Conversations About Our Student Loans

Student loans come into your life so easily—just sign on the dotted line, and you’ve got money. And then you graduate, and have to get a job so you can pay back the money you borrowed and spent for the past two or 11 years. How do people do it? And why didn’t I know?

These statistics from the New York Times don’t show how student loans affect the average borrower. What does a collective $1 trillion mean when broken down to individuals? I decided to ask around.

N: 24, B.A. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology and halfway through the M.A./PH.D. program at the same medium-sized public university in Ohio.

Markee: Do you know how much student loan debt you have?

N: About $20,000, which is pretty good considering one year of tuition at my school costs $20,000.

Markee: And the rest was supplemented by working/parents/scholarships?

N: Working and scholarships. I didn’t receive help from my parents. 

Markee: Was it the cheapest option for you? Did the cost factor into your decision about where to go to school? (Both for undergrad and your Ph.D. program.)

N: I only applied to this school. I decided to be a biomedical engineer, and they had a great program. I also think location had something to do with it—to stay near my family. Now, I have a graduate assistantship for graduate school, so my tuition is covered by the University and I receive a yearly stipend. My only expense is “fees” which is between $300-500 a semester.

Markee: So your debt is from undergrad?

N: Yes, half of it is from my first year because I lived in the dorms. Once I moved off campus, I didn’t need nearly as much in loans.

Markee: Did your loans, or paying them off, factor into your decision to get a Ph.D. at all?

N: No, I knew I would need to get a Ph.D. to be the most successful in my field. Once I changed majors and decided to go into Industrial/Organizational Psychology, I knew I had to go to graduate school to do anything with myself. The Graduate Assistantship offer at my school, and its ranking in the top 10 for I/O Psychology were my reasons for choosing it. Most Ph.D. programs in I/O Psychology fully fund their students.

Markee: Do your student loans influence how you look at your future? Do you think that owing that money has changed anything for you in your career (yet)? Do you know the starting salaries of the kind of job you want after you graduate?

N: My fiance and I have talked about finances a lot. He has no student loan debt (his parents paid for his undergrad), and he has a full-time, well paying job. I think it is important to take responsibility for my own debt and pay it off with the money I personally own, and I do not expect him to pay any of my prior debts. We agreed that my first year’s salary will be committed to my student loans, a down payment for a home, and probably a new car. I expect to start at no less than $75,000, but I should be expecting closer to $85,000-$95,000 depending on location.

Luckily, I hate academia, and want to work in the business world :) So I will be contributing the same amount I make now to our marriage the first year I work, so I’ll still be contributing, but also paying my own debts.

Markee: First, I applaud you for having had these financial discussions already!

N: I’ve always had to provide for myself, so money means a lot to me. I choose to be responsible with it, so I think it is important to talk about it.

Markee: So, do you often think about your student loans? Or because you have a plan on how to deal with them, you can kind of put them out of your mind?

N: Since I have a plan to pay them back within a year of graduating, I do not worry about them. I like to take pride in being able to make it through the last six years of my life on my own, and only have 20 grand in school debt. I managed to do it all myself without drowning in debts I will never be able to pay back.

Markee: Yeah, it really is something to be proud of.

B: 24, B.A. in English from a medium-sized public university in the Ohio. Currently employed at a property management firm, and bartending in D.C.

Markee: Do you know how much you owe currently in student loans?

B: Wow, it’s so sad that I don’t know the exact number. I have never thought about that. Probably around $23,000? I’m actually considering going back to school too, just to see how much more I can owe. Haha.

Markee: Did cost factor in to making your decision about where you were going to go to college?

B: It did factor in. I knew I couldn’t go just anywhere—that it would probably have to be in Ohio, or at least at a place where we could get cheap tuition. But my laziness meant I wasn’t actively applying for scholarships, so I went with [a state university], because in-state tuition was cheap.

Markee: Were there other state schools that you applied to? Did the “prestige” or value of education factor at all? On that same note, do you feel like you got a worthwhile education?

B: I only applied to [a state university]. I knew I wanted to go to a respected four-year institution, so I feel that I received what I paid for, in a sense. It was an okay education in an okay program at an okay college, but if I could go back and do it all over, I’m not sure I would go to college if I had to take out loans. I think I would have either found a way to pay for it, or hopped trains and disappeared into the Alaskan wilderness.

