Arrested for student loans

Brandon Short | Contributor

Paul Aker was sued  by the federal government for unpaid student loan debt and after failing to appear in court, he was arrested by U.S. Marshals.

Paul Aker was sued by the federal government for unpaid student loan debt and after failing to appear in court, he was arrested by U.S. Marshals.

A Texas man was arrested last week by seven U.S. Marshals for not paying his $1,500 student loan from 1987.

Paul Aker, 48, claimed he was unaware of any outstanding debts. He was arrested at his home in Houston. Seven heavily armed officers were sent to drag Aker into court to face a judge about his 20 year old debt.

According to Vice News, Aker knew something was suspicious when he noticed a van parked outside his house. When a man approached him, he ran back inside. The situation unfolded over a duration of two hours and ultimately Aker was apprehended. Aker reported he was violently thrown to the ground in the confrontation. Aker wouldn’t learn until later that it was related to the $1,500 student loan debt from nearly three decades ago.

Although Aker didn’t serve any jail time, he was taken directly to court where a collection lawyer informed him that he would be forced to pay $5,700 for the loan and its interest. In addition he would have to pay $1,300 to cover the cost of the government operation to arrest him. This adds up to a combined total of $7,000 that Aker supposedly wasn’t aware of.

The arrest of Aker over a past due student loan has left many students not only worried, but puzzled. Several news outlets picked up the story and painted a dramatic scene, but there is more to it. In 2007 Aker was sued by the federal government for his unpaid federal student loan debt. Aker failed to appear in court when he was summoned, which ultimately led to his arrest,  because disobeying a court order is a criminal offense.

As far as the forceful arrest is concerned, Aker is a registered gun owner and the Marshals had to handle the situation with care. The Marshals gave a statement about the incident:

“The situation escalated when Aker verbally said to the deputies that he had a gun,” the statement says. “After Aker made the statement that he was armed, in order to protect everyone involved, the deputies requested additional law enforcement assistance. Additional deputy marshals and local law enforcement officers responded to the scene. After approximately two hours, the law enforcement officers convinced Aker to peacefully exit his home, and he was arrested.”

This story has struck a chord with many students and alumni because the cumulative amount of money adults in the U.S. owe due to education is over $1.3 trillion. The average borrower owes $35,000 and 71 percent of all students graduating from four-year colleges have student loan debt, according to the New York Federal Reserve. This number is even higher for private colleges. Many students can barely afford to keep up with interest payments, let alone paying off the principle.

Many students fear taking out a loan because of the recent stigma of not finding a job after college. Junior Robby Seler explained why he is reluctant to take out student loans.

“It’s scary to take out a massive loan on an education that might not pay off,” Seler said.

As of 2014, student loan borrowers who graduated had a default rate of around 11 percent and those who dropped out of school had a default rate of 16.8 percent. A default rate is the rate of borrowers who fail to remain current on their loans.   

Judith Lewis Logue, the Director of Financial Aid at USD, explained how graduates are able to payback their loans on a timely manner.

“The Office of Financial Aid has been providing students with money management tips since 1995,” Logue said. “Students have used their knowledge and skills to keep their indebtedness to a minimum. The average total indebtedness for four-year USD undergraduates who graduated May 2015 was $28,598. That is $1,627 less than the average indebtedness of students who graduated May 2014 ($30,225).”

According to the the Treasury Department, the amount of student loan debt owed to the federal government has increased by 463 percent to $674,580,000,000 in the years since 2008.

Some students who are feeling the financial stress of these loans are taking extreme measures and are leaving the country in the attempt to escape their debt. These particular people have been nicknamed “debt dodgers”. It’s uncertain how long these debt dodgers plan on hiding. It’s inevitable that collection agencies will start to look for them, such as in the case of Paul Aker.

You must repay your loans even if student-borrowers don’t complete their education, can’t find a job related to their program of study, or are unhappy with the education they paid for with the loan.

Student loan debt differs from other forms of debt. Student loans cannot be discharged through bankruptcy such as other forms of consumer debt. A student loan can remain with you for life.  However, your debt can be forgiven if you die. Just make sure you provide a certified copy of the death certificate.