Seeking stories for art project


My name is Jen. I have a BFA and an MFA. My dream was to teach at university level but three years after graduating I am 99,000.00 in debt and have barely made minimum wage at part time jobs. What shocks me more than my lack of employment that will support a basic life and allow me to pay back my loans, are the stories I hear from others in extreme debt. People who looked to education to move UP in the world and because of a variety of life circumstances and because of the outrageous way student loans are managed they can not get ahead. People are hiding in shame. Shame should NEVER be the emotion we feel for simply wanting an education. I am a video installation artist and I am working on a public art project to raise awareness about the insane re payment structure that we navigate as we try to pay back our loans. Had I been informed about this payment system PRIOR to going to school I would NOT have gone. I personally was lied to by my admissions counselor and now I am doing the only thing I can which is to bring the issue forward in my way. I am SEEKING professional adults who are willing to be interviewed by me regarding their student loan payment (non payment) stories and the way they have to navigate life to manage the debt. The stories are only audio, identities will be protected. I know how sensitive this is and I personally have experienced public shaming by people who think paying for an education is stupid. I have been shamed on social media, by my family, by my CPA and even fellow students who say “If you arent good enough for a scholarship you should not pay for school” I love my education. I believe I needed it more than anything to grow as a teacher, an artist and a human. Please message me if you have a story you think is compelling. Do not write your story in the thread. Please message me here and we will arrange to connect. Thank you for your willingness to share.


I’d be happy to share my story for your project

Well makes you feel better. I am $147000 in debt and no MS. But I do have AA and BS. My dream job was probably more police work but, I kind of fell in to probation. But, after 3/4 of the way into school my career counselor told me “your credit score won’t allow you to get a job there.” Guess what she was right on.
As of now I have had 3 surgery’s and working on 2 more. I have no plans on giving up my career search.

How would you feel about my sharing this on Facebook, and then finding ways to connect you with people who respond there?

I’d be happy to connect with people on facebook.

So far most people I have communicated with are too ashamed of the situation they are in to write it down on such a public forum. But maybe as an initial way to connect and then I can interview people privately.

My FB feed is private due to a hacking situation. They can PM me on my public business page @sweatgoodvibes if they like with the phrase “Student Loan Project” that way I know they are a real person and not a hacker.

Thanks for sharing

It never makes me feel good to hear people have so much debt that it is not manageable.
I will be reaching out soon for more information.

I have lots of questions for you.

Glad you are not giving up on your dream


You’re very welcome, Jen. If you’d like to look at how I posted your request, the link is

Hi Jen. I’m not on Facebook but I’d like to talk with you about my student loan debt. It’s horrible and I don’t talk about it with anyone so I think it would be nice to be able to discuss it with someone. Let me know the best way to get in touch. Thanks,

Hi Levi

I hear you. talking about it is stressful.
you can email me at

I’d like to know the basics - were you given false information by a loan counselor at school?
Did your loans switch from one lender to another? Have to tried to pay them only to find out it was not making a dent? BFA or MFA ? What are the effects on your mind and body? ETC ETC

I have been signed up with the debt strikers for awhile now I believe i was part of the original 100 who signed up. My debt still has not be relieved, i owe more than 65,000 and was lied to by the financial aide dept, my department chair and the admissions dept all in all i owe that much and was told I could not finish the 4 classes i had left for a bachelors in Criminal Justice unless i paid the rest in cash and that was the end of my education. The problem i am seeing for myself is that the same school has had much debt relief to the years after my attendance I was enrolled in 1999/2004 every year following 2006 has been relieved why will they not relieve my debt. Its not as if they only started being corrupt then, they always had been corrupt and misleading. Any ideas on how i can get my debt relieved if all other students after me have had relief?

Hi there, I don’t have any answers.
I have questions tho.

can you be more specific about the lie you were told? ie. my loan counselor told me that loans do not accrue interest while I am in school. This was a lie. A lie that encouraged me to take the loan.
A lie that could have been avoided.

What are the emotions that you experience navigating all the debt?
What kind of language to others use around you when you try to discuss the situation you are in?
What has the debt prevented you from feeling (not doing) but feeling?

