Graduates saddled with debt, student loans can't easily turn to bankruptcy

"I think the purpose of bankruptcy is to provide some sense of release for people when they've gotten totally overwhelmed," he says. "It's difficult for me to understand why we can't treat student loans the way we treat some other indebtedness."

Since the law stopped allowing private student loans to be discharged, loans are not any cheaper, says Lauren Asher, acting president of the Institute for College Access and Success. So the argument that reform will cause increased college costs doesn't hold, she says.

But not everyone thinks that bankruptcy is the best option.

"I don't support it, but I don't have a solution," says Peter Mazareas, vice chairman of the College Savings Foundation, a non-profit advocacy group for college savings plans.

"It is going to be a generational challenge in terms of the current students who are maxing out on their loan indebtedness, now realizing that they will have to pay $1,500 to $2,000 a month for the next 10 to 15 years," Mazareas says.

It is apparently on many people's minds.

In January, Robert Applebaum, a 35-year-old lawyer, launched a Facebook campaign called Cancel Student Loan Debt to Stimulate the Economy. He was furious that billions of dollars were going to help the banking industry, but not the middle class.

"I just wanted to get my thoughts out, and I posted it in a Facebook group," he says. "I never had the expectation of more than 10 people reading it."

Now 188,000 people are members of the group.

Applebaum, who still owes $96,000 in student loans, has launched a non-profit organization and website.

His aim is to expose inequities and unfairness in the student loan industry: "Students are graduating with incredible amounts of debt, so they are starting out with their hands tied behind their back."

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