Pay-Off, Cancel, or Die: One Millennial’s Opinion on the Reality of Student Loan Debt

I’m in debt, you’re in debt, he, she, we…are in debt; student loan debt that is.

Forbes published in an article terrifyingly subtitled a $1.5 Trillion Crisis wrote that, “Student loan debt is now the second highest consumer debt category – behind only mortgage debt – and higher than both credit cards and auto loans.”

There are 44 million borrowers that collectively owe $1.5 trillion dollars to The Man. The same Man that told us to go to college, get an education, and after that we will be promised all the wonders of having a professional adult job.

Well, I did that. I went to college, worked three jobs while having 18 credit hours, and participating in social events. I graduated, got an “adult” job where I was told they now want to hire high schoolers and trade school people and now my degree is worthless. Then without any company training and given a role to create a marketing department, my employers thought 10 months later I should be demoted to office administrator assistant based on the opinion of the office administrator who made it clear that my college education was worthless to her and that I am not needed in the company.

Two years after receiving my college degree I am waitressing tables while applying to hundreds of adult jobs, many of which require 5+ years of experience with an entry level position.  To gain that experience, should I think about applying for one of their prestigious internships with no pay? My rent is ridiculous, cheese is actually really expensive, and it looks like I’m never going to be able to pay off my student debt.

I remember very vividly in high school algebra class, a student stating that she can’t go to college because she can’t afford college. The teacher responded that anyone can go to college, and everyone should, because we can all take out student loans. I somewhat resent her now for stating that, but then I think back to another thing she said which was something along the lines that women should never wear the same outfit twice and then I think how dumb I am for taking her advice.

Florida is ranked as the third state with the most student debt adding up to $78.9 billion with 2.3 million borrowers, behind California and Texas.

In the same Forbes statistics, 30-39 year olds are the most in debt adding up to $461 billion. Under 30 is the most concentration of student loans adding up to $383.8 billion.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand just how crazy that is! Billions of Americans are in fear of not being able to own a house, start a family, or pay off their education. That’s not cool, but maybe if we all stopped buying avocados we wouldn’t have to worry, right?

There’s even a new comedy game show, Paid-Off, which allegedly mocks the student debt crisis. Host, Michael Torpey states in a MarketWatch article, “That’s the point of the show, to be so stupid that the people in power look at it and say, ‘That guy is making us look like a bunch of dum dums, we’ve got to go do something about this.’”

Now, I think that this game show seems less like a comedy and more like an episode of Black Mirror in the makes, but MarketWatch states that “he’s [Torpey] hopeful his game show will convince more people to talk about the challenges they face dealing with it [student loan debt].”

Even the headlines when looking up research for this article are petrifying.

Is there any hope for millenials struggling in our 9-5 volunteer internships in order to gain 5+ years of experience?

In an article published by the Roosevelt Institute, there is. According to Marshall Steinbaum, a research director and fellow at the institute, states that we should just cancel the loans.

“The paper finds that student debt cancellation would be modestly stimulative to the macroeconomy, increasing annual GDP by $86 to 108 billion per year. It would increase the demand for labor and therefore slightly reduce the unemployment rate.” Said Steinbaum, “The crucial mechanism driving the macroeconomic results is that the debt currently weighing down the balance sheets of households and individuals would be transferred to the federal government, which is an efficient reallocation from a macroeconomic perspective since it enables households to spend more, provided that the federal government itself is not financially constrained.”

So, essentially, the cancellation of student loan debt would increase household spending on other items.

A less radical hope is that of student loan forgiveness.

Upon looking more into the Federal Student Aid forgiveness program I discovered that, “You must repay your loans even if you don’t complete your education, can’t find a job related to your program of study, or are unhappy with the education you paid for with your loan.” Which totally ruins my plans to return my degree for a full refund if I don’t find a job in my degree field in the next year or so.

But some of your loans can be forgiven if you’re a part of Public Service Loan Forgiveness, Teacher Loan Forgiveness, Perkins Loan Cancellation, Total and Permanent Disability Discharge, Death Discharge, Closed School Discharge, False Certification of Student Eligibility or Unauthorized Signature/Unauthorized Payment Discharge, Unpaid Refund Discharge, and, in rare cases, a bankruptcy discharge.

In other words, we can die, work for a municipality, or go back to working at that same public university that convinced us to go into student debt, all to be forgiven for it. But, there is hope.

By Rhiannon Boyer

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