Markee: By found a way to pay for it, do you mean work while going to school? Or lived at home? Or applied to more scholarships?

B: Applied to more scholarships—probably lived at home. I was pretty caught up in the idea that I had to go to college. I think the only thing that my college education has helped me with is that I currently work in a property management office because I have a bachelor’s degree, but where it was from, and what it was in, were both irrelevant. So, going back, I may have majored in something i could actually use. Wow. Sounds so grim saying it like this.

Markee: Debt is grim.

B: Tru nuf.

Markee: What is the useful thing you would have majored in?

B: I would have majored in library sciences. It’s part being organized, part being really knowledgeable about very specific things, and part REALLY sociable, because you need to know where to find things, how to look for them, and how to figure out what someone is actually looking for. Totally awesome! So yeah, I feel that maybe that 23K wouldn’t be such a waste if I had majored in library sciences. This is the most entitled shit I’ve ever said by the way.

Markee: But an MLS is a masters degree, so you could do that!

B: Yeah, but I’m not on the right track. I might do it. I have actually have looked into a couple programs in the area. It actually would be a good thing. Interesting story: My parents picked up the first two years on their credit card.

Markee: OMG.

B: I only had to pay for the second two years. But yeah, I can’t believe my mom did that.

Markee: Yeah, that’s cray. What is your repayment plan like?

B: I pay $350 a month for the next 25 years. We chose a long term one so that the rate would be low. The idea is to pay it off before then, right?

Markee: By paying over the minimum. Do you do that ever?

B: Not once. I just…I need or want the money too badly to pay over the minimum.

Markee: How much of your monthly income is $350?

B: Hold on. [A few minutes of calculations] About a tenth, maybe a little less.

Markee: So do you know if you’ve paid off any part of the principle of the loan?

B: A few months ago, I finally started biting into the principle.

Markee: Woo congrats!

B: I drank a beer when it happened.

Markee: So you mentioned that you’d like to go back to school. How does your student loan debt factor into thinking about this next life choice?

B: If I went back to school, I wouldn’t have to pay student loans, and I could actually take extra loans to pay my rent so I could quit one job. That would make my life awesome, because I’d be a master’s student and a server, which would instantly mean more babes in my life. (That last part is a joke.) Once I finally get my master’s, I’d start making a ton of money, and would therefore be able to pay off all my student loans no problem!

Markee: Do librarians make a lot more money than you make now? I mean, you currently are making over $40K—which is a lot for a single, childless person in their early twenties.

B: Yeah, sometimes I don’t remember that I’ve actually got a lot going for me.

Markee: :-(

B: It’s kind of tough to think of yourself as really worthy, when you’re tied down to debt, ya know? I need to have a good job so that I can pay my student debt and rent, but the only good job that I am currently qualified for is suffocating and not creative. Sorry, kind of venting now.

Markee: No! That’s the point of me asking.

K: 26, B.A. in English from a small liberal arts college in Ohio, an M.A. from a medium-sized public university in Ohio, and currently working on a Ph.D. at a medium-sized public university in New York.

Markee: How much student debt do you have currently?

K: I have honestly pretty much never looked at the number. Maybe once or twice I have glanced at it. I accidentally saw it the other day when I was accepting summer loans, and it seems as though I have somewhere around $50,000 in debt (yikes?).

Markee: And from which parts of your education did it come from?

K: I probably had this amount of debt after getting my B.A., but my parents paid those loans off within a year(ish), and I am forever grateful to them. With a balance of $0, I felt it was okay to take federal subsidized loans out to supplement my M.A. stipend (which, admittedly, was plenty to live off by itself). I took loans for both of those years (no summer). I’m about to enter my third year of study in my current program. I’ve taken out the maximum amount of federal subsidized and unsubsidized loans for my first two years. These I justify because my 1st year stipend was $15,000 before taxes, and this is New York. I plan to take the max out again this year (obvi).

Markee: So do you have an idea of how much debt you’ll have when it’s all over? Also, do they affect how you think about your future job?

