Living with credit

$1 trillion in student loan debt — worth it?

Aundraya Ruse

Congratulations, my fellow student loan debt owners (or should we be referred to as martyrs?). We have hit the $1 trillion mark. That’s right. $1 trillion in total student loan debt. Or as I like to think of it, enough money to buy a hundred of everything ever created forever and ever.

If there is anything more horrifying than that, and there isn’t much really, it’s going online to see the “student loan debt clock,” and watching a number that is already higher than $1 trillion increase by about $3,000 per second. Per second. It’s up on my computer as I write this, and I’m having trouble wrapping my head around it. By the time I’m finished writing this, another $5 million or so will have been tacked on. It’s truly unbelievable.

I get it, though. I get it because I know that many of us just sort of dove head first into pursuing the “dream,” no matter the (literal) cost. You know — the dream of going to college and immediately getting a job in your field, etc. etc. And that seems worth it.

I think about the board game Life, and how when you had two choices in starting out the game — either beginning with a career or going to college and beginning the game $40,000 in debt — everyone knew it was stupid not to choose college. You’d make that money back in no time on the game board, and you got to choose from the higher-paying career cards than you would without it.

If life was “Life,” it would be unwise to skip college. For some people, it is. For others, I can see the appeal in avoiding the debt — in skipping being a contributor to that $1 trillion — and just going for it out in the “real world.” Many people have been successful this way. And kudos to you.

As I look back, while I would make a few different and less costly college choices — such as starting out at a community college or taking fuller course loads to graduate sooner — I don’t regret my decision to pursue a degree. The cumulative amount of the country’s student loan debt is alarming, and sure, I’ve got some financial catching up to do. I also have the time, and the pride of being a first-generation college graduate. I have one more thing, too: a framed piece of paper with my name on it symbolizing four years of growth and development as a student and as a contributor to society.

On the bright side of reaching the $1 trillion mark, the amount of student loan debt I am personally facing seems much smaller in the big picture. At least I’m not alone — and that makes me feel better.

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  • Richey

    I also have a framed piece of paper with my name on it. It symbolizes the fact that I accomplished in less than two hours something that took others four years to do. Receive a high school diploma. Or, of course, in my case, a GED, (aka good enough diploma). I have never sniffed the inside of a college classroom, heck I barely sniffed the inside of a high school classroom before quitting in 1990. But, what I do have is a great paying job and no student loan debt. Is my case unique? Well, that depends on who you ask. The college grads will tell you in a heartbeat that yes, my case is extremely rare and I just got lucky. Years ago, I would have told you the same thing. Now, I’m not so sure. Of all my friends, I am the only one to have not gone to college. I didn’t even finish high school the traditional way. But, I do make more than all of them. Some even have more than one degree. I’m starting to think that the simple truth of the matter is that some hard working, physical type jobs do pay more than what some college grads can make in their fields. Notice I say SOME. Certainly not all, by any means.

  • Tax Paying Citizen

    A trillion dollars in education grants/loans is better for our nation than the multi-trillions it hands out to illigal imigrants for free to reside in our country making more on welfare cash/food stamps/section 8 housing/insurance for them and all thier babies they pop out like a puppy mill.It’s discusting that you attack the foundation of the future of which our country is built upon.

  • David K. Williams

    I have been through the college selection process with three children. One went to an Ivy League school, the others to a state school. And I teach at a community college. Thus, I’ve seen many sides of this issue. It really boils down to the difference between a college’s sticker price and the amount you are offered in grants/scholarships. Then you can decide if that difference is worth taking out a student loan to pay for. With my youngest, this difference at his first choice, Gettysburg College, was $21,000/year. He made the choice not to take out a student loan and enrolled at his second choice, a state university. I think he made the right call. By the way, I sometimes see people with Bachelor’s and even Master’s degrees enrolling at our community college, so that they can acquire a skill that will land them a job.

  • A $3,000,000,000,000 would be better for our kids Education only if our government will approved,last week I found out that the President of United State want to pass a bill for the same Amount of money for Africa,to help them on Farms and Hungers.God Bless America.

  • Richey

    Hey, Tax Paying Citizen, whatever college you graduated from certainly did a poor job of educating you. You can’t even spell! Discusting? You would think that at a cost of $20,000-$40,000 a year, people would come out of these colleges and universities semi-literate.