The Hard Truth About Student Loans
A recent article on Entrepreneur from contributor Brandon Turner has ruffled more than a few feathers for the hard truth he lays out regarding student loans.
The piece, entitled “Understand Something About Your Student Loans: They’re 100 Percent Your Fault,” states a reality that far too many students these days don’t wish to admit.
Unfortunately, certain politicians will continue to stoke the fires of victimhood with an “it’s not your fault” mentality in the hopes that they can earn your vote and start a revolution.
But at the end of the day, Turner is correct. You have no one to blame but yourself. And like Turner, that is coming from someone, who has been paying on his student loans for more than a decade.
No, it is not a popular line of thought to endorse, but in order for your situation to ever get better, it is one that you need to hear. But before getting into the reasons that it is your fault, let’s get a few acknowledgements out of the way.
- Yes, tuition costs are increasing at an exponential and unjustifiable speed.
- Yes, your expensive college education are ineffectual at landing you your dream job fresh after graduation.
In other words, you’re not getting as much as you should be for the investment. No one is arguing that. However, that’s all the more reason to affirm that your student loans are your fault. Here’s why.
Student loan debt often builds because you have no sense of what you want to do with your life.
You’re not alone here. Many of us had no idea what we wanted when we graduated, or our idea of what we were going to do had no basis in reality. I thought I would collect my degree and walk right into a high-paying job in journalism.
When you’re done laughing, we can continue.
This is what actually happened: I worked at a Kohl’s Department Store as a supervisor only making $8.25 per hour. Then I upgraded to a job on the saw line at a meat plant making $10 per hour and living with the constant threat of lopping off a few of my fingers. Then I got a salary job at a legal publisher making a whopping $20,000 a year. I don’t even want to think about the hourly rate involved with that!
More years passed, and more jobs came along. I taught high school for a couple of years eking out $32,000 a year before realizing that I worked more in a 180-day contract than I ever did at a year-round position and had to put up with a lot more red tape and stupidity.
So from there I went back to the private sector working as a business analyst in a family-owned trucking company for $35,000 a year, which I started to supplement with freelance writing jobs.
Finally, after two years of that, I was able to work for myself full-time. Today — seven years later — I make close to three times what I made at the trucking company, but I also had five days off last year. That’s right. Five days. Which means I worked 360.
Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do, but it’s hardly the cushy job I had envisioned, and I’m sure the hourly rate wouldn’t amount to much if you crunched the numbers.
Worst of all, I could be doing exactly what I’m doing now without the $35,000 in student loans that I have been paying on for the last 14 years.
Moral of the Story
If I had actually taken the time to learn about myself, learn what my options were, and created a plan to reach my goals BEFORE going to college, then I could have decided if it was right for me.
That’s not to say you have to have EVERYTHING figured out before enrollment, but you should know enough about yourself to AT LEAST be aware of what your strengths, weaknesses, and passions are, and what types of career fields are geared toward them.
Too often, high school students don’t put enough effort into self-discovery. They simply send out the application packets because that’s what Mom or Dad or their teachers or guidance counselors have told them to do.
If that describes where you are, you have to wake up or you’re going to be one of the future horror stories that you are currently hearing so much about.
Remember that college is for those, who already know what they want to do, and have some idea for how to get there. Merely herding yourself into a university because it’s the way people close to you have always done it is not a good reason to enroll.
With all of the out-of-control cost increases, you cannot afford to think that way anymore. You cannot afford to take on massive amounts of debt with the hope that a 74-year-old socialist from Vermont is going to magically make an ideologically opposed Congress agree with him and fix everything. It doesn’t work that way, and it never will.
The only thing that you CAN control is you. The good news: you know you better than anyone else; it’s just time that you started listening to yourself and exploring the things that you want to do with your life.
If there is a place for college in your future — doctors, lawyers, engineers — then full steam ahead! But if you can get where you want to be by honing skills and getting on-the-job experience, consider going that route instead. It costs a lot less, and you could be working for better-than-minimum wage rather quickly depending on how well you take to whatever vocation you pursue.
There is also the eventuality of entrepreneurship. Running your own business may not necessarily be in your future, but you should start adapting the principles on which entrepreneurs exist.
As Turner puts it, “You’ve got to step out and start building your own dreams rather than spend your time building someone else’s. Because, here’s the truth: if your boss is paying your salary, you are bringing your company far more value than it is paying you. Your skills are worth far more than that measly paycheck.”
So if you’re worth far more, start leveraging ways to know and maximize that value. When you do that, you can start your own successful business or AT THE VERY LEAST land a higher paying job. Good luck!
[Image via RedAlertPolitics]