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Student Debt: The Plague of the Millennial Generation

$18,900 that is how much debt awaits the typical college undergraduate (National Student Loan Survey, Nellie Mae, 2002). In the last ten years, student debt has risen 66%, forcing students to attend their second, third, or fourth-choice school, or to forgo higher education altogether. Some students work multiple jobs just to pay tuition, not to mention basic living costs. Other students take out loans for tens of thousands of dollars, hoping that, somehow, they can pay them off after graduation with an entry-level job. A maximum credit hour course-load causes nervous breakdowns as is, but when funds are tight, students attempt to stretch their tuition dollar even further by applying to take more than the maximum load. What are the non-loan options, and why are these options failing our students? Let’s find out.

After loans, needy college students most often utilize federal financial aid to help pay for school, but governmental grants are light-years away from satisfying this need. Federal financial aid is based almost solely on one factor: the student’s parents’ income. This policy is too generalized to adequately distribute federal funds to needy students. Some wealthy parents choose not to support their children due to ideological or religious conflicts. Others use college tuition as blackmail, forcing the child to choose a certain profession or attend a specific school. Many parents simply believe they are not obligated to pay for anything once their kid hits eighteen. Others have large families (with the current price of tuition, large is defined as “more than one child”) and cannot spend twenty-thousand greenbacks on each son and daughter. We also must consider how the financial aid department defines “wealthy.” Since the government’s financial aid matrix ignores the effects of debt, it also disservices students whose parents seem wealthy based on their yearly income but are actually drowning in debt. Children with divorced parents also get the short end of the stick the federal financial aid department uses the income and assets of non-custodial parents when determining your “need.” That’s right, even if you haven’t seen dad for ten years, his income (which he’s happily spending on his new wife and kids) will count against you, as observed in a study indicating that only 29 percent of children with divorced parents received parental support, compared to 88 percent of children from intact marriages. (Judith S. Wallerstein and Julia M. Lewis, “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study,” Hyperion Press, 2000). Details such as these add to the growing student debt burden as more and more students fall through the cracks in the financial aid grid, even the most industrious young people are forced to borrow thousands of dollars just to get a degree.

Think excellent performance in high school guarantees a full-tuition scholarship? Think again. With rare exception, universities have discontinued full-tuition academic and merit scholarships. A high school graduate with a 4.0 GPA and scoring in the 99th percentile on the ACT or SAT may receive, at most, half-tuition for his exceptional academic performance. The promise of an inclusive scholarship is no longer extended to anyone except those who fit the government’s narrow definition of financially challenged, forcing bright and talented students to choose between college and an overwhelming amount of debt upon graduation.

Off-campus student jobs fail to significantly alleviate the student debt burden because they do not accommodate a struggling student’s schedule and transportation needs. A financially struggling student generally lives on-campus or very close to campus because he cannot afford a car; this limits his job selection to the few businesses within walking distance of campus. Because of his financial obligations, our struggling student also takes as many credits as possible to maximize every penny spent on tuition. Most likely, he has several classes every day with small chunks of time in between classes, making it impossible to work a full day (or even a four-hour block). The struggling student must then compete with hundreds of his peers particularly comparatively wealthy students with lighter course loads who want a little cash on the side for a very small handful of jobs. When the employer is given a choice between a student who can work only two or three hours every day, and a student who can work two days a week from nine-to-five, chances are he will choose the latter and leave the cash-strapped student to fend for himself.

On-campus jobs could theoretically lighten student debt, if not for the reappearance of that wonderfully flawed financial aid matrix. Many colleges restrict whom they hire based on FAFSA data only employing students who qualify for financial aid. You absolutely cannot get paid to clean toilets even if the night janitor slot has been open for months if your parents’ income exceeds a certain amount. The school will even hire a non-student to fill an empty job slot rather than hire a student who does not qualify for federal financial aid. This type of employment regulation takes another blow at students already brushed aside by the financial aid department. When a student cannot even work for his tuition, loans may be the only choice left to him.

And, of course, we come to the combined problem of on and off-campus jobs: minimum wage. A minimum wage is generally not a living wage, especially in a college town. Housing costs skyrocket when you are in the vicinity of a university campus. Even grocery prices inflate; in my own college town, the price of groceries is roughly 50% higher in a store near campus than in a store of the same franchise five miles away. And any university that imposes housing standards pushes living expenses even higher, as complexes decide they can charge even more since they are especially “university approved.” And so we run a circular gamut: minimum wage is far from satisfactory, but you need a degree to make beyond minimum wage, but you cannot support yourself while getting said degree because you work at minimum wage. This throws the “work to get yourself through college” idea out of the water at even the cheapest universities.

The high price of a degree even at a poorly rated junior college can negatively influence a student’s chosen field of study. A student who is barely making ends meet in college is more likely to choose a “reliably lucrative” career than, say, a career in public service. Whether he would be a better drug counselor or an accountant is no longer the question accountants make more, end of story. The financially challenged student quickly learns that college is not about becoming a well-rounded educated individual, or developing talents in your most promising areas; college is about getting accepted into any school that guarantees you can pay off your student loans in four years. If college were actually affordable, public service and accounting majors alike could manage the graduation debt burden; as is, college expenses decrease qualified applicants in less profitable but just as necessary fields of study. Those who still choose to pursue careers in the less lucrative fields may spend two or three times as long trying to pay back their initial student loans.

