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'Til Debt Do Us Part

Published: Sunday, April 15, 2012

Updated: Monday, April 16, 2012 17:04

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Here’s one word most students are familiar with (or will be): Debt.

I knew the day would come, but I can’t say I was too thrilled, let alone ready for it. When I was in school, paying off my student loans was something that seemed so distant. But there I was, six months after graduation, staring at the pile of bills in front me as if I had no idea where they’d come from. And all of a sudden that brief sense of freedom I felt from finishing school was whisked away and in its place was this feeling of dread. I didn’t like it.

The Associated Press recently reported that the average student loan debt has topped $25,000, up 25 percent in 10 years. And a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York revealed that overall, nearly 3 in 10 of all student loans have past-due balances of 30 days or more.

I was that statistic. Overwhelmed by being suddenly saddled with debt, I did what any irresponsible new graduate would do: I ignored it. For months I just turned the other cheek thinking: I’ve got the rest of my life to pay it off, why start now? Well let me tell you, Sallie Mae does not agree with that reasoning. If I learned anything from that experience it was that ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away. In fact, it keeps nagging at you in the way of phone calls and emails from your lender urging you to make a payment.

New graduates, take heed. I was told by my lender that missing just one student loan payment puts a borrower in delinquent status. After nine months, the borrower is in default and once default occurs, the full amount of the loan is due immediately. Luckily, student loan lenders are willing and able to work with your particular financial situation––you just have to ask.

But I get it. Even for me, someone who was financially independent throughout most of her college years, the process of paying off my student debt was intimidating. It literally felt as if Arizona State University handed me my diploma and along with it, a stack of debt piled $20,000 high. Financially, I felt like I couldn’t handle that burden.

Growing up, I was always told there were two types of good debt: homebuyer debt and college education debt. The premise for student loans seemed simple enough, too; borrow money to pay for school now and pay it back later when you have a job.

Unfortunately, the latter is difficult to do in a slowly recovering economy and unstable job market.

The AP reports that overburdened student-loan borrowers may fail to qualify for mortgages and stay much longer in their parents' homes. Currently, student loans are a topic of conversation in Congress and at GOP debates. The heavy debt that is looming over our nation isn’t getting any lighter and unless something is done to prevent it, student loan interest rates will double this July, making it even more difficult for future generations of college students to pay off their education.

It’s a bitter reality that Americans are facing. Here’s to hoping that education continues to prosper without putting the future of the taxpayers at stake. 

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