The Stranglehold of Student Loans

Completing the requirements to receive a college degree is supposed to open a whole new world of opportunity to the new graduate. But the increasing costs of attending college are stealing the dream of financial freedom from many. I am one of the many college graduates that have experienced the crushing reality of drowning in student loan debts.

Student loans are how many college students manage to finance the staggering costs of higher education. We willingly enter into thousands of dollars of debt to pay our college tuition and buy books. The student loans that are offered are always for more money than what is needed to cover the educational costs of the semester. The left over funds could be returned to the lending institution but most students use the extra funds to cover living expenses or pay for vacations.

My total student loans topped $18,000 on my college graduation day. I did not use any extra loan money to fund spring break trips or other such frivolous things. As a married, non-traditional student, I had more expenses to cover than most college students. The excess money that was offered with my loans was used to help cover living expenses such as rent and groceries. I would not have been able to continue in college full-time without using the excess student loan money to cover these necessities.

Upon completion of my degree I looked forward to working full-time and using my education to build a comfortable lifestyle for my family. But when I graduated the job market was in a down turn after the terrorist attacks of September 2001. As a recent college graduate I was forced to take a position in technical writing and completed work that was only remotely related to the disciplines of my degree. As I continue to grow my career in the mass communications industry I am still disappointed in the pay scale of the opportunities I find. I always knew that my chosen profession was unlikely to earn me a six figure income but I never expected it to leave me scratching to keep even with the financial poverty line. I find that I am left questioning the value of my education that plunged me into such deep debt.

My loans were originally scheduled to be paid off by the end of 2010. Unfortunately, I have a little less than half actually paid off although it is now past that ten year mark. The financial burden of trying to pay back the loan mixed with a poor paying job market has forced me to place the loans into deferment a couple of times. I have also requested the payments be stretched over a longer time period in order to keep from defaulting on them. The advantage to this is that my monthly payment amount is less and therefore more manageable. The downside is that I will end up paying more in interest by the time it is all said and done.

The result of my college education and student loans have left me struggling to build the financial future I had dreamed of as an eager young college student. As I look back now I would have rather taken longer to get through college and paid for it as I went.