K: Ideally, I’d like to stop taking out loans after this upcoming year. I don’t know if that’s realistic according to my life history. If I am able to turn off the spigot, I’ll have like $70K and change. If not, it would top out around $100K. I don’t think the debt will affect my job prospects, so much as my quality of life. If I don’t get a tenure-track job within five years of graduating, I would need to reassess my job future AKA downsize my dreams to teaching high school or something. At this point, I am realizing during this conversation, I am delaying a certain inevitable. I’m living like a middle class person while in school and all, but guaranteeing that I’ll be living like a grad student once I’m out of school. Unless I marry a millionaire.

Markee: Right. So, are you aware that Public Service Loan Forgiveness exists for those who work in public service and nonprofits?

K: I do. That is another possibility that hangs in the back of my mind. However, I do not have much faith that the program will still exist/be solvent by the time I would be able to take advantage of it. (If it were there, though, I would most likely look into it what with my bleeding heart and debt situation.)

Markee: Do you feel like taking out loans has affected your life in any way?

K: Well, if I think about what I could/would have done in that year after my parents paid off those loans, I don’t know that I would have done anything differently. This was in 2007/8 and while shit was real with the economy then, it wasn’t like it is now. I am still at this point, whether delusional or not, glad that I am so far into grad school and not someone who is just beginning (and using it as a refuge from the real world). What could I do with a B.A. in English? Stay in the Midwest and teach high school? Ultimately, I would end up making the same amount of money. I have never been interested in being a home, or car owner. The only advantage I could see in not continuing my education would be getting a jump start on saving for those things. I am also not interested in marriage, or children. Therefore, I don’t feel like what debt I have is that strangling because I don’t have to budget the cost of a wedding, or children into my future. Additionally, because I don’t have any loans from private companies, and because the interest rates for government loans are low, I am not too worried about the size of repayment. Finally, I believed then, as I do now, that student debt is far more valuable (or, less personally damaging) than consumer debt. I have a negligible amount of consumer debt which helps me to rationalize my other debt.

[5 minutes later]

K: If I am going to be honest, I am making a secret bet with myself that my dad will end up helping me again with these loans. I would be embarrassed to take the help (I’ll be 30 years old), but not so much to say no. When my mom died, she left a serious amount of money for her kids, which we are not allowed to have right now (for obvious reasons), and I am really betting on the fact that that money will be going to wiping out a large part of my debt. It’s a big risk, but one I’m clearly taking. I would feel terrible about this except for the fact that this is kind of how my family operates. Man, I just told you a deep secret!

 

Markee Speyer is a graduate student herself, and would like to know about how you financed your education, if you’ll tell her. Photo: Shutterstock/Robert Asento

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58 Comments / Post A Comment

lalaland (#437)

Holy crap. I’ve always felt fortunate because my parents paid for my schooling, but I also felt a little smug because I went to a state school where tuition started at $3,000/semester my freshman year and topped out at $5,000/semester my senior year, compared to the majority of my coworkers who went to USC/private schools (approximately $40,000/year).

But I just calculated my tuition + living expenses (I worked throughout, so I covered, you know, the bare minimum) for my 4 1/2 years of school and geez. Thanks mom and dad.

OhMarie (#299)

@lalaland That really depends on your state, though. I went to a small state school in Maryland, and it was around $17k a year, including room and board, for in-state students (room and board was necessary for most people because it’s in the middle of nowhere). The U of MD might have turned out to be cheaper, but not by too much. California has a really spectacular and cheap system.

lalaland (#437)

@OhMarie Texas, actually! And yes, agreed, I am also incredibly fortunate* that my state school happens to be pretty good and very affordable.

*I am also incredibly fortunate that the only private schools my parents would have been okay with me attending were Ivy Leagues and I (luckily?) didn’t get accepted; otherwise, my clueless 18 year old self would have most likely gallivanted off to some $40k/year private school as well.

So really, to sum, student loans! Really awful and predatory and I consider myself one of the lucky ones to escape relatively unscathed.

@OhMarie I would have received free tuition at my state university because my dad works there, but with fees and room and board it was not that big a difference between there and my small liberal arts college after scholarships. My younger sister is actually paying less at her world-famous women’s college because the state keeps jacking up university fees and her school is trying hard to retain diverse students (for various measures of diversity).

highjump (#39)

So this is part of an ongoing series? Good. Because the answers to these questions were frustratingly similar (all from OH, two people had right around the national average for student debt, all in grad school or considering grad school, two not even paying their loans off right now). I think it is a really interesting topic though and look forward to more interviews.

