Why Student Loans are NOT Slavery

So, before I say anything, I need you all to understand that I am a bleeding heart liberal. I voted for Obama and I will vote for him again next November. I oppose the death penalty with my whole heart, am pro-choice and opposed to religion being all up in my government. I don’t like guns and I don’t think that everyone should be able to drive to Walmart and get one. I want the wealthy to be taxed the very same percent as the middle class and I cannot understand how anyone is opposed to that.

And as far as I can tell based on what I’ve read, I support the Occupy Wall Street movement. With one exception.

I am a full time graduate student. My husband is a relatively newly graduated doctor. We are basically connoisseurs of student loans. When I finish with grad school in May, between the two of us we’ll just a hair shy of $500,000 in debt for our educations. That is no chump change. And though my husband has good earning potential (not as great as you think), I will probably never exceed $65,000 a year no matter how long I work.

And so it is from this perspective that I whole heartedly disagree with the protesters who are trying to get the government to forgive student loans. And ESPECIALLY the ones who are comparing it to slavery. Student loans are NOT slavery. And not only is it moderately offensive to say that, it’s also just stupid.

student debt

Before I go any further, I need to acknowledge that I understand that there are many new graduates who cannot find a job and I do wholeheartedly believe that there absolutely need to be better ways to defer loans for those are unemployed. Forbearance is not a reasonable option in this economy and so for those struggling to pay their loans back while unemployed, my heart goes out to you. But other than that, I cannot feel sorry for people with student loan debt. You are not slaves. You chose your school and it was no secret what the cost would be.

I don’t expect every student to be able to get scholarships or hold a full time job, that’s unrealistic. But it’s not unrealistic to expect students to pay back the money they borrow for their education. That’s called being a grown up. You make promises, you keep them. You say you’re going to do something, you do it. This is not slavery, this is adulthood. Suck it up and deal. No one expects you to enjoy giving away a chunk of your income, but you don’t get to go to college for free because you don’t want to pay back your loans.

I abhor the idea of paying back loans for the next 20+ years, I hate that we won’t be able to own a house for quite some time because our student loan payments will be prohibitively high. But I knew that when I chose my graduate program. I knew it was more expensive than other programs, I knew it was a serious financial commitment and I plan to stick by it. I made a choice and though following through with it sucks, I’m going to do it anyway. Life is a series of choices and it’s time to take responsibility for them.

I can only hope that more students, including my fellow bleeding heart liberals, can grow up and do the same. No one’s asking you to like it, but for the love of God, stop comparing it to an institution that forced a race of people into manual labor against their wills. You should know it’s not the same.

Or maybe we should be talking to your schools about teaching American history a little more thoroughly.

Picture: CNN iReport

62 Responses to “Why Student Loans are NOT Slavery”

  • I one hundred percent agree with everything you say!!!!!! Though the rules on private loans could be a little more monitored, I know we have a much better life than we would if we didndt have these loans!

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  • kakaty:

    Nothing to add other than yes. Just yes.

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  • I agree with you BUT American colleges and universities seem to charge way more than up here. My 2 year nursing program will not exceed 13000-14000 for tuition. Completely doable as far as payback goes. A 4 year degree program would probably run less than $30000-$40000 (for RN). I don’t think a half a million bucks between a couple is fair. I mean, how long are you two in school for? At my rates, you’ll be in for 20 years EACH!
    I just think you’re getting hosed, that’s all.

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    Katie Reply:

    He did 4 years of medical school, I’m doing 3 years of graduate work. 7 years total. To be fair, we picked pretty much the most expensive programs (for really good reasons), but still. We made the decisions knowingly, perhaps foolishly, but we’re not surprised by our debt.

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    Karen Sugarpants Reply:

    @Katie, that is a lot of money for the schools to be charging. as long as you’re happy in the end is all that matters, but I still think it’s overpriced.

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    Katie Reply:

    @Karen Sugarpants, I’m totally not disagreeing with that. It’s absurd. We just did it to ourselves, so there’s no one to be mad at but us.

  • Amen. To all of that.

    I chose to go to graduate school, which is why I have student loan debt. Thankfully, when I start the doctoral program next year, the school will pick up the tab and pay me a modest stipend. Color me crazy, even though I’ll have deferments in place, I will be working on paying off those loans, with the goal of having them paid off before I defend my dissertation.

    Student loans are not a necessity, they are an option. We should pay them off.

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  • Erin:

    Ok, I am 100% with you. It’s completely and totally NOT slavery. Anyone who makes that comparison is, as you said, making a dumb and pretty offensive statement.

    However, while I also agree that all of us chose our schools and need to pay the piper, I also think that the cost of education, even at state schools, has become prohibitively high. I’m not talking graduate programs here (though I could write an epic on how much I think law school tuitions are outrageous), but more for undergraduates. I chose to go above and beyond my undergraduate education, but it seems to me that a bachelor’s degree has become what the high school diploma used to be, i.e. you need one to get the vast majority of entry-level jobs. If a student’s parents can’t afford to help, they’re left to borrow the vast majority of that cost. Of course there are ways to manage that, such as doing prereqs at a community college, working, etc, but at the end of the day it’s a lot of money.

