This irritates me a lot. It’s a poster in the style of “We Are the 99%” talking about how the person holding it is a college senior about to graduate debt-free, because they *work hard* and *save* and don’t spend their money on *stupid luxuries.* They go into lots of detail about their low-paying job and when they started saving and how if you’re in debt it’s your own fault for not living within your means.
Dude, good for you. First off, really seriously, good for you. If you’re working 30 hours a week in retail or food service, taking a full load of college courses, and pulling off a good GPA, my hat is off to you. That’s an accomplishment, and you have every right to be proud of it.
But where you stop making me think “Go you,” and start wanting you to shut up and go away is where you assume that people who have debt made bad decisions, or were lazy. And where you assume that hard work is the only thing responsible for you being able to graduate debt-free.
First off, you have a job. Lots of people are busting their tails trying to find work and haven’t been able to. So for every college student with your story, there are probably a dozen who can’t get a job at K-Mart or the local pizza joint because they have hundreds of applicants for every position. And you worked while you were in high school? Great. The economy sucked a lot less when you were in high school. Today, a lot of those typical teenage jobs are being filled by twenty-, thirty-, and forty-somethings who can’t get anything else.
Secondly, based on the fact that you’re physically and mentally able to do what you do, I’m guessing you’re in at least decent health. But what would happen if you were injured and couldn’t work for a month? What if you had a disability that made that work and class schedule impossible?
Third, you got scholarships. Yes, you absolutely earned those with your good grades. But there are certainly students who work just as hard, maybe even get the same grades, who don’t get scholarships, or don’t get the same amount of scholarship money you did. And people with awesome grades and scholarships still have student loans. I graduated third in my class, was a National Merit Scholar and had a “full tuition scholarship” (in scare quotes because it didn’t cover increases, so it was only full tuition my freshman year). And yet, here I am, eight years after graduation, still paying on my student loan. Not much, but I am in debt, so by this person’s standard, I fail at life.
If someone has debt, it *might* be because they made poor decisions. It might also be because they made the perfectly reasonable decision to borrow money for something that’s worth it, or at least was when they made the decision. A college education is a prerequisite for a lot of jobs, student loan interest is usually not that high, and college loans can be a good thing. If you can get a job when you get out, that is. It’s a risk, like anything else, but that doesn’t make it a bad decision. Someone starting school four years ago couldn’t have predicted where the economy would be now and how hard it would be to find a job with their degree. And that’s without even taking into consideration how banks can and do misrepresent loan terms or make huge numbers of bad decisions.