Student debt relief seems to be all anyone is talking about, but if it's not going to happen, I don’t want to hear about it. You could say student debt is a sore subject for me, but that would be an understatement. I am barely 21-years-old, rushing to graduate early to lessen the blow of tuition, and for what? To have not only no plan, but no idea how to be a self-sufficient adult and to have to start paying off massive amounts of debt? No, thank you, I’ll pass — or at least, I would if I could. I am currently trying to understand how to get a real job after graduation.
When thinking about starting off my life in the “real world,” I’m filled with an overwhelming sense of dread. How am I supposed to start my life or move to a new city with debt from my student loans looming over me? Am I just forever doomed to moving back in with my mom? I don’t even know what I am supposed to do with my major, let alone my future. I mean what is a degree in political science even good for if I don’t go to law school? If I could continue my education, I would, but I would rack up more loans. Believe me, I will happily sign up for anything that prolongs my time in school to postpone the unavoidable debt waiting for me in real life.
At this point in my life it is clear that the education system has failed me. All through high school, they pressured us to start looking at college. They talked about top universities and colleges in new and exciting cities. They never talk about paying for it. They don’t talk about how fiscally responsible it would be to go to a community college. How tons of people get associate's degrees from local community colleges and go on to get bachelor’s degrees for a fraction of the cost. Instead, they promote big name universities that your friends’ parents will recognize. They lead you to believe that without a degree from an overpriced school you won’t get a good job. Maybe I should give the adults that were in my life at the time a break. When they were going to college, a semester cost a couple thousand dollars at the very most. Since then the cost of college has risen 1,120%.
What I could have used at that time in my life was the cold, hard truth about what debt really means. I could have used a crash course on how soul sucking interest rates by private loans companies can be, and how loans can accrue interest that you wouldn’t believe. Even just a simple lesson on the basics of federal versus private loans or what good and bad interest rates are would have gone a long way. They give us sex-ed because a child will be with you for the rest of your life if you aren’t safe. Well, my loans are now stuck to me for the rest of my life now and I am utterly unprepared.
With graduation staring me in the face my mind is clouded with questions and anxieties. I came to Arizona because it had great weather and it was different. Now, I love it here because of how affordable housing is. When I chose college in Arizona, I naively thought to myself “maybe after, I will move to California.” My loans have kissed that dream goodbye because it's seemingly impossible to take on the higher living costs with student debt and an entry level job.
I, like 44 million other Americans, made the decision to take out student loans. National debt from student loans alone totals almost $1.6 trillion. I, like everyone else who decided to continue on to college after high school, felt that furthering my education was important. When I was making that decision I did not understand the weight my student loans would add when trying to start my life. What gives me hope is the potential for debt relief to make an appearance in the near future. Under the Joe Biden Administration, there is discussion of forgiving up to $50,000 in student loans. This would be life changing for me and millions of other young Americans burdened by loans taken out on a promise they would pay for themselves. My optimism is cautious, as similar promises have fallen flat before. Bernie Sanders and his free college really got my hopes up, and he didn’t even win the primary.
If my bitter rant has proved anything, let it be that we need to better prepare youth for the true meaning of borrowed money. It is a scary reality when the government is your loan shark and you need to come up with a way to pay them back. Financial education needs to be introduced because 18 is not nearly old enough to sign up for a debt that follows you for your whole life.
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Lauren (she/her) is a political science major from Baltimore.