time of new beginnings for everyone.

The change from summer to fall is also a big time of transition. Right now I’m in the midst of a big change and transition. After 19 years in the same apartment, I’m moving to a new one in a few weeks! I’m so excited!

As a Virgo sun and Taurus rising, I tend to dig in and stay put. I haven’t lived many places because I usually  stay somewhere at least five years. But 19 years is a record. It’s the longest that I’ve ever lived in one place. That was never even the plan. This was supposed to be a transitional place. Ya just never know!

This is the first time that I have no plans for how long I will be at the next place or where it will take me in my life. The longer I live, the more I see that while we do have some control over our lives, we also need to go with the flow of it. When we make a decision and have to fight for it at every turn, it might not be the right plan for us. Sometimes the Universe has decided otherwise.

We can feel the difference when we decide to make a change and everything easily falls into place and flows. This change feels right. As much as I thought about moving over the past few years, it didn’t feel right until now.

* * *

A new favorite podcast is Breathe Go Flow with Tracye Warfield. I started listening at the end of July or beginning of August. I’ve listened from the first episode, which was pre-pandemic, up to August 2020. She’s so uplifting and has been a wonderful motivating force for me to make this change. An episode from February 2019, called Are you a Clinger has some real gems.

“You get to keep what is yours in your season.”

~ Tracye Warfield

It’s important to know what’s for us in our current season and let go of what isn’t. This resonates so much with my word of the year. Another quote that I recently found is a new favorite as well.

“Ripe fruit falls quickly.”

~ Mari Andrew

I don’t think she said it first, but I found it on her Instagram. It goes back to feeling that when the time is right, what’s in season for us will be available without such a struggle. These last few weeks of summer will be full of change and I’m here for it. Let the packing begin!

Recently Read: You Were Born For This

Born For This

The plan wasn’t to finish You Were Born For This in one sitting, but the reading just flowed.

So much of my life, certain events and themes, struggles and luck were obvious and maybe inevitable after looking deeply into my chart. What an awakening!

We all like to think that we have control over our own lives. We do to a certain extent. But luck and chance play big roles as well.

I needed this book in my twenties. But if it had been available then, I wouldn’t have had the familiarity with myself to receive it in the same way. I’ve never read a book with such ease and felt such gentleness towards me as the reader.

After reading some books, I’ve gotten the feeling that they really could have been essays. However, the writers got lucrative book deals. Maybe because they had a big audience. Then they had editors who massaged the hell out of that essay to make it into a book. But it really wasn’t a book and it did not feel genuine or respectful to me as the reader.

As a writer, Chani Nicholas is the exact opposite. While reading, I felt that she was rooting for me and thinking about how I might feel as I journeyed through my life reading her words. Nicholas wrote You Were Born For This as an act of kindness to her audience.

If you are even the least bit interested in astrology, I recommend buying You Were Born For This. I’m always one for borrowing books from the library, but this book is different. It’s more personal.

To get the most out of it, you need to download your chart from her website. Then use that information to fill in the pages as instructed through the book. You’re then guided through your Sun, Moon, Ascendant and Its Ruler. These are the three keys to a chart.

Most of us are familiar with our Sun sign. That’s the most basic part of our chart and determined by our birth date. I’m a Virgo, but that’s such a small part! The Sun represents our life’s purpose.

The Moon represents our physical and emotional needs. My Moon is in Scorpio.

The Ascendant and Its Ruler is our motivation for living and steer the direction of our lives. The Ascendant is also known as our Rising Sign. Mine is Taurus and the Ruler is Venus. Venus is all about seeking love, beauty and pleasure. I feel this deep into my bones. This blog is literally my attempt to notice the beauty all around and share it. It also feels like home to me.

But wait, there’s more! Just like with real estate, there are different houses and location matters. The placement of certain planets together in one house, near each other or opposite others changes things dramatically.

The luminaries, the sun and moon, are placed well in my chart and act together helping me live out my life’s purpose. Jupiter, trines my Sun, offering some protection and luck. As a kid and throughout my life, I’ve been good at winning contests.

Jupiter is also in the same house as my Ascendant which magnifies my impact on the world. Nicholas gives the example of “a bombastic laugh” and people tell me that they always remember my laugh.

Some of my life’s challenges I see in my chart too – a Scorpio Moon is not easy. She says that I will be called to “dig deep” and “transform … pain into purpose.” Sometimes that feels like the story of my life. Seeing my chart, it’s definitely part of it.

She says, “Scorpio deals with death, loss and transformation, sometimes having the Moon in this sign speaks to not only experiencing these issues in childhood but also having them as part of your professional interest or expertise.”

When I was a child, almost an entire generation in my family died and I remember being quite aware of the loss. Also when I was a child, the town’s grade school building had structural damage, so I attended school for a couple of years at a Catholic Parish. We had recess out in the back and quite literally played among the graves. As a freelance writer and lawyer, I’ve written about end of life issues.

I could go on and on, but if you do the work on your chart, you will find You Were Born For This endlessly fascinating and return to it over and over again. Because really, it’s all about you.

+ + +
If you’re interested in another book that I recently read, take a look here.

The Zodiac Constellations & Virgo Season

The Zodiac Constellation

It’s my birthday eve and I’ve been reading up on all things Virgo. ‘Tis the season! I love that astrology has its roots in science and then goes way beyond.

The American Astronomical Society explains the difference between astronomy and astrology.

Astronomy is a science that studies everything outside of the earth’s atmosphere, such as planets, stars, asteroids, galaxies; and the properties and relationships of those celestial bodies. Astronomers base their studies on research and observation. Astrology, on the other hand, is the belief that the positioning of the stars and planets affect the way events occur on earth.

Just as the phases of the moon heavily influences the tides, to me it’s quite logical that positions of the stars and planets may impact people. With more than half of our body weight consisting of water, it makes sense that the moon could impact our behavior. So why not the other planets too?

The object pictured above is NGC 4388, which is part of the Virgo Cluster, which contains more than 1300 galaxies. The center of this cluster of galaxies is part of the constellation of Virgo. It’s so beautiful!

The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains Earth and our solar system. The Virgo Cluster is the closest large cluster of galaxies to us. The lingo can get a little complicated, so here are some quick definitions as I understand them.

Star clusters are groups of stars held together by gravitational pull. A constellation is a name given to a group of stars based on a pattern that appears in the sky. Stars are also the “fundamental building blocks of galaxies.”

So when does astrology kick in?

When the planets, moon and sun pass through the Zodiac constellations. The constellations correlate to our astrological sign, which is also our sun sign. But there is one additional constellation, Ophiuchus, which is not used as a zodiac sign.

What’s interesting is that when we can see our own zodiac constellation in the night sky does not correlate with the timing of our birthday. The Virgo constellation appears in late May, June and July, according to EarthSky.

The sun passes in front of the constellation Virgo each year from about September 16 to October 30. Because Virgo is such a large constellation, the sun stays in front of Virgo for longer than one month.

The dates of the sun’s passage through Virgo may conflict with what you read on the horoscope page, which probably says from about August 23 to September 22. Keep in mind that astrologers are referring to the sign – not the constellation – Virgo. Yes, there is a difference between a constellation and a sign!

A constellation of the zodiac refers to certain section of the starry sky. On the other hand, a sign of the zodiac refers to the seasonal position of the sun, irrespective of what constellation backdrops the sun at a given season.

As I approach my 56th time circling the sun, I remember the past, look forward to the future and feel grateful for my birthday present.

+ + +
Image Credit: ESA/NASA