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A Lifetime of Debt

Writer Magdalene Perez has a great op-ed piece in The Stamford Advocate describing her student loan debt – about $57,000 that she expects to be paying on until she is 50 years old.  Things ain’t how they used to be, she claims.  Talking about her grandparents:

Having a simple business degree instantly changed their lives. Joe got a job at a tire company in Minnesota, and with just one income he supported his family, which quickly grew to include four kids. In less than six years, the family had enough money to buy a house, which they quickly traded for a larger one.

Magdalene sees a bleaker picture for her own generation:

Last week, the headlines announced college education may soon be unaffordable for most U.S. families. I say it already is. From 1982 to 2007, college tuition and fees rose 439 percent, while family income rose only 147 percent. Colleges drove this inflation by raising tuition in a relentless competition to price themselves into the top tier of the university system.

The question is: Are students getting more bang for their buck? Again, no. When I graduated with a master’s degree, my new employer wanted to pay me $2,000 less than I had been making before earning the degree. The bottom line is, if you are not planning on becoming a doctor or a lawyer, an advanced degree beyond college is not worth it.

With all this debt, how can I ever afford to buy a house? Or have children? What about paying for their education? These are things you don’t think about so much when you’re 18 and signing on the dotted line of the loan disbursement application.

Still, I’m always a little jealous when I hear about these five-figure debts.  Right now, my loans payments suck away about 1/3 of my income each month, and I’m still going to be paying longer than Magdalene – until I’m 55.  Oh well.  See you all in the Retirement Trailer Park.

  1. Matthew
    November 2, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    It’s just too sad. I know someone who in in such debt that she can’t keep her head above water. She thinks that her whole life is screwed up…until she’s 70 years old. She’s only 40! I wish that I could help her. I guess that paying off her loans is not my responsibility. What do you do to try to convince someone who is in a lifetime of debt that everything is going to be OK? How can you even blame the system? She borrowed the money and now it’s payday! Nobody told her to get 3 degrees. There has to be a way to save someone when their debt is out of control! I guess that we’re all given credit and how we handle it determines what type of risk we are to borrowing more. Basically she will not have credit for the rest of her life and needs to come to grips with that.

  2. Attorney--willworkforfood
    December 9, 2009 at 9:58 am

    I’m pretty jealous of the five-figure debt myself. And, to be honest, law school isn’t even worth it these days. Numberous classmates are still searching for their first job, others have been laid off, and there are many, like me, struggling paycheck to paycheck.

    Last year I was a happy and hopeful law school student. I was greatly looking forward to beginning my quest for professional and personal success. This year, everything has changed for the worse. Even though I work full-time as an attorney, I can barely afford to feed myself. I hope you can help.

    My student loan debt, a hodgepodge of private, Stafford, Perkins and consolidated loans totals approximately $200,000. For the private loans, I am currently on a 30 year repayment plan. The total monthly due is over $550.00. For the federal loans, I am taking advantage of the new IBR (Income Based Repayment Plan). My payments are approximately 300.00 per month. Unfortunately, my monthly net income totals less than $2000.00. This means that nearly 50% of my income goes to student loan repayment. After these loans, rent, bills and car expenses, I have less than $150.00 for everything else.

    I’ve postponed raising a family and buying a home because I thought higher education would grant me greater economic resources and stability. The truth is my paychecks help to make banks rich while I go to bed hungry. I don’t mean to sound bitter, but I just don’t have much hope right now. Everyday is a constant struggle to make ends meet.

    • studentloanstories
      February 3, 2010 at 9:20 pm

      Hey – I just read this; my blog had been on hiatus for a while, but now I’m back. Your story sounds an awful lot like mine, and I’m sorry to hear you’re struggling. I actually just posted another story about law school debt in particular that you should check out. At some point in the future I will begin interviewing people again to tell their stories on this blog, so if you’re interested just drop me a comment some time. I hope things pick up – it’s tough out there!

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