As I travel around the internet and read some of the many horror stories that are emerging about young people who take on too much student loan debt, I can’t help but make a few comments about my own situation. First of all, if you don’t know my student loan situation, it made front page news on USA Today about a year ago. Yes, the darling in the picture holding up his Masters Degree is me. Pretty sweet cap and gown, huh?
The woman who wrote the article did a great job of getting some preliminary information out there about student loans and how they are affecting many college and graduate school graduates. And remember, this was before there was a scandal or before it became burgeoning chic to talk about gigantic student loans.
But in that transformation from a one-time front page article in USA Today to the social cause that student loan debt has become, a bad trend has emerged. Namely, this trend is to make those of us who have mega student loans look like we’re victims.
I’m no victim.
Let me make it very clear – I took out all of those student loans with my signature to advance my education to make myself a more well-informed person in a competitive work force and in a competitive world. Me – I did it. No one else did it for me. I wasn’t duped, I wasn’t fooled – I wasn’t taken advantage of by someone one day and found out I had a 6-figure debt the next.
I took out that money to pay for an education that I could not have afforded without it. Plain and simple. Now, if you want to get into my beliefs on how I feel the general education system took advantage of me, then that’s a story I can talk about. If you want to know how teachers who are brainwashed to repeat the mantra of “do good in school, be involved in extracurricular activities, be responsible, go to college,” took advantage of me and every other public school student out there, then we can talk about that.
My issue isn’t with my massive debt (though believe me, it’s a bitch – especially when you’re trying to buy a house). My issue is with those folks who told me since I was a child this ridiculous mantra of how to get ahead in school. They didn’t tell me that young, Caucasian, suburban, intelligent males aren’t the ones who get the free rides to college.
They didn’t tell me that if you’re young, then society believes that you can pay your own way through college. What about those of us who had to work to simply pay our bills and living expenses?
They didn’t tell me that if you’re white, then society says that you must have an advantage over the other students by virtue of your skin color. I had no advantages and I can tell you numerous minority students who went to my undergraduate college for free just because they were Latino or black. Being white didn’t help me (nor does it help anyone who goes to a regular, non-Ivy League college).
They didn’t tell me that if you live in the suburbans, then society believes that you must come from a family with money. Bullshit on that! My family works hard for everything that they have and we are not rich nor are we upper-middle class. We are a regular family in America that struggles to get by – just like 99% of the families in this country. Being from a suburb didn’t help me a damn bit.
They didn’t tell me that if you’re intelligent, then society automatically assumes you are going to get a free ride to college and thus puts their money with the less fortunate. I graduated high school with a 4.02 and more activities, leadership positions, and sports than you could imagine. I got a $4,000 per year “break” on my tuition from my undergraduate institution which was taken away when I moved off campus (now does that make sense?). Being smart didn’t help me get a break with paying for college.
And then there is the fact that I’m a guy. Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you heard of a scholarship for smart, young white guys who live in the suburbs? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
THAT is my issue that is ancillary to the student loan problem – this is what I told the woman who wrote that article about me. I’m not a victim of student loan companies or a corrupted student loan system. I’m an example of what happens when our society turns ultra-liberal and where saying, “Good job,” to a young, white, suburban male is seen as xenophobic and racist against the “less fortunate.”
But as far as these people who are out there saying that they are victims, I have a message for them: get a grip. You signed the paperwork, you took out the loan. Live with it like the rest of us and pay it off as soon as you can.