    Now, that said, I still think that sign and sentiment are dumb. But I do think we should be having a conversation about the rate at which tuition inflation is occurring, and whether it’s really feasible for students. Because, among other things, if the younger generations get ourselves into situations where we can’t afford to buy houses for quite some time, it’ll be even longer until the economy recovers.

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    Katie Reply:

    I’m not disagreeing with you at all. The cost has gotten quite high. My own undergraduate education would be an additional 20k a year if I went now. I was blessed with scholarships to cover a substantial portion of my education, but those would barely make a dent these days.

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    Erin Reply:

    @Katie, I also had scholarships for my undergrad program, which made it cheaper than in-state tuition. I was also lucky that my parents helped pay for the rest. All my debt is graduate level, though having gone to law school, it’s more than enough. I thank my lucky stars for IBR for these first couple years until we get fully on our feet. Of course, if both my husband and I were employed, our debt would be manageable. And now we’re full circle again, haha.

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    Katie Reply:

    Ha, see my husband IS employed, granted he’s a resident, and he’s in forbearance because his student loan payments are so large that we cannot pay rent and pay loans. It’s an awful place to be, we feel so entirely irresponsible. But the government (under George W. Bush) got rid of the economic hardship deferral for medical residents, so there’s no other choice at this point. It sucks a little harder since we went into his medical school thinking that he’d be able to defer his loans until he finished residency, only to have that rug pulled out from underneath us. So far we’re surviving, but forbearance is a little disconcerting to me.

    Erin Reply:

    @Erin, The hubs is employed in our situation, but sadly I am not as of yet. It wouldn’t be so bad if we didn’t have TWO law school educations to pay back on one salary. But, I’m very very grateful that there are options available to us, like income-based repayment that will keep us out of forbearance and give me a chance to add a second income to the mix. We’re also VERY lucky that the hubs’ job qualifies him for federal service/nonprofit forgiveness after 10 years. So, while it’s no picnic right now, we’re managing and realize that we’re extremely lucky (and thus I try not to complain, but let’s be real, complaining is my favorite thing ever).

    And dude. That really sucks re: economic deferrals for residents. I had no idea that had happened, and it seems really unfair. It seems like the least we could do for the people who are paying an arm and a leg to learn to fix our bodies is let them breathe a little easier during their almost non-earning residency years. Glad you guys are hanging in right now.

  • WHY ARE YOU IN MY HEAD???

    I didn’t want to go too deeply into debt for my undergraduate studies, so I chose a moderately priced in-state school. I supplemented with classes at a local community college where I could afford to pay cash for the tuition my scholarships didn’t cover. All in all, I took out a little over $6000 in student loans over three years that have since been paid off. I may be a part of the 99%, but dammit, I sure don’t think like most of them.

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  • Thank you for this. I have been flabbergasted by the people calling for student loan forgiveness. I went to community college for my first two years and to a state school to complete my bachelors. Why? Not because they offered the very best programs but because that was what I could afford. Period. I CHOSE not to go to an expensive private school. Of course I would love to have one of those prestigious names on the diploma hanging on my wall. My grades were good enough to have gotten me in to somewhere decent but not good enough for academic scholarships. It was a necessary decision. I opted not to begin my professional life in debt. No one forced them to get a writing degree from Johns Hopkins. (I actually know a girl who did this. 100k in debt for a WRITING degree. Insanity) Calling student loans slavery is just plain ridiculous.

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  • Kel:

    I actually had someone who came into my work say,”well, I paid 200k for my education so I should make at least 200k; otherwise my education is wasted….just 6 wasted years of my life”. I thought how arrogant and ignorant of this person (she is just out of school by 2 yrs).

    I am still trying to finish a 2 yr degree along with applying to med programs and working full time. Of course, my kids have some to do with me still working on my school at 31 but so has cost and limited funds to pay for me to do so, I would take them on to achieve my goals. Loans will almost definitely be a factor in my schooling, especially if I get accepted to the med programs.

    Thank you for this.

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  • Lauren:

    The way I see it, the conversation about student loans is a part of a much bigger discussion about how freaking hard it is to get any sort of toehold as a young person in this economy — you’re right in that everybody makes choices, but it’s incredibly discouraging to feel as though you’ve made the “right” choices in terms of getting educated and choosing a career, but to still somehow be barely getting by (between student loans, astronomical out of pocket medical costs, and on, and on, and on).

    Don’t get me wrong, I knew what I was doing when I took out loans (getting a post-secondary education loan-free wasn’t an option for me, unfortunately), and I accept that it’s my responsibility to pay them back. That said, it seems like there needs to be systemic change in terms of tuition hike limits, reasonable loan interest rates, the fact that much student loan debt doesn’t go away even after you die (it seems like having, say, a 20 year cap on loan repayment isn’t out of the question), etc, etc. Otherwise, I can’t imagine how things will look in 16+ years, when the babies I know are headed off to school. I also think we can do more to make sure that 18-year-olds understand exactly what signing a loan note at the start of freshman year will entail once they’ve graduated.