Ironically, those who choose to pursue jobs that require additional graduate study are in the same predicament as their non-lucrative undergraduate counterparts, as they end their formal education with a wall of debt looming over them $91,700 on average (National Student Loan Survey, Nellie Mae, 2002). This staggering number marks a 57% increase in the last decade in debt incurred for graduate studies. The price of a graduate degree, which few parents and far fewer independent high school graduates can afford, discourages students from attempting graduate school at all. Those who do pursue graduate studies may still be chipping away at student loans many years down the road, even as they simultaneously juggle the financial needs of marriage and family.

A student’s emotional stability is an important aspect of the college experience, and financial troubles greatly affect that stability. Unaffordable college tuition pushes students to work multiple jobs, live in cheaper housing far away from campus, and overload their school schedule; these measures all significantly cut into or eliminate entirely social interactions that every human being needs to be emotionally functional. Rising educational costs mean no dinners out with friends, no dates, and certainly no flight home for the holidays. Depression and anxiety rates are skyrocketing among today’s teens and twentysomethings is it any wonder when students have more classes than extracurricular interests, and more employers than friends? After living a year or two as friendless, emotional wrecks, many students drop out of school altogether, or take out extensive loans so they can work one job instead of four. The result? Decreased college access, and once again, more student debt.

What can we do about this predicament? Reform governmental financial aid to reach more students more effectively; press institutions to spend more on in-house academic scholarships and less on faculty perks and campus luxuries; create a way for independent students to obtain aid without factoring in the income of parents who cannot support them; and eliminate hiring regulations on college campuses. Through persistent action motivated by defined goals, we can make education more affordable across the board.

{ 48 comments… add one }
  • JustRandi October 29, 2007, 11:45 am

    Well said. As a mom of 2 college students, I can say that neither of them qualifying for FAFSA has been a huge burden on them and us. Just as you said, the problem is that nothing but the income is taken into consideration. There are so many circumstances where that just doesn’t tell the whole story.

  • agardner October 29, 2007, 2:44 pm

    I was one who did not qualify for any government aid because of my father’s income. However, my parents had not prepared financially for my education, and with 5 other children at home could not afford to help me.

    I was able to get scholarships to cover most of my tuition, but still had the living expenses. I worked (part-time in the school year and full-time in the summer), took a semester or two off to work, and avoided student loans for a couple of years. But I did end up having to get a couple in order to get through (they are paid off now, yippee!!).

    My husband avoided debt altogether in his undergrad because his parents paid all of his living expenses, and he had scholarships for the rest. He did work part-time for spending money, but it was great when we got married (3 weeks after he graduated) with no debt on his part.

    Then grad school came, and there was no way to pay for that without student loans. I was already working full-time and he part-time, and we were expecting our first baby when he started. We did have to take out a couple of loans, and six years later we still owe almost $9,000. From the stats that Jessica listed, we actually have it pretty good!

    This system really used to frustrate me a lot. It’s not that I minded working for my own education, because I really didn’t mind that aspect. But I did have one roommate that used to drive me nuts – she was in school on grants, and had absolutely no desire to be there. She was in her 3rd year at Ricks (yes, when it was a two-year school) when we roomed together – taking classes “for fun” with no real effort. In fact, most of the time she wouldn’t even bother to go to class. I ran into her a few years later and she would joke about how many years she went to school for nothing, all on the dime of the taxpayer (she never did graduate, from Ricks or any other school).

    We are really trying to save for our children’s education, but things are so tight right now that it’s really difficult to do that. We do put money in for birthdays and my in-laws are contributing to their college funds. If we pay off our student loans on schedule instead of ahead of schedule, we’ll have them paid off about the same time our first child leaves for college in 10 years!!

  • facethemusic October 30, 2007, 7:29 am

    Great article Jessica!
    This is an issue SO worthy of consideration!! I REMEMBER the day my father finally paid off his tuition– it took him 20 years to do it, and he was a Colonel in the Army. So it’s not like he was struggling financially– but with the typical finances of raising and supporting a family, it took 20 years to pay it off. I remember being stunned to be 20-21 years old and overhearing my parents talking about having just made the last payment for his tuition– I was an adult! It took him that long! I’d had no idea that they’d still been paying for his education all those years. Of course– we’re talking about law school and Westpoint– so that probably has alot to do with it!
    I like listening to Dave Ramsey on the radio while I’m doing my running around after work.
    (For those who may not be familiar with him, he’s a financial advisor and has a radio program.
    I really like him because he’s very Christian based– and isn’t ashamed to say so. He bases alot of his advice in scripture, and even tells people that tithing is an important part of their financial planning!)
    Anyway- this issue of college tuition is one that gets frequently addressed on his program.
    He’s rather blunt about much of college tuition being a “waste” of money. Not the education of course, but the money spent on it. He says that people are too worried about going to a specific college, with a specific reputation, when really, you can get the same education at the local colleges.
    Of course– the environment would be different– BYU vs. University of Texas for example– HUGE party school. But there are plenty of smaller Christian colleges wth similar standards.
    I remember when we lived in South Carolina– Pres. Ballard came and spoke and one of the things he addressed is the concern that the Brethren had about parents in the church always sending their kids to BYU. That it wasn’t necessary for members to feel that BYU is the only place to send your kids for college– that that’s why they have the Institute program at colleges all over the United States. He also addressed their concern with those who DO go to BYU and stay in Utah. He stressed the need for those who attend BYU from outside of Utah, to go back home, and take their education and their testimonies back to their hometowns so that other areas can benefit from their influence.
    That talk made for a lot of chatter for a few weeks after!!

