I've been paying off my student loans for the past 10 years. According to my most recent statement from my lender, I'll continue paying them for the next 12.
Every month that I've been working, I've just immediately assumed that amount of money doesn't really exist. It's like my service fee for getting to spend six years not working 40 hours a week. Well, and getting those three degrees that sort of pertain to my current occupation.
And whenever my friends start playing the Who Owes The Most game, I'm (thankfully) out pretty quickly. That's because I hang out with a lot of graduate students who are working on PhDs, banking on the hope that they might land a high-paying teaching gig someday and pay off their $100K debts in 60+ years.
Every month that I've been working, I've just immediately assumed that amount of money doesn't really exist.
Student loans are absolutely a huge strain on the national debt. Americans owe more in student loans than we do in credit card debt, and that number is in the trillions. Because of the economy, more and more former students are defaulting on their loans, leaving the lenders (and eventually the U.S. government) in the lurch.
Estimations have made that these defaults and unremitted payments are costing the government about $6 billion annually. As a result, those glorious interest-free Stafford student loans we used to get in our financial aid packages were already eliminated. And on July 1, all Stafford loan rates are set to double.
President Obama is now encouraging Congress to halt the increase on student loans and keep them at 3.4% interest, which is incredibly low and STILL sending college grads to the poor house. On his already classic move on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, our savvy President "slow jammed" his plan to his young, hip supporters.
"Hardworking students will be paying about a thousand dollars extra just to get their education," said Obama over a smooth R&B guitar. "I've called on Congress to prevent this from happening. What we said is simple: Now is not the time to make school more expensive for our students."
"Ahhhh, yeah," adds Fallon in his best jazz whisper. "You should listen to the President."
Unfortunately, Obama's plan would most likely result in higher taxes for all Americans as the government would need to step in and help cover the costs. That's a sacrifice that some would say is not their responsibility. Why should someone who chose not to go to college have to help pay off someone else's debts in the long run?
On the other hand, shouldn't we, as a country, encourage as many people as possible to go to college and get advanced degrees so we can get America on the same footing as our foreign rivals? Or at least so we can do better on those pesky math and science tests that Finland and Japan ae always lording over us?
The U.S. Department of Education, which oversees Federal Direct Loans, stands in support of Obama, and the mostly student-populated Occupy movement has started re-occupying college campuses to get their voices heard. And the website Occupy Student Debt is a separate website which presents support stories (both for and against student loan reform) from the 99%.
Partisan opinions will of course clash over this one up until the election, although presumtive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is surprisingly in favor of halting the interest rate hike as well. It might just be a ploy to lure college age voters' opinions come November, which the "Preezy of the United Steezy" pretty much has on lockdown already. I mean, he's campaigning on Jimmy Fallon, and The Roots are playing backup for his message. You have to admit, that's pretty baller.
If all goes well — fingers crossed! — I will only have 12 more years of student loans. As long as no one else gets their hands on my interest rates. But that still puts me roughly in the realm of... oh, retirement. (Yeah, right, who gets to retire any more?)