    (And nothing but actual slavery is slavery. Using the word in other contexts is incredibly off putting, and does nothing to foster actual conversation.)

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    Erin Reply:

    @Lauren, This.

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  • Just wanted to say thank you, I chose to go to a private college to get a BFA in woodworking and furniture design and my loans are over 100k for just a 4 year program. I chose this though and am aware of the consequences (paying off the loans).

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  • Interesting topic and one I have been thinking a lot about recently as I have recently quit my job as an attorney in private practice. I just quit this job, but I have been wanting to quit for about 3 years, but it’s taken me about that long to find another career path which has comparable earning potential. Despite being desperately unhappy in my work, I didn’t want to take a huge pay cut in part because I am trying to manage a lot of student loan debt. To be sure, student loan debt is not slavery, but I say it is kind of like endentured servitude. While I certainly take responsibility for my choices, I also resented being trapped by this debt. I think admissions and financial aid counselors could do a little better about educating prospective students about what student loan debt will really mean for the lives of students after they graduate. I feel like I’m paying a high price for the ignorance and idealism that fueled my willingness to undertake so much debt, and that price is not just in dollars, but in the spirtual compromises I’ve made doing work that I found abhorent.

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    Katie Reply:

    I don’t disagree with the bit about admissions needing to educate students more, but I totally disagree with student loans being indentured servitude. Not in the slightest. If student loans are indentured servitude, then so is paying off your credit card bill and paying for your gas bill. Student loans are an expense we choose to undertake that we have to pay off later. They do not chain us to bad work situations. I am truly sorry you felt stuck in that job for so long, but you were not forced to work there. You could’ve taken a pay cut and done something more soul soothing much sooner if that’s truly what you wanted. There are ways to make ends meet with less money, though those options just tend not to be appealing.

    It’s not that I don’t feel for your situation and for how hard that was for you, because I do. I was stuck in a job for 3 year and I hated it tremendously, but it was what I had to do at the time. But I just think it’s entirely historically irreverent to compare student loan debt to institutions like slavery and indentured servitude.

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    Jamie Reply:

    Ever read the Guy de Maupassant story, “The Necklace”? Here’s the short version…a vain social climber is married to a petty bureaucrat. He wrangles an invitation to a glamorous ball at which she can rub shoulders with all the beautiful and important people. She’s delighted only momentarially, until she recalls that she has no gown befitting such an occassion. Her husband scrounges together the money she needs for a beatiful new dress, and still she is not satisfied, as now she recognizes she has no jewelry to go with her dress. Her husband suggests she borrow something from a well-to-do friend, so she goes to her friend and selects the most elaborate diamond necklace in her collection. They go the ball and have a glorious evening, but as they enter the car to go home, she realizes the necklace is gone. Rather than admit to her friend that the necklace has been lost, they borrow every penny they can, burdening themselves with an unthinkable amount of debt, and they buy a replacement, which is returned to the friend. For decades, they work tirelessly to repay their debt. Then one day, the social climber, who is now old and weary from over-work, meets her old friend in the street. Her friend is shocked by how changed she is and feels pity. But the social climber feels pride and tells her friend the truth of how she lost the necklace but has worked to repay the cost of the replacement. The friend is horrified and tells her, “But my dear, the necklace was a fake!”

    Short story long, that’s how I feel about my law degree. It was a mistake, a vainglorious pursuit which I thought was an “investment” but it turns out it was the most disastrous thing I’ve ever done, financially or otherwise. I’m still paying, and will continue to pay, but I’m paying for something that turned out to be fake, to me at least. I appreciate your suggestion that I could have quit my job sooner; why didn’t I think of that? I did, certainly, and if it were just myself who had to bear the consequences, I might have. Or I might have killed myself. But I am a wife and a mom, and sometimes the grown up thing to do is to be patient, weather the storm, and have faith that things will get better.

    And the thing about student loans being like credit cards…I kind of disagree with that comparsion. Most debts can be negotiated down or discharged in bankruptcy, but with student loans, not so much. Also, if you buy something with a credit card and then wise up and figure out that it doesn’t fit or you can’t really afford it, you might be able to return it. No such luck with your degree. If my student loan debt would be forgiven, I’d gladly return my law degree to the registrar! I’d even take the J.D. off my resume and we could all pretend like this never happened!

    I appreciate the dignity and romance of your perspective now, but I’d like to hear from you about this when you are experiencing the full weight and burden of that $500,000 debt load, while trying to manage even a modest household. What makes me really sad now is that every dollar I’m paying toward my student loan debt is a dollar I can’t save for my son’s education. I hope we can somehow get him through college one day without saddling him with crippling debt.

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    Katie Reply:

    @Jamie, Then wait 7 months. Because that’s exactly what’s going to happen. My husband’s current income is extremely minimal, we’re having a baby and I have to get a job. I have no grace period. If you think I’m not worried, if you think we won’t struggle, you are mistaken. We are scared shitless. I’m going to have to find a job that pays me well enough but also lets me see my child. I will likely end up with a job I don’t really want in the short term to get to where we need to be in the long term. I’m not looking forward to it, but it kind of is what it is, unfortunately.

