Escaping the shadows of debt
Author gives students a template to avoid the financial burden of student loans they face after graduating
You stride through DeMoss Hall, head held high, backpack slung over one shoulder and your research paper with an “A” smeared across the top in hand. You are king of your world until you glance over your shoulder. A looming cloud follows, reminding you that every “A” you achieve cannot reduce the debt that awaits after graduation.
The shadow of debt stalks students across the United States. The Institute for College Access and Success reported Oct. 18 that 90 percent of students graduate with debt. The Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit released by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in May 2012 stated that American student loan debt has topped $900 billion.
Students in Virginia graduate $25,000 in debt, according to the Project on Student Debt. As the debt grows, America mimics you as you walk through the halls, striding through life oblivious to the enormous problem shadowing you.
Rather than frantically searching for a solution, students must address to the root of the problem: student loans warp our perceptions of postsecondary education. They shift college from an education we earn to an opportunity we deserve and then leave us to clean up the mess after graduation.
Proudly displayed on the White House website is President Obama’s approach to education: “If we want America to lead in the 21st century, nothing is more important than giving everyone the best education possible.”
Obama is clearly insinuating that everyone should be able to afford college, implying that his administration does not believe that this is currently not the case. The most common argument people assert is that college is too expensive without loans. The opposite is actually true.
Zac Bissonnette’s “Debt-Free U” asserts that students can graduate from college debt free. How?
“If you pick an affordable school, live within your means and work during college, college without loans, financial aid or parents looting home equity or retirement accounts is within reach,” Bissonnette said.
Bissonnette’s approach stresses the ingredients of opportunity that we ignore: hard work and sacrifice. Student loans offset the pressure of working for education, emphasizing paying off debts once you have reached success.
Assuming that students accept loans, the easiest way to avoid exorbitant debt is to graduate quickly. Yet when students are offered a flow of money, the U.S. News Short List reported that 60 percent of them at more than 1,000 colleges require more than four years to graduate. Every additional year a student is in school means only one thing: more inescapable debt.
Tens of millions of students have been handed the opportunity to experience high quality education, but post-college success rates are bleak. Student loan payments begin seven to nine months after graduation, but Northeastern University’s Center for Labor Market Studies found in 2011 that 53 percent of bachelor’s degree holders under age 25 were not hired for degree-specific jobs or were unemployed. Low levels of productive employment contributed to the United States Department of Education report September 2012 that 13 percent of debtors default on their student loans.
Student loans are called the next financial crisis of our age, and scholars are racing to find a solution. However, the solution does not lie in the brightly-lit hallway of success, but rather in turning to face the shadow of debt. Addressing the core illusions that student loans encourage is the only way to stem the tide of rampant debt.