I consider myself someone pretty familiar with the world of higher education.
I have a Bachelors and Masters degree in Psychology.
I worked for 3 years as an academic advisor at Pensacola State College.
I have been a TA/Adjunct at two universities for 8 years now.
Despite all the experience I have as a student, a advisor, and as an instructor I’m still shocked when I hear someone say they are $100,000+ in debt with student loans and don’t have a MD or PhD. I can count at least a few personal friends who took out that much just to pay for a BA or BA/MA combined.
Last week I came across a status on the Feminist Breeders facebook page. Here was her post:
Let’s play the “Do You Owe More In Student Loans Than Me?” Game.
(I love this game. Only in America, I swear.) The person who owes the most amount MORE than I do (and can prove it) gets a free subscription to TFB. If you already have a subscription, you can gift it to a friend.
I owe $127,132.73 so far. Go!
With over 300 comments on the post now I can safely say I don’t understand why anyone would think it’s okay to take out that much loan debt for anything outside of a PhD/MD/JD. For the record, the feminist breeder spent almost $130,000 on a BA in Business and a Masters in Public Health.
A few of my favorite responses:
- From a bankruptcy attorney (oh, the irony) “$210,240.32 for me AND $113,567.70 for my husband so our family owes $323K. It’s a GIANT JOKE. So we pay as little as possible. If no legislation passes then we’ll get the debt forgiven in 25 years.”
- “About $230k, plus $30k of hubby’s. Went into medical school with ZERO debt, not even $50 on a credit card, came out a quarter million deep. Wonder why American health care is so expensive? Also, my school (and most others) raised the tuition 3-5 grand a year and continue to do so like clockwork. Newer grads are in even more debt.”
- “I have 280k from law school. Four years summer sessions etc .. I don’t even make enough to pay them. I can prove it … shamefully.”
Most of the responses from people living from outside the US were (and I’m summarizing) “What the F is wrong with Americas education system?”
I asked my friends if I was being naive/ignorant to think that students should know better when taking out $100,000 for a Bachelors degree in Psychology (with a starting salary around $8-9 an hour.) Most of the responses agreed that it was ludicrous. When I started taking out loans as a Junior I knew it wasn’t ‘free money’ and that I’d have to pay it back. It was always very real to me. I think it’s irresponsible for students to be taking out debt they will never be able to repay. This student loan debt crisis is having a profound economic and cultural impact. Their non-repayment is contributing to our shitty economy, and had they graduated with less debt they’d be able to have more disposable income to spend which would boost our economy. Graduates are so in debt they are delaying marriage and having fewer children (because they are waiting so long to have kids and they can’t afford to have as many.)
So, who’s fault is it? The students for not knowing any better? The educators/advisors for not warning students? The parents for not helping the students make sound financial decisions? The banks/government for setting up students to fail?
Reading through that thread made me feel really, really good about the 21,700 I currently owe. I’m able to pay about 20-30% more than my minimum payment every month and should have it paid off a few years early. I always had at least one job when I was a student (sometimes three) and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with expecting students to work part-time while in school. Learning how to juggle responsibilities is part of life.
Don’t even get me started on how I think the idea of college education as a ‘necessity’ for success in life is a total farce made up to force people to become indentured servants. I can’t stand that mentality that young adults have to find a career that they are passionate about that will bring them satisfaction in life, and they have to decide that before they turn 20. I don’t know a single person who is always happy with their career choice, and who wakes up every single day eagerly awaiting to sit down at their desk for the next 9 hours and doesn’t look at the clock at least every 30 minutes counting down to when they can come home and watch Netflix.
I always tell my students to look for a career that strikes a balance between doing something they are interested in, and something that will pay the bills. You want passion and meaning in life? Find a hobby. Don’t expect your 9 to 5 to do that for you. Unfortunately, many in my generation did and they are miserable at age 30 working in jobs they hate and stuck there since they have to stay employed to pay off their student loan debt.
Are you comfortable with the student loan debt you have?
How do you think this debt crisis could be fixed?