  • east-of-eden October 30, 2007, 9:01 am

    I love the Dave Ramsey show….he went of the air here in NM about a year ago, and I’ve never found him since. I whole heartedly agree with him, local colleges are just as good as far away, or more expensive colleges. In fact, a recent study of Harvard Freshmen found that most of the freshmen class was unsatisified with their education at Harvard. They felt it wasn’t worth the money they had to pay, to have the TA of some fancy schmancy, world famous professor teach them.

    I had loans–when I got to BYU (I had my reasons for going there, but I was perfectly happy to stay at a local university as well). I started out at a JR College and lived at home, then transfered, so my expenses were not as much. Then I left Utah, becase Happy Valley was a bit too happy for me! Again in grad school, I lived at home and only had to take out a loan at the very end when I was out of money.

    However, I wil say this about the “Millenial Generation” — I see alot of very new cars and very expensive lifestyles among college kids. Are they have to get multiple loans and struggleing so much because they are not willing to live like a poor college student? I knew plenty of students who were this way when I was at BYU (and I was there in the last decade). This does not minimimize the problem, because this is a problem, but I’m just saying….How much time is the typical college student staying in college as well? Are they taking alot of fluff classes, or chaning their major every other day too? For me, JR College solved that problem. By the time I got to University, I knew what I wanted to study and didn’t waste time or money in a new program every semester.

  • davidson October 30, 2007, 3:27 pm

    Well-researched and well-written, Jessica! Funding is a real problem. Of all the options you presented, I feel that parents shelling out the money is the least desirable avenue to take, although it would eliminate certain problems. My dad wanted me to be a technical writer. It was part of his definition of “success”, to be able to pay entirely for my college tuition and expenses. I wish I could say I was grateful and had a wonderful degree, but I don’t. I played a lot. Didn’t graduate. Didn’t appreciate the sacrifice, because I hadn’t made it. One semester in particular, I took 4 ballroom dance classes, just for the enjoyment of it. BYU offered me a position on their dance team, but I don’t have a viable means of supporting my family if the need arises. Youth is definitely wasted on the wrong people! I wish I could have that opportunity back now.

    My son-in-law, bless his heart, is a taker. He had his college tuition and his living expenses handed to him by a wealthy grandfather. Not only does he not appreciate what he has, he thinks the world owes him more! Recently he and my daughter-in-law had a professional sitting at a photographer’s, and he called to tell me that we could have a picture of them if we were willing to pay, not just the cost of our picture, but for a percentage of the pictures for THEM. (His parents did.) Not only can we not afford that, it’s against my principles! This son-in-law also has my daughter call to tell us what he would like for his birthday and Christmas gifts (she does, too), way in advance of when we normally ask about preferences, and a few times their requests have exceeded our budget. I’ve had to tell them no, and it was a very awkward situation. They feel that we don’t love them or care about them because we don’t “shell out,” like his parents do.

    Our son earned the ten thousand dollars it took to go on his mission by himself, and he was proud he did it. Yeah, he had to work the year between his graduation and his mission to earn it, while his friends went to school (and I’m not saying that’s right for everybody,) but he learned how to work and earn what he got, and it made him a better missionary. He didn’t like the idea at first, but now he says he’s very glad he did it that way. We paid the $2000 necessary to get him ready to go, and with nine children, that was about all we could do.

    I know it took Elder Nelson ten years to complete his schooling, because he had already started his family and he took pauses between semesters to work and earn the money. Again, maybe not an ideal way for everyone, but definitely a possibility.

  • kiar October 30, 2007, 4:32 pm

    I have been a student since 1997. I attended Rick’s and met my husband, did not finish. attended a JC, got pregnant, didn’t finish. went back, finances went to pot, didn’t finish. had two more children, went back… still not done! I have been taking a semester here and there and have really not a lot to show for it. I just had number 4 baby, and was going to go back to school in January. Ha! husband was asked to go to the police academy by the dept he works for, taking a pay cut for 6 months, graduating in March so I have to go back to work… which puts me going to nursing school off yet another year. (I am beginning to think that I will never get there).
    My mom was nice enough to take over the payments for the ten thousand dollar student loan I had to take out to go to Ricks, since she “has money” but I feel horrible about it every time I think about it!
    due to finances, its way too hard for me to go to school, to get the job I want and love, that would actually free up more time for my family. i feel stuck in a vicious cycle.

  • davidson October 30, 2007, 5:00 pm

    Kiar, your thoughts were interesting and shed a light for me. I love to help my married kids who don’t demand it, and when I can, I do. It would be so different if you were demanding or expecting those things from your mom, whether or not she “has money.” It would be so different if you didn’t WANT to do anything to help yourself, if you just sat back and expected others to take some or all of your God-given responsibility. Even the Lord “helps those who help themselves,” and will provide a way, “after all we can do.” I have been in your current shoes, too, feeling poor and stuck. My dad told me the “pay it forward” theory his parents had. They took me in after I was divorced and had a premature baby and no child support to help. (My ex-husband didn’t have an income, so he couldn’t send child support.) My parents said, “Our parents helped us when we needed help. You can pay us back by helping your children when they are at that point in their lives. And they can pay you back by helping their children when they get there.” I loved that! We say it to our kids now. I hope they will say it to their kids. It fits the Church’s policy of self-reliance: “we’ll help you when you CAN’T help yourself, and then you help others when you CAN help yourself.” Retains dignity for everybody.

