Student Loans: They’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse, even though you probably should

Student loan debt can end up having a death grip on many of our young graduates. (Photo Credit:  www.flickr.com)

Student loan debt can end up having a death grip on many of our young graduates. (Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com)

Student Loans. These two words can strike fear into the hearts of everyone from the newly graduated entry-level employee to the CEO who has been with the company for 25 years. Why is this? Because chances are they both are making payments. Sounds farfetched? Well it is not. The student loan gang has resources that make mob organization collections seem like Avon ladies ringing doorbells to pick up their money. No matter how many years have gone by, no matter how many times you’ve moved, changed your name or entered an FBI witness protection program for an unrelated matter, the Student Loan Mafia (SLM) will find you. They won’t break your leg, but the incessant calls can make you feel like banging your head against a wall.

Let me backtrack and say that student loans have seemed like a Godsend to many, including myself, who might not otherwise have had the opportunity to pursue a post graduate degree. For that I am eternally grateful. But if I had known then what I know now, I would have never taken out one of those loans. I would have worked, saved up some money and then taken one class at a time, paying cash, until I obtained my degree.

However, for many of us, the lure of that money paying for classes gave us the opportunity to fully focus on our studies and exams without having to concern ourselves with grueling work schedules. And truth be told, after the loan check came and the classes were paid for, there was usually a little something left over to get a few groceries to eat and gasoline for the car. Okay, looking back it was a pretty sweet life.

Then came the big crock at graduation. The Secretary of State of Georgia at the time gave a riveting speech that had us believing the job world would welcome us with open arms because we’d furthered our education. She said, “You will find that your degree will almost immediately command $10,000 more onto your salary.” Strange that I can remember her quote so vividly after 11 years, but there are two reasons for that. One, we believed her and it had us graduates cheering wildly and bursting with hope. And two, it’s vivid because of the betrayal I felt when it never happened, at least not for me, at least not yet. I can’t help it because like the saying goes, hope springs eternal, doesn’t it?

Back to my original point of this post which is the stress the SLM puts on people. There should be some kind of clause written in the student loan contract that allows the loan to be forgiven if you come out owing $100,000 and most starting salaries are around $26,000. That’s just way too much of a disparity to be reasonable. The poor graduate ends up skipping the rent every other month in order to pay the loan. It becomes a vicious cycle as the next month it is the car payment that is passed over in lieu of paying the SLM. The collectors, who probably owe loans themselves, are desperately cutthroat in their attempts to solicit payments. Now to be fair, they do give you six months after graduation before the first payment is due, but sometimes it takes long than that to secure the kind of salary that can handle those payments.

These things being said, the SLM does have a right to be paid. Anyone raised with any sense of right and wrong knows that if you borrow some money, the correct thing to do is pay back what you owe at the agreed upon interest rates. So it’s just something that I and other SLM debtors will have to deal with until we make our last payment.

P.S. Congratulations to all of the graduates this year. Keep all of your options open and before you put ink to paper to take out a student loan, please consider the military, Peace Corps and other ways to finance your education. There are also professions like teaching, firefighting and others that will pay off your student loans if you work for them. The possibilities are endless. Your accomplishment in obtaining your degree is to be admired and, despite my rant, is something that you should always be proud of. Enjoy your day and bask in the celebration.

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