I am interested in these things from an artist perspective.

My project wont make solutions but perhaps it will inspire people without debt to get involved in helping us find solutions.


Hi there

I want to ask a few questions about your debt experience.

you went to school to pursue police work?
you had to quit due to finances or due to a credit score?
what do your surgeries have to do with your student debt? are you paying for medical instead of loans?
what was your life like prior to going to school?

what is your dream now?


I am starting to respond to all the people who have reached out to me.

Can you answer some questions?

What did you attend college for?


Did you know what you were getting into when you took out a loan?

Did anyone give you inaccurate information about the loan?

Did you have a choice of loans?

when you tried to pay your loans back what problems did you have? could you get a job? were the loan payments too much compared to the cost of living? did you have friends and family support you emotionally in this process or did they just look the other way? Did people shame you for going to school and getting into debt?

how has it impacted your emotional state?
how much do you owe?
what if anything do you attempt yo pay?

I appreciate your willingness to share. None of this will go on record. I am just collecting detailed information to see how to make a public art piece that might inspire those with means to help us fight the student loan crisis.


as a naive youngster i wanted to ultimately be a criminal psychologist, or a criminologist of some sort.

I was struggling to support myself working full time and going to school full time and became overwhelmed in debt, with debtors knocking on my door, calling my job, garnishing me, repo’ing my car (living in Florida at a time when the living wage was below 9$) was not possible

No surgeries??

life before college had just started less than a year out of high school working at mcdonalds

My dream now - To be rid of this student debt it is a black cloud that has hung over my head for too long. Finishing my education has not been a thought for the last 10 years as i realized I can still get hired without the fake paperwork it just takes more effort and tenacity to even try.

Criminal Justice Bachelors of Science

No i did not understand what i was getting into when i signed my life away to Sallie Mae- Navient

YES! I was given inaccurate information regarding the state of my Finances, at one point I was walked through a process and paperwork to request that i be considered independent as i had no way to complete the
parental portion of the FASFA as my mom moved away and left no way to contact her (all this while i was under the age of 25)

No i had no choice of the type of loans i received i believe they were federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans

when i began paying were many: frequent calls from the collections department where the reps were not using above board tactics, calling my
job, harassing me, threatening me and my mom and my sister their finances, I was told they would take me to court, 6 months after my last
attendance i was expected to start paying an amount that was far greater than my living expenses at that time. -skip forward 10+ years i
have avoided any contact with them for thus long and then came a time when i was looking to get my own housing and had to disclose this information and was instructed that i needed to get my loans out of default so i had to contact them and they put me on a probationary period of payback where i paid minimally 100 a month for a year and that
would get my status as no longer in default on my credit report and then i stumbled upon jubilee and applied to the original debt strikers several years ago. and have not made a payment since.

was subsequently denied employment through robert half legal due to my lack of finishing my schooling they refuse to place me anywhere in any legal setting. Even though i have more than 10+ years work experience in
various law offices, I even worked for the courts in Florida and California. I still have trouble when applying to any state or county positions regardless if it is an entry position due to lack of education.

The expected loan repayments today are more than my a months rent and most places it takes 2 paychecks a month to equal rent so not much to live on.

No i have not had the support of family and friends other than my significant other who is my whole family these days.

i was shamed in anyway it was for falling for a for profit school, where the education i recieved was no more difficult than 9th grade with
multiple choice answers

has it impacted my emotional state? it has made me more angry, distrustful of people who are in a position of trust and finances, Social anxiety as well as other general anxietys, for a period of time i
fell into a deep depression was medicated at one point hospitalized on suicide watch. Nothing positive from the ordeal

Oh sorry forgot to mention I have also not seen a federal tax refund since the year after seperating from the school and have never seen that money applied to my growing loan debt

Hi there

(1) I want to ask a few questions about your debt experience.

Ok I can share with you the details.

(2) you went to school to pursue police work?

Yes I wanted to be a cop with more education than most. I have been around attorneys and law enforcement my teens & adulthood. But I tried and tried. Kept getting the fact my credit score wasn’t good enough.