B (middle person): Do not go to library school especially in DC the market it totally over-saturated. I work closely with IMLS as part of my job and they concur that there are too many people with MLS and MILS degrees in most urban areas including DC and NYC. Are you willing to move to a rural community? Are you willing to go into a super technology-involved subfield? Then go for it. But don’t just get an MLS at GW. And consider switching back to standard (10yr) repayment if you’re making 3500 a month, you’ll save about 15k over the life of the loan.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@highjump I’m starting an MLS program at UMCP this fall. Please stop giving me heart palpitations. Please?

highjump (#39)

@bgprincipessa University of Maryland College Park? They do have a good program (they were just awarded an IMLS grant for something) but plan on working hard enough to be the best in your class and get the most prestigious internships you can. For the record I grew up in rural America (10,000ppl, MN) and our library was a community hub and the librarians were rad so that might not be such a terrible outcome. Good luck!

bgprincipessa (#699)

@highjump Ok, I’m going to go cry in a corner now and contemplate my life.

whaaat (#143)

@highjump Could not agree with you more – don’t go to library school! The market is incredibly over-saturated. I finished my 2 1/2 year MLIS program (at San Jose State University, online) back in December. I live in LA but am willing to move, and I can’t even get interviews for library assistant positions! Very, very few people I know from school are having any luck in the field either, regardless of their area of expertise. So for now, I’m cobbling together a living by working retail, doing script reading for a film festival, participating in focus groups, and nabbing one-off hostessing gigs at big local events. On top of volunteering at a nearby branch library every week. At least I qualify for Income-Based Repayment on my ~$20k in loans.

(#1,428)

@bgprincipessa I am going into my second year at the iSchool at UMCP, and you will be okay!

First: Are you already in the area? If so, start looking for a job/internship now. Join the iSchool Discussion listserv, if you haven’t already – tons of internships and employments come up every day. Go here: http://www.lsoft.com/scripts/wl.exe?SL1=ISCHOOLDISCUSSION&H=LISTSERV.UMD.EDU. In fact, whether or not you are in the area yet, join it – you will learn what libraries are looking for, and you can always apply for fall internships and jobs.

Second: There are PLENTY of library jobs in DC – if you want to work as a government librarian or be more involved in the IT/database management part of services. But if not, there are still opportunities for you. I came here with zero experience outside of a few hours of library volunteering a week, and now work two jobs in libraries – one here on campus and another at a federal institution (for which I was the only applicant). I also volunteer once a week at a DC public library. Even if you see an opportunity that isn’t EXACTLY what you want, it bears consideration to apply, because when you graduate, what will matter most won’t be your GPA (No employer cares as long as you have at least a 3.2, which you can no doubt do if you show up to class, do at least half the readings and do your work – especially the core classes). What WILL matter is if you already have experience of some sort – especially diversified experience at a couple different places. So get on that internship/job bandwagon stat – it is what will make you competitive when you graduate.

There is more I could tell you, if you would like – about professors, specializations, iSchool organizations and other opportunities – I’d be happy to help! Don’t let yourself be intimidated by the comments here – I’m living your fears (lots of loans, expensive area, oversaturated job market, etc.) right now and I promise you, you can do this!

tiktaalik (#778)

@bgprincipessa It’s not so bad. I mean, it’s a little bad? But not heart palpitations bad. I got my MLS from UM-CP in December 2009 and landed a job by May 2010. Of course, I was willing to apply to jobs all over the country, so your story might be different if you are locked in to DC. Although I found UM to be OUTRAGEOUSLY overpriced (I had to pay out of state tuition because I lived in Fairfax, and even though they do have a reciprocal program, I hadn’t live in VA long enough to be in-state there either), you do get the benefits of being in an urban area with lots of libraries and other opportunities for internships. I would never have gotten my current job without my one-semester internship at the National Science Foundation’s library, and I wouldn’t have been able to do that internship without living in the DC area. For what it’s worth, almost all of my classmates that I kept in touch with have found library jobs.