    I too have a degree that I got that proved to be a waste of my time and money. Granted it was a one year deal, but going down the wrong path necessitated me doing 3 years of night classes to go into what I really wanted, which was 3 more years of school. I do understand being in a job you hate because you thought you’d love it. I struggled with it too. I just still can’t make it indentured servitude. A heaping pile of suck? Yes. Absolutely. But there are still other choices that could be made.

  • Sue G:

    I agree with everything you said except I am NOT voting for Obama again in the next election. However, with the idiots they do have running in the Republican race leads me to believe I won’t be voting at all.

    So it’s come down to this: I wait my whole life to be able to vote only to be offered candidates that are not vote worthy (and, yes, I know you like Obama, but I find the man dangerous–wish I had seen this before the first election). I refuse to vote for the lessor of two evils. I did that with Jimmy Carter and look what that got us!

    Okay, hurt me know. :-)

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    Katie Reply:

    This made me laugh out loud. You’re going to have to explain how Obama is dangerous, except maybe that he dreams too big. Because with this congress and the way our country is right now, there is no more impotent man than Barack Obama. It pains me to say it, but he can’t really do anything. He’s a captive in his own government.

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  • I don’t know how I feel about this. I don’t agree with carte blanche student loan forgiveness, but I am also not in favor of using one person’s example as an idea of how everyone should handle something. We all make choices, yes, but I personally—and quite strongly—-believe that the student loan industry is becoming as predatory as the home loan industry was before the bubble burst.

    Before you think I’m privileged, please understand that I went to a private school and paid for it mostly myself through work, loans and scholarships. I grew up poor. Period.

    We are in an education bubble. A big one, and I can’t see any other way to look at it. And, I firmly believe that the free availability of loans has been one of the biggest contributors to the outrageous rising costs of education. So yes, the student loan industry needs to be reeled in mightily, because the fact remains that not everyone should go to college, and not everyone should put themselves in debt to do so. It’s a false pretense of ROI.

    I understand the concept of comparing it to slavery, only because for some, they are working purely to pay off their student loans for an education they were led to believe they had to have, and were given a ton of money to pay for an education that is essentially useless, as they now barely have the means to pay back because the economy is a piece of shit. I think if I were in that position, that’s a little of what that would feel like.

    Like the housing industry, there are people who made the right choices and are still stuck in a tough spot because of a broken system. Also, that student loan debt cannot be discharged in bankruptcy is a serious issue that needs to be changed. Period.

    I think asking for forgiveness is a bold, symbolic statement not meant to be taken seriously, but will, I hope, be the start of a conversation that will lead to more realistic changes to the system.

    As for those talking about the affordability of state schools, when was the last time you looked at tuition? The piece of shit no-name state school up the street from my house is $17K a year. That’s not affordable for people in this economy, and it’s a crappy education that will likely get you nowhere. It’s easy to look at ourselves and say that we made all the right choices and therefore others should be able to do the same, but that’s not how it works.

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    kakaty Reply:

    @jonniker, As you know, I agree with you that we are in an education bubble and that the idea that everyone should go to college is bogus. However, I can’t at all agree with the student loan = slavery statement, even as a symbolic effort. It’s akin to calling a disliked political figure Hitler and (to me) basically invalidates any argument you’re trying to make.

    And I also think there are many people my age (early 30s) who just… kept going to school because they didn’t know what else to do. Not necessarily because they thought they’d make more money but because they were dissatisfied with working a 9-5. I have more than a few friends from undergrad who were well on their way to their PhD before they realized that it was a total waste of money in their field. All but one finally gave up on their 20-year-old self’s “dream” field of work to pursue more practical occupations and are doing fine.

    However, this post and the responses have sparked another thought: while I agree with the Occupy Wall Street movement at its core, I do not agree with many of the tactics they employ. Perhaps it’s a generational thing as most of the people I see doing the occupying are about 10 years younger than me. But, thus far, while I agree with their message I don’t support how they are spreading it. The photo above being one of many that have made me cringe.

    *Disclaimer – I paid for in-state, state college via becoming a working student and taking student loans (which I am not likely to pay off before I’m 40). In the 4 years (+1 semester) I was there I racked up about $23,000 in US Department of Education loan debt. I would benefit greatly from forgiveness and yet I think it’s a bad idea.

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    Katie Reply:

    @jonniker, I don’t disagree with the need for changes, in fact, I whole heartedly agree that we need them desperately. I think that there needs to be great reform to slow down tuition hikes, I think we need to get rid of the, if you die it still exists nonsense. I think we need to change so very many things about the student loan industry that I’m not even sure that there are parts worth keeping anymore. I am in no way saying that student debt is perfect.

    But what I don’t understand is this: “…they are working purely to pay off their student loans for an education they were led to believe they had to have…” I guess I just don’t understand why you go to college if not to get a job. I have a hard time being sympathetic for those who have to get a job to pay their loans since that’s exactly what the point of getting an education is, at least to me.

