When you wake up with a college degree and no savings, people might say you're on your way to a future or that you don't have one.
I am a proud graduate of Ohio University, conferred this Spring. BFA in Theater Performance, Minor in Journalism. I loved my college, my friends and the teachers who guided me through. What I did not love, what I in fact loathed was the bureaucracy.
In today's America twenty-somethings fresh out of college are offered two things: 1. Crippling debt and 2. The existential woe of not knowing if their degree was worth that debt.
Thoughts like this tow the line of the young adults today. Instead of having the positive effect of feeling like the world is in your hands, we get calls from our Universities asking for donations not even a month after we finish our degrees. Seriously, you're asking me for money now? It just seems like poor taste to ask someone who graduated not even two months ago for a donation. We all want to wake up with a degree in our hand, a future and the notion that all the hard work we put in, will pay off. College is a fundamental part of the American Dream, and that dream is being killed by student debt and rising tuition costs.
People whine about this all the time, but to really understand what it's like, take it from a 22 year old buried under more than 50, 000 dollars of it.
We must put a face to our debt. We're not just numbers on a screen. We're people, and we're dragging our loans behind us. They're getting heavier and heavier every day.
At this time, in this country, few things are more horrifying than student debt. The government made over 50 Billion dollars off of student debt in 2013. Yet... College is necessary.
But is it necessary to enter into indentured servitude to pay for it?
College is an amazing time filled with necessary experiences and learning opportunities. It's an enriching experience that everyone should get to have. Money should not dictate who gets a "future" and who is left behind. Employers across the country will require a college degree, so why is it so hard to pay for one?
Student debt turns scholars into victims, doomed to spend the best days of their lives paying back the institutions and the country that "wanted to give them an education". People will argue that we knew what we were in for. When we got our acceptance letters, we accepted the debt and all that goes with it. When we filled out our FAFSA forms and decided to go to college, we sold our souls: to the government, to the school itself, and to the people who make decisions for us, that don't know us or care about what we had to do to get to college. Over 40 Million Americans currently hold student debt. And this isn't just 20 somethings, it's 30 somethings, 40 somethings, 50 somethings. Everyone. Seven million of those 40 have defaulted on their loans, leaving them with trashed credit and no hope of getting housing or car loans for their future, or their families. Corporations can file for bankruptcy after failure to pay back their debts...student borrowers can't.
The moral question is: is that fair? Just because we know the terms and conditions of our fate does not mean our fate is right or just. In today's America morality and righteousness, what's fair and good, bows down to money and profit. College isn't a public service anymore, it's a God damn business.
And just like those sleazy car salesmen people make fun of on TV, your loan officer or FAFSA representative will look you in the eye and say, "You need college, you need these loans. There's no other way! Drive your future off the lot today."
Some say that college is priceless, the best years of your life. Now I know that people put a price on everything. Your books, your dorm, your food, your classes, they all cost something. And when you're living off the refunds from your student loans, your life starts to cost you more and more money. Just buying groceries makes your student debt skyrocket. Everything.
These thoughts find me when I'm sitting on the subway into work. I think about my student loans and my "number" all the time.
How much was my education worth?
It was priceless, as far as knowledge and value, happiness, experience. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I would trade the phone calls for alumni donations, and the emails giving me a countdown before my six-month grace period is up. I'd trade the burden it has on my parents and parents everywhere who have to send their kids to college. We have no choice it seems, but to accept these terms and conditions. Nothing is free, but that doesn't mean it should cost you everything.
As I sit in my sub-letted living room in Brooklyn, New York, fresh out of college, my phone rings. It's Ohio U, asking for a donation. I let it go to voicemail, and keep on typing. I stand up, and think:
"Does all of this prove that the American Dream is really dead? Or is this the necessary cycle of debt that we signed up for when we were told we had to go to college?"
Do you have student debt? What's your number?