US taxpayers are not the answer to student loan decisions
Recently, I sat in an audience and listened to two future high school graduates lay out their plans for going to college and pursuing their dreams of tomorrow.
Each had a plan for where they wanted to go, but weren’t sure how they could get there. Scholarships are available for some, but for others a huge financial liability (student loans) awaits them.
At 18 in 1966, I had my own awakening after high school.
I had no money and only a summer job to depend on a few dollars here and there. My future was limited to construction work and it didn’t pay very well whenever it rained, I got sick or other reasons prevented me from working.
My grandmother didn’t charge me any rent and I couldn’t afford to go to college, so becoming a genius was out of the question.
What was my future project? I thought about it and decided to enlist in the US Army. It would fulfill my travel interests, get me a job, and pay my rent for the next three years, I thought to myself. So that’s what I did.
And I left. I’ve been to North Carolina, Kentucky, Southeast Asia, Australia, Virginia, and parts unknown. I soon discovered that there was a vast world beyond Dargan.
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Before my enlistment ended in the fall of 1969, I took up another interesting hobby in the form of courtship. I got married and welcomed a newborn daughter into the Waters clan before leaving the military.
Now with a family, I thought more about my future. My wife wanted a house and it cost $17,000 to build in 1970. I had to take out a 33 year loan to pay for it and was worried I would die before that loan was paid off. I only made a little over $5,000 a year as a corrections officer.
The GI Bill for education was available, so I decided to go to college. My decision to enlist paid dividends. It helped pay for my education for the next seven and a half years, and I got a master’s degree.
There is no question that I go into debt to go to university. Buying a house was quite stressful when you were married and raising a child.
Today, students are encouraged to go into debt to pay for their studies. Here’s the student loan pitch from a loan officer: “Perfect for undergraduates and graduate students, these private loans will fit right into your budget and give you the financial freedom to achieve all of your educational goals. .”
Believe me, these loans will not fit perfectly into your budget!
The real security of your student loan is your future earnings. If you want to get married and have a child, your student loan does not disappear. It becomes like a second mortgage if you decide to buy a house.
The current student loan debt for our country is estimated at $1.7 trillion. It is easy to understand why most students would like this debt to be cancelled.
A student loan program is an impending tax accident and a misguided idea for many parents and young people. Today, many are burdened with huge debt and often without jobs.
There would have been no way I would have considered a student loan during my teenage years, as there were too many unforeseen variables to consider going forward.
I suggested to one of the students having difficulty accepting her tuition responsibility that she might consider the military as an option as educational programs remain available.
Local community colleges are also less expensive alternatives.
It seems that for some, getting a loan is a more desirable option than cheaper possibilities.
One never thinks much about repaying the loan in the future when the money is so easy to get in the beginning. This same kind of thinking gets credit card abusers in trouble.
If you don’t repay your loans, the lender (the government or the bank) can garnish your wages, garnish your Social Security, and even offset and take your tax refund.
Student loans are also not dischargeable in the event of bankruptcy.
And here’s a final thought for you aspiring college graduates: once you take out a student loan, a debt falls due somewhere down the road.
Student loans may work for some, but for so many others it’s a reckless investment leading to financial misery.
And American taxpayers are not the answer to your poor decision-making.
My advice: Think carefully before getting a student loan.
Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.