Open thread: How screwed is your student debt?

I know a liquor store where we can cash this right now!

We learned this week 1) How much your education will actually earn you and 2) that student loan debt doesn’t factor into your eligibility for food stamps, no matter how large it is. And then later this week some economists started fretting over a potential “debt bomb” coming our way thanks to the $870 billion in student loan debt we all now have, which is now enough to (we did it, everyone!) surpass credit cards and auto loans in terms of how much we owe. So debt is American! Everyone’s doing it! And if you’re like me, you’ve stopped thinking your debt will be ever actually be paid off, and treat it instead like a child support payment to an invisible far-away ungrateful dragon baby. So, screw it, let’s commiserate: how much do you owe in student debt? Tell us in the comments (you can be an anony mouse if you like): biggest one wins the internet for the day. I’ll start…

40 Comment

  • I just (JUST) got it under $10k. And then … interest! So I’m somewhere at $9.9k at the moment. That’s after 10 years of paying it aggressively. But I long ago stopped thinking of a day when it’s paid off.

  • Somewhere around 200k after interest. Do I win?

    • Man, oh man! Please tell me you’re a doctor. I’m attending college as a Bio/Anthro major in hopes of getting accepted into medschool. I just can’t get over the amount of debt I’m going to be in. It seriously scares me shitless. I’m only 10K in debt right now, and by the end of next semester I’ll be 20K and I’m in community college in Los Angeles! It’s terrible. I’m unemployed and tenaciously looking for a job to no avail. I can’t affort to breathe unless I take out loans right now. It’s such a horrible trap to be in. Best of luck to everyone.

  • I have about $25k plus interest. Fortunately, I’m currently in the grace period and none of my loans are private. Unfortunately, the grace period ends in August. Blargh. Thanks, NYU!

  • I think I’m at around a total of $60K-ish. And that’s all federal AND I went to a state school! Thanks, New York!

  • With interest, somewhere around $100thousand. My monthly payment is bigger than my monthly rent. Oh, and I’m an art teacher. So no, I don’t think it was worth it.

  • just added them all up for my mega millions numbers (another fail) – grand total around $190k current. But since it just sits there and accumulates faster than the numbers on that weird clock thing in Union Square, by time it’s paid off (bah, yea right) it’ll be in the +250 range #WINNING

  • I’m $900 away from only having my federal loan remaining. I’ve been aggressively paying off the other two loans ($3.5k and $2k), and then I’ll be left with my $9,000 federal loan. Which is a lot of stupid money.

    My significant other, on the other hand, went to a private school. So she has a lot lot more left to pay.

  • I guess it would be helpful to say whether your debt is just for undergrad or for any grad school or bells and whistles like law school. Mine is just undergrad, for a state school, multiplied considerably by two misspent years at an over-valued private one (GW).

  • 33K and counting. :( but at least I don’t have any private loans.

  • I am at 250K federal and private loans combined. Went to private art school didn’t get a a full time job until 3 years out of school. I put an entire paycheck toward my loans every month and my balance has been going down at a snails pace. I am screwed.

  • 82k. Private school in NYC, 8-years post. Undergrad only. No one to blame for that one but myself!

  • Pretty sure it’s around160k before interest. Sallie Mae owns my ass.

  • Psht. B**ch please. I’m at $220K and rising with interest each day. But don’t cry for me, Toni Braxton. I quit paying that shit years ago.

  • This is very cathartic.

    About $110,000 combined for name-brand undergrad and grad school. And that’s with financial aid. Damn those guilt-pushing immigrant parents.

  • Grad and undergrad combined, I think it’s 32,000, obv plus interest. I’m deferring right now because I’m currently in school

  • OH.
    That amount is for 1 BFA Acting degree. Just the 1.
    Did I love college and get a lot out of it?
    Was it worth being in debt for the rest of my life or until I marry J.K. Rowling?
    F**K NO!

  • I’ve got 37K, for a BA and an MA at a private university in NYC. Not pleased about it but can’t complain since many of my friends have 100K for BAs.

  • about 8k left after paying aggressively for 6 years…was the degree worth it? of course not. It was for an English degree. I have a 9-to-5- job now, but my soul is dead and my only ambition is to go home, eat dinner, and watch TV. Thanks societal expectations!

  • I paid off 86k (undergrad) in 10 years. Sure I didn’t go out as much as everyone else and vacation was not in the picture at all. Neither were fancy toys. And yes I had to give up working in documentary halfway through for something that paid a bit more salary (avg. salary during those 10 years was roughly 35k with 2 periods of unemployment). But I paid the damn thing off. So it can be done.

