Vol. 85, No. 5, May 2012
Default on Student Loans May Be Due to Hardship, Not Dishonesty
Karen Bauer in "Repaying Law School Debt" (April 2012 Wisconsin Lawyer) says, "It is important to address repayment issues early – before the loan goes into default." The article discusses payment, avoiding defaulting, consequences of defaulting, and how to get out of default.
Student loan programs are very unforgiving, despite the "help" for borrowers with hardships. My troubles began with medical school. I ran into problems as a result of a personality conflict during my residency (the details are unimportant here). I applied for 150-plus second-year residency jobs but was told to apply to local employment agencies, although no jobs in clinical medicine or biomedical science for people with doctorates are available through such agencies. One cannot take a job for which one is not qualified, and one's income has to be commensurate with the size of the loans to pay them off. As a result I ended up in default.
When I went to law school, I struggled to pay for it out of pocket to supplement a partial scholarship. A former dean from my law school came to Madison with a letter from virtually my entire law school faculty and, together with another Wisconsin attorney, argued for my admission to the bar. I struggled for 10 years to get a law practice going based on my knowledge of health care. Now I am totally disabled and cannot pay what I owe, despite my best intentions.
I know of others in default who were sent the wrong form when they tried to claim hardship. In my experience, student-loan debt collectors are among the worst in violating Wisconsin and federal law regarding fair debt collection practices. Many defaulters got there because things went horribly wrong, not because of dishonesty. Yet bankruptcy is not available. Winston Churchill once said, "Success is not final, failure is not fatal..." Unfortunately, it seems lenders of student loans have tried to make failure fatal.
Philip M. Kober
Law Offices of Philip M. Kober, Watertown
Kudos on Bar's Compassion Fatigue Study
Kudos to the Wisconsin Lawyer on a superb cover story in December 2011, "The Toll of Trauma." The well-crafted article well portrayed the compassion fatigue of attorneys who practice criminal law. I appreciated the many quotes from them including those not highlighted from Dana Smetana and Judge Neal Nielsen. Judge Nielsen's vivid words provide a window into the trauma toll on judges assigned to exclusively criminal dockets, as I have been for 11 of my 15 years on the bench. The article calls us to take a clear look at this in our lives and in our work so we remain effective. And happy.
Congratulations as well to Linda Albert, coordinator of the Wisconsin Lawyers Assistance Program, and the State Bar of Wisconsin for this ground-breaking study.
Judge Jean DiMotto
Milwaukee County Circuit Court