I wish I could say I paid them off, but I can’t. While it’s true that I paid off $22,671 on my own, the last was paid off by my mom. Or more precisely, by my grandma.
Earlier this month my Grandma Joyce died. I wrote about her a bit on Montana Cowgirl in May 2014 in an article called The Senior Problem in Montana. She’d been moved from Oregon to Havre after her health declined two years ago, and then just a few months ago we moved her from Havre to Missoula. After that it was just time to go, and she died on May 26. You can read her obituary here if you’d like.
My mom and her three sisters and brother got the Oregon house sold and that ensured my grandma would have all the money she’d need, not counting Medicaid. When she died she still had more than $200,000 and when that was divided among her five children it came out to quite a bit. Since most of them are successful in their careers or already retired, they don’t really need the money. At least that’s the case with my mom, so my student loans were paid off.
I’m lucky. Most people will toil under student land debt for years and years, if not decades in some cases. I was ‘lucky’ to only have $31,000 or so when I graduated in 2008, and then I was lucky to make sustained payments for several years while living in China. I wrote all about that in an April 16 post called A Look at the Student Loan Dilemma.
It’d been a little harder to make those payments after having a kid and moving back to America, but I was really picking up steam on ‘em again. Then suddenly that whole worry is gone.
Wow, I’m lucky!
Right now 64% of Montana students have college debt, and the average is $27,000, according to this February 2015 article in the Missoulian. That’s a lot of money, especially when we know graduates today won’t be making as much as their parents, and might not even be able to find a job. If they do find one, it’ll be like the Lee Enterprises jobs – half the pay that the previous occupant of the position used to get.
Employers can be part of the solution, however. There was an attempt to make things better for students during the 2015 Montana Legislature. House Bill 341 was introduced by Representative Bill Harris (R-Winnett) to “provide tax benefits to employers and students for higher education expenses.” The bill died in the standing committee on April 28.
So Montana students will see no relief for another two years, at the least. I like the idea of incentivizing employers to help tackle this problem, and I like that we have smart Republicans like Bill Harris in the legislature.
- On the one hand, we encourage students to go to school and get educations, even though there’s often no jobs for them at the end of that educational path.
- Next, we charge students so much more than we did just a few decades ago, and there’s little rationale for this, other than ballooning administrative costs and employee pay.
- Then, the quality of education hasn’t improved to justify those added and increased costs, and I know this firsthand from being in the basement of the UM Liberal Arts building, where it still said “No Smoking” on the wall and little else had changed since the 50s.
- Finally, we’re at a huge competitive disadvantage compared to European countries and others that don’t burden their young generations with mountains of debt right when they’re getting out of the gate.
My wife has the equivalent of a Master’s degree from her Russian university, and she didn’t pay anything for that. The government paid for that. Yes, the Soviet government. And guess what? From the day she’s graduated, she hasn’t been paying banks, she’s been putting money into small businesses and other companies.
I don’t know who our current student loan debt model benefits.
- I suppose it benefits the college student, as they couldn’t get an education without student loans, at least the vast majority of them.
- It could benefit professors and anyone else that’s employed by Higher Education, for what else would these people do?
- It certainly benefits banks and other financial institutions and lenders, for they get tons of interest payments. I paid $5,110.27 in interest alone since I’ve graduated.
I won’t pay anymore. I’m done, and the only reason for that is because of my family. That’s something that we don’t discuss a whole lot anymore – how much family still shoulders the burden of students in this country. Family is helping pay off student loans, maybe with $20 here or $100 extra there. So this is, in effect, cutting into the retirement savings of Americans, and possibly even contributing to some of them working longer. The problem perpetuates itself.
Student debt loan, rising housing cost, and the development of a truly global economy were all cited as factors contributing to what Standard & Poor’s Beth Ann Bovino called a “failure to launch into full economic participation.” This failure, coupled with the fact that millennials are as conservative when it comes to spending as members of the “Silent Generation” (those living directly after the Great Depression), could cost the U.S. economy up to $244 billion over five years, according to McGraw Hill Financial.
So we know that Millennials are going to be as conservative as the Silent Generation, at least if you go by that article. Is this good? Is this good for Democrats, or at least what Democrats are today nationally and in Montana?
The good news is that Montana Democrats have always been conservative, big time. This is a resource state, and when it comes to resources, you’re conservative. It’s also a state that’s dominated by weather cycles, something else that tends to make you conservative. We have a lot of entrepreneurs here and small business folks and self-employed people. They’re also conservative, because they have to go out and make money, and they don’t want a lot of hassle with that, or someone coming to take a piece of it after they worked so hard to make it from nothing.
Montana has always made stuff from nothing, at least if you don’t count the land and what’s already here. You can still pick up a pick and shovel and head out into the hills and find gold, though it is a lot harder to get affordable land. Even a century ago you could still get hundreds of acres for just a couple dollars each. Maybe the land wasn’t that good, but I don’t know anyone that’d walk away from it today, letting the state or feds take it back.
So people are conservative, and we know our younger generation will be too. They’ll sound more like me!
Now those arguments don’t hold much weight.
Suddenly, at the end of this month, I’ll have money in the bank. That’s amazing, because this is a six-month car insurance payment month, taking an extra $250 out of my budget.
Usually any extra ‘savings’ I had would be thrown at my debt. I made it a point to have no emergency fund or anything, as I wanted to get that student debt yoke from around my neck. I was really throwing money at it - $2,300 already this year, which is a lot for me – and I expected to keep doing so. I’d developed a plan to pay off each loan segment in turn, lowering my overall monthly payment. It was going to work.
And then it was done, like the wave of a magic wand.
I can’t identify much with younger people, and I guess I better stop calling myself one. The real dividing line between young and old will be if you’ve paid your student loans off or not. I have, and can no longer identify with the problems of the younger generation.
Suddenly I can start saving up for a house, or maybe buy a car. I could take a trip, or just start earning a fraction of a percent on an interest-bearing savings account.
I could also head back to school, get into a Master’s program, and get that debt right back.
I’ll never go to the hallowed halls of academia again, unless they gave it to me for free. I feel that’s a huge loss for Montana, as I don’t know anyone my age that knows as much about the state’s history. Alas, we’ve said how little that matters to us – to get a PhD it’d probably cost me another $50,000 to $75,000, if not more.
That’s why people like me put out our own books, thumbing our noses at the university. Publish or perish, right?
The university is from a bygone era, an edifice to our past. It has no use for most, certainly not anyone attending, and is really only to prop up a whole class of useless people, our professors. You saw what these people are capable of with the mind-boggling letter to the Missoulian by UM French professor this week. Many of these people are worthless to society, but we trick you into thinking you need that education, as if French Baroque literature is going to help you put food on the table.
We’re moving in new directions in society, away from the old ways of doing things. Education isn’t as important anymore, because it’s just not affordable. Ignorance will become more acceptable, or library learning. Either way, you won’t see the bloated university system in another 20 years – that rose with the Baby Boomers and it’ll die with them.
I think that’s good, and most members of my generation and the younger ones do too. After all, we know the true costs all too well.
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Amanda Curtis Cares about Montana Students, Steve Daines Could Care Less (Sep 2, 2014)
A Look at the Student Loan Dilemma (April 16, 2015)