It's something that I think about—in some way—every single day.
When we asked you back in 2017 to tell us your stories about how student loans are impacting your life, we were overwhelmed by your responses. We heard about years of incremental payments and the thrill of getting to a zero balance, but also about delayed weddings, tensions with your parents over your shared debt, and fading hopes of ever buying a home or saving for retirement.
The student loan crisis has only compounded since our initial call for listener responses. Students who graduated with a bachelor's degree last year averaged about $29,200 in student loan debt, an average about 2% higher than 2017 graduates. And that debt is fundamentally reshaping how you think about the value of education and the milestones of adulthood.
"You sort of feel lost and like you totally screwed up somehow because you just couldn't figure it out," a listener named Dena said about struggling to make loan payments ten years after college. "And the rest of the world is making money and paying their bills and there's this subculture of individuals who are book smart and world stupid."
"I don't know how else to put it except that I almost made it," a listener named Sharif said. He put himself through school with loans to became a chemical engineer, but feels embarrassed by his six-figure debt and never talks about it. "I felt like a total, complete idiot that I put myself in this position."
For some of you, that embarrassment has become denial. "I just didn’t pay," Jordan Gibbs told me about receiving her first student loan statement. "Like, I just felt like, how can you expect me to start paying you $700 a month? Which is just a crazy number. I can’t even afford to pay rent."
Today we listen back to stories about how the tough choices we make to afford an education are having unexpected effects, long after graduation.
Go to deathsexmoney.org/studentloans for more stories and to see how your debt compares to national statistics and to other Death, Sex & Money listeners. And look out for part two of this series for stories about how some of you stopped feeling stuck and started taking control of your student loans.