    I have nothing but admiration for you for trying to do all the good things you and your husband are doing. You are keeping President Hinckley’s counsel to have a family. You are keeping his counsel to prepare yourself to support a family. Education is one of the very few reasons the prophets approve for going into debt. You have WAY more valuable education than I have! and I don’t think I will be able to haul in the groceries by dancing for people. (Well, I guess some people do, but it’s a hard way, and besides that, my little 200 lb. body wouldn’t look so good in those gowns they wear! Sob! :cry:)

    I wish I were better prepared, and I’m taking steps to correct that, but I sure wish I could go back and change the decisions I made while I was young!

  • Alison Moore Smith October 30, 2007, 8:34 pm

    Now you all can see why I’m so proud! :clap:

    We decided long ago that our kids should, for the most part, fund their own college educations. That decision came about for numerous reasons, not the least of which was the difference between most students who are funded by Mommy and Daddy as compared to those who fund it themselves. But I was unprepared for the baffling arrangement set up by the government.

    If Jessica has time (between her high course load and employment duties) she can share some of the disparity between some who work their way through school vs. those supported by grants. Interesting and, IMO, a terrible setup.

    Anyway, great job, Jessica. Thanks for contributing.

  • east-of-eden October 31, 2007, 9:02 am

    Davidson, your adult daughter is calling requesting gifts? It’s time to tell her no more of that. I have been trying for years to get my parents and adult siblings convinced that we no longer need to give b-day and Christmas gifts to each other!

  • davidson October 31, 2007, 9:44 am

    Yup, my adult daughter is doing that. However, she is the one that is bipolar, and her husband is bipolar and has ADHD. She assumes that since we have given her birthday and Christmas gifts in the past, we would love to know what she wants way ahead of time. They are both very intelligent people, but seriously lacking in basic social skills, and of course, always 100% right! We just try to wink at some of the things they do. It’s tough. They come to family parties, and none of my kids, (or the adults, for that matter,) want to be around them.

    I have tried to talk to them gently about taking so much, about feeling that the world owes them, about self-reliance. Fell on deaf ears. After all, they have ILLNESSES! (Fine crutch, when they want it to be.)Made them angry. She quit calling for a while, and frankly, I was relieved.

    OOoooo, I’m an awful mother. David O. McKay said we would each have an interview with the Savior, and in that interview, he would ask about the relationship we have with each of our children. I dread the time when He will ask me about my relationship with this daughter. I force myself to be as nice to her as I can be, to not say things that will upset her, to reach out to her with love–and I feel like such a hypocrite. I keep praying the Lord will help me to really feel those things. I keep trying to see past the illness to the person she will be in eternity. She wasn’t like this when she was a child. Probably a subject for another thread.

  • kiar October 31, 2007, 2:03 pm

    you are NOT a bad mother for trying to make your daughter take responsibility for herself. And, you only have to LOVE the people in your family, no one ever said you Have to LIKE them! I have a sister-in-law that is incredibly hard to like. She is in fact, pretty much evil… and I still love her. I just don’t like her at all. (she is horrid to my children, and her brother, (my husband), and tells her mom she is fat) I try as hard as I can to be civil to her fo rthe sake of her two little ones, who are innocents in the whole mess, but she is a taker and a mean-spirited person. But, I love her, because she is a daughter of God, just seriously misguided in her earth life.

  • kiar October 31, 2007, 2:09 pm

    sorry for thread jacking!

  • east-of-eden October 31, 2007, 2:37 pm

    I second that you are not a bad mother. Even a bi-polar person can be responsible for their choices (my almost former SIL is bi-polar, so I know what this disease can entail). Even if a person is bi-polar, the world does not owe them a living….end of thread jack. 🙂

  • davidson October 31, 2007, 3:02 pm

    Hey, you don’t know how much that means to me, both of you. My heart feels better, just knowing you think that. Thanks a lot. 🙂

  • SilverRain October 31, 2007, 5:12 pm

    Hey! THAT’s why the world owes me! I must be bipolar.

    Suddenly, everything is making more sense.

  • davidson October 31, 2007, 6:44 pm

    So, Silver, if the world owes you, do you collect? Will you share? :devil:

  • SilverRain October 31, 2007, 6:54 pm

    Of course I don’t collect. I can’t be bothered. They ought to just bring it to me.

  • marathonermom November 1, 2007, 9:40 am

    SiverRain, you’re still waiting for what the world owes you because you’re in line behind ME, honey! :tongue:

  • davidson November 1, 2007, 9:54 am

    I think you owe it to me to bring my share of the goods to my house by 10:00 a.m. the next morning.

  • davidson November 1, 2007, 9:55 am

    I’m still waiting.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 1, 2007, 11:20 am

    Just an FYI. Jessica wrote this for a scholarship contest. She was just notified that of over 400 entries, she is one of 16 being considered for the award. :clap:

  • jennycherie November 1, 2007, 1:01 pm

    Excellent, excellent article, Jessica.:cool: I especially love that you identified the problems AND suggested solutions.

    “Reform governmental financial aid to reach more students more effectively; press institutions to spend more on in-house academic scholarships and less on faculty perks and campus luxuries; create a way for independent students to obtain aid without factoring in the income of parents who cannot support them;”

    Can I suggest one more idea? There should be at least as many academic scholarships as there are athletic scholarships. I admit, I know nothing about faculty perks or campus luxuries where I teach. Since I am not a true faculty member (I am an adjunct instructor so I get to teach there without an advanced a degree and without the responsibilities of a true faculty position), I am still getting familiar with our campus and I have no idea if there are any perks or luxuries. What I do see is many, many students who have come to our school on athletic scholarships. The really great ones are the ones who use that scholarship as motivation (to do well enough not to lose it and to not waste it!) and work hard. The ones that make me pull my hair out are those who come only to play sports and do nothing else. Or those who come on a scholarship and waste it by not applying themselves in their classes. I fully support athletics BUT not over and above academics. Who is gonna hire someone just because they played college football or soccer or whatever? I wish that academic scholarships were as prolific as athletic scholarships. Why do our colleges and universities not court the students who are gifted academically the same way that they court the students who are gifted athletically?:confused:

  • kiar November 1, 2007, 4:27 pm

    because its not nearly as exciting to watch someone conjugate a verb as it is to watch them score the winning point in the final seconds of a game!

