I’m no longer ashamed to admit this, but I’m 32 and I’m still paying off my student loan debt. That’s because I borrowed way too much money. It is insane to me that lenders allow teenagers to borrow money without ensuring adequate financial education in our schools first. I’m not normally a conspiracy theorist, but it seems like this is by design – don’t educate our kids about money but let them borrow tens of thousands of dollars right out of high school. (Plus, it’s more expensive to finance college than it is to finance a car. WHY?!)
To give you context, I was the first in my immediate family to go to university. I’m proud of being a UCLA Bruin, but man – that was a pretty penny I paid for that sociology degree! My parents and my older sisters had no idea how to fill out a FAFSA or how to navigate the student loan world. My high school had one college counselor dedicated to multiple schools, so her time was limited and her college workshops weren’t that detailed about student loans. And there weren’t nearly as many financial blogs out there that could tell me how to be careful with student loans.
So, I did it all on my own. In the end, I borrowed nearly $100,000 to pay my way. I’m still a little embarrassed to share this big number, but it definitely humbled me! On a non-profit salary when I graduated, I really had to learn how to keep my budget tight enough to pay my debt down.
Anyway, all of this to say – student loan debt can of course be an essential tool in helping us pursue our educational goals, but our public school system has so much more to do by way of providing financial education and college resources. And our colleges and universities have so much more to do by way of making their programs more affordable or providing more scholarships. And our government have so much more to do by way of protecting young consumers from being gouged with student loan debt and ensuring our public schools have the resources to do so.
In other words, we are utterly failing our youth in helping them pursue their educational aspirations. From the top down, we are not prioritizing education and instead profiteering from this gross lack of knowledge. Things need to change for our future generations so that they are not riddled with debt, keeping them from pursuing their passions and helping them self-actualize. It’s crazy.