One really good place to look into is TRAK jobs – it’s like a temp agency just for librarians. You meet with a counselor there and tell them what you’re good at, and they hire you out to places that need librarians short term (filling in for people’s maternity leave and sabbaticals and stuff). It’s a good way to get your foot in the door, several of my UM-CP classmates used them. http://www.trakcompanies.com/rl/library.asp

petitesuissesse (#1,434)

@highjump Those rural librarians are now being replaced (when and if they can ever afford to retire) with paraprofessional (people without MLIS degrees). If you want to work in a rural (or other “interesting” “underprivileged” public library), get as much experience as you can; it’s worth more than the degree.

If you want to work in an academic library (ahahahaha, there’s no jobs, anyway!), get a “subject” masters.

In either case, start volunteering as early as possible in a place you like. Libraries like to hire from within. Maybe, you’ll get lucky.

shannowhamo (#845)

@highjump Yup, if you just want to be a regular desk-sittin’, book orderin’ librarian, that shit is hard to come by. I got my MLS in 2008 and am working two part time librarian jobs (and have been for 5 years.) I make it work but it also means no sick time, no vacation time, no health insurance. AND split shifts (9AM to 9PM with a couple hours in between) AND never feeling like I’m totally aware of what is happening at either library. BUT people are starting to retire finally (lots of people put it off a couple years because of the economy) so things may be looking up in that regard. But there is an overwhelming move towards filling traditional librarian jobs with paraprofessionals. It sucks because it’s a great job and (at least where I went) the easiest Masters in the world to get.

I am kind of terrified for that last person, who is planning to end up with $70-100K in loans for a Ph.D. I hope to God it’s not in English. (NB: I am an incoming English Ph.D student.) Or are they not giving you the same you’ll-never-get-a-job horror stories they’ve been giving me daily since I started my M.A. applications three years ago?

highjump (#39)

@mirror_father_mirror Get a tenure track job in 5 years?! HAHAHAHA. I really hope they are not thinking about staying in NYC with that attitude where a good friend of mine just got a tenure track offer at Laguardia CC after 10 years of adjuncting and was grateful to get it.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@mirror_father_mirror I know right?? I just finished my B.A. in English and finally dropped my aspirations to academia after a stern conversation with my advisor and schmoozing my way into a Ph.D class in my final semester and being really put-off by my classmates. No thank you underemployment! My full-time job might not be as fun as talking about Derrida all day, but at least I can make my student loan payments and not feel crushed by the burden.

OhMarie (#299)

My parents saved up enought to pay for my first two years of college (thanks parents!) and put the whole shebang on their credit cards. Not because they didn’t have the money, but because they got 2% cashback.

This level of system-working probably indicates how they managed to save up all that money in the first place.

ghechr (#596)

Boy, I am really shocked at these interviews. People don’t know how much debt they owe? Are only making minimum payments? Are considering taking on more debt without knowing whether it will pay off in future income? WHAT?!?

neener (#242)

@ghechr yeah, i’m sure it’s a realistic depiction of how most people are. (on average, we are less responsible than we should be, and that includes me and 75% of the people i know!) but it’s still really shocking to see it spelled out like this.

@ghechr Reading this site has made me feel a lot better about my own debt, which I had thought was a lot. (That’s ~$20,000 as yet unpaid for a B.A. from a stupidly expensive private university, and $4,000 over the course of a 2-year M.A. The M.A. was funded, but I had to take out loans to pay for the required health insurance, placing me squarely at the confluence of the two shittiest systems in America. Oh, and less than $500 in credit card debt.) I guess this is because most of my friends at Stupidly Expensive Private University went to Stupidly Expensive Private University because their parents could pay for it, so none of them ended up with loans? I thought they were my shameful secret for daring to study above my station.

I will be starting a Ph.D in the fall, and I do not plan to take out any loans, barring something disastrous happening (knock on wood). At least I’m *aware* I’ll probably never get a job with it!

kavitha (#1,265)

@ghechr I just graduated from a program where the average educational debt of graduates is 140k and I had classmates with over 200k. I, thankfully, have less than the average but I know a fair number of my classmates took out the max amount of loans each semester, actively avoid looking at the total on their statements and plan on only doing minimum payments (slash income-based repayment) and I think for our mental well-being, that’s probably a good thing. We’ll pay it off (eventually) and in the meanwhile, it’s just a tax for having jobs we love.

ghechr (#596)

@kavitha I had student loans, too, from law school and it sucked to pay them back. I will, however, say that people need to look closely at their minimum payment schedules. If they are privately held or consolidated the minimum payments will not pay off the loan. In those cases, it’s like paying a credit card; you will pay and pay and pay forever and never get to the principal. So, caution!

