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article imageUS and UK cracking down on student debt

By John McAuliffe     Feb 17, 2016 in Business
After Paul Aker's interview on his arrest for outstanding student loan debt went viral, the issue of governments taking excessive action on student debt repayments has become a broader issue. Britain is joining the U.S. on taking extreme measures.
"They grabbed me, they threw me down." This was the experience recounted by Houston resident Paul Aker when seven heavily armed U.S. Marshals showed up at his house without any warning. When asking why he was being apprehended so aggressively, the response given left Aker just as perplexed when one of the officers replied: "Shut up, you know what this is all about."
Aker described his ordeal, in which he was taken from his home and transported in the back of a truck before being locked in a cell in a federal building. He eventually discovered that the arrest was over an unpaid student loan debt of $1,500 from over thirty years ago. Soon after, he faced a court hearing in which he was prosecuted by a debt collection lawyer in front of a judge. Aker was ordered to pay $5,700 for the loan plus interest and an additional $1,300 for that morning's arrest operation. If these fines go unpaid by March 1, he faces arrest. He expressed how the entire ordeal has left him shaken and cautious of whether or not someone will come after him again.
Aker's story has highlighted a trend of escalating measures taken by the government to pursue and apprehend former students with outstanding student loan debt. It is not only a concern in the U.S., but in Britain as well, where the current government is responsible for the rise of a student loan culture. The British government has announced a new strategy to prosecute students in the UK and overseas who fail to repay their student loan debt on time. When discussing the new measures, Minister for Universities Jo Johnson said: "As more loans are issued to new students each year, it is vital the repayment process is robust, convenient for borrowers, and working efficiently to ensure the sustainability of the student finance system, and value for money, for the taxpayer." In 2010, when the current government was first elected, tuition fees were immediately trebled, driving many students in financial hardship out of education. Proceeding to introduce a stringent austerity regime, education has seen student debt soar as grants are increasingly replaced with loans.
While in the U.S. student debt has become an acceptable part of life, in Britain, an American-style debt culture in education has been enforced very abruptly over the past six years. As austerity policies in both Britain and America increase the wealth gap between rich and poor, poorer families are taking on a disproportionate level of debt in the form of student loans. A Wall Street Journal analysis of the wealth divide shows that wealth predominantly increases with age, making debt easier to repay. This means a young former student is more likely to struggle with debt repayments than later in life. The new debt-collection policies being implemented by the U.S. and Britain indicate the rise of a heavy-handed approach towards debt collection against former students who are still young, in financial hardship and new to a career, if not unemployed. Under these policies, students are increasingly being faced with the prospect of incarceration or large fines shortly after leaving education if unable to service a high level of debt.
More about Student loans, student loan debt, Debt, Authorities, Britain
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