So I tried to get in probation. Probation isn’t much easier to get into either. Still need a perfect job and credit history to get in

Which the irony is, my career counselor told me 3 years in, you won’t get a job in any sort of law career due to your low credit score. I am bringing it up every year. But, as you know it takes years to rebuild without paying money to get it fixed. She advised
me to leave the school (ITT Technical Institute) for that reason. Also came to light from her they were doing shady things with student loans and lying to people so they could get their enrollment rates up.

I was told by a few companies my degree is worthless because it is from ITT as well.

(3) you had to quit due to finances or due to a credit score?

I didn’t get a job in anything pertaining to my field except security.

All my career choices declined me because of work or credit score.

(4) what do your surgeries have to do with your student debt? are you paying for medical instead of loans?

Let’s just say I have had 3 surgeries since then and 2 more coming up. Two surgeries were for severe carpal tunnel syndrome. It has spread to my elbows as of now. I have had 1 nerve release in my elbow so far. Now I got hurt at work in September, I need 2
miniscus surgery’s and I still on hold for them.

Prior to these I had been relatively injury free. Except a ACL tear I had in high school. 25 years later it’s still holding up.

(5) what was your life like prior to going to school?

Grew up in Middle Tennessee for the better part of 20 years. I moved to Los Angeles Co in 2004. I didn’t really go to school until 2008. I was working at Home Depot getting ready for management trainee but, a jealous person ended that with hearsay. I was
a average guy here. Somewhat of underachiever in life. Overcame a lot of things. I had my 2 girls. Almost got a divorce from wife. It led me to deep depression in which I gained 80 lbs. But, I realized things were not all bad. Decided to make some changes
in life. Will say wife and I are still together. I am a stubborn person. I guess it comes from my dad being Navy.

(6) what is your dream now?

To be honest here, I have no clue as to my next step/dream. I know it won’t be here in Los Angeles Co that’s for sure. Guess I am going to move back home and see there where life takes me.

Given my huge debt, one in which I will almost never be able to pay off, I want to go back get my LSAT maybe, try to be a nurse or tech school for HVAC. Not sure yet as I am trying to survive this debt I have.

I mean part of me wants to give up. Our education system needs a huge update economically. We have one of the top 2 biggest college debts in the world. When other countries pay for their citizens debt to come here and get a education, why is it so hard for
us? Because of corporate greed in the college board.

When UC and CSU colleges get caught taking their board members on expensive and lavish vacations then raising tuition by 5% because “they dont have the money” to run a college, it seems there is a issue there.

Germany you can go to school even out of country prices are 10x times better than ours. When they graduate there it’s not a crushing debt like it is here. It seems not one political figure cares in the least.

I could have gone to 2 years Community College then 2 years of UCLA for this debt.

Hi Jen,
I have had student loan debt for over a decade. I’ve always felt that education (along with both control) should be free. I am a professional. I cant buy a home because of my debt. I was put in default unfairly. Have the paperwork to prove it too. Contacted state omsbudsman for help, no one cared. I’ll participate in your project!

Just heard about this movement tonight. Turns out I was a member of the strike without knowing it. And just to say up front, I realize my situation is way better than some. I’m here for the cause. I am 50 years old, and still paying my MS student loans from the 90s. Also paying Parent Plus Loan now so my son wasn’t strapped with the debt. Total of 85k in debt. I work for a university, and realized I can go for free and get all loans deferred while in school. So thats my plan. I am enrolled in another masters program, until 2023. After that, I may get another bachelors degree or two, then maybe another masters. No way I’m paying this debt.
I love this cause. When I got my bachelors in the late 80s, my bill for the year was 3000. My son was charged 25000 a year. No way salaries went up by that same percentage. We all must do what we can to bring awareness to this crisis that is crippling our country and economy. Wall Street and the auto industry were bailed out. What about those of us just trying to better our lives and get an education? Maybe because there is a political party in the US that refutes science and education, preferring to keep Americans dumb, scared, and praying for a better future than actually going to school and experiencing different cultures and ideas. We need to change the direction of this country, and we need to fight back. We must fight back.