As American students now cumulatively owe about $1 trillion in student loan debt, Yahoo is publishing first-person accounts from those who are still paying and those who have lessons to share. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | The loan to cover my first year at Fairleigh Dickinson in New Jersey was for $28,000. My family cosigned and spoke with me about the responsibility I would assume when I graduated.
I didn't realize the gravity of what my promise would entail because I assumed I had to be in debt if I wanted a good education.
I am now nearly 24 and live in Los Angeles. I should have obtained my degree in the spring 2012, but I still owe my university $5,000 since I was unable to complete the payment plan for my last year -- on top of the $67,000 I have in federal and private student loans.
I work as a barista. I write on my own time. The degree I don't officially have is in film and screenwriting. My loan payments began in March 2012 at $430 a month and stayed that way until two months ago; now I should be paying an extra $250 a month, but I cannot shoulder the addition.
My loans are a constant weight, a stagnant, hampering reality even in my happiest weeks. I get calls about them daily -- swiping my phone open to hit "decline" on calls has become impressively instinctual.
I haven't had savings since I drained them to make my first payments. Most affecting is the tension the loans have caused in my familial relationships. In addition to my grandparents' help, my aunt and uncle cosigned a loan for me as a last resort when federal funding was cut. My grandfather passed in September of last year, so along with the attendant grievances of losing him, his wife is now left responsible as my cosigner.
My uncle came to visit me in Manhattan my last semester. On an evening walk, he said he had to ask me: Did I regret taking the loans on? I confessed then how it weighed on me, that I felt I should have stayed at state school. He apologetically told me that he and my aunt thought of it often and wished they hadn't let me do it.
I wouldn't recommend new college students to take out loans. This collective, unmanageable debt is a huge issue in America -- one we haven't experienced the full repercussions of. I think some of the responsibility should be taken by the government that should have better supported American students initially; the system in the United Kingdom virtually erases financial impediments to obtaining higher education. The resolution of the manifold challenges our world faces today must be dealt with by the current and coming generations. Shouldn't facilitating the learning that will enable young Americans to take part in these solutions be one of our first priorities?