kavitha (#1,265)

@ghechr Yeah mine are from vet school and the nice thing is that most of us only have federal loans (which meant we spent a lot of time semi-joking about how we hoped that if we got kicked by a cow or horse, it’d kill us outright so that we wouldn’t have to pay back the loans) which makes the process a tiny bit friendlier and less opaque but obviously caveat borrower in all cases.

aetataureate (#1,310)

Who is this person who thinks “library science” is a more “useful” major than English? I can’t swing a stick without hitting five unemployed librarians.

bgprincipessa (#699)

@aetataureate Seriously, you’re all making me want to go fetal and cry for the rest of the night.

@aetataureate Right? a) Doing an undergrad in library science isn’t going to make you any more employable than someone with an English or art history degree, and in fact you may be less useful because you don’t have specialized subject knowledge, and b) the paraprofessional library jobs I see now are usually around $33k (in a major American city, academic libraries).
@bgprincipessa I do see lots of opportunities for more technical/computational librarians! If you’re a programmer, have digital humanities interests, data curation, etc., don’t worry so much.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@wallsdonotfall I made that comment before reading the last interview, which has just made me braindead. Going 100k in debt for a ph.d. in English and counting on your dad to come through with dead-mom-money to pay it off? Oh my good lord almighty.

sockhopbop (#764)

@bgprincipessa Don’t panic! (TM Douglas Adams.) It’s true that librarians face a tough job market (one of my closest friends is a librarian at a private organization), so it’s probably a good idea to do some research on employment rates, job opportunities and average salaries before entering the program. BUT the other thing is that these days almost everything is a tough job market, and if being a librarian is your dream it doesn’t mean you have to ditch it. Just make a detailed plan for how you’re going to achieve it with internships, good grades, networking, and the like — and build in a financial safety net plan of some kind. (XO, a former English major who now works in economics, but likes it!)

deepomega (#22)

@aetataureate What’s worse than that is TAKING ON MORE DEBT TO GET AN MLS. “And then I won’t have to pay loans for a while! What could go wrong!”

thewurst (#435)

@bgprincipessa I’m going to a dual degree program in the Fall in Library Science and Art History, and from my discussions with recently graduated students from the program and faculty, their job prospects seem pretty solid. Don’t lose hope!

krisisisipoo (#1,427)

@aetataureate OK, but if my mom passed away and left me money, there is nothing she’d rather I spend it on than my education. What better way to spend “dead-mom-money” (also, wow, what a cringe-inducing/insensitive/ahh! way to describe it)?

(#1,428)

@krisisisipoo I used my dead mom money – and yes, this is really what I call it! Nobody asks twice when you use that phrase – on education, and it was absolutely the right decision and what my mother would have wanted. I only wish now that I hadn’t used it ALL in undergrad (aka that I had gone to a cheaper public school instead of applying only to private ones because I “have the money to pay for it.” Oh, silly 17 year olds with no personal financial management experience…)

aetataureate (#1,310)

@krisisisipoo The writer’s clearly not confident about the money coming through, and I think the dad would have offered it up readily before the six-digit debt if he believed it was a good idea or what the mom wanted.

I feel confident my own parents wouldn’t support me maxing out loans on top of a stipend so I could get a ph.d. in the most expensive city in America in a field where there are no jobs. And that’s coming from an English B.A. with previous ph.d. dreams.

MuffyStJohn (#280)

Public service loan forgiveness had better still be around in 10 years. This is literally the only reason (that and IBR) that I’m taking out insane grad school loans – I don’t actually intend on paying them all back!

(#1,428)

@MuffyStJohn Ditto.

deepomega (#22)

@LibLady88 uh what

(#1,428)

@deepomega

Ditto: It’s a common phrase used to indicate that something already said is applicable a second time.

deepomega (#22)

@LibLady88 Let me clarify. I hope for your sake(s) that the PSLF program doesn’t get yanked out from under you, and also have fun paying off that interest!

MuffyStJohn (#280)

@deepomega My debt load, even without PSLF, will always be manageable because I prioritize my education over things like buying houses, cars, consumer electronics, travel, etc. Basically, these loans are the single largest purchase I can ever foresee myself making as long as I live (I won’t be getting a PhD unless I get paid for it). If I don’t have to pay them all off: awesome! And frankly the plan is for the program to still be standing when I need it. But if not: I’ll manage just fine, because priorities.