  • facethemusic November 1, 2007, 5:05 pm

    because its not nearly as exciting to watch someone conjugate a verb

    –not even if it’s in French?? 🙂

  • facethemusic November 1, 2007, 5:07 pm

    By the way, Jenn- nice use of the word “court” in the context of discussing athletics.
    How appropo!

  • jennycherie November 1, 2007, 8:09 pm

    Posted By: facethemusic–not even if it’s in French?? 🙂

    no–only if it’s in Spanish!

    Posted By: facethemusicHow appropo!


  • east-of-eden November 2, 2007, 9:06 am

    because its not nearly as exciting to watch someone conjugate a verb

    Bulgarian verbs would curl your hair…seriously.

  • davidson November 2, 2007, 9:10 am

    Oh, good! I shall begin to study Bulgarian verbs! I always wanted curly hair! Why mess with an iron when you could just whip out a few magic words every morning! ( Loved it! Hee hee!)

  • kaelin May 31, 2008, 9:08 pm

    I am a student at BYU, and I am writing an article about student loans for a journalism class. The article is simply for an assignment, and will not be published.

    Does anybody mind sharing a personal story about student debt?

    Why do you think students are graduating with more debt than ever before?

    Any ideas, stories, quotes, sources, or any other information would help me out so much!!

    Please email me at: Kaelin@byu.net


  • Tinkerbell May 31, 2008, 10:08 pm

    A huge part of the picture that is missing here is non-federal student loans. This is one of the major reasons for the huge increases in college costs year-over-year. It is the same thing that has happened in the auto industry and in the recent housing market (before the downturn). As credit becomes more easily available, people have access to more credit and spend more. When they have more to spend, the cost of that item goes up because it CAN. It essentially causes a bidding war. I read an article about this in relation to college tuition and student loans. If I can find it again, I’ll link it. The basic premise was that private banks offering student loans is the #1 contributing factor to students graduating with so much debt. Without the rampant availability of student loans, increases in tuition costs would be closer to normal inflation.

    I’ve also read articles that say things like this: Is a college education worth it? Their point is that it is not because of the huge costs. I 100% disagree. President Hinckley always told us to get as much education as we can. In this economy, you can’t afford to skip out on an education. There are plenty of people with little to no skills and not enough skilled workers. The result is even more of a disparity between rich and poor. Those with skills get paid a premium for having them. Those without skills get paid next to nothing because if they won’t do it, someone else will. IMO, a sign of the times and fulfillment of prophecy.

    My siblings and I have all been on our own for college. Our dad walked out and our mom was broke. Being the first, I got the max on federal grants (about $2200/year at the time) and then made up for the rest with academic scholarships, working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summers. My two brothers under me didn’t get nearly as many scholarships, but they lived on nothing and worked their behinds off (and got married and had kids in the process). All three of us have Masters degrees – all without student loan debt. Three more will be in college this fall. Those three are dirt poor, but they know that if they have a hope of a decent financial future, they need to go to school (in fact, my sister is just starting out at 25 – she’s done 7 years of looking for jobs without a college degree and is tired of being poor).

    My husband has a PhD. Because I chose to stay home and have 3 kids during those 5 1/2 years(as opposed to using my MBA to support us), we racked up quite a bit of student debt – close to 6 digits. We are on the 30 year plan to pay it back (we plan to pay it back before then, but while we’re starting out, we need the low payments). It was WORTH IT. Worth every penny of debt.

  • Tinkerbell May 31, 2008, 10:16 pm

    One last thing – you touch on this gently, but I’ll come out and say it: selfishness on the part of parents. Not all parents (and I most certainly am not accusing anyone on here – just talking in general). I know a TON of people who aren’t thinking about their kids educations (and this is all before our recent downturn). Parents who want all their stuff and put themselves, their big houses, etc. before their kids’ college education and before their own retirement. And (like you mentioned), a lot of them have a lot of debt. What’s the result? Kids who are growing up, having to shoulder the cost of their own education, and as soon as they finish that, there’s mom and dad knocking on the door because they have a ton of debt and can’t retire.

    In the interest of full disclosure, between my husband and I, we have NO parents who have more than a few thousand in the bank. All of our parents are within 10 years of “retirement” and have a significant amount of debt. We feel a lot of pressure and stress like Jessica refers to in the article.

    I think this is also a sign of these last days: rampant selfishness. It is manifested in many ways.

  • spitfire May 31, 2008, 11:02 pm

    I find this article interesting on many levels & let me commend you for your insights.

