I hate thinking about how much debt I accrued in graduate school. I write a big check every month that chips away at the massive number like a toothpick at a boulder. By the time I finish paying that sucker off (somewhere around 2030) once all the interest is accrued, we will have paid more than twice the amount I originally borrowed. And ironically enough, the career path I am on now has nothing to do with my graduate degree. Nothing!
The most recent college graduates are entering into a historically bad job market with no hopes of finding a high-paying job to help pay off their massive debt. According to Baruch College:
The total student debt of our country is quickly approaching a staggering $1 trillion, and according to The College Board, on average, a student is about $27,650 in debt from taking out student loans. Many college students fall into the trap of borrowing large amounts with hopes that their future job will compensate them enough to repay their loans.
Okay, so let’s figure this out:
If I borrow $27,650 to pay for school,
and get a rockin’ fixed rate of 3.5% for 10 years
that means I will pay $273.42 a month
and I end up paying $5160.33 in interest over the course of ten years.
Yikes! That’s a high payment! What about a car? and gas? FOOD? a place to sleep?
No worries, you say! Let’s just go with a plan that gives me longer to pay off the debt. Instead of 10 years, let’s shoot for 25. Yeah, that seems more reasonable.
$27,650 in debt
that same fixed rate of 3.5% for 25 years
that means I will only pay $138.42 a month.
That’s much better! You can still afford to eat making that payment. But wait! Hold on to your horses. If you go with the 25 year plan, in interest alone I will end up paying:
Say What? That’s a LOT of Money!
so after 25 years, I will have shelled out $41,526.73
Here’s the bottom line: When you get a loan, the sooner you pay it off the better, and that’s really hard to do if you are out of a job.
My advice to anyone coming out of college is this: wait to go to grad school. Don’t make your situation worse by rushing into more school and debt when the realization hits you that there are no available jobs in your field. I rushed into it before I knew what I really wanted to do. I wish I would have worked for a few years in order to figure that out. By the time I had a masters in theater history and criticism, I discovered I really had a knack for the advertising industry! (and it pays better than being a high school drama teacher!)
And no matter what, never ever ever use credit cards to make tuition payments. Your school’s financial aid department can help you find a loan that comes with a low fixed rate. Credit card companies will charge you ten times these low rates offered by loan companies, so stay away from using them. Period.
If you are stuck making student loan payments now, you might be able to consolidate multiple loans or even defer your payments based on your current financial situation. Give the customer service department at your loan company a ring for more options.