    But moreover, my issue is that taking out student loans remains a choice. Maybe there aren’t a lot of choices if you want to go to college besides loans, but it’s still a choice. Slavery? was NEVER a choice. Maybe I’m arguing semantics, but I am totally fine with that, because this is a big issue to me. I agree that student loans 100% completely suck, I agree that this economy makes them even shittier to manage, but it was still a decision that was made. It wasn’t something they were forced into, these students are not owned by other people and force into labor and tortured at will, and to me that is the key difference. That’s what makes student loans a giant pain in the ass, but NOT slavery.

    I’m not trying to say that I think student loans are good. They are simply not slavery.

    And please know that I don’t think that I made the right decisions along the way. I got a degree in History, a teaching credential only to realize that I HATED teaching. And I went to a tiny private college that cost a small fortune for both. I then chose the most expensive graduate program in the country. Frankly, if you look at my track record, I made ALL the wrong decisions and I have 250k in loans to show for it. I could’ve gone to cheaper schools all the way through and probably my life would be al to easier. But now it’s up to me to manage my mistakes. I’m not happy with it and I do not know exactly how we’ll do it, but we’ll find a way because we have to.

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    jonniker Reply:

    @Katie, @kakaty I don’t think we entirely disagree here. I don’t think the slavery comment is the most awesomely accurate thing in the world, but I also don’t tend to get het up about semantics like that, mostly because I think so many of these words have been absorbed into our culture as more mild references than what they initially stood for. I say that not to dismiss slavery in the civil war sense, but remember, slavery is also a word in itself that has nothing to do with that part of history.

    That being said, I don’t like hearing people’s personal stories of success here, only because I think it’s easy for all of us—me included, and I have paid ALL my loans off by working my ass off, make no mistake, and as of this moment, my loan amount is a whopping ZERO—to talk up our own experiences as though that should be the blueprint. “Well, If *I* can do it, so can you! *My* situation blows, ergo YOU should deal with it!” Eh, I just think everyone is different, so I’m not going to judge people’s choices/decisions and think they should be able to accomplish the same things I did.

    I do not think student loan debt should be forgiven. I do not think that will remotely stimulate the economy. I think the notion here is tremendously misguided, and being driven by the median age of those in the OWS movement. Student loans ARE their biggest issue, because they are . . . just out of school. I think they’re missing the boat here, because seriously, if you forgive all of their loans, WHAT, exactly IS that going to do to the economy? Uhhhh. Not much. It won’t stimulate jobs or consumer spending or pretty much anything, because these kids don’t have jobs anyway. If they did, they wouldn’t be bitching about their student loans. Housing stimulation and loan mods? Yes, that helped. But forgiving student loans? Not so much.

    I feel very, very strongly that loans should be discharged in bankruptcy, though. VERY strongly. It’s disgusting that it can’t be. It’s disgusting to me that you, Katie, would be on the hook for $500K in loans if you were forced into bankruptcy because of a medical emergency. That’s . . . not okay. NO OTHER DEBT is held to the same standard. None.

    However, to answer your question about why kids go to school if not to get jobs . . . well, they DO go to college to get a job, it’s just that there aren’t any to be had. I don’t think the vast majority of people go to college thinking they’ll just stay there—I tend to think those people are outliers. But I think the way our government (yes, our government, just like they did with housing) has made education in one very specific form (college) accessible to everyone (with massive loans themselves, and with the permission for others to give out massive loans) a high priority, we’re missing the boat. So yes, what’s happening is that people—these kids—are discovering that the education that they were raised to believe they had to have, is pretty much useless. But that’s a cultural issue as much as anything.

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    Katie Reply:

    @jonniker, My comment about jobs wasn’t presuming that there are jobs to be had because I totally know that there aren’t. I just more meant, I don’t feel sorry for kids who are forced to work after college to pay their loans since that’s kind of the point of the education.

    I had a similar revelation after college. A degree in history is entirely freaking worthless. I’m not sure how no one along the line stopped me, but I graduated with a degree that let me be a teacher, and I couldn’t even find a job teaching history.

    I think we do agree on the vast majority of this. I am just caught up in the semantics because it sounds SO dramatic. I know many are struggling, but I think that a little perspective for some wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    Erin Reply:

    @jonniker, I disagree with your assertion that if those of us pissed off about loans were employed, we wouldn’t be bitching. Maybe that’s true for those of us with just undergraduate loans, but my classmates at my law school and I? Even with high-paying jobs, it’s a huge sacrifice to pay off those loans. I accept that I have to do it and that, because of my husband’s job, we’re able to do so without starving. But I really do take issue with the idea that only people who don’t have jobs are upset or struggling to manage their debt.

