John Grisham’s new novel grapples with $ 1.4 trillion student debt crisis
If the Internet is any indication, student loan borrowers would go to great lengths to get rid of their student debt.
In his new novel, “The bar au coqReleased Tuesday, acclaimed legal thriller writer John Grisham imagines just how. The story centers on three students who realize a semester before graduation that their for-profit law school is little more than ‘a diploma mill, tricking unsuspecting and unqualified students into taking out federal loans to pay for their school tuition.
In most cases, they are left with crushing debt and little hope for a career in law. The novel follows the three students as they hatch a scheme to evade their six-figure student loan balances and expose the scam.
The basic outline of the story – save for the extremes students go through after their discovery – will be recognizable to anyone who closely follows the country’s $ 1.4 trillion student debt problem. In fact, Grisham got the idea for the book from an actual title: an article from 2014 in the Atlantic called “The Law School Scam”.
Grisham said he was struck by how easily students who were unlikely to pass the bar exam or become qualified lawyers could take on debt to enroll in law school. He also learned that as these students ran into debt, for-profit schools could be bought and sold for the benefit of investors. “It just seems like a bad way to educate people,” he said.
““I’m not smart enough to say what’s going to happen with the crisis, but there is a reckoning day ahead with all this debt and the students unable to pay it.”“
While Grisham is certainly not a political freak – he describes himself as a storyteller and artist – learning about the federal student loans program as part of the research for the novel prompted him to ask a few questions about the student debt which are themes throughout the book. .
Some of the questions that Grisham explores include: Should students be able to borrow so much regardless of their own qualifications or the qualifications of their school? Are loan companies legitimate?
“It’s a crisis,” Grisham told MarketWatch. “I’m not smart enough to say what’s going to happen with the crisis, but there is a reckoning day ahead with all this debt and the students unable to pay it.”
While students attending all kinds of colleges may struggle to repay their loans, recent years have highlighted the particular dangers for borrowers and taxpayers from the for-profit higher education business. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the for-profit higher education sector exploded, fueled by students’ relatively easy access to government loans, which paid school bills, even though students could afford to attend. The high debt levels of graduates and their difficulties in finding employment with degrees have largely contributed to the increase in student debt levels.
““I got married one week, finished law school the next week, bought a house six months later, and we ran away.”“
Two large for-profit university chains have collapsed in recent years amid accusations they convinced students to enroll using misleading information. A for-profit law school, which was recently forced to close, is facing a whistleblower trial, claiming he defrauded taxpayers of $ 285 million. Meanwhile, the slandered students are demanding relief from their federal student loans, which, if granted, would represent a major cost to taxpayers.
Even students who are able to manage their debt always find themselves in a troubling situation, said Grisham, 62. In many cases, they cannot afford to start a family, buy a house or continue their economic life. It’s a major contrast to Grisham’s young adult life, he said. “I got married one week, finished law school the next week, bought a house six months later and we were running away,” he said.
Grisham added that if he had had the kind of student debt as a young adult that is common these days, he may have avoided attending law school, a move that dramatically altered his career path.
“If I hadn’t been a lawyer, I don’t think I would have written the first book,” he said. “Looking back, that was a huge factor – the ability to finish college debt free and dream of law school and graduating law school debt free.”