College for Debtors

By John Jones

Student loans have inflected a sense of unfairness to many college students. Yet, they are in many cases, unavoidable. Total student loan debt rose to over $800 billion in June 2010, the first time it took over credit card debt, according to Associated Press in 2011. But do students borrow too much money, and how much should a college student borrow? Is it safer to stay away from student loans completely?

The lending manager and chief executive of Zion’s Mortgage, James Sheets, speaking about student loans, explained, “Borrowing for anything, including school, should be avoided if possible.” Why is this the case? “Very often, students can work to supplement their education budget, there are grants often available, and families have saved towards the cost of an education. Student loans create a current obligation that can be a big burden to graduates as they are trying to build a household and family.” He continued, “There are however, cases when students have few choices other than getting student loan financing. When that is the case, they should always make sure to keep borrowing to an absolute minimum, and never finance non-educational costs e.g. automobile, living costs, travel, etc.” When asked ‘Who should look into student loans?’ He replied “Student loans provide educational opportunities to people who cannot otherwise afford it. If approached with care, educational financing with student loans can give access to education to those who otherwise could not afford it.”

Kamenetz in her book titled Generation Debt  stated that ‘a combination of wage declines in entry level jobs and increasing cost of colleges around the country have place many high school graduates in a no-win position, pressuring them into not a career, but debts that take a while to pay off.’ The earnings for a college degree relative to a high school degree have tripled in the last three decade, according to Kamenetz, so college is very important for those who eventually want higher paying jobs.

Student loans are prevalent for college students and their families. It affects marriage rates and influences job experiences according to a 2011 study conducted by Rothstein and his colleagues in the Journal of Public Economics. It also influences career choices, since it is becoming more and more expensive to go through additional years of college for a doctorate, law degree, and master’s degree.  A student loan is by definition “a type of loan designed to help students pay for post-secondary education and the associated fees, such as tuition, books, and supplies, and living expenses.” Do these loans actually “help” as they should, in the long run?

Average student debt- more than $22,000 Average annual fees- exceeds $17,000 per year for tuition room and board

-Associated Press 2011

One person I interviewed, Kathy Bently, was able to get through her bachelor’s degree without loans, but in the master’s program, for her P.A..(Physician’s assistant) school, she borrowed more than 150,000 dollars. When asked “Could you have gotten as far without student loans?” she replied “Definitely not. I couldn’t have afforded school any other way, especially medical school.” She also said“Student loans are sometimes unavoidable.” Student loans sound more and more like it’s unavoidable cousins, death and taxes.

Kathy and many other students are taking advantage of student loans to the best of their ability. In 2015, there were about 4.8 million borrowers participating in repayment plans that took directly from their paychecks. This is almost 50% higher than the previous year’s records, which signify that student loans are on the rise (Jesse Rothstein 16, U.S. department of Education) however there are students who feel lost with what to do with the demands of repayment programs.

For example, a Denisia Rodgers who found student loans to be very beneficial, because her tuition would total more than 2000 dollars a month, who went to the John Hopkins university. She said that student loans were essential. However there are many different ways to obtain the money for student loans. Denisia found that the income- based repayment plan a plan that draws directly from a student’s paycheck which is one of the many options for student loans, was available. She is one of the 12.5% of roughly 40 million federal loan borrowers to sign up for this type of plan, and she had found it to be a great benefit in her career.

One of the problems with student loans is how to repay them. There is still remarkably little information to why students have problems repaying their debts. One of the possible reasons is is that postponing repayment is simple. As simple as not doing anything. One student from Philadelphia sad that “Mine was $200 when I graduated, then I had it on deferment and then I had it on forbearance. Now I’m paying $462 a month.”

Another student said that “they tack on the interest, that’s how mine was. Mine was like $140… I did the forbearance, I did the deferment, and then it ballooned to like $288. it literally doubled.” One answer to the problems with student debts may be educational classes where students can learn to prioritize and plan how to pay a loan back. Students from around the globe could benefit from these type of educational classes. Sometimes paying student loans is like trying to balance the nation’s budget; a losing battle.

Daydree Hulick, New Student Orientation Administrator at Brigham Young University, says about student loans, “Don’t do it, unless you have no other options. I know that when they are doing their surveys, their priority and concerns about. How they are going to pay for school comes after having a friend and finding their classes.” What do you recommend? “Get a job first. It’s hard to pay for your own school completely. Schools have varying tuition fees and thus necessitate different fees.” Daydree knows how hard it is to stay out of debt. “I had to work 3 jobs through college to afford to not have student loans, along with Pell grants.”

In conclusion, there are many ways to safely take out student loans, and many ways to muck it up. Students are more and more finding themselves in need of these student loans and more education has to be out there, for example, avoiding forbearance, making a plan to pay it off, and finding a steady income that can work with you as you try to pay off student loans. It is never too late to become educated about the traps and pitfalls of student loans as you use them to pay for your college. There are many options for students who are debating whether to further their career, just know that there are safe, healthy ways to further your education through the benefit of student loans. For more information, visit