Someone help us, we’re drowning in debt

by Jack Sawyers

Last week I found some time, between hating on text messages andcomplaining about the weekend travel tendencies of the Simpson mob,to make a trip downstairs and grab my mail. Opening the box, Ifound the usual suspects – a few pre-approved credit cards, a bankstatement and a fake check from Walgreen’s for 20 bucks. However,as I neared the bottom of the stack, I found a foreboding letterfrom the fine folks at the Sallie Mae Servicing Student LoanCompany.

So, I did what anyone would do, and opened it. Onehyperventilated collapse and a few buckets of tears later, Irealized I was in deeper than the hole on North Buxton Street.

Hell, some of you drive cars that cost less than the interestI’ve accumulated as part of the privilege of owing these highwayrobbers money.

It’s that sick.

So it came as no surprise when, upon looking further into theindebted nature of the college student, I found that I am far fromthe only one with a future full of payments. We, as a species, liveon installments.

Consider this – the average graduate with a four-year degreewill owe well over $10,000 upon completion of their studies. Morethan half of them will owe $15,000-plus, and one-fourth will be inthe hole to the tune of $25,000 or more. Selling our souls isbeginning to look like a viable option.

As if the debt itself isn’t bad enough, the cost of having thisdebt is rising as well. Nearly 60 percent of all federal aid isdisbursed as loans, but the ability to consolidate borrowed fundsunder a low interest rate is disappearing faster than MichaelJackson’s pigment.

Put quite simply, when everyone owes everyone, there’s noincentive for lenders to knock their interest rates down becausethe demand for borrowed money stays so high.

Oh, and that’s not all.

In fact, the entire trend toward indentured servitude can betracked as a development of the ages. Over the course of the lastdecade, the amount of loans for college has more than doubled,while the amount of grant money available has barely increased atall.

Now consider that this trend has occurred in a time when goingto college is less an option than a requirement, and you can beginto see why credit is king in the land of liberal arts. Somebodywill own your ass, and it probably won’t be you.

Honestly, with the impending burden of student-loan debt, it’senough to make at least this writer think about continuing myeducation indefinitely. As long as I’m still a student, they can’texpect me to make any payments, right?

Picture me at 90, thirty-two degrees later, with a loan balanceroughly as large as Guatemala’s GNP, and you’ll understand.

Or, maybe I’ll take the route of one New York University studentand shave a few bucks off my school cost by living in the library.You can read about this innovative approach to debt management

The young man in question covertly slept in the archives of theNYU library for six hours a night and relied on his friends’charity for showers for an entire year because he couldn’t gatherthe $1,000 housing deposit for a dorm room. Suddenly, the leatherarmchairs at Dunn look a lot more like home.

Whatever your strategy may be, understand this: you willprobably be making payments for a long time after graduation, andthey may be outrageously high. You might even be paying off studentdebt for decades after your graduation. At some time you may haveto decide between shoes for the baby and making your payment.

Or, you could follow me in two years as I make a break for anon-extradition country and a life without running water,electricity or student debt.

Sounds pleasant, doesn’t it?