  • original loan amounts: 17,125; 17,000; and 22, 000, currently owe: 14,667.12; 15,878.68, 24,025.40

    undergrad and grad school.

  • 110K, undergrad at NYU. seeya never, dreams.

  • Undergrad at a good state school: around $28K. Graduated in December 2010 and just got a non-temp job yesterday… there has been a lot of deferment and income-based scaling and graduated plan selecting.

  • somewhere near 90K – most of it from culinary school, ya know, cause that industry pays SO well.

  • $0 from undergraduate
    $7K from my aborted effort to attend a MA program

    Dad was an accountant and saved a ton of cash. My degree in German is pretty worthless, though. That money would have been better invested in scratch-off tickets (or even the stock market).

  • I think about 288k. yay private school! This will never be paid off. But it is a great motivator to keep and excel at my job.

  • Undergrad + Law School + Interest = $285,000

    I’m sure student loan statements will be following me into my grave when I’m old and gray…

  • almost $22,000 and i still don’t have a degree. (private school)

  • $89,000 with MA in art therapy and counseling and still haven’t found work a year later…. Still working as a photographer and retouching images being totally unfulfilled and disappointed…

  • Just saw this post. I also pay more in loans than in rent every month. At this point I’m around 100k under, half from undergrad, but I couldn’t find a job in ’08 so went back for a “professional degree” which means I have a fairly well paying job but I still live paycheck to paycheck.

  • I kind of dont understand how all these people with all these loans didn’t anticipate the difficulty in paying them back. I have a bachelors degree, a masters degree and a trade degree with 6k total in debt, all of which is from the trade degree. I paid full, in cash, without any fantastic financial aid, for both my bachelors and my masters degree by working as I went to school. I lived off campus and ate a lot of ramen and worked my ass off. I had 0 help from my parents.
    I am not extraordinarily smart. However, when I was accepted to Columbia, I chose not to go in lieu of state school because i could AFFORD IT and I knew what poverty looked like.
    I feel like secondary ed in this country is a total scam, however some of the blame has to be passed to the students and their parents for pushing an absolutely unrealistic view of paying off these huge debts. I don’t get why people of my generation (I am under 30 and living in brooklyn) somehow feel entitled to a fully paid $65k bachelors in art history. Whatever happened to community college?

    • Agreed, this blows my mind. I have $6K left from undergrad(started with $18K 5 years ago) , but I could easily pay that in full with savings…i choose not to because the interest rate is lower than my savings account interest.

      The only conceivable way that it’s “worth it” to have $100K + in loans is if you are going into an incredibly lucrative career, like medicine or banking. If you are getting into massive student loan debt to teach art therapy, you are crazy. Yikes.

  • For anyone working in the nonprofit sector (with federal loans) there is an almost magical pill to end up paying much less than the full amount.

    It’s a combo of Income Based Repayment (IBR) and public interest forgiveness. In short, you sign up for IBR to pay just a fraction of your full amount each month (assuming you’re not making so much that you’d end up paying more than your standard repayment); and then, after 120 payments, if you can show continuous employment at a nonprofit (or gov’t or nonprofit university, etc.), the remainder of your loan is forgiven.

    Showing the nonprofit employment is key, though, because if you can’t, then you’ve been paying less for the last 10 years (still accruing interest), and you’ll keep on paying until you’ve paid it all off.

    I’m in the middle of this now, and my monthly payments have been less than half of what they were on standard repayment. Of course if I ever earn so much that IBR stops being worth it (based on the gov’t calculator), then, well… I guess I won’t have to worry about little things like money, will I?

    • We have signed up for IBR as well. They’ve made improvements to it that take spouse’s student loan debt into account.

      The nonprofit and government workers are in a perfect position! Outside of those groups, you pay on IBR for 25 years before forgiveness. Most people would have kids in college before the 25 year mark rolls around. But we’ve signed up, and we’ll see what happens.

  • Well I’m sure I don’t win in numbers, but I am actually really glad to vent about this. Here’s my breakdown:

    Undergrad principal: $9k (Stafford loans)
    Grad school principal: about $29k (About $20k in Stafford loans, $9k in Plus loans)

    Currently I owe something around $48k, I think. Since I finished grad school 2 1/2 years ago I have only been employed for about 9 months, and my salary at that job came to about $1800 per month after taxes, so once you subtract things like rent and food and credit card payments (yep, got a little bit of that too) it didn’t leave enough to pay more than the minimum. I have applied for an unemployment deferment three times out of necessity which means that I owe a bazillon dollars in interest. The best part? That not-so-great-paying full-time job I had didn’t require me to have any sort of college degree at all, but it was the best thing I could find at the time.

