Stop whining about your student loans

Posted: July 8, 2013 in education, General Stupidity
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Stop whining about your student loans


So recently congress failed again, nothing new there, and this time the failure was on an agreement to keep student loan interest rates down around the 3% mark and instead they will be at 6.8% for new college loans.  To be clear, Congress’ failure has ZERO effect on any loans that have been previously been awarded.

A small side note, I really don’t agree by the way, with conservatives who claim that the problem with student loan debt is that credit is to easy to come by.   Given any logical analysis to that idea and you’ll realize that making student loans harder to get clearly impacting poor people and the minorities who exist at that level disproportionately.  That means either these conservatives are too stupid to analyze the logical conclusions of their positions, or they clearly want to hurt poor and minority students, I’ll let you make up your mind as to which it is.

So around this news there was the normal flurry of articles about student loan horror stories, how people owe more money than they can possibly pay off and how unfair this all is.  Quite frankly this is a load of horse shit!

Let me back up for a second, I often tell students that before someone can stand up and tell you how things work, you should know why they are qualified to be talking to you about the topic.  So here are my qualifications and quite frankly I have two-hundred thousand of them.  I left college with a total debt of $200,000 and $140,000 of that total was student loan debt.   So I guess what I have is one-hundred and forty thousand qualifications.  How did that happen?  Well there were a number of factors, first, I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family, I was raised by a single mom and then when I went to school my parents did help out a bit.  However I fucked up, turned into a drunk and an addict and failed out of college.  It took some time but I got my shit back together and went back to school, got scholarships, worked, took loans, etc…mom and dad were no longer an option.  I had a second set of problems, I have a lot of ability, I can write, I can do high level math, and I have a lot of interests and my skill set doesn’t help me eliminate very many.  The other part of the equation was that quite frankly I didn’t know what the hell I wanted to do with my life, so I wondered through a lot of majors (14), took 6 years total to finish my BS, then did a masters (2 years), went to law school for a year, and then spent 8 years working on a PhD that I never finished.  So for those of you without good arithmetic skills that is 17 years of college level education.  When you look at it that way, roughly $10K a year really isn’t all that horrible, but it adds up really quickly.

When I finally abandoned the PhD process I took a job making about $40,000 a year and this was in 2002.  Needless to say I did a lot of juggling with my debt, defaulted on some credit cards, maxed out my student load deferrals and eventually entered into credit counseling  and renegotiated my pay off period on my student loans to 30 years.  So I’ll be paying my student loan payments until I’m 72, I have often said you can imagine my loan debt as a house I bought without fire insurance that burned down the next day and I never lived in it.  However, someone once said something to me that made a huge impression on the way I view my student debt, his name was John Rowntree and he was an economist.  What he said to me was don’t worry about that debt, it’s low interest and it’s an investment in yourself and if that’s not something you think is worth investing in, well then you’ve got bigger issues to deal with.  He was 100% accurate, without those loans and the opportunities they provided I wouldn’t be where I am today, making over $100,000 a year, owning a home, and having traveled and experienced more than most of the people I know.  I’ve also paid off the short-term debt, am down to $110,000 in student loans and own a home.

So I’m qualified to talk about this topic and let’s get back to where I started on this little rant, stop whining about your fucking student loans.  Let’s look at the facts, first the average debt in America for all student loan holders is around $24,000, the lowest credible number you will find about the value of a bachelors degree in America is $300,000  although in fact reading through the math of it you can reasonably expect $800,000 more in salary from having a bachelors degree versus not having one.  So even at the lowest number, who wouldn’t take a minimum $260,000 return on investment?  And if you look at the larger figure the average return on investment for student loans at the bachelors level may be as high as $540,000, not bad and the answer to the question of whether or not college is worth it, are you listening Rick Santorum?  This is why Obama wants everyone to go to college.

So of course there are plenty of student loan horror stories out there about people who have way more student loan debt than they can reasonably pay off, this is one of my favorite stories.  This story also illustrates the pathetic level our national media has sunk to when covering anything.  So the story has the picture of a same-sex couple, geeh I guess this piece came out around the time the Supreme Court was deciding on Proposition 8, yes it did.  So let’s pander to the current hot topic, then they tell us how this poor couple has over $380,000 in loan debt and is struggling to get by.  One of the ladies has $80,000 in debt and is an environmental scientist, sure this is a pretty high level of debt and I’m assuming that includes at least a masters degree, the article leaves out any details about their actual degree attainment.  However, the next young woman, Lisa has $300,000 in load debt.  At this moment you are probably thinking what I was at this point, she must be a surgeon or a graduate of Harvard Law.  Oh no, she’s a graduate of a fine institution, the Brooks Institute, one of the best photography schools in the country.  And about Lisa’s debt the story states, “Upon graduation, she discovered she’d never make enough money from photography to pay her loans.”  Really, upon graduation she realized that photographers don’t make $100,000 or more to start?  The deficiency in this story is not the student loan system or the cost of education; it’s about the stupidity of Lisa and her entire support structure.

If you look at the facts, it’s clear that getting a bachelors degree is a good thing, it’s clear that the average student and probably even a poor student, gets a tremendous return on investment for a bachelors degree and even more for a graduate degree!  But common sense has to be in the picture at some level.  It makes sense for someone who is going to become a lawyer or a doctor to take $100,000 in student loans, unless they opt for public service jobs that don’t pay, they will get a decent return on investment for their student loans.  But if you want to do social work in the inner city and know you are going to make $30,000 a year, don’t go to Middlebury College at $57,000 a year and take the maximum in student loans every year to make it work.  Middlebury is a fine college, especially if you’re rich and can afford it or are on a full scholarship but going there to get a job that pays less per year than the college’s tuition is just plain stupid.

At the end of the day it comes down to two things, first, don’t be an idiot and secondly regardless of what your loan level is remember, you decided to take on that debt.  So be an adult, pay your share and shut the fuck up!

  1. Nice piece. I had a similar post about this over on my blog last week. Somehow we have to get more information to students sooner on cost and return of various degrees and careers. But, we are all responsible for our decisions and not everyone is a victim.

    • zdeaconblue says:

      Thanks Craig, the fact is the information is there and available and some of it is just common sense. Not knowing the average salary in your field of study is a 10 second Google search away. I have some sympathy for first generation college students who don’t have a family member to guide them but people have to learn to ask questions.

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