The man was wearing a Bucky Badger hat and hiding a plastic Star Wars toy gun in his pocket when he handed the teller at the Summit Credit Union a note. The note demanded $500 and said that he would shoot anyone who tried to follow him to his car. Randall H. Hubatch, 49, of Madison didn’t actually have a car or a gun–not a real one, anyway. What he did have was a six-figure student loan debt and a sense of desperation.
Bucky Badger is the mascot of the University of Wisconsin, and Hubatch works for the university as a custodian on its Madison campus. He’s not a student anymore, just another guy with a bachelor’s degree in English, a law degree…and the crippling debt that goes with those. He is also “slightly autistic” and a diabetic who can no longer afford his medication.
We’ve heard a lot lately about students who graduate with six-figure student loan burdens. They are by no means the majority of students: only 1.5% in 2007-08. Of that 1.5%, however, 36.2% were law school graduates like Hubatch. Medical students are the worst off, with 49% graduating with a debt of $100,00 or more. Usually much more.
As one would expect, the large debts accrue at the most expensive colleges but surprisingly, nearly 3/4 of undergrads with a six-figure loan graduated from non-profit colleges. This is an interesting figure, considering that those institutions comprise only 17% of student enrollment. Middle-class students are more likely to end up with these huge debts, especially if they borrow from private loan programs.
According to American Student Assistance, nearly 12 million students per year borrow money to cover the cost of higher learning. While the current average loan balance is in the neighborhood of $25,000, approximately 167,000 Americans owe over $200,000. The costs of higher education are rising at a rate of around 5% every year with no end in sight. The majority of people who are still paying off their student loans are 30 years old or older. Mr. Hubatch is in the “age 30-50″ category, one of the 42% in that age bracket.
Hubatch was faced with a huge student loan debt, underemployed and ill. He clearly decided that robbing the credit union was his best option…his last resort. He asked for $500, he said, because he thought the institution would not care about an amount that small and “would simply give it to him.”
Hubatch says that he will confess and plead guilty if the prosecutor decides to send him to prison. Why? He knows that–as awful as prison is–it can’t be as terrible as living with a huge school loan debt hanging over his head, and he will be treated for his diabetes there.
When people are willing to choose imprisonment over life under such a yoke, we have a serious problem with our system.
T. Steelman is a life-long Liberal. She has been writing online about politics since 2007. She lives in Western Washington with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and a small herd of alpacas. How can anybody be enlightened? Truth is, after all, so poorly lit…