Tagged: Congress

Feb 14

Confessions of a student loan statistic

Student is debt slavery

Crush student debt before it crushes us!


I admit it, I am a statistic. A student-debt-up-to-my-eyeballs-in-debt statistic. In 2010, I completed my seven year journey to obtain a doctoral degree and since I was a single mom and not really rolling in the dough, I acquired what is euphemistically called “student debt.” I don’t regret getting the degree as it has opened whole worlds to me, but it would have been dandy if it didn’t leave me a financial cripple for the rest of my days.

My monthly student debt bill is $1095, which amounts to $13,140 per year. Add in a car payment (my trusty Blueberry died after 13 years of excellent service), insurance, and a small bit of credit card debt left over from my grad school days, and … yeah. Not much left over to help with the kid’s college savings or to save for a rainy day or to buy house or to contribute to retirement fund. My total debt after paying for three years, and paying off several smaller loans, is still over $140,000. How does that even happen? Obviously, my degree is not in finance. I work in state government, so if Congress holds up its end of the bargain, then about half of that (the federal loan half) will be expunged after 2019.

What would be helpful is if I could deduct the entire amount I pay, not just the interest up to $2,500 from my income when paying taxes. I know that my name is not Exxon Mobil or Goldman Sachs, but
surely we little people deserve that much.

People like me work hard at jobs we love. I really really love my job which I would not have if I didn’t have my degree.

Of course, if anyone has a spare $140,000 laying around, I wouldn’t be too proud to have some sugar daddy pay it off.


Jun 13

Press Release: Artist is crushing student loan debt with t-shirts and coffee mugs

Salem, OR,  June 12, 2013.

With student loan debt passing $1 trillion dollars, one doctoral graduate is taking an unusual approach to paying off her debt. Dr. Althea Rizzo, a 2010 Ph.D. graduate from Oregon State University, is selling her graphic designs on apparel and gift items at Cafepress.com to pay down her student debt. Starting tomorrow, she is in a race with Congress, who doesn’t seem inclined to move forward on legislation to curb the impending rise in interest rates. She has over $100,000 in federal and private loans and currently pays about $1400 per month.

Like many other students graduating with crushing student debt, it was difficult to save up money for emergencies. Then Dr. Rizzo’s car died, the clothes dryer motor seized up, and her daughter broke her thumb last week. After that, Dr. Rizzo decided to take matters into her own hands to find a creative solution to the financial dilemma.

“On the other hand, I like to think of myself as resourceful,” said Dr. Rizzo.  “For the last few years, I have been selling t-shirts and other apparel and gift items on Cafepress.com/malarkeypie. This has been a slowly growing endeavor, providing a bit of pin money each month, but never really breaking into the realm of real money. My background in graphic design and my intensely snarky sense of humor combine to create fun and irreverent designs to paste across your chest.”

These unfortunate circumstances spurred her to pay down her student loan debt faster.  Something had to be done and she ramped up her graphic design business. Her goal is to sell 50,000 items before Congress raises the interest rate on federal subsidized student loans in July, 2013.

“Will it be hard? Sure, but if 50,000 people buy just one thing each, that’s only 0.014285714285714287% of the U.S. population. That’s totally doable.”

Dr. Rizzo is an employee of the Oregon Office of Emergency Management, where she heads the Geologic Hazards Program. She created a Café Press shop to cater to those who are interested in progressive politics, science, and general geekery at www.cafepress.com/malarkeypie. She blogs at www.alfalfapress.com.




Jun 12

Recent grad races Congress to retire student debt before rates rise

Going back to graduate school when I was 41 years old and a single mom was not an easy decision to make. But I was in a dead-end (but well paying) job and needed to look to the future. So I looked at the nearby state school, Oregon State University, and hopped right in. I knew there would have to be student loans as being a single mom meant I couldn’t do the “stuff-a-handful-of-grad-students-in-a-loft” cheap route. Having kids also impacted my studying routine as I rarely got to hit my own books until after 9PM once the kids were put to bed and the house cleaned (well, somewhat cleaned).

Just like many other graduate students leaving graduate school with a useful degree and a pile of debt, I think it was very worth it. I love my current job and I would never have landed here without my doctoral degree. I mean really do love my job, deeply and passionately. That huge pile of debt? Not so much. I work in public service for the state of Oregon, so the theory goes that after 2019, the balance of my federal loans will be retired, but I’m not holding my breath that Congress actually authorizes that particular budget item.

Having over $100,000 in debt means that my economic life is stunted at the barely pubescent stage of economic life. My monthly student loan payments, both federal and private, are nearly $1,400. Luckily, I don’t have much personal debt, just a small amount left over from grad school that I have been paying down. The upshot of having this huge amount of student debt means that I don’t have a lot in savings. Actually I don’t have any savings at all, if you don’t count that jar of coins in the back of the closet.

Not having a savings account built up nice and fat means that when something happens like say, your old car throws a rod, your clothes dryer motor seizes up, and your daughter breaks her thumb all within a few days, you don’t have the resiliency to recover quickly,  if at all. And being an emergency management professional who travels around the state trying to convince families and communities to be more resilient, it was both embarrassing and ironic.

If you add my monthly totals to the fact that Congress is going to double my interest rates in a scant few weeks (unless it gets off its frakking collectively gridlocked ass), then you come to the conclusion that something needs to be done to crush my student debt before it finally crushes me. So, I spent an angst-filled weekend kind of freaking out at how my student debt was impacting my ability to quickly recover from a few days of bad luck.

On the other hand, I like to think of myself as resourceful. For the last few years, I have been selling t-shirts and other apparel and gift items on Cafepress.com. This has been a slowly growing endeavor, providing a bit of pin money each month, but never really breaking into the realm of real money. My background in graphic design and my intensely snarky sense of humor combine to create fun and irreverent designs to paste across your chest.

I also like to think of myself as optimistic. So, I thought that I could bump up my t-shirt sales and pay down my student debt even faster. Then I thought, hey, go big or go home! If I sold a LOT of t-shirts, I could really make a dent on my student debt and create some financial breathing room in the family finances. I will have two kids in college in two years, so I really need to get this cleaned up so that I can be the whole parent and help my kids in their own endeavors.

After spending some time on the webs, brushing up on some of the latest thoughts on marketing and using social media, I put together a game plan and launched this current effort to Crush the Debt in a Race with Congress. Will I be able to retire more student debt before rates rise in July? I need to sell about 50,000 t-shirts or coffee mugs or messenger bags to pay off a huge bulge of my debt and to pay the taxes on that income (or you can hit the donate button on the side over there and I won’t have to pay taxes on that. See? I can be bipartisan!).

So, how about it? Want to buy a t-shirt? Don’t think of it as giving me a handout, think of it as getting an awesome t-shirt! Please help spread the word! Share this on your Facebook page, Twitter (#tees4debt, #crushthedebt), Digg, Tumblr, or whatever social media you crazy kids are using these days. My brief research into social media marketing tells me that getting “bloggers of authority” and “thought leaders” to talk about something on their websites is a great way to make things go viral. So feel free to contact me to arrange for an interview. Yes, I know this kinda like begging, but I’m racing Congress. Who doesn’t want me to beat Congress at their own game, rigged as it is? I think getting rid of my student debt can be done. (See above about being an optimist!)

So here is the Plan ™. I want to sell 50,000 t-shirts, coffee mugs, messenger bags or other whatzits on my Cafepress.com/malarkeypie website. I need 50,000 amazing people to step forward and help a girl out. That is 0.014285714285714287% of the U.S. population. But even Canadians and Australians can play along.

So just buy a damn t-shirt!