Americans owe $1.23 trillion in student loan debt as of March 2016.
Economists report on how this debt, which particularly maligns young people, is a drain on the American economy, discouraging entrepreneurial pursuits and greatly reducing spending power.
On a human level, unimpeachable loans have resulted in countless squandered dreams, disempowerment, homelessness and even suicide.
Unlike most loans, bankruptcy is not an option -- between collection fees, garnished wages and potential lawsuits, defaulting will land borrowers into deeper financial pits than their initial loans.
The concept of for-profit universities is currently under attack from the left as an example of inhibited capitalism, and the idea of tuition-free college has become a rallying call for Millennials this presidential cycle, first promoted by Bernie Sanders, then later, Hillary Clinton.
Of course, even free college -- an attractive, if not utopian, solution to the issue -- does not solve the issues facing those currently in debt. As a result, certain borrowers have employed unique solutions of their own. Some have sold organs. Some have fled the country. Some have deliberately lost their identities.
Elizabeth Greenwood, who had amassed $100,000 dollars in student loans, took identity loss one step further -- she faked her own death.
Well, not really.
The idea, first floated by a friend, was never an actual consideration, but the concept itself was incredibly fascinating to her.
This led Elizabeth to discover a subculture of people who fake their own deaths and resulted in "PLAYING DEAD," a book based on her research, which includes many anecdotes of people who have tried (and ultimately failed) to do so.
Many did so to escape prosecution. One ran a Ponzi scheme that failed. Though most of the anecdotes are of unsympathetic individuals, Elizabeth points out the majority of women who faked their own deaths did so to escape domestic violence.
These individuals made Elizabeth more comfortable with her own student loans. She realized she values her education, which included an MFA from Columbia University; her loans contributed to the high-quality writing in her book.
She feels fortunate now -- which, of course, she is. Talented Ivy Leaguers aren't exactly the demographic maligned by the issues facing student loans.
Student loans are more a tax on the poor, and -- if her anecdotes are any indication -- not even playing dead will alleviate the problem.
Citations: Boston Globe