College: spending tens of thousands of dollars to get a job to pay off those tens of thousands of dollars.
An April 8 article in The New York Times said the interest rate on student loans is likely to double over the summer, from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent. Though Congress is working to prevent the increase from happening, any meaningful results on that front are about as likely as me making a sarcastic comment about how unlikely that truly is.
College is already expensive, costing tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. For those of us dumb enough to go to graduate school, it only gets worse. As a soon to be hopefully graduating graduate student, my student loans are now at $66,009. Most of that is in the form of unsubsidized loans at this point, because at the graduate level, you can’t get subsidized student loans. I also had $20,000 from outside sources, as well as some grants and scholarships. So it could be worse.
One of the benefits of a public university is the theoretical ability to work to afford college yourself. I wasn’t that lucky, and I’m not the only one. Presuming a minimum monthly payment of $600, these loans will be paid off –not counting accruing interest – in around 13 years. So I’ll be 37, presuming I haven’t given in to alcoholism or bear hunting during that time.
Shackling someone with a buttload of debt right out of college sucks. It puts pressure on the student to find work and settle down when they might still be feeling some post-graduate wanderlust. There’s nothing wrong with finding a job quickly after school, but the pressure and stress of a mountain of debt is no way to start a new life. It can also affect career and job choices in negative ways, forcing students to pick higher paying jobs they dislike in order to pay the bills.
Granted, this isn’t a new problem. More people are going to college even as alternative sources of career preparation are becoming more available. However, though it may be not be a new problem, it could get worse if the interest rate doubles.
Whether or not the interest rate doubling goes through, student loans will remain a problem for most college graduates. Better funding for alternative financial aid, like grants and scholarships, are an important part of funding college. So is work study, though actually getting some yourself is a whole other ball of wax. While college isn’t the sure thing to get a job that people think it is, it’s still an important part of our post-industrial society. Caring for its funding and the students who earn that funding is a vital component of America’s future.
So congratulations, graduates. Good luck finding a job; you’re gonna need it.