Debt is a bitch and student loans have taken center stage recently as the credit crisis threatened the ability of students to get loans. However on this day, I read a story about how some people have resorted to moving overseas to avoid paying their loans, a step that seems like a lot until you realize the size of their loans.
Initially, I felt bad. Then I thought about it some more and realized that we all make choices and trade-offs in our lives and education is merely one of those choices you make. The story talks about Chris, who graduated with $160,000 in student loan debt and a master’s degree in music. Chris admits he could’ve (he didn’t say he “should’ve,” he said he could’ve) gone to a cheaper school but that he’s “most angry at the fact that for anyone who has debt that’s not student loan debt, there’s relief. You can get into $150,000 worth of credit card debt and you can declare bankruptcy and you can go on with your life. But with student loans, you’re being punished for being a better person.”
First, I’m sorry Chris, but you’re not a better person and someone with $160,000 worth of credit card debt is not a worse person; you both made your choices and are now are forced to live with them. It doesn’t matter what the money was spent on, it was spent and now you owe it. There is no woe is me, you can’t blame someone else, it’s all on you.
Second, $160,000 is a lot of schooling. Let’s say he went for six years (4 years undergraduate, 2 years master), that’s about $27,000 a year. He could’ve gone to a public school, he could’ve paid off more while in school, he could’ve done a lot of things. $160,000 for a M.S. in music seems very expensive to me (but I have no experience in that, it could be spot on).
Third, bankruptcy is not a panacea. It’s not like you walk into some courthouse one day, declare bankruptcy, and you’re free to do what you want the next day. When you declare bankruptcy (and prove it, which is not a simple task), it stays on your record for the next seven years. At a minimum, you can’t get a loan for anything. No car loan, no mortgage, no credit cards, no 0% financing… the list goes on.
Finally, and I know everyone is thinking it, but how could you expect to pay $600 a month? At 0% interest, it would take you 22.2 years to pay off a sum of $160,000. As a testament to how off his estimate was, his payments were four times as much – $2400 a month.
Running from your problems doesn’t solve them, it makes those problems harder to solve.