    1. I did my cursory 3 semesters before getting married. I worked while in school for spending $ with my parents paying my room/board. I haven’t a clue how/when they came up with the $$.
    2. I returned to school as an adult & as I did not qualify for a loans, grants, etc & I put my education on loan interests credit cards. I worked full time, went to school & was a full time single Mom. (DH & I were not separated so IRS forms showed too much $$ for loans/grants).
    3. When my only child went to school, he qualified for grants, student loans & I took out several parent loans. I DID NOT prepare for his education was I was paying (and obtaining) my own!
    4. I paid every dime of his education, he was my only one so I felt that was my gift to him, an education to support himself & his family. That being said, our agreement was he had to work each summer to earn enough $$ for books, lab fees & spending $$ for the year. Also this earning effort eventually included the cost of maintaining his clunker while he had it at school.
    5. I just paid off all his school loans about 18 months ago, I swear if I could have, I would have celebrated with champagne!!!
    It was a trial for both of us to obtain our education as well as pay it off. But it was the best investment we could have given ourselves.

    Now, my insights on the “current” generation”…I live in a ward with many graduate students & law students. I am ABSOLUTELY AMAZED at their lifestyle. Most, if not all, return to the West for a long ski weekend as well as family events i.e. weddings, funerals & graduations of siblings. They travel more frequently than we do & I frankly do not know how they do it. It seems like every year, there are new computers & trips ot specialty stores i.e. Mom only wears Anne Taylor or Bannana Republic & all the babies (another subject) are wearing Baby Gap. Then there is the re-population of the world in the 3 years of law school. Many of these couples come to us as newlyweds & leave with #3 child on the way. So…as the RS president, I’ve been left scratching my head about “HOW” they are doing this????

    I know how much it costs to have a baby & buy food….and the wives are NOT working…where is the money coming from?? Well, I found out….WELFARE & I don’t mean church WELFARE, I’m talking WIC & Medicaid & other government subsidies. I guess there is a real network out there on how to do all this!! Frankly, I’m appalled!! I think it is commendable these young couples CHOOSE to further their education, but they also CHOOSE to have a good life while doing so. I have overhead these gals say, well if I get pregnant right away, I can stay home & not have to work!!! HuH???? Where does the responsibility come in? How about getting a job, using some birth control & putting your husband thru school???? Oh, and let’s not forget the overseas “interships” they take…Spain, Vietnam, India, etc & then they travel while over there!!

    So, I’m sorry if I have offended anyone, but I just don’t get it. I was taught to not to deliberately incur debt unless you could immediately pay it off. Paying off not one, but two sets of loans with a mission mixed in the middle was not easy. And I did it in less than 5 years. I did without & scrimped & saved to pay off those loans. Frankly, my lifestyle in my mid-40’s was significantly different than those law students. I’m not jealous of their lifestyle but concerned that they are starting their lives out in tremendous debt & a growing family. Please understand, I’m not saying they shouldn’t start their families, but there is a big difference in starting your family & having over half of it by the time your husband graduates from law school.

    I think there is a mindset that “they” can have it all. I see this in my own profession with younger nurses. They want the big house with new furniture & a new car..all on credit cards or with a hefty mortgage. What happened to saving to get what you what????

    I don’t know, I just don’t get it…

  • Alison Moore Smith June 1, 2008, 12:12 pm

    Posted By: TinkerbellOne last thing – you touch on this gently, but I’ll come out and say it: selfishness on the part of parents….What’s the result? Kids who are growing up, having to shoulder the cost of their own education

    To clarify. Jessica (the author) is my daughter. We have CHOSEN to only minimally support our kids through college. Not because we are selfish, but because we think it creates better prepared adults. I find little problem with adult children “shoulder[ing] the cost of the OWN education.” We also don’t buy them cars, but they do get their own laptop when the graduate from high school. That’s the biggest ticket item coming from us.

    We pay the equivalent of half tuition, keep them on our health insurance, and allow them to live at home IF they choose (which isn’t really feasible here, because we don’t live close to any college, but will next year).

    Why did we decide this? We saw at the huge general gap between those who had college paid for by mommy and daddy (me, a bunch of my friends and roommates and dates) and those who supported themselves (my husband and his brother, a couple of my roommates and an old boyfriend). Almost without exception the latter not only out-performed the former, but they actually became responsible, independent adults at an exponentially higher percentage.

    FWIW, my oldest daughter just finished her junior year at BYU. With the exception of the half tuition and health insurance, she has paid her own way: books, fees, rent, food, clothing. She bought herself a used car last summer (when she got really tired of riding the bus) and bought her own insurance. She works hard to keep her grades up because the scholarship matters to HER. She is frugal because whenever she buys something, the cost to HER impacts her life. She is careful about driving around, because HER gas is expensive.

    I just got back from LA last night and spent Friday night and Saturday morning with her. She’s interning at Disney Studios (one of eight post-production interns out of over 3,000 applicants). She pays her (exorbitant) rent (including the first/last/security) and food and everything, including her travel money. We didn’t contribute a penny and she didn’t ask. (Oh, I did fill up her car once on the way to California.) She is more responsible than ANY college kid I have known. Honestly, of all the “daddy pays” students (like me) I knew, only ONE (Lisa Dreith) was even in the ballpark in maturity to those who supported themselves. Compared to the real adults in college, most of us were genuine slackers.

    Now I know we’ll probably have everyone come out of the woodwork to say, “My parents supported me and I was TOTALLY responsible.” But I won’t believe it. Because I just saw this over and over and over. The comparison is almost always very stark. If you’re the amazing exception (like Lisa) then so be it.

    Oh, one other thing. Jessica does not qualify for grants because we make too much money (which prompted the article). And she does not have a cent in student loans.

    To me it’s rather a red herring to imply that the debt is “so worth it” when the debt, generally speaking, isn’t necessary. Let’s at least include the possibility of being educated WITHOUT incurring vast amounts of debt.

