Student Loans & The Lies of Higher Education

Student Loans & The Lies of Higher Education

The following post was written continuously from start to finish, with minor breaks to gather supporting graphs and charts. This stream of conscious narrative will be an approach I will tinker with from time to time when I want to quickly put my “in-the-moment” thoughts to paper, without in-depth deliberation and contemplation. Let me know what you think!

Spring 2004

The Princeton Review arrived. I felt like a kid again; only the JC Penny catalog rivaled the excitement I felt getting this gigantic encyclopedia of colleges around the country. As I flipped through the pages, I jotted down notes, compared class sizes and poured over other trivial facts. I dreamed of a future where I would have a high paying job, working my 40 hours a week in the corporate world. Why would I want any different?

Unlike most graduating high school kids – I knew what I wanted for a career. I would major in finance and would one day become a stockbroker or a hedge fund manager. To leave nothing to chance – my parents hired a “special” service company who helped with resume writing and college applications. As I remember the uselessness of said company – it sickens me to imagine what they paid.

Spring 2008

In a few weeks I would be graduating college. It was the worst economic climate since the Great Depression. However, you wouldn’t have known it by the cheery and optimistic tone of my school’s career center. After four years in the prestigious finance program, we were given rosy (bullshit) statistics.

  • Post-grads AVERAGING $60,000+ a year
  • 90% employment rate within 6 months of graduating
  • Abundance of jobs all over the area in all major fields of study

My peers and I all thought riches awaited us upon graduation. We couldn’t have been more wrong.

While hunting for job opportunities – I discovered a startling fact. There were hardly any jobs to apply for. The market was scarce and those that were listed required insane credentials – 3.50 GPA’s, recommendations, service time – you name it. My school was favorably located between two major financial cities on the east coast, so it was not due to logistics. I can only imagine if I had lived in the South or Midwest. After striking out on job after job, I had to settle for a trivial, function-based finance job making $33,000 a year.

This was far from the dream I was fed for the greater part of the last year by the school and the propaganda of the career department. The real kicker was this – I was left with $70,000+ in student loans.

Student Loan Borrowing Rates

Winter 2014

It had been two months since my father passed away on Halloween. My mother was struggling with the burden of dealing with the abundance of trivial matters one needs to deal with when a spouse dies. 

Then came the news.

My student loans were of the “parent” variety, a more secure type of loan that offered a better rate because it was co-signed by my parents. My father signed the loans solely (due to the fact that his salary alone qualified for them). Due to his death, the ENTIRE BALANCE of my loans were wiped clean. I was free of debt, free of the monstrosity that cripples so many young adults in today’s world. It was the definition of a bittersweet moment, a twisted type of compensation for no longer having my father. 

Present Day

Two companies and three promotions later, and my salary has come a long way from the $33,000 I started with. I created Shameless Pride in January 2014 as a creative outlet to voice my thoughts after the end of a multi-year relationship. In the past 6 months, I have put into motion several side hustles that I hope will come to fruition over time. Mentally, I am a shell of my former naïve self who thought college guaranteed riches upon graduation. I can’t help but think of all the current day kids coming out into a shocking job market, only to find low paying jobs and higher and higher student debt.

The graphs and raw numbers are simply astounding. I cannot even imagine having a child who wants to go to college. In 25 years or so, what are we going to be looking at? $50-60k a year?

College Costs vs. Inflation Through 2011

 

College Cost Projections into 2030

I see guys at work getting their masters degrees.

I ask myself, for what?

Did their superior explicitly say that getting a masters degree would guarantee an x-amount raise? The answer is no.

Yet these poor guys are perfectly content assuming upwards of $50-100k more debt because of the “follow the leader” culture when it comes to higher education.

First, it starts in high school. You NEED to go to college.

Upon graduation, you then NEED a masters degree.

Then come the specific designations and certifications found in various fields – You NEED those too.

Tens of thousands out the door, and for what? For most, a static salary.

Personal Income Changes since 1979

Most employees slave away working for corporations that see earnings concentrated among the top 20-30 executives. Job security? Good luck with that. Everyone is expendable. People are devastated when they lose their job (research shows it on par to losing a loved one), because they feel duped. They were told this was the dream, to work hard, and you would one day be rewarded. It was, and is, bullshit.

Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. The unfortunate reality is that a degree is a check the box that is required by almost every company in existence. Once you work for a few years, it becomes meaningless, and you become as good as your last job, reviews, and recommendations.

Most of what you learn in college is forgettable, dated, and irrelevant. Almost every working adult learns their job function ON THE JOB.

Student Loans as a Part of Overall Debt

The decision to automatically send a child to college has never been more debatable than it is today. It is a decision that must be looked at extremely closely, considering the cost-benefits of assuming so much debt. 

What Should You Do?

Like me, you probably work in the corporate world. You most likely have student loan debt (hopefully towards the lower end). How should you go ahead?

Ask yourself – Am I happy? Is financial freedom attainable?

This will most likely never happen slaving away for someone else in a salary-capped corporate environment.

You need to branch out into other endeavors. Ask yourself – What are my passions?

Write down 10 things that make your heart race, hobbies or interests that bring you happiness. Can any of these things be incorporated in a side hustle?

It is imperative to protect your earning power, and begin to work towards financial freedom. If you work a corporate job, you need to leverage every free moment you have to work on your side projects. The goal is at least 3 streams of income. No amount is too small –  you need to start somewhere. Never before has there been more ways to make money on the side. Almost every skill or passion can be transformed into dollars.

To fulfill this reality you need to be proactive, hungry, and downright disgusted with your current reality.

Unplug yourself – and stop believing the fairy tale narrative, the lies of higher education. Think about college logically.

What will be a realistic salary upon graduation? Are you ready to assume MAJOR debt that might take 20-30 years to pay off? 

I was blessed to have my debt waived, and 8 years into my career has given me the experience to  reflect on the scary reality of student loan debt, and the issues facing today’s graduates. The way things are trending –  student loan debt will be the next major American bubble and crisis.

Student Loans Highest Total Debt

 

Potential Student Loan Crisis

Diversify yourself.

Invest in yourself.

And maybe one day, you will work for yourself entirely. Happiness is the key folks. Never forget that.

Till next time,

Axel

Let me know what you think below! Would you like to see more stream of conscious posts in the future? Has student loan debt had an impact on your life?

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  • Great Post Axel,

    Like you I was constantly bombarded with people telling me that needed to go to College after High School. For me I had other ideas and decided to instead join the service and when I decided to do that my so called College Advisor went ballistic! She went ranting and raving on how my decision was stupid and that only losers join the service and shit like that.

    Mind you this person was a college degree holder! I told her the reasons why as my parents could not afford for me to go to college. So i needed a way to get money and go to college myself. She just looked at me in disapproval as I got up and left. That was the last time I saw her.

    Anyway back then I knew College is not the only route for a student to go to. You learn the trades like Plumber, Electrician which make more than a College Graduate ever will. Or join the service like I did. Its a big world out there and I wanted to see it and figured it would be a learning experience. By the age of 18 I was already on the other side of the world by myself living my life a real life not some bubble in college. During that time I learned about responsibility, Self confidence, taking charge, leadership, interacting with different cultures and languages, of course meeting and tasting the delicacies of foreign women and on on it went.

    Personally I think I learned more during those 4 years in the service that I will ever have had in College. Real life is a great teacher!

    After that I decided to go to college but instead when to a business school. Decided to get into the Tech field because at the time we were going through the dotcom craze. So after I got my Associates i got picked up on a computer job 2 weeks later and have been working ever since. I was lucky because I was able to pay off the majority of the loans with the money from the VA and GI BILL but it was not enough. I fell a few payments behind because of a job loss which I’m trying to catch up on.

    Its true just like you I’m a White Collar worker and for a long time I thought doing this was the epitomy of success! In reality it is not! I’m looking to do some side hustles as well because you never know when one day you get that foot up your ass and send you on your way. Working a job you will always be at the mercy of another person.

    Great Post Axel!

    • Hey Jose, welcome to the blog!

      That’s an awesome story man, the fact that you were aware that other options existed at such a young age is very telling and unique. There are so many ways to skin the cat so to speak, but as with most things in life, most people just follow those around them. They do things because the majority of people do them, and college is no exception. I went to a 4 year school, and I don;t regret it per say, but I do see how loans are ruining the lives of some of those around me. I also see 100’s of college employees making extreme amounts of money and ask myself why college is now 12-15x more expensive than 25 years ago. To me, it seems like a very shaky future.