Horror stories related to student loan debt are fairly common these days. With the average student graduating with an eye-popping average of $37,000 in student loan debt, it’s easy to see why. Going to college is expensive, and often student borrowers don’t realize what they’re signing up for. Add in the crazy bounces the economy and job market can take, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The podcast Death, Sex & Money — a WNYC production — is exploring this further by inviting borrowers from across the country to share their stories. The show, hosted by Anna Sale, is also doing a series of episodes dedicated to the topic. The project is up and available for viewing, and anyone can read the numerous harrowing tales related to student loan debt.
Not all stories are awful, of course. In fact, there are several that will give today’s students hope. But for the people who are in deep — say, more than $100,000 in debt deep — it’s a bleak picture.
We picked through the stories to find some common themes. From these themes, we were able to draw some lessons that can be passed on to the next generation of borrowers. All of the following stories are direct from the project itself, with only a few grammatical and spelling alterations made for readability. We pulled stories from across the country and from both rural and urban areas.
Here are some lessons to be learned from those with student loan debt in excess of $100,000.
1. The terrain can change
- Total debt: $220,000
- Location: Chicago
“I wish I could have fully grasped the long term financial burden of student loans and interest rates before clicking ‘accept’ or ‘I agree.’ I’m making payments on an IBR plan; my loans have been consolidated into Direct Plus loans, so I can be on the PSLF program, but much could change in the next four to eight years, making this game plan more expensive.”
The lesson here? Things can change with your loans, even if you’ve been paying them off for years. It’s a shifting landscape, and you’ll need to know what’s happening with your accounts. They could, as in this person’s case, become more expensive overnight.