    And re: the other lawyer further up -given that she’s a few years older than I am, she didn’t have the same option to enter IBR that I do. I completely understand what she’s saying about indentured servitude, though I’d use different words to describe it. Yes, I went to law school to be a lawyer, not to be rich. And at the end of the day, I still like my chosen profession. But I do feel a huge amount of pressure to find a job that pays extremely well or will qualify me for loan forgiveness (two different sides of the coin, obviously). If I don’t, I can’t see how we’ll ever be able to retire or buy a home. That’s an awful lot of pressure, and in law, changing from one firm to another won’t alleviate much of the stress that comes with the territory of practicing. And unfortunately, like most other specialized professionals, we’re not qualified to do much else but practice.

    jonniker Reply:

    HAA, oh Erin, doll, I feel you. I do. But I guess what I meant was that this loan thing wouldn’t be such a HIGH PRIORITY if they had jobs to help them pay them off. Or you know, were appropriately employed rather than underemployed, and if all the reforms I’m asking for were in place. And believe me, I don’t think that people who have jobs AREN’T struggling to manage their debt at all. I think answering pieces of this in tiny chunks is hard to get the whole picture of how any of us feel, because I don’t think that represents my feelings at all. I think it’s easy for all of us to take this personally, when I think my biggest point here is that there are SO MANY FLAVORS of student debt and its repercussions, all of them valid.

    I can’t even talk about law school without hostility either. I think law schools are bordering on the criminal side, still admitting kids year after year when there are no legal jobs available to pay off that debt. My sister is a lawyer—a CAREER COUNSELOR at a law school that rhymes with Shmarvard, in fact—and she deals with alumni (OF SHMARVARD!) who can’t get jobs EVERY DAY.

  • Danielle:

    I am in a 4-year nursing program at the second least expensive public four-year university in my state, but somehow my loans rival my mortgage. It’s scary, especially considering how bad the job market is around here, but I certainly wouldn’t equate it to slavery. I knew I would be racking up the debt when I started school up here, but my degree is more marketable as a bachelors rather than an associates I could have got from a community college. When I graduate, I’m hoping to get a job as soon as possible and throw all of my RN pay at my loans–my husband and I will continue to budget as if we were living on just his salary. Lord only knows if this will actually go according to plan though.

    [Reply]

  • I couldn’t agree more with this post…..and my husband and I have over $300,000 in student loan debt. While there are parts of that amount that make me SO angry, I signed the papers. I don’t think my law school gave me accurate data representing the graduate employment rate (turns out they factor in ANY kind of employment, so if someone graduates from law school and is a yoga instructor….they count it) and I don’t think they did a great job of painting the job market to us. That said, it is/was my responsibility to seek out information before signing the forms, and they are my loans. I certainly wish there was a better repayment plan system- my salary just doesn’t cover what they want me to pay….but they are my loans and I have every intention of paying them back. It will just take me about 40 years…give or take.

    [Reply]

  • I graduated from college 20 years ago and student loans were pretty much the same thing then. The economy was only slightly better since it was in between bubbles. Sadly many of today’s generation (and the upcoming ones) have a massive sense of entitlement and a total lack of accountability and responsibility for their decisions. Yes it stinks to have to pay back massive loans when you can’t find a job with an income that covers your debt. It is most definitely NOT slavery or even indentured servanthood as someone else suggested.

    Part of the problem is that many students nowadays are graduating not only with student loan debt but lifestyle debt. That wasn’t happening when I was in school. We didn’t get credit cards with huge limits (heck we didn’t get credit cards at all) or buy new cars, have all the latest gadgets and gizmos, etc. while we were in school either. Many students are working and going to school at the same time but many are not. Parents are treating college as an extension of high school and not as a time for their kid to start learning how to live as an independant adult.

    The economy is unpredictable. Always has been, always will. Jobs are not guaranteed no matter what you major in, what school you go to, or who you know. Can certain things make it easier to find a job once you’ve graduated? Yes. Can you take any job that pays you while searching for the perfect job? Yes. Paying off debt you chose to accumulate is part of being an adult. It most definitely is the stinky part. Having your student loan won’t find you a job. It won’t teach you to live on a budget or to modify your lifestyle. It won’t teach you to be accountable and responsible for your decisions.

    [Reply]

    jonniker Reply:

    @Elizabeth, Loans are worse now then they were then. That is a fact. FAR worse. Students are granted much more borrowing power than they were when we were in school, and that’s for tuition/fee loans, not consumer debt. (Ironically, fewer kids are graduating with consumer debt and lifestyle debt, because frankly, they can’t get the credit. I know this, because I did a shitload of consulting in the credit card industry specifically related to students recently.)

    Some schools are raising tuition by almost 50% EVERY YEAR. It’s . . . different. I went to a private school that is now five times what it cost me to attend in 1994. FIVE TIMES. It’s not the way it was then. Not entirely. It isn’t.

    I’m not excusing the entitlement of these yahoos, but what I’m trying to get across here is that despite the general whininess of this generation, student loans are an issue that DOES need to be addressed/fixed. They’re predatory, and with for-profit schools sticking people—not just kids—in the ass, over and over again, particularly with the online revolution in education, something needs to be done. Education costs need to be reformed. The loose availability of loans needs to be reeled in.

    I make that point separate from the issue of these kids begging for loan forgiveness. But with the strain many of them are probably under combined with their lack of perspective, I can’t say I’m surprised they’re asking for it.

    [Reply]

  • I wholeheartedly agree with you. I took on 2 courses of student loans for both of my degrees willingly and fully expecting to repay the debt- which I did, even going overseas for a better chance to pay the first one back within 5 years. I also worked 2 jobs while studying full time for my first degree, and totally full time for my second degree while taking a full course load.