Like everything else, it comes down to choices.

(#1,428)

@deepomega Aha! I see now – I was confused because your reply was to me.

As for the PSLF program, like @MuffyStJohn, I can get along without it because my education is my main financial priority too; my “ditto” was more in reply to the fact that it would be a very advantageous program for me considering my career track. If it gets yanked first, oh well – I’ll make it work.

Shostakobitch (#776)

I have over $200,000. This is how it affects me: I will never own anything, ever. I still think it was probably worth it though.

(#1,428)

@Shostakobitch Music major? I LOVE your username.

Shostakobitch (#776)

@LibLady88 I wish I were so fearless! No I come from a family where nobody went to college, so I did business and law. It was my choice to go to schools I couldn’t afford and if the world is going to indenture me to a life of serfdom for my vague ambitions of social mobility, that’s the brakes. I’d rather eat scraps from the masters’ table than starve in the fields.

I guess really the only pity of it is that I would be a very productive spender with some more disposable income, far more productive than the faceless government-backed banking system that demands my payments. It would be cool to be an adult with a house and a family someday. Plus I have great taste (for the most part).

jason (#1,335)

@Shostakobitch I have almost as much as you. Sometimes I hate reading these articles because people with $50k in loans talk about it like its this impossible burden (which, yes, I know, it’s a lot of money), but it’s an absolute DREAM compared to what I am dealing with.

However, to your point about never owning anything: I spoke with a financial advisor about this, because despite my loans my fiancee and I would like to own something one day. Since IBR gives me a little more flexibility with regard to what the minimum payment is, she advised that we pay only the interest for now, and then take whatever money would have gone toward the loan and put it in a savings account for a down payment on a house. Sure, it will not help us pay off the loan any time soon, but: interest payments on federal loans are tax deductible, at least the principal isn’t growing, and eventually we will be able to make real payments as our income grows.

Also, very lucky to have a fiancee willing to marry and share this burden with me.

Shostakobitch (#776)

@jason That sounds eminently more sensible than fleeing in the night to sell trinkets on the beach in Honduras or realizing the dream of robbing a Brinks truck. I’m sure your fiancee agrees. Be careful not to let your joint income push up your minimum payment amount on that IBR.

Trilby (#191)

I have $37K in debt from going to law school (at an advanced age). I didn’t become a lawyer but I do make very good money as a paralegal. I would love to pay this off and not have a $255 payment every month, but it’s too painful because the “minimum payment” will not go down as the balance lowers, like a credit card. It only stops at the bitter end. One night, lyingi n bed not sleeping, I thought “Hey, if I pay $100 extra each month to my student loan, I could have it paid off in 3 years! Why aren’t I doing that!?” In the morning, I realized I’d have to pay $1000 extra per month. Big diff!

sockhopbop (#764)

@Trilby If you have federal loans, though, it’s still worth paying down as fast as you can afford to — not just for the sake of getting out of debt more quickly, but because every time you over-pay it goes toward the next payment (but still gets applied to the principal). So if you get far enough ahead in your payments, you can essentially make smaller minimum payments as needed because your next due dates will be farther off. (Is this explanation making sense? It’s clear in my head but I’m not sure if typing it out is working so well.)

Trilby (#191)

@sockhopbop -That sounds like valuable information, if I could understand. Could you take another shot at explaining it, or point me in a direction to find out?

Trilby (#191)

@sockhopbop -Sadly, I don’t think that’s true. You got me all excited and I did some searching and the only way to get fed. loans paid off quicker is to pay more every month against the same minimum payment amt. and make it end sooner. There is no reduction in monthly payments. Just like a mortgage. :-(

sockhopbop (#764)

@Trilby Oh yes, that part is true! Okay here’s my second go-round at explaining. Basically, say that you have a loan where the minimum monthly payment is $200 on April 1. If you pay $400 on April 1, federal loans both apply that to the principal and push back your next monthly payment to June 1. If you pay $600 on April 1, your next monthly payment is July 1. So basically you can buy yourself some time for lower monthly payments, or even no monthly payments, by over-paying earlier (PLUS make the debt end sooner). It can be a good option if you’re a freelancer and your income flow is more unpredictable, or if you’re planning a move or a big trip or something similar. But in terms of lowering the monthly payments themselves, the best bet is to do the income-based repayment plan.

pretzels! (#853)

@sockhopbop YES! I always pay a little more than my minimum and if I have a rough month, say around the holidays, I can skip my payment that month. It does not lower your monthly payment but in the long run makes it more flexible. I know if something happens I have a good six months where I could gain the extra cash I need by being able to hold off my loan payment.

