The Dead Weight of Student Loans

Student debt is reaching worrisome heights ($1.2 trillion and counting) — soaring 231 percent over the last decade, far more than mortgage or auto loan debt. Meanwhile, the real wages of recent college graduates are dropping. As a result, young people are living with their parents, delaying marriage, and unable to pursue careers they want but that don’t pay well.

What’s the answer? The best solution would be to make higher education free, as it was in many public universities as late as the 1960s — when we understood that college wasn’t just a private investment but also a public good.

Robert Reich June 10, 2015

After we started living together back in 1987, the Wife quit working for the tire testing company where we met and decided to do more with her life than just keep driving the same tire testing route every day of the week. So she went back to college to finish her bachelor’s degree, switching her major to English because a degree in English could be completed quickly and she could put the fact that she completed college on her resume. With her not working it became too expensive to maintain the household without resorting to taking out student loans. We didn’t think much of it at the time. She finished her classwork as quickly as possible and was back out of college and back to work before we knew it. However, the student loans lingered on for decades. They were a shadow that loomed over all our plans for the future and hampered our ability to get credit when we needed it, costing us money that we could have used for other things that we could have bought outright had they not been a drain on our funds.

We finally settled with the Texas Guaranteed Student Loan Corporation for a lump sum, washing our hands of the whole business. When she went back to college to get her master’s degree, we were both in agreement that we would not make the same mistake a second time. It was tough going, getting her through college and raising a daughter at the same time, but we got through it. We got through it mostly because I worked my ass off drafting for a couple of different architecture firms. Luckily my health held out long enough to pull that off.

The experience of both taking on debt and trying to get an education without accruing debt soured us both on the subject of student loans and higher education from that point forward. I was adamant that the daughter not take out student loans when she went to college and I will do my best to keep the son from doing so as well. Student loans are bad. Just bad, don’t take them. Don’t take them, unless these conditions are met:

  • IF it was possible to have those loans forgiven at some point in the future, or
  • IF they weren’t subject to any interest at all,
  • THEN I might admit that they weren’t an active harm on our children’s future.

Until that time, student loans are one of the worst ideas ever conceived. They cost you money at the time in your young life where money is hard to come by. They influence you to take the first job you are offered rather than shop around for better prospects; because if you don’t take that job, you will have to default/postpone your student loan payments. Most of the time the loan company conveniently loses your requests to postpone and charges you extra for missed payments.

The education system as a whole needs to be restructured. There really isn’t a good reason for tuition to cost what it does now aside from the fact that student loans are easy to get and backed by the government. State universities all across the nation frequently had low or no tuition when they were founded. It’s only been a recent development that tuitions are set where they are, because states have cut funding to their universities.

This is why president Obama was talking about making community college free. Because expecting people to pay for an education discourages them from getting one. We should be making college education free for every in-demand profession. This will encourage people to become doctors or engineers, education paths that are long and currently very expensive.

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