Student loans have been around for a long time and for the last couple of years they have been a hot topic. Here are the recent facts, the total student loan debt is about 1.7 trillion dollars and they are now the second largest slice of household debt after mortgages. To put this in perspective, that is about 42 million Americans (about one in every eight) that have student loans. I want to share my thoughts with my student loan situation. To do this I thought of a simple question.
Do I regret taking out my student loans?
Even though most of my college was paid for through the 21st Century Program at Indiana University, I still managed to rack up about $31,000 of debt. I took out loans to cover unpaid internships in Washington D.C. and Barcelona (not the cheapest cities in the world). In addition, I took out extra money to have some peace of mind as I didn’t want short term money problems to stop what I wanted to do in college. However, it is important to note that my undergraduate debt was about $15,000 as the remaining amount comes from my graduate school loans.
Looking back, I don’t regret my decision of taking out the loans because I had experiences that I won’t forget. My sophomore year I lived in an above average apartment with all my friends and I created a lot of memories. These memories were both good and bad such as watching the Cubs win the World Series surrounded by my closest friends, and almost burning down my apartment because I had a tendency to turn pizzas into hockey pucks. Other experiences included spring breaks to Florida, Mexico, and watching Indiana play in Assembly Hall.
I did have a part-time job my last two years of college but most of that money went to help subsidize my unpaid internships and pay fraternity dues. In the end I felt like I had a well-rounded experience with different jobs, friends, and opportunities that I couldn’t have had without federal student loans.
So, to answer my question, do I regret the student loans I took out? My answer is no, I am grateful for them as they gave me a lot of opportunities and it allowed me to learn financial responsibility. However, I took out more than I needed and I think that was a mistake but that mistake wasn’t crippling or life changing in the long term so overall I am glad I had that learning experience.
Federal student loans are a great option that let young adults learn financial responsibility first hand without crazy interest rates. At some point, I will have an interview or blog post about the details between federal loans and private loans because a lot of people are confused between the two. Student loans interest rates vary between public and private loans and having a “expert” describe the differences could be beneficial to some of us.
I will be spending the next couple of years paying my loans off and that is okay. My student loans are investments in myself and in reality, the cost is similar to a 2018 Camaro SS with 14,000 miles on it.
When looking at the timeline of my student loan debt I decided to go for the standard repayment plan and I am comfortable with that. I think the most important thing when it comes to student loans is being realistic and having a plan before you graduate. Doing this allowed me to move to South Korea and not feel burdened by my student loan.
I highlight these experiences and my thoughts because I hear a lot from people and the news say that these kinds of experiences are only for “privileged” kids. I think this assumption is misguided and it lacks a wider perspective. I had these experiences on my own dime that I will pay back with interest. Pre Covid-I was balancing my student loans well but there was room for improvement like everything else in life. The bottom line is that I have student loans like a lot of you and I’m able to balance it well because I made a plan that is flexible and I thought about the long-term implications when I decided to take them out.
Now, a lot of people will sit there and say well that's not fair and I don’t want to do that. If that is the case, well that's fine but that is your choice. Other students may not have this option as all their student loans go towards tuition. To them I say that's unfortunate but maybe you can look at a cheaper school so you can have more financial flexibility.
People like to bring up fairness when it comes to student loans but the reality is life isn’t fair and perspective is everything. We can only adjust to the current system through planning and goal setting. My story would have been different if I didn’t have my scholarship; however, I still know what it’s like to make those monthly payments. They suck, no one likes them but there is a way to make them suck less. Plan. Perspective. Goal setting.
I was a first-generation college student and I understand the challenges that many of us face. If you are thinking about not going to college or trade school because of financial reasons or struggling to grapple your student loan reach out to me. I would love to help you. After all this is a community that seeks to help young adults so I should practice what I preach right?