I guess this is nitpicking, but N is not really doing it on her (his? I’ll go with ‘her’) own as she says near the end of the first interview, is she?

She has a fiance with a fulltime job who, if he isn’t already, will presumably be supporting her while she works to pay off her loans in the future. (“We agreed that my first year’s salary will be committed to my student loans, a down payment for a home, and probably a new car”) If she truly were providing for herself and making it on her own, as she says, it seems unlikely that she’d be able to pay down a $20,000 debt, save enough for a down payment on a house, AND buy a new car in just one year.

She should be very proud that she’s never received help from her parents and is finishing a Ph.D. program with only twenty thousand in loans, but to say she’s done it entirely on her own without any help isn’t giving her fiance much credit.

CrabbyAbby (#1,431)

Ditto on avoiding library school. I found out about 2 months before finishing my MLIS that it is the only graduate degree you can get that actually results in a LOWER average income. They do not mention this in the brochure.

pearl (#153)

I’ve been out of college for a year now and very luckily have something like $11k in federal loans. It’s low because my parents were too poor to pay for school, which allowed me to get a lot of scholarships based on financial need, which then put me out of the bracket to be eligible for work-study. So thanks mom and dad for your money mismanagement! I do always try to pay more than the minimum (so about ~$150 for $130). I got to consolidate a SallieMae loan into my federal ones so my interest rate went down too.

Re: MLS – I worked at the library my senior year and my boss loved me and wanted me to stay (I was updating records in Worldcat) but sincerely advised against an MLS. The work was all technological

B: it sounds like having the loans hanging over your head really impacts your life. PAY THEM OFF RIGHT NOW. Seriously, it’s so freeing. With your current earnings you can live super-cheap for the next three years, put everything into them, and they will be GONE. It’s so worth it. My husband and I did this for both his student loans (which we paid off while living on a grad stipend and as a VISTA volunteer, respectively) and our mortgage (which we paid off in 10 years despite one of us being home with kids for much of that time). It is AWESOME.

Going back to school and taking out more loans to get a brief respite from the ones you have: that’s just plain dumb. Don’t do it. I went to grad school for a bit because my program covered tuition and gave me a living stipend. I don’t think it’s ever a good financial decision to pay for grad school.

Drea (#325)

I hate these. My parents made too much to help me qualify for much aid, but not enough to be able to actually help me out. So instead I”m making about the same as dude #2, and paying closer to $650 a month to try and get ahead of my loans. And I can’t go to grad school because adding more onto the $70k I owe now is terrifying. Or even a PhD with stipend because the interest is freaking ridiculous. I’ve got a physical science degree.

MalPal (#1,200)

Oh, man. This thread and article hurts my heart, because I am struggling so much right now personally, financially, spiritually because I do not know what to do with myself. I have $45,000 of SLD, all Stafford and a little Perkins. I will probably consolidate under IBR eventually, unless I can make standard payments. My major was Music Education. I have no desire to teach and my social anxiety makes me a bad candidate for virtually any leadership job. I don’t have connections because I don’t make them with people, so I feel like grad school for vocal performance (my dream) is unattainable. I’m living at home right now, and feeling like an ultimate, awful loser. I wish I knew what to do but I feel like I truly will never be happy. Sorry for the sob story but maybe some of my peers will understand my problems. :-\

AliceS (#1,994)

If there is anyone left who thinks that a good education is some sort of insurance of getting a decent job these days I would suggest that you re-think that. The higher paying jobs are so few and far between that getting into huge debt for an education thinking your job will pay them off is Russian Roulette for your future. Odds are that the high paying you think you are going to have will be given to an H1B visa holder or sent overseas and your education will be worth nothing after 3-4 years of not putting any of the skills you learn to use anyway.
Alice from BritainLoans

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