NOTICE: Student Debt Relief is Not a Privilege, It’s an Escape from Society’s Biggest Trap
Student debt relief seems to be all everyone is talking about, but if it doesn’t happen I don’t want to hear about it. You could say student debt is a painful subject for me, but that would be an understatement. I’m barely 21, rushing to get my degree early to ease the tuition blow, and for what? Not only have no plan, but no idea of how to be a self-sufficient adult and have to start paying off massive debt? No, thanks, I’ll pass – or at least I would if I could. I’m currently trying to figure out how to get a real job after graduation.
When I think about starting my life in the “real world”, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of dread. How am I supposed to start my life or move to a new city with my student loan debt threatening me? Am I doomed forever to return to live with my mother? I don’t even know what I’m supposed to do with my major, let alone my future. I mean what good is a political science degree if I don’t go to law school? If I could continue my education, I would, but I would accumulate more loans. Believe me, I’ll be happy to enroll in anything that extends my time in school to postpone the inevitable debt that awaits me in real life.
At this point in my life, it is clear that the education system has failed me. Throughout high school, they urged us to start studying at university. They talked about the best universities and colleges in new and exciting cities. They never talk about paying for it. They don’t say how financially responsible it would be to go to community college. How tons of people get associate’s degrees from local community colleges and get bachelor’s degrees at a fraction of the cost. Instead, they promote reputable universities that your friends’ parents will recognize. They make you believe that without a degree from an overpriced school, you won’t get a good job. Maybe I should give the adults who were in my life at the time a break. When they went to college, a semester cost a few thousand dollars at most. Since then the cost of college has increased by 1.120%.
What I could have used at this time of my life was the hard, cold truth about what debt really means. I could have taken a crash course in how private loan company interest rates can be demeaning and how loans can earn interest you wouldn’t believe. Even a simple lesson in the basics of federal versus private loans or the good and bad interest rates would have been very helpful. They give us sex education because a child will be with you for the rest of your life if you are not safe. Well my loans are now stuck with me for the rest of my life now and I am absolutely unprepared.
With graduation staring me in the face, my mind is clouded with questions and anxieties. I came to Arizona because the weather was nice and it was different. Now I love it here because of how affordable housing is. When I chose university in Arizona, I naively said to myself “maybe after that I’ll move to California”. My loans said goodbye to that dream because it is seemingly impossible to afford the higher cost of living with student debt and an entry-level job.
I, like 44 million other Americans have made the decision to take out student loans. The national debt from student loans alone stands at nearly $ 1.6 trillion. Like everyone who decided to go to college after high school, I felt it was important to continue my education. When I made this decision, I didn’t understand the weight my student loans were going to add when I was trying to start my life. What gives me hope is the possibility of debt relief in the near future. Under the Joe Biden administration, there is talk of forgive up to $ 50,000 in student loans. It would change my life and the lives of millions of other young Americans burdened with loans taken out on a promise they would pay themselves. My optimism is cautious, as similar promises have fallen flat before. Bernie Sanders and his free college gave me real hope, and he didn’t even win primary.
If my bitter rant has proven anything, let it be that we need to better prepare young people for the true meaning of borrowed money. It is a scary reality when the government is your loan shark and you have to find a way to pay them back. Financial education must be introduced because 18 years old is not enough to register for a debt that will follow you all your life.
To follow Lauren on Twitter
Lauren (she / she) graduated in Political Science from Baltimore.