Alright, student debt. I’m sure you’ve heard about and/or experienced this problem by now. And it’s an insane one. Somehow, in the last few decades, our society came to the conclusion that charging students in their late teens and early twenties – students who, by and large, have next to no money (often true of their parents, too) – tens of thousands of dollars to get something as critical as education was acceptable.
Never mind that without accessible, quality higher education, a country has zero chance of being economically competitive in the future. Never mind that the, frankly, predatory student loans of today are eventually going to cause an economic crisis all on their own, because there is absolutely no way the $1.2 trillion (trillion!) out in student loans is getting paid back in full, or even in half, ever. Just the idea that it’s OK to charge students tens of thousands of dollars per year so that they can one day (maybe!) contribute to the society that is deliberately making things unreasonably difficult for them is so backwards, it has to rank as one of the most monumental failures of our time. We are jeopardizing our ability to field a competitive workforce, and almost nothing is being done about it.
That’s why StudentDebtCrisis.org is asking for your stories. Two of the people behind the website, Robert Applebaum and Aaron Calafato, who owe $88,000 and $62,000, respectively. They talk about overcoming shame and stigma to share your stories. Apologies for all of the editorializing, but if you’re looking at this and you’re a student or graduate in debt, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re doing what you need to do to be competitive in a world that is only getting more competitive.
Anyway, you can upload a one to two minute video telling your story about your experience with student loan debt. The videos will be collected on the website, and shown as a way to make the $1.2 trillion number a little less abstract.
And, just to start off, here’s mine – I just took out a $10,000 loan to help me go back to school. And I thought almost nothing of it. Why? Because some of my peers are in over $200,000 in debt, from undergraduate and graduate studies. I thought of a $10,000 loan ($10,000!) as something insubstantial, simply because of the colossal debt burden some of my friends have been saddled with just to pursue a career. When $10,000 seems like a trifle, you know something has gone horribly wrong.
If you’re currently struggling with student loan debt, consider applying for an Income-Based Repayment Plan, which can lower monthly payments and offer debt forgiveness after a (long) period of time, if you qualify.