It’s June which means the only other thing on our minds besides SUMMER is the end of the school year, and mentally high fiving every single person in a graduation gown or elementary school backpack we pass on the street, knowing that they are sinking into the glorious freefall of summer vacation. For those of us long out of school, however, it’s a reminder of the one souvenir from college you’ll hang on to longer than your diploma you never got around to framing our your degree you never actually use: Student loan debt!
Comedian Scott Rogowsky (last seen reading fake books on the subway) created the above video that captures something every graduate has considered doing: panhandling for money to pay off their student debt or trying to sell their diploma at a discount. He also tries to sell $40 hugs in Washington Square Park, where a security guard gives him key life advice: “Hey man, you shoulda went to community college like me.” It’s meant to be funny, but it’s also kinda sad that so many of us identify with it. Is begging for money really any worse that other things people try to do to pay off their loans?
Student loan debt is a crisis in this country that affects 40 million people for two simple reasons: College is becoming unaffordable — not the least of which is the scam perpetuated by expensive textbooks they try to force you to buy (seriously, I hope the world of online pirated textbooks is as vibrant today as the world of pirated Metallica songs was when I was in college); and two, the world tells you you NEED to go to college, to have any hope at the meager few professional jobs our generation is left with.
So we have people taking on dramatic, life-straddling lumps of debt and then taking drastic steps to try to pay it off: We’ve run stories about people who’ve turned their faces into living billboards to pay off their debt, and some who’ve considered moving to Kansas just to alleviate some of their student loans. We’ve had experts tell us it might not even make financial sense to try to pay off your debt right away, and one savvy Brooklynite tried to barter her Sallie Mae debt down. Short of medical costs, is there any other debt in this country we’re all subject to that torments us so persistently but we can’t seem to do anything about?
We haven’t done anything about it because our generation has raised ourselves on debt, and we don’t ever expect to be ever be rid of it. It’s an only slightly malignant tumor on our backs that surgery isn’t advanced enough to remove yet. It’s just like how we have given up on the idea of retirement, or how buying a home or owning too much “stuff” in general seems as outdated as owning a VCR. If we’re changing workplaces as we edge out baby boomers, will we change student debt somewhere in the near future too?
There’s good news for Rogowsky’s fictional NYU grad in the video above though: we found out earlier this year that if you can make a case your college lied to you about being able to get a good job after graduation, you just might be exempted from your student loans after all.