    In our province (in Canada) years ago a lot of students were just ditching out on their loans because there were no lasting repercussions (now there are, thank goodness)- which used to totally torque me. I worked my hynie off to get them paid in 5 years and worked multiple jobs to do that. So, no, I don’t support having to pay for someone else’s life choices.

    These were my decisions, and I would never think of asking someone to shoulder the responsibility. I see neither would you- it’s awesome that there are other responsible people in the world, sometimes I wonder….

    Thanks for the thought-provoking post, you are awesome.

    [Reply]

  • I found your blog via babble, as my hubby and I are trying to conceive(and I also suffer from severe emetophobia). I am a doctor myself(optometrist) with over $200k in loans. I make less than half of this in my yearly income. I knew going into it that I would have a considerable debt(there are no state schools for optometry where I lived, so it was either private or out of state tuition). My husband works at an electronic store. We are not rolling in money by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t expect the government to forgive my debt. I incurred it to become what I am today, and once we pay this debt off, we will have a nice income and a nice life(if we ever pay it off…but I digress). What I wish is that interest on student loans was tax deductible.

    My student loan payment is over $2000/month, of which more than half is interest. I feel that I should be taxed at the rate of income AFTER my student loan interest is paid(just like I can do with my mortgage interest) because without said student loan, I wouldn’t be make anywhere *NEAR* what I make now. We will pay more in student loan payments this year than my hubby will make at his job.

    [Reply]

  • winoceros:

    Good call here. As to the outrageous loans due, they are outrageously lent, because they are subsidized. If private banks had to loan the money, less would be lent. The tuition would not be as expensive, because the tuition is always, always raised to match the money available to cover it.

    Obama is right now, as we speak, trying to increase the Pell Grants and loan availability. It looks great when we are students. But most of the information we are exposed to, with the exception of discoveries, new research, etc. was available dozens of years ago, and good educations were gotten by other people at inflation-adjusted lower rates.

    Everything that receives a subsidy…everything…goes up in price. Health care treatments, food, fuel, it doesn’t matter. Education is the same.

    Do not support subsidies for grants and loans. Those who are poor will qualify for scholarships from institutions themselves. There is no need for the government to open up the money tree, because the waiting baskets underneath are the schools themselves. You are just the air they are passing through to get that money.

    Ask yourself: what is the endowment at my alma mater?

    Good comments by everyone. Enjoyed your site.

    [Reply]

  • Esoteric Knowledge:

    Telling people to “Grow up.” is a thought-terminating cliche. Obviously you are indoctrinated. Tell me what is the difference between a slave owner who provides housing and food for their slave, and someone in suburbia who is given the money to buy food and housing? Of course you can move and sell your labor in another place, but what’s the difference?…a softer bed? Please don’t be rude telling people they need to read some American history, since this is clearly your pychological projection. You are a debt slave, perfect to keep you busy working 80 hours a week for the rest of your life so you never have free time to question what truely is happening to you. The system is designed to feed off the ignorant youth like a food, and if their lives are destroyed–after their vital juices are drained, and the schools and banks are fat with money–they will be discarded and dismissed with words like “lazy” or “grow up”, homelessness and finally death in the streets. That is the system you are in. Believe any psychotic story you want that your wealth affords you about how you are bleeding heart liberal while you spit on the peasants from your white tower. You can not dream of out-debating me in your life time. I’m sure you and your doctor husband will enjoy lives of being a good little company boy and company girl and never face the blind luck of losing your jobs and becoming homeless, and never develop sympathy for those homeless people or develop the understanding that there is little difference between you and them. Shout “Grow Up!” while you pass by, won’t you.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    Ahahahahahahahahahahahahaha.

    I literally cannot stop laughing. I’ve been trying, but no, I’m still laughing.

    My favorite line was, “Believe any psychotic story you want that your wealth affords you about how you are bleeding heart liberal while you spit on the peasants from your white tower.” My wealth. Ahahahahahahahahahaha. Hilarious. I’m going to save this comment for whenever I’m having a bad day and then I’m going to read it, just to lift my spirits. Thank you a million times over for this laugh.

    [Reply]

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    Laugh away transparently frightened demon, your mask will not fool me.

    [Reply]

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    I know about pathologically lying psychologically manipulative psychopaths too.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    I’m sorry, I forgot to add that’s my opinion.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    I mean the demon part, that’s my opinion. I loose the patience for proof reading when someone is laughing at me, I get upset. And, you are probably not frightened.

    Katie Reply:

    Loose means to make something less tight. Lose means to stop having. Just for clarification.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    This is probably a good time to explain to other readers what a psychopath is, a psychopath is a interspecies predator who uses charm, manipulation, intimidation, threats and violence for their own selfish needs. They exibit false emotions, grandiosity, deceptiveness, impulsiveness, irritability, aggression, and are compassionless. They do not experience love, hate, empathy, guilt or shame. They are sub human, as they lack the qualities that make a humane world.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    Is that all you got?…A lie. I wrote more.

    [Reply]

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    You did prove prove my point of your disdain for the poor, you are laughing at me. Please, could I get an apology? I have feelings even if you may not.

