When I decided to leave college at the end of the past school year, the last thing I was thinking about was starting payments on my student loans. I knew the loans would come due six months after my last day as a matriculating student. I also knew that I needed to get myself a job, because the task of paying off said loans rested solely on my broad, muscular shoulders.
The silver lining on my student debt situation is that I only attended college for two years, which means I have two years less debt than all my peers. So I'm pretty much ahead of the game, no matter how you look at it (unless you look at the fact that, no, I don't have a degree).
But let's stay optimistic. The other silver lining is that I spent three of my four semesters of post-secondary education at small, relatively cheap, private institutions that were generous with scholarships. So all things considered, my debt is pretty manageable. Barring a return to college, I should be able to liberate my burgeoning bank account from these financial fetters before the next three years are out.
But while my student debt has been turned into a (probably) much needed exercise in fiscal responsibility, the unfortunate reality is that the vast majority of college students have taken on more debt than they can handle. College seniors are graduating with an average of $25,000 of debt -- a statistic that may explain why three out of four Americans think college is just too expensive.
Think about the numbers. The total amount of student loan debt recently surpassed $1 trillion, and tuition rose 8.3% in the past year alone. These increases, as the students of various City University of New York schools have demonstrated, aren't sitting too well with higher-education hopefuls.
And it's not only CUNY students raging against the college system. The Education and Empowerment committee, part of Occupy Wall Street, recently launched Occupy Student Debt (didn't think that was possible), which has started a campaign to get 1 million debtors to willingly default on their student loans.
So, while that's an awful idea, the fact that there are people who would willingly (or maybe they're just ignorant of the ramifications?) put themselves through financial hell to protest the high tuition they willingly or unthinkingly incurred is very telling.
On a more universal note, there has also been speculation that debt-encumbered students aren't the only ones who stand to lose from inflated tuition and student debt. Some experts have raised concerns that education could turn out to be the next economic bubble to burst, as student loan defaults increase (thanks, Occupy Student Debt!) alongside tuition and aggregate debt.
Some people think the government should simply forgive the student loans. Robert Applebaum has a Website dedicated to this cause. Applebaum thinks student loan debts are ruining the economy:
Because of these debts, people are not buying homes, not starting businesses or families, not inventing, investing, innovating, or otherwise taking economic risks -- all of the very things we need all Americans to be doing right now if we're ever to dig ourselves out of the enormous hole created by the greed of those at the very top.
With all this mind, and my first student loan payment due December 15, I can only assure you I plan to do my small part to keep the bubble from bursting. I'm not counting on forgiveness, and plan to make the required payment. And once the first of those many electronic checks is on its way, I'll give myself a pat on the back for paying up -- and a second for deciding against one of the pricier private institutions that accepted me.