‘Til Death Do Us Part

Student loans seemed like a good idea at the time. Many are steered toward student loans as a responsible way to finance a college education. I recently retired my $13,500 ($21,000 with fees and interest) student loan from a degree I received in 1997. Fourteen years, a second degree, and couple of postponements later; I’m finally student loan debt free. Yipee!!! While my student loan debt was considerably less than today’s average – $23,000 – it still represented a huge miscalculation on the part of my 18 year old self.

I clearly remember borrowing more than was needed to finance school related expenses. My frequent travel excursions were often paid for with borrowed dollars. At 18, I figured I would get a good job and pay it all back after graduation…no sweat. Well, my life has definitely taken an unplanned course.

Corporate America wasn’t my cup of tea. In order to “find myself”, I enrolled in graduate school (a culturally acceptable reason to quit a “good job” and move in with Grandma). In the midst of this transition, I met and married prince charming, developed an attraction to non-profit (i.e. less financially profitable) work, and tested the entrepreneurial waters. What exactly was my 18 year-old-self’s plan again?

Student loan debt didn’t exactly derail my goals. It just made the last 14 years more difficult. With undergraduate students amassing $20,000 – $50,000 in student loans, young people risk becoming modern day indentured servants. A recent interview with Lurie Daniel Favors, a consumer rights advocate and bankruptcy attorney, revealed some vital information about student loan debt:

  • No student loan (Perkins/Stafford, Parent Plus, or private loans) can be discharged in a bankruptcy.
  • Your income, including eventually social security, can be garnished without a court order.
  • Professional licenses can be suspended because of student loan defaults.

 

Hindsight is generally 20/20. If I could take a student loan do-over, I would have:

  • Worked harder to find grants and scholarship money.
  • Saved more money during my part-time and summer jobs.
  • Investigated the resident advisor (RA) positions. RA’s typically receive room and board stipends (and a bigger room) with their position.
  • Borrowed only for educational expenses.
  • Worked diligently to repay my student loan quickly after graduating.

 

Among the mistakes,  a few decisions helped minimize my overall debt.

  • I maintained a decent GPA to keep my partial scholarships. I partied hard, but not too hard.
  • I attended a relatively inexpensive, in-state, public university. Go Sooners!!!
  • After 3 years of borrowing, I added up my total bill. Hit with the big number, I declined the additional loan and worked part-time to pay my living expenses. There was also less traveling that last year.
  • I also moved off campus into a reasonably priced apartment; with responsible, rent-paying roommates; to minimize living expenses.
  • I paid for graduate school without additional loans. The second time around I chose the starving student route.

 

A student loan will literally become attached at the hip until you repay the loan…or until death do you part. Tune into the entire conversation with Attorney Favors below:

 

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