At a time when fees for colleges are at an all-time high, and rates of student loans and defaults on these loans are also rising, a logically-linked trend is emerging – a trend of fleeing the United States to escape these student loan debts. Although there is not yet any data available to speak to the extent of this trend, experts cite Facebook groups and reddit pages centered on personal finance in which people who claim to have become expatriates to escape their crippling student debt tell their stories and give firsthand advice to others considering similar paths.
A CNBC report from May 2019 chronicles the stories of three people (two of whom are, curiously, named Chad – really makes you think, doesn’t it.) that have fled America for better lives in India, Ukraine, and Japan, respectively. There, the cost of living is much cheaper than in the United States, federal representatives cannot garnish their wages and loan officers cannot pester them with monthly bills. Overall, they attest, they feel less anxious day-to-day with a sizeable amount of unpaid student loans no longer towering over them and negatively affecting their overall quality of life.
However, it is noteworthy that these individuals have not actually ‘escaped’ their student loans and collections-office badgers by fleeing the country. This desperate act is one of evasion, not escape. While they are gone, ignoring the responsibility to pay their outsized portions of student loans, these debts remain, worsen even. Evading student loans by fleeing the country exacerbates the issue; while borrowers are away, the balances of their debts only grow, due to compounding interest rates, collection charges, and late fees. If they ever want or have to return to America, they will find their problem has mutated in quite an ugly fashion, and if they persist in not paying these charges upon their return, authorities could levy prosecution.
Experts advise that borrowers struggling to pay student loan debts should opt for an income-based repayment plan instead, in which the charges are capped at a specific percentage of their monthly income, usually ten-percent. If their income is low enough, the monthly charges could be as little as zero. Or, they can flee and never return to America again, at which point they seriously will be “escaping” their outstanding student loan debts.