San Francisco, CA (PRBuzz.com) November 19, 2012 -- For many dentists, paying off student loans is an endeavor that could be likened to pulling teeth.
Opanin Gyaami is a 71-year-old dentist who reports to the state prison in Vacaville day after day, regardless of the fact he is far beyond retirement age. Gyaami certainly wishes he could hang up his drill, but he continues to pull decaying teeth from inmates in order to pay off his student loans, which place him in his own metaphorical prison.
After having to borrow $50,000 in the 1980s, Gyaami ignored payment notices, causing his loans to rise to over $500,000 in penalties and interest. The Justice Department took Gyaami to court, and seizes $3,000 from his paycheck each month.
The DDS does not expect sympathy, and he admits that it is his own fault by falling behind on his income tax. He acknowledges a series of bad mistakes on his part is a major portion of his current situation.
"I don't want to sound like I'm blaming someone else for my woes," he said. "If you take a loan and don't pay it, you're responsible. It became so overwhelming. I got scared, and it didn't go away."
The student-loan debt in the United States has surpassed $1 trillion, and the record number of loans has fallen to default. Lawmakers at the country's capital are pushing hard to reform to make it easier to discharge debt in bankruptcy.
Most economists worry about the young and underemployed portion of society, however, a growing number of over-60s now owe nearly half-a-trillion in loans. Many of those loans are in default.
"People think they're kids, but I'd say half the people who come here are over 40, and we have a lot over 60 and some over 70," said Elena Ackel, a senior attorney with Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles, which often advises people with student loan debt. "It just doesn't end because of all the fees and everything."
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