Posted on 11 May 2012.
HOST INTRO: Next week the people behind your favorite voices at Uptown Radio will graduate. For all of us, a diploma from Columbia means the opportunity to go onto bigger things in journalism. Commentator Acacia Squires is realizing this also means big debt.
SQUIRES: I was twenty-five and I’d just been promoted. I had a life insurance policy, and a 401K. I was living in Los Angeles and life seemed .. great. But I was getting restless.
It was late 2010, the economy was still in the toilet, and then… I quit my job.
I decided to get out of the yuck and muck of LA and head back to school.
So I took out a loan. Well, three loans. Totaling 65 thousand dollars, the largest loan at 7.9 percent interest. It didn’t seem all that insane to me at the time.
Come August of last year when the sticky summer wore off and classes began, it was payday. My loan servicer, Nelnet, dropped a heavy sum into my bank account.
It didn’t feel any different from the cash I’d made at work. Money was money, so I just continued with life as usual. Dinner? Yeah! Drinks? Of course! Shopping? For sure!
One night I slumped home from school really late, and grabbed the mail on the way in. There was another letter from Nelnet. I figured they were asking me to “like” them on Facebook again, so I ripped open the envelope without a second thought.
And there it was in black and white, staring me straight in the face. They’d been kind enough to estimate my total repayment with interest.
One. hundred. thousand. dollars… for my three loans over ten years. I’d be writing checks to Nelnet for eight hundred and fifty dollars every month for the next decade.
My jaw must have dropped. I put the letter down and crawled into bed. I tried not to think about it.
Then I realized I wasn’t alone under the heavy cost of school. It was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, and on the cover of magazines, congress was debating it – student loan debt was approaching a trillion dollars in the US. They’re even occupying student debt now.
With graduate school interest rates slightly below eight percent, and the unemployment rate, slightly above eight percent, something has got to give.
Reporters like to cite one fact over and over again. For the first time in history, student debt exceeds credit card debt. It makes sense considering people don’t normally charge sixty-five thousand dollars to their MasterCard.
So if you asked me if all the money was worth it, I’d have to consider the long nights, and the early mornings… and all of the stress. Then I’d remember my few precious successes, and celebrating with friends at the bar afterwards. And even if those drinks did come at seven point nine percent interest, I’d say, yeah, I think it’s worth it.
BACKANNOUNCE: Acacia will make her first eight hundred and fifty dollar payment in November, but tonight she’s buying the drinks.