    I suppose the thing that really screwed me over was my master’s degree, which is sort of sad because I ended up paying out the ass for it even though half my tuition was paid by merit scholarships. It’s not like I wasn’t aware that that was a lot of money, but when I started I had sort of expected to find a decent-paying job that would allow me to comfortably pay it back over time. Oh well.

  • This is ridiculous. Move to a more affordable place out of the city. Get a real job with a real paycheck, work a second job if you have to, read Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace AND APPLY IT, and pay it back. Oh. And quit whining and feeling sorry for yourself. You got yourself into the mess, get yourself out of it , and don’t do it again.

  • Coming from poverty, I worked my ass to the bone in high school because I was fed the line that education is the only way out. And the only way I could even envision college was with a scholarship (my parents made me scared shitless of debt).

    With undergrad I did well financially, choosing to attend the school that offered the largest scholarship (a lesser-known private college). I would have gotten out of there with no debt at all, but it was very important to me to study abroad. So I ended up with $11k. Reasonable.

    But when I got out, I found out the meritocracy I’d been taught was essentially a lie. Without contacts in my desired fields, getting the jobs I wanted wasn’t possible. I ended up working for a few years at pay rates that made factory work look good.

    I tried to move up with grad school. In an absurdly competitive field, I got in to two schools and chose to attend the cheaper option. But the program was transferred to a different state school the very semester I started, resulting in a doubling (yes doubling!) of the tuition. Isn’t that nice? Total damage: $70k.

    My husband has even more. We despaired of ever paying this off. We put off kids (maybe forever) because we can barely support ourselves and our loan payments.

    We have just started a business to supplement our income because we just can’t see any other chance to get ahead. If it is super successful, then we will eventually pay these off. If not, we were screwed to begin with, so what’s the difference?

    Take away: this level of student debt is not sustainable. And teaching meritocracy is BS that they need to replace with a more realistic outlook.

  • For the students who have or had the debt, this was most likely a theft. The question, what did students consume that was worth $30,000 to $100,000 dollars plus??? Curriculum and PowerPoint presentations are now standardized for classes, and the technology used, is usually an overhead projector with periodic visits to a computer lab. Is this worth even $10,000. There is the knowledge of the professor being consumed, but again they are usually teaching a standardized class that is peripheral to their expertise. From what I have gathered from a few forthright academics, most fees (and grant money) help sustain activities that are consumed by business and industry, not the students. So essentially, the contracts signed by students were not legitimate to a free market economy because they are not based on the actual services consumed. In fact, I don’t know why, especially with the premiums being charged, there is not an itemized list stating what exactly the students personally consumed that resulted in the exorbitant premiums being charged; or better yet, why an itemized list was not provided before the signing of the loan. A vague list stating tuition and fees does not identify what is being consumed. I think that students who paid, or are in debt due to these high premiums, should be reimbursed or given a tax credit, if these lists are not provided because no proof of consumption is provided.
    Services are intangibles, so an itemized list is essential to track consumption; much like getting an itemized list after a car is serviced. I highly doubt any average student could consume anything over $10-15,000 dollars worth. As for justifying the costs based on future prospect, that is speculation and has absolutely nothing to do with the services consumed. Trying to vaguely connect the fees to building costs or other expenses is unreasonable, considering students are not consuming these things. If a restaurant has a high rent, then they know they have to provide specific services that are in demand and will be consumed by high paying guests to make sure their model is sustainable. They don’t actually tack on a fee and seek rent because those types of things cannot be consumed by guests and go against the rules of a free market economy. That is, the market did not determine these premiums via demand’s consumption of supply; rather an arbitrary contract determined these premiums, which has nothing to do with the market. Same for tuition and fees, which are broad categories that do not target any service consumed. So again, what was specifically consumed? If there are no lists, charges cannot be rendered, even with a client’s signature. Much like a check at the end of a meal charging a fee; the guests can sign the check, and even pay for the check, but that does not mean she or he is responsible for the fees if the service was not consumed. I’ve refuted an auto-gratuity once because the servers forgot about our table for over 35 minutes. Even though I agreed to the auto-gratuity that doesn’t mean I am responsible for it, if I never consumed the service. So again, following the rules of a free market economy, what did each student specifically consume that justifies a significant hike in premium? If no list is provided of the actual consumption, then regardless of an agreement, responsibility for repayment has not been established. Without proof of consumption there is no justification for the charges.