Student Loan Debt Crushing Graduates

I support higher education, but after seeing a lot of college graduates working at Starbucks, I can’t help but wonder if a lot of money spent on generally unprofitable degrees wouldn’t be better spent on something else. For example, getting a degree in business, with a minor in photography seems more marketable and realistic to me than going into debt $140,000 for a photography degree (see the article). I used to laugh at my job prospects as a Psychology major, or as a Master of Theological Studies graduate, but the truth is, when my student loans came due as I was working as a substitute teacher, I quit laughing. The two years of frustration I spent getting my Master’s degree were simply not worth the debt. Had I done it over again, I would have gone to a Catholic grad school in Ohio, saving some money and heartache. I also would have minored in something that could get me a job virtually anywhere. Something needs fixed in higher education, and I don’t know if I think the educrats are the ones to make the fix.

From the article:

One in a series of occasional stories

Natalie Hickey left her small hometown in Ohio six years ago and aimed her beat-up Dodge Intrepid for the West Coast. Four years later, she realized a long-held dream and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in photography from Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara.

She also picked up $140,000 in student debt, some of it at interest rates as high as 18%. Her monthly payments are roughly $1,700, more than her rent and car payment combined.

“I don’t have all this debt because I was buying stuff,” said Hickey, who now lives in Texas. “I was just trying to pay tuition, living on ramen noodles and doing everything as cheaply as I could.”

Hickey got caught in an increasingly common trap in the nation’s $85-billion student loan market. She borrowed heavily, presuming that all her debt was part of the federal student loan program.

But most of the money she borrowed was actually in private loans, the fastest-growing segment of the student loan market. Private loans have no relation to the federal loan program, with one exception: In many cases, they are offered by the same for-profit companies that provide federally funded student loans.

As a result, some students who think they are getting a federal loan find out later that they hold a private loan. The difference can be costly.