A DROP IN THE OCEAN





by Willoughby



My student loan debt is surprisingly middle of the road. I've got $81,000 worth of student loans at 6% interest. Two-thirds of them were acquired from my undergraduate program and one-third from my graduate. The whole thing has grown 33% in 10 years. I've spent the better part of that time trying to pay on a debt that I couldn't possibly erase with a "market competitive" salary.


I'm one of about 6 million Americans who owe at least $50,000 in student loans. Just a drop in the ocean, really. A sad, little drop in the sea of salty indebtedness.

Through all of it though, I definitely got an education. I learned the fine art of "out of sight, out of mind," thanks to federal blow-it-off-for-a-while programs. In the process, I also discovered how fast interest-bearing debt can grow.


I take the blame for part of the student loan crisis. Not just for the multiple student loan packets that I took out to cover two business degrees - and my perpetual procrastination to pay them off - but for leading others down the rabbit hole.


Between 2006 to 2007, I was a top enrollment agent for the largest for-profit university in the US, based out of ...muh, Phoenix. Though tuition was/is ridiculously expensive, I was able to convince dozens of adult students that, yes, they really need to go back to school and get their degrees. Cost be damned! Despite piercing cries of protest rising above the sweaty jungle PA system, hands were aloft as they ambled nimbly towards the tainted punch bowl.


So now I'm paying for it, both financially and emotionally. For all the time and money spent pursuing two pieces of paper, I still ended up trotting down a career path that had nothing to do with my educational plans. I became a teacher at a private high school. Ten years later, the school now closed, I smile faintly at the irony. The high school couldn't afford to pay its debts - but refused to charge parents stupid loads of money for the same education that would have cost them twice as much at a larger prep school.


And now I've got time to think about everything: all the fiscal irresponsibility, the ongoing struggle for quality education, the snake oil lenders, the anemic bureaucratic assistance programs, the student loan debt load overall ($1.5T in the US)...


I'm just one person asking questions like: How could things get so out control? What can be done? How come the only people talking about this are former students and Democrats? God bless their stubborn hides, but the Republicans need to get into the game too.


Let's get started.