I was scrolling through Facebook recently
and came across a post by a college that my daughter had been accepted to this
past spring. This school was at the top of her list, but came with an almost
$60,000 price tag per year — and that doesn’t even include housing or taking into account
her two-latte-a-day Starbucks habit.
This particular post caught my eye because
it linked to an article on the perils of student loans, and essentially said
that they were a bad idea and if you couldn’t afford the cost of a college
without borrowing huge sums of money, then maybe you should just take your
backpack and skinny jeans and go somewhere else.
I found this incredibly ironic, since the
school had offered us a mere pittance in grant money (enough for probably two
days of instruction and a pencil) but “awarded” us several loans. Not to
mention the fact that their financial aid presentation at their Accepted
Students event was comprised of mostly information on the many different types
of student loans and how to secure them. “Yes! You can get a loan without your parents help!” the staffer
enthused. I was fully expecting Oprah to appear and start yelling, “And YOU get
a loan! And YOU get a loan!”
Seven out of 10 graduates from the class of 2012 had student loans, with the average amount of debt owed at $29,400.
And it wasn’t just this particular college — every school plugged student loans as a way to entice our daughter to come to
their campus, even though they were clearly out of our price range (and out of
most families’ reach it would appear.) But we’d already heard too many horror
stories; a teacher friend who was nearing 40 said she was still paying off her
loans with no end in sight. Ominous headlines warned about how American
students and their staggering $1
trillion debt were ruining the economy. All repeated the
one sentence I kept hearing over and over: Student debt is forever.
And then last week, this heartbreaking
story about these parents in California, grieving the 2009 death of
their daughter while at the same time struggling to pay off her student loan
debt that exceeds $200,000. The couple, Steve and Darnelle Mason, have tried
everything to get lenders to help them get out from under the mountain of debt
their daughter incurred while studying to become a nurse. They recently launched
a Change.org petition to “allow student loans to be eligible to be discharged
in bankruptcy” and even set up a GoFundMe page to appeal for help.
“The frustration for me is that I can incur
any other kind of debt — I can buy luxuries, I can travel, I can do all kinds
of things — and that debt can be discharged in bankruptcy if I become unable to
pay for it,” Steve Mason said in an interview with TODAY.com. “This debt, where
young people are falling into debt to better themselves to become productive
members of society, can’t be discharged through bankruptcy. It seems like it’s
Change will come slowly if at all, and may be of little relief to those currently looking for ways to pay for college or those in the process of struggling to pay back loans.
In June President Obama proposed a bill
that would give student borrowers the opportunity to cap their loan payments at
10 percent of their income, and also outlined ways to help federal student loan
borrowers who are at risk of defaulting on their loans. But change will come slowly if at all, and may
be of little relief to those currently looking for ways to pay for college or
those in the process of struggling to pay back loans.
cites a study done in December by the Institute for
College Access & Success that says seven out of 10 graduates from the class
of 2012 had student loans, with the average amount of debt owed at $29,400. “The
total amount of student debt is growing basically at a constant rate,” said Wilbert
van der Klaauw, an economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. “The
inflow is much higher than the outflow, which is likely to continue in the
future as reliance on student loans for college is expected to remain high.”
With all the negative information out
there, it was easy for us to decide not to use student loans as a path to
financial aid. In the end we took that school’s advice and took our business
elsewhere — to a school that was a better fit for our daughter and considerably
less expensive — and who ultimately offered her a scholarship that will cover roughly
half of her tuition. We’re determined to help her pay the rest without taking
out any loans so that she’ll emerge from college relatively debt free. If she
can get that Starbucks habit under control, that is.