  • jennycherie June 1, 2008, 3:39 pm

    Okay, Allison, I agree with you! My parents paid for much of my education and I was not nearly as responsible as many of my friends. I made *such* stupid decisions in college and it is amazing that I did not lose my scholarships!

  • Tinkerbell June 2, 2008, 12:30 am

    Allison, I hope you didn’t think I was talking about you or Jessica with my selfish parents comment. I think that you are being a smart parent! (not that you need my ratification of your parenting). I was referring to actual selfish parents (sadly, they are out there. And sadly, I know a few).

    Honestly, as I look back over my life and the sacrifices made for education, I don’t think I would change a thing. I feel like I have learned so many things about hard work, self-reliance, prioritizing, putting the Lord first. My family was broke, so I learned these lessons out of necessity. Allison, your children will learn these lessons because you love them enough to give them the opportunity to learn them. That is great parenting! :clap:

    And, in our case, student loans WERE worth it for my husband’s PhD (so we got two Bachelors and 1 Masters without them). I know other people who did the exact same thing without incurring student loans. One Mormon family at his school bought a 700 sq ft old house in a scary neighborhood (IMO) and had no car. Another family got help from their parents. Several families used government programs. I could have worked and put my kids in day care (or postponed having them). We could have lived in the “scary” neighborhood. We could have made different choices. But, for us, it was the right choice.

    Also, we limited our student loans to the bare minimum we needed. We budgeted out how much we could get in subsidized loans and lived on that. I scrimped and saved. My kids did not wear GAP unless it was bought secondhand. When it ended up taking longer to finish his PhD than we thought it would, and we had the opportunity to buy the perfect minivan for $4000 when I was pregnant with #3 (what a blessing that was!), we ended up taking out more than we had planned at the beginning. But, we kept it to a minimum. So, we are paying off our student loans, but they are not burdensome. I think I like to exaggerate a bit because it is fun. (Although that might not be helpful to other people pondering if they should use student loans).

    I have family members and friends who chose to use government services (WIC, welfare, etc.) while in school. I was uncomfortable with that. We did not use any programs, although, technically, subsidized student loans are a government program. So perhaps that makes me a hypocrite, but we are paying for them. By golly, we are paying for them! (just a little more of that fun hyperbole humor)

  • Tinkerbell June 2, 2008, 12:36 am

    Medicaid – that is another big one. I have had a lot of friends in school who have had babies on Medicaid. We had private insurance.

  • Tinkerbell June 2, 2008, 12:47 am

    Oh, one more clarification on why student loan debt can be worth it (when used appropriately). Obtaining a degree can dramatically increase your earning potential. The summer before my MBA, I was making a little over minimum wage. After one year of business school, I was making about 4 times that in my internship. And another year after graduating, it was about 40% higher than the internship. For my husband, his salary increased fourfold straight out of school.

    There are a lot of factors to consider when decided whether to work and save before school, work while you go to school, work and take out student loans to go to school, just take out student loans, etc. It was definitely a prayerful decision for us. We received confirmation we did the right thing for our family.

    On the flipside, I have good friends who took out the max loans they could and bought two brand new vehicles while in school. They are several hundred thousands of dollars in student loan debt. They are stressing out and are very limited in the choices they can make now because they are shouldering so much debt. Student loan debt isn’t something to be taken lightly.

  • Tinkerbell June 2, 2008, 12:49 am

    Sorry for so many comments. One more factor in our case is that I do have a high earning potential because of my MBA. If I want to, I can go to work and wipe out the student loan debt in a year. That reduces our risk. Student loan debt really is a prayerful matter.

  • Alison Moore Smith June 2, 2008, 12:57 am

    Tink, I didn’t think you were pointing your post at me. I just wanted to make the point that parents might consciously CHOOSE to let their adult kids behave like adults and it might have more to do with LOVE than selfishness.

    Honestly, though, I don’t really care what the motive is. I don’t think parents are obligated to support adult children. To suggest that not doing so is “selfish” seems odd to me. Yes, even if the parents are cruising and buying giant luxury vehicles.

  • Tinkerbell June 2, 2008, 8:00 am

    Alison, I agree. My in-laws are in-part or fully supporting 4 adult children (the youngest is 22). It is excessive, and 3 of the 4 need to grow up (the other has mental capacity considerations).

    Here is my plan for our kids and college. I think that a Bachelors is becoming a necessity like a high school diploma used to be. So, I plan to help my kids get through their undergrad in a manner similar to Alison’s. For a Masters or PhD or a professional degree, they will be on their own for that, which will probably mean they will need student loans. Of course, I am 10 years away from starting that plan, so who knows? It is easy to say, “This is what I would do . . . “

