To me, the topic of Student Loans is not an issue. An issue implies something that has 2 sides, both fully debatable. An issue sounds like the mild younger cousin of a problem, or the grandchild of controversy. The harsh reality is that student loans have turned us into a generation of Atlases unable to shrug. Like all too many of my peers, I am a young professional with over $50,000 in student loan debts.
Having struggled for years to get into a good school like my alma mater, I was willing to accept substantial student loans in order to do so. As my parents both have low incomes and personal debt, I knew I wouldn’t have them as a safety net. I realized that it was a risk, but I had faith that I’d be able to handle it when the time came, and that I’d have help. I was wrong.
The fact is, as a 2009 college graduate I emerged into a world with the worst economy since the Great Depression. A world where I’m competing with equally desperate peers as well as people 20+ years my senior with endless experience. We watched door after door slam in our faces, and still received those horrifying pieces of paper every month telling us what we owed society. We, who are supposed to be your future. We, who have the power to shape the world. We, who have the same right as every generation before us to pursue our dreams.
That right no longer applies. We don’t have the luxury of dreams any more. What we have is bad credit, and judgments, and no exceptions. It’s a vicious cycle that I simply do not understand: We cannot get a job without a college degree, can’t get a college degree without student loans, can’t pay off loans without a job, but can’t get a job with bad credit. Those who hold our debts hound us constantly, warning us of the consequences of noncompliance. As if we had a choice.
In pop culture, the image of a failed college graduate is usually some deadbeat kid living out of their home basement on their parent’s charity. On the surface, I look nothing like that. I live in an apartment with a peer, have a full-time job, and a solid resume featuring Yale and ABC. I’ve worked 30-80 hours a week since graduation, (and that’s with severe fibromyalgia) but it’s never enough. The truth is, I’m constantly looking over my shoulder waiting for the other shoe to drop. I don’t feel young.
So maybe instead of ignoring the elephant in the room and reaping private profits at the expense of dreams, the people responsible should listen. We’re tired of being punished, not just with negative credit scores, but also legal ramifications, wage garnishment…the list goes on. Higher education institutions, Congress and our government, banks, loan holders & credit bureaus, and everyone who turns a blind eye: you are all responsible. I cannot say it any more clearly than this: We are supposed to be the future, the next generations to shepherd the world, and you’ve placed a ticking time bomb around our necks.