First and foremost, I believe the educational system in our country is extremely flawed. I originally believed going to college would allow me to get a great job that I love, make great money, and live a great life. What actually happens is that you go to college get a job you dislike, make average money, and work the rest of you life to pay off your college debt.
While I do agree a college education and experience is vital for personal growth, it should not bury you in debt that you can’t crawl out of.
Now I am in my 6th year out of college and I can tell you a couple cold hard facts about student loan debt and take a stance for millennials.
Millennials get a pretty bad rap for being entitled, lazy, and I can go on and on.
And despite how true or untrue it may be, one thing cannot be denied. There are over 40 million Americans in student loan debt which accounts for over $1 trillion dollars. Students graduating college over the last ten years have experienced interest rates up to 10%. Sallie Mae pretty much owns my life. I actually do mean that. Most of the decisions I made after college were not necessarily decisions I wanted to make. They were decisions I had to make. You cannot always chase your dreams and what you are passionate about when you are $2000 in the hole every month. And no, that is not my mortgage. That is a student loan payment.
So with that being said, let me tell you the top 5 cold hard facts about student loan debt on behalf of myself and the rest of Gen Y.
Cold Hard Fact #1 – Did we have any other Choice?
I am pretty passionate about this. We are the first generation that “had to go to college”. From an early age we were all told this was the only way to obtain a good job. So we went. Then we graduated. Then there were no jobs because it was the worst economy since the great depression.
So here is what happened and I saw first hand how a lot of my friends fell into this trap. The trap where they are 6 months out of college and the day has come to start paying back their loans. But they do not have a job or way to pay their loans. So now there were two options on the table to stop the student loan payments every month:
2) Go back to school in order get a better degree to get a better job
Either route you choose you can stop your payments. Both routes suck. And I know a lot of people who are in tough financial places because of this.
Cold Hard Fact #2 – You Can Run But You Can’t Hide
Student Loans are the only loans that you can not make go away by declaring bankruptcy. They are yours forever. So here is how you can actually make them disappear:
2) Pay them off
3) Make no money for 10 years and have them relieved
Cold Hard Fact #3 – We Do Not Want Everything For Free
Contrary to popular belief, millennials are not just looking for a handout. We knew that those monster loans that we took out eventually had to be paid back and no we do not all want student loan forgiveness. But let’s face it, Most of our loans have interest rates 2-3x greater than your mortgage. We are doing everything we can to drive down that monthly payment as low as possible through refinancing and consolidation. All we would love to do is contribute money every month that will amount to more than the interest itself. At the very least when I pay my mortgage every month I can see the principal balance go down and build an asset. There are millions of millennials who will die never having fully paid off their student loans.
I personally graduated with roughly $150,000 in student loan debt. I made the bad decision of pursuing my dreams for two years after college and because my loans were into forbearance the interest ate me alive. Nearly 10% interest and a couple more years later of trying to get a job that paid the bills, I found a $200,000 balance staring me in the face. I have been trying to pay my loans back and I am now aggressively attacking the balance as I am approaching $170,000. I never wanted free. I just want fair.
Cold Hard Fact #4 – We Work Harder Than You
Yes, I said it. I believe our generation of Millennials is the hardest working generation of all time. Maybe the work we do is different. It may not always be the blue collar roll up your sleeves type of work or the traditional 9-5, but guess what? We work 9-9.
Because we are so good at technology we are able to work from virtually anywhere and we do. From home, Starbucks, on the road, on vacation, in the morning, at night, everywhere. We work a different schedule but that does not mean we are lazy or don’t like working. We actually like working so much that we do it for free. There has never been a generation who takes social responsibility more serious than millennials. Maybe we don’t have extra money after our massive monthly payment, but we always will give our time for a good cause.
Cold Hard Fact #5 – Paying Our Loans Back In School Was an Impossibility
I agree that this would have been an amazing option if it were on the table. Every one of us would have been super excited to graduate debt free. Oh how our lives would be different. The problem with that is simple. Since the time our parents have have graduated college the cost has increased by 1120%! That is over the last 30 years alone. I could have easily swung a few grand a semester. $40,000 though? Sorry but there is a zero percent chance that was feasible. And with that much money invested into our education every single year, we felt obligated to commit ourselves 100% to our schooling.
Student loan debt is a serious problem for graduating students throughout the country. We are the most educated generation our country has ever seen and also the most indebted. The bottom line is that most of us are not looking for handouts but looking for opportunities instead – to learn, earn, and make the world a better place.