Student Loans and the Road to Paying Them
I’m going to have a heart to heart with y’all. If you know me, it’s quite difficult for me to share my private affairs, especially when it comes to my student loans. I’ve had friends ask me why I can’t get credit cards. I’ve had people ask why I’m anxious to move from my apartment. And I’ve had co-workers tell me that I should just buy a house rather than pay rent. But all of those things are dependent on one important factor I don’t have the highest scores on: CREDIT.
Let’s just be frank. I paid one of my Department of Education loans last year, a small bill of $4000. I’m on a loan repayment program with the Department of Education for another bill of $11000. And I’m trying to get into a loan repayment program for my private student loans for $48000. All in all I’ve racked up a debt of about $62,000. Just in student loans. My intention was never to NOT PAY them despite what others may think. I was hoping that when I graduated in 2008, I’d jump into the job market and pay them back in an orderly fashion.
Needless to say, that was not the case. Rather, I was unemployed for two years. Well, almost. I was working, but for free. My parents operated a failing business that couldn’t afford staff. So rather than have them call it quits, I helped them keep afloat. But it too fell apart because of the rough economy. By then I was no longer eligible for loan deferments, so I just let them go. I couldn’t fathom how I was going to pay them when I was barely getting by.
I know you’re going to ask how come my loans are so much. I went to a private school for two years and a public university for two years. The bulk of my debt was because of transferring to a private school. I don’t regret attending American University. I loved every moment and every ounce of knowledge I obtained from those walls. In short, students should never regret going to school. Our youth shouldn’t defer school because of the fear of student loan debt. Your education is important and you shouldn’t stop reaching for your dreams.
Now four years after graduating and having a steady job, I’m on the road to paying them. Yes, four years later. My first year at my current place of employment, I wasn’t able to save. And what I did save, I used to repay my parents who helped me move from California to D.C.. My furniture, food, and security deposit were all made possible with their help. In my second year, I saved up to start paying back my government loans. They were the smallest and easiest to tackle. Their repayment officers were understanding of my situation.
So I’m on that road, finally and thankfully. Unfortunately, the damage is done. My credit is shot. My personal allowance minimized to make payments. It’s a rough road, and I know I’m not the only one on it. Its got some potholes, broken trees blocking the road, and a few steep climbs. All I can do is try my best at making it to the finish line and praying that I see an actual finish line. In fact, that’s all that you can do.
People will argue that students need to pay back their loans. The point is, we want to pay them back. It never crossed my mind when I signed that line the thought of, “I’m never paying this back.” But why does education costs so much? Do you know that student loan rates are doubling? Do you know that student loan debt is estimated to exceed $1 trillion dollars? Federal and private student loan debt exceeds U.S. credit card debt. It’s becoming too easy for students to rack more than $150,000 in debt to finish undergrad and graduate degrees. With the lack of money pouring into our education system, we see rising tuition and fees. With the lack of job growth and low employment rates, we see more and more families unable to pay for school. We see students with degrees working for less and barely scraping by. Is this the reality we want to continue living in? It’s not the reality I want my children to be a part of. We need to make education affordable and obtainable. We need to create jobs. And not just any kind of job, but jobs that ensure high-growth and high-wage possibilities.
Let’s face it, the cost of living will only keep going up. It’s time to help us rise. Time to give students a range of greater possibilities when they graduate. Don’t you agree?
‘Til the next time,