    Katie Reply:

    No. I’m not going to apologize. I am not sorry for laughing, the comment your initially left is hilarious in its complete lunacy. You make about 800 judgments about me from a blogpost and then want me to apologize. That too, my friend, is absolutely hysterical.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    You seem to think you have won something by laughing. But I don’t think anyone but you can find any substance to what you say or why you are laughing.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    I should point out that you are focusing on the one part of my comment that has to do with you, your wealth, hoping that will some how diminish everything else I wrote. And that you are using typical psychological manipulative methods like: diversion, evasion, minimization, covert intimidation, shaming, and victim blaming. And admiting that you will think of your wealth when you are having a bad day isn’t good for you. And it’s quite empowering to me, once realizing your laughter is a mask for your insecurity, that you would cower away.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    And in my opinion, now we are left with tons of evidence and proof that I am right and you are wrong. I was surprised that such a common insecure ego masculine dominator type veiled demonic hiss would come from a female. I guess laugher is sort of the same as saying anything as empty and meaningless as “You’re stupid.” or “I’m going to hurt you”, shaming laugher is both rapped into one.

    Esoteric Knowledge Reply:

    Hopefully your associates will observe my rational deconstruction of you and your errors in thought and belief, in contrast to your irrational insulting laughter and see you as you really are behind your masks and lies. And I will drive them closer to rightousness, goodness and illuminating light. Because that is where the war is now, as we know which side we are on.

  • Esoteric Knowledge:

    And you are working against your will. If you do not work for an employer, then what else is there for you?…Starvation. Death. You are working at threat of death! Yes, you forced labor.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @Esoteric Knowledge, Um, I’m not employed. So, yea. Just stop. You’re just embarrassing yourself at this point.

    [Reply]

  • marie:

    Talk to us after you’ve actually started paying that loan. You may feel differently in 10 years, when you realize you underestimated the difficulties this debt will cause you.

    [Reply]

    Katie Reply:

    @marie, I’m already paying them, but thanks for your condescension.

    This debt prevents me from staying home with my son. It prevents me from owning a home or buying a car big enough to hold us all comfortably. I am not the idiot your comment implies, I am acutely aware of the difficulties this debt will cause me. Do you really think that we don’t know how colossal 500k of student loans is? We’re pretty well educated people, we understand how big of an impact this debt will have.

    But it was our choice and now it’s our burden. I took out these loans knowingly and now I must pay them back. This is not slavery, it’s a decision I voluntarily made, knowing the consequences, just like everyone else.

    [Reply]

  • Nick:

    I understand what you are saying, but you are allowing the system to control the way you think. You are thinking in a way that education is a privilege and not a right. If that was the case we would still be in the dark ages. People should not have to go into debt for 100s of thousands of dollars just to get something they deserve to have in the first place. It would be one thing if the loans had decent interest rates, but 8 percent of compound interest on the 300,000 in loans I have is ridiculous. If you have actually done the math on your payments by the time you pay them off you will have payed back almost triple what you borrowed, in my book that is criminal. It’s one thing to make a profit but its completely different thing to prey on people to young to understand the consequences of their situation. Loans for education are just another way to drag down people and keep them below a good standard of living so that they are convinced that they are making a lot of money but are still kept in poverty so they can exist in the illusion. The banks are just as liable for creating this situation as the students who borrowed. The banks should be denying loans no one should be able to rack up enough debt without collateral that their loan payments match that of house ownership. The axe of blame falls everywhere not just on one group. And while you may not like the term student debt slavery, the half a million you owe while it may not be a physical whip making you do work the incentive of your life getting ruined is there forcing you to live a life of agony because you want to blame your self for wanting an education.

    [Reply]

    Nick Reply:

    @Nick, also I would completely agree with you on what you said if there were true entry level or manufacturing jobs in this country, but as it stands now you need a bachelors to work in the mail room.

    [Reply]

  • Marcia:

    You can call it what you want I’ll stick with student loan slave.

    [Reply]

  • Brian:

    You may not appreciate it but, from a biblical respective, “the borrower is always slave to the lender”! Although the marketability of you choices in schooling may have caused you to leverage your wager, you decision did not take the bubble effect into consideration. You may indeed have chosen your course and I applaud your honesty, but it desnt change the definition of economics or slavery. Many young people have bought into the lie that a job will indeed be there so that they can ultimately resolve the incurred debt. What happens if the buying power of the dollar drops such that even with a good job, you can’t never fulfill your debt. That is what slavery creates. Our housing market is a perfect parellel, building boom of the nineties, limits on loan/value borrowing set aside and the average homeowner now owns a house 100x what it cost to build in 1970. There is a reckoning coming and I just hope that those of this generation and the next don’t have to pay for these miscalculations.

    [Reply]

  • Trey:

    My father paid for a University of Texas masters degree working a summer job. Government involvement has turned a necessary higher education into a life time of serfdom.

    [Reply]

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Welcome!
I'm Katie, a 30-year-old, wife, mom, former teacher-turned PT, who also had brain surgery in November of 2007. This blog chronicles my daily life, from mundane to crazy, often with far too much detail. Sit down, get comfortable and stay for a while.
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