Dealing with Surmounting Student Loan Debt


 Surmounting Student Loan Debt: Support, default and the government’s hopeful help

When I was little I am pretty sure I wanted to be a paleontologist or a marine biologist, not the proud owner of a heap of student loans connected to a profession I never actually worked in. Sound familiar? Probably, since at least 2/3 of us have surmounting student loan debt well over 23k (Whitehouse.gov, 2014), which by the time we actually pay it all off amounts to somewhere around 1 gazillion dollars (I rounded up). Kidding aside, apparently the total student loan debt in the US is right around $1,011,654,459,649 (yobucko.com, 2014). That’s not an international telephone number, sisters. Our solutions for this problem are not to pull a “do over” and reject the idea of higher education- that would leave us even further behind in our bills and skills. We need a solution that is stream-lined and multi-faceted. Any ideas? Anyone?

Surmounting Student Loan Debt

The government is working on it. President Obama set a lofty goal for 2020- to be back on top with the highest proportion of citizens with degrees. That’s fantastic, but daunting if you think about the price tag. Thankfully, the man thinks a few things through and supports the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act, an act that supports loan forgiveness and income-based repayment. According to the White House, “The payment will be reduced by more than $110 per month for a single borrower who earns $30,000 a year and owes $20,000 in college loans, based on 2009 figures.” Additionally, the loans will be straight up forgiven after 20 years, or 10 years for public service peeps.

Surmounting Student Loan Debt

We need to work on it. Thinking of 10% of your income toward your debt may not seem like much if you are unemployed or underemployed but it highlights a topic that we all need to improve our skills in- creating a dang budget. Without it we are vulnerable to falling into default, which damages credit, may garnish wages and keeps us from taking out additional student loans to get further in our careers and educational pursuits. According to yobucko.com, about 27% of us are in a delinquency status– gulp. Before enrolling in school or back in school, take time to look into scholarships, grants, work-study programs and how to make payments while in school to keep yourself out of a future hole aka money pit with no footings. If you are unsure about the status of your loans, check out www.nslds.ed.gov to review your borrowing history.

Surmounting Student Loan Debt

We could also prepare ourselves better. In a past article I talked about the STEM professions- science, technology, engineering and math. These professions tend to pay around 33% higher than others, which makes for an intriguing major with a bit more of an ROI. I am not saying we all need to flood these careers, because let’s be honest, many of us would simply drop out in the first class or quit the first day when presented with a problem involving equations and micro-linear hooseewhatsits. I get sweaty when I have to work in Excel. What we can take from this lesson is to choose careers wisely- don’t just pick philosophy because the topics are interesting. Yeah, they are… and how many current (paid) philosophers do you know? Is your town hiring a local philosopher to help with city planning or general community happiness? Probably not. Cue O*net online– a resource that will tell you more about the career you have questions about. How many people are hiring in this field in my area? What salaries are they making? Find your answers before you take out loans.

At the end of the day, we all build our fancy houses and sparkly jewelry with debt- if we don’t have the cash on hand we are borrowing against our future. It sounds optimistic to be so hopeful about our abilities to pay in a time we know so little about- so that’s nice. I am a fan of rosy colored wayfarers. On the other hand, we need to prepare our futures strategically so that we do not end up in a place similar to Orange is the New Black (aka prison) or a revitalization of the recession. It is important to build a present and a future to your actual means and to your meaningful soul- we do this by lining ourselves up with occupations we are passionate about and knowledge around what that career will likely really bring in for us. If we want to work in education or non-profits, consider obtaining degrees with scholarships, grants, alternative education (like workshops and shared learning) or through mentors until you get your foot in the door and have a better idea of your future output. There is no reason we cannot be all we ever dreamt of being- we just have to get a little more creative and strategic about it. Acting this way will free us from the chains of student debt and allow us to use our educations for what they were intended for- changing the world.

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