My hometown paper, the Daily Record, ran a story today entitled, “Burdens of college: Stifling debt, uncertain job market.” Given my ridiculous student loan debt and the fact that at one time someone called me the poster boy for the issue, I thought that I’d make a comment or two about this article. From the article:
Anthony Ratliff of Chicago may become a paralegal instead of a Web designer because he’s carrying $64,000 in debt and can’t afford to continue studying at the Illinois Institute of Art. Instead, he’s pursuing legal studies at a local community college.
“My dreams of doing what my talents allow me to do has been pretty much put on hold until the economy improves,” said Ratliff, 25.
A recent report by The Project on Student Debt found that nearly three of five members of the class of 2007 left school with debt. The average debt graduates carried that year was $20,098, a 6 percent increase over the previous year.
This really is a shame. Mr. Ratliff might be one of the best web designers of our time, but we’ll never know because he is being forced into a different profession. There are many stories of this happening over at Student Loan Stories and I know the feeling (somewhat). I wish Mr. Ratliff the best in his job search and I hope that he can pay down his loans in a reasonable amount of time.
In my situation (which is completely different than Mr. Ratliff’s situation) I might be forced out of my current job because they don’t offer enough of an annual salary increase. The job offers a standard 3% increase over the previous year’s salary – barely a cost of living bump. For those of us who go above and beyond the call of duty, we get an extra point or two in addition to the 3% (I actually got about three points higher because I’ve really kicked it up at work over the last 12 months). Frankly, though, it’s not enough for me to ever hope to get out of the rat race of living paycheck to paycheck with a meager savings for retirement. So I can appreciate Mr. Ratliff’s situation where he wants to do one thing (in my case, stay at my current job), but his student loans are forcing him to do something else (in my case, find higher paying employment).
The message that is reinforced in the article is that these are tough times. You’ll notice in the “comments” section of the Daily Record article that I had to make a comment to another respondent. The worst thing that can happen in this situation is for people to project their own personal situations on to the experiences of the subjects of these articles. Would you ever hear someone who has a job say to someone who just lost their job: “I didn’t lose my job because I’m a worthwhile employee. You should try not sucking at your job and maybe you wouldn’t lose it!” Of course not. The situation is the same with gigantic student loan debt. Sometimes students don’t have access to Auntie Mae’s fortune, the ability to go into the military, or the option to go to a less expensive school. Other times people DO work their entire time in college and graduate school and still wind up with some student loan debt.
All I’m saying is that it’s crazy for people to harangue and blast the people in these stories by using their own lives as an example. How narcissistic? My best to Mr. Ratliff and everyone out there fighting to survive under massive student loan debt.