  • nanacarol June 2, 2008, 9:30 am

    Okay here goes, not all of us have the opportunity to give to our kids. But we do pay or taxes and contributed mightily to the advancement of the United States. So if my kids have to use WIC, MediCal, or whatever, we will use it when necesarry!!!!! Because, there are so many out there who do use it so wantonly and make a mockery of it. Here is a good case in point, my daughter when she returned from El Salvador used nothing for a while. We helped her with everything!!!! As a result we went into more debt and are in a huge hole!!! Prophet says stay out of debt but sometimes how do you avoid it when times are so hard. We wanted her to stay off of welfare but finally had to ask for help. Now because we kept her off of welfare she can’t take advantage of Federal Child Care Money because she has to work. Because she did not go on welfare and we saved the system money!!!!!!!!-she does not qualify for childcare help. Childcare costs money. I need to be working, but I stay at home with two grandchildren and make sure they are lovingly cared for while our credit goes down the tubes!!! Yes we have asked for church help. Some days having a food order is not so good when you get worms in flour, rice etc. Would you eat wormy food!!?!!! How about a goverment that when a person is doing all they can to do the immigration the right way, they move at a snails pace, they lose paperwork, don’t get it to you in a timely fashion, all the while so many illegals come across illegally and get everything handed to them on a silver platter. Why shouldn’t my daughter get some bennies for us paying our taxes!! and serving our country for 22 years. And here is another thing-the goverment will handover the visa if we were to pay a big fee right up front to a shister lawyer in El Salvador who can do it in a week!!! We don’t have the $5000. to do it. If your grandchildren or children were in need of healthcare, food because mom is putting everything into just barely living what would you do!!!! I am sick and tired of condesending people who have not empathy for others when they have so much. And if the goverment can hand it out to people who refuse to work then by darn I will take advantage of it if we have tried our darn best to do it on our own. WE are honestly trying to get our son in law here by ourselves with no help from anyone. But I am tired of a goverment that is making so much money that begrudes those that don’t. What would you do if your child married a foreign national who they met at BYu, or LDS Business College. Why do you deny them their life mate just because they come from a different country. I know that somewhere in here that we are suppose to be learning a lesson. I would not deny having my Canandian DIL here in the states for anything. She has made my son a very happy man, given us 4 lovely grandchild. I know for a fact that Kiar is the woman for Joe and they were meant to meet because of just one semester at Ricks. Their’s is a marriage made in Heaven!!!!!!
    I am sorry I have gone off but we are so tired of everything at the moment1

  • Tinkerbell June 2, 2008, 9:47 am

    nanacarol, I am sorry if my comments made you feel judged. We do have a Bishop’s warehouse and social programs for when people really do need help. There is nothing wrong with using them when you need them. That is what they are there for, and as you pointed out, what you pay taxes for. On the other hand, like spitfire mentioned, there are a lot of people who use them when they aren’t necessary. IMO, it isn’t right to use them to support a lifestyle because then you are essentially asking everyone else in society to support your lifestyle. In my case, it didn’t feel right to use them because I knew we would make enough after school to pay off the student loans. That felt like the more “self-reliant” thing for me to do.

    No matter what we do, someone will find something to judge. Some will call my decisions poor for accumulating debt or for having children when we couldn’t “afford” it. Likewise, I am too quick to jump to judgements about other people’s choices. Perhaps it would be best to keep our judgements to ourselves (or better yet – become Christ-like enough that we truly don’t FEEL judgement. I admit that I am not there yet. 🙁 ) Again, I apologize if I made you feel judged.

    My brother did marry an “illegal immigrant” he met while in Provo. They utilized government services while they had their first child and were students. Honestly, it is hard for me to reconcile my feelings about the theoretical idea of someone coming to the U.S. illegally and using services without paying any taxes with my feelings of love for my sister-in-law and feelings of respect for their marriage. She received a revelation from God to go to the U.S. to find her husband. She followed the prompting and met my brother. Who am I to criticize her life choices? The Lord loves her and provided for her. I think the whole experience has opened my eyes a bit more and given me more compassion. (Besides, we used to tease him that once he graduated, he would be paying taxes through his nose, and now he knows what we were talking about. :smile:)

  • nanacarol June 2, 2008, 10:48 am

    Tink-I am not feeling judged!! I am just frustrated by all at the moment and writing helped to tame the angry beast within. I think my problem is with the world. However, if there are programs out there to be used and we use wisdom in using them, aren’t we justified in using them. We are paying our taxes and contributing to the well being of America. I know that when a woman has a baby in England and Canada they get some kind of compensation from the goverment. Kiar, help me out here with regards to Canada. Those are goverment programs. What is the difference. I know the church is there and they have helped us because paying tithing was even an issue for a while.(Not anymore)
    But I have even seen the church misused. Just know that I am trying not to judge either. Sometimes it is hard to understand all in this incredible world we call life!

  • nanacarol June 2, 2008, 10:52 am

    Oh, I am getting in line behind Siverrain, davidson, and all other in this thread!!! hehe! Why not. Does taking zoloft qualify!! he he again! And if i spout off here a certain someone who will remain nameless will not get the brunt of my temper that only comes about every five years and I am into year 4!

  • kiar June 2, 2008, 7:26 pm

    hee hee! (I am good with that!)
    nana, you are correct in the fact that in Canada, women are allowed up to a year (yes, one year) of maternity leave with benifits, which is similar to disability. Also, mothers are given a “mother’s allowance, if they are under a certain income, to help with the expenses of children.

  • kenni August 9, 2008, 8:28 pm

    Great comments and opinions. Is there anything that you might be willing to share with college students who may be finding themselves taking out loans right now? I am writing an article for BYU on student loan debt. Is there anything that you would want college students to know?
    Thanks for all your help

  • Tinkerbell August 9, 2008, 10:08 pm

    Yes, let me get some thoughts together, and I will email you. Thanks for asking.

  • Dana June 15, 2011, 2:34 am

    It is surely a great thing that there is a way to loan money for student (so student can afford to study) but in other hand, it can make the student in big debt. They will force to work hard to pay the debt so cannot focus to learn (as should be). What’s a ironic condition, right?
    Dana recently posted…JSMR Analysis 15-06-2011- A Big Learning form My Mistake and The Buy Signals By Candlestick- Stochastic- and VolumeMy Profile

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