Read This Before You Take out Student Loans: Some Horror Stories

By Patricia Gorden Neill - May 20th, 2013

“I wish I had never gone to college.”

One reads these words over and over again when reading about the horrible student loan debt crisis. How many young lives are being ruined by the crushing burden of immense student loan debt and whopper-sized monthly payments, often higher per month than rent or mortgage? There could be thousands, maybe millions, of students who graduated with the precious degree but who now wish they had never taken on debt to go to school.

The problem of student loan debt is spreading throughout the economy. Ex-students strapped with so much debt that they can’t afford to get married, buy homes or purchase anything beyond groceries. People who spend their entire income on debt payments are not spending any money elsewhere, and a large portion of the American economy is based on consumer purchases. A least one generation and more probably two generations are directly affected by student loan debt. Parents are taking out loans to pay off their children’s student loans, because the former student can’t find a job that will allow them to pay it off themselves. Professionals who are licensed by the state have their licenses revoked if their student loans are in default.

A student loan is the one debt that cannot be resolved through bankruptcy. If you take out loans to pay for college, you’re stuck with the debt until you pay it off. People hitting their sixties are finding that Social Security will garnish their social security checks by 15 percent to put toward unpaid student loan debt.

Many young people have absolutely no understanding of what they’re taking on when they sign up for student loans. Unless they talk to their older siblings or friends, they may have no clue about the awful financial situation they could be getting themselves into by taking on debt that will be extremely difficult to repay in future years. America is deep into the Great Recession, and jobs have fled the country in the millions, leaving an extremely competitive job market with low paid service jobs. How in the world could someone hope to pay over $100,000 in student loans with an $8.50 an hour cashier jobs?

Parents and their high-school students should take a long, cold look at their finances and at the cost of college when it comes time to make financial and educational decisions that could have lifelong adverse effects for not only the students, but the parents as well. High school students and their families should read some of the horror stories engendered by the student loan debt crisis before they think of going into debt for a college education. There many horror stories out there, but here’s a few good Web sites to start:

  • Business Insider has a list of the 10 Most Depressing Student Loan Stories. Videos of each student explaining his or her situation brings reality to the situation.
  • Daily Finance has an excellent story on the subject entitled “Student loan horror stories: What's the worst that can happen?”
  • The Denver Post asked its readers for their student loan stories and printed the replies. Many of these replies are little horror stories in themselves.

If you wish to go to college, by all means go. But know exactly what you’re going for and why before you start applying to schools. Research the job market and make sure that the degree you want can get you into a good job. Read up and research the job market through the Bureau of Labor Statistics to see if there will be job growth in your field in the future. If you still want to go to college, do so if you can pay nearly all of the cost of the education without taking out student loans. Be very careful about getting student loans, either federal loans or private education loans.

Unfortunately, the economic climate in the nation doesn’t allow for casual financial decisions any more. Students make the mistake of taking out huge student loans only to find out later that they will spend their entire lifetime paying them back. This is a potentially disastrous decision, one that cannot be taken lightly. Borrowing $140,000 to finance a bachelor’s degree in sociology or another economically useless degree that doesn’t lead to a good-paying job is simply a bad decision. Think about working a midnight shift at McDonald’s, a day job as a cashier at Starbucks and a weekend job cleaning houses in order to cover the minimum monthly student loan payment, which could be higher than the rent. That’s what this particular bad decision could lead to, a life of unremitting debt slavery. Find other ways of making your dreams come true.

About the Author

Patricia Gorden NeillPatricia Gorden Neill edited medical and scholarly journals for over 20 years in the ivy-covered halls of the University of Rochester. She is a freelance writer, often covering higher education and the concerns of college age students, and is regularly published on a variety of websites.