Money Talks: Are Student Loans Worth It? Weighing The Pros And Cons
First, a little context about my life experience: I am a 30-year-old womxn who has never been married, doesn't have kids, I've never owned a home, and until recently lived in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. which, at times, made it very difficult to make ends meet on my income. I’ve worked jobs while supplementing my income with side hustles to survive. I’ve also always had student loans that linger over my head like an ominous cloud that mockingly says “Oh, you want financial freedom? Lol, ok.” at every chance it gets.
As a younger millennial who fits many of the stereotypes that have been bestowed on a generation that has witnessed an often tiimes dismal financial landscape. I entered college the same year that we saw the global financial system crash.
I was on the fence about college but my parents insisted. I’ve always loved classrooms and learning, but I felt out of place in so many of those situations. A part of me argued for the sake of my tendency to play devil’s advocate. I knew I was going to go and knew that I’d study business because that’s where my head was always at anyway. I had no idea what I was doing and, but being the pragmatic and cynical person that reality can sometimes force me to reckon with, I chose to stay close to home and take advantage of state grants that helped reduce the cost of tuition.
In the beginning, I was lucky. I had two parents that could help support this endeavor and help shepherd me along up until both of them lost their jobs quickly into my academic experience. I’m a finisher. I figure out how to do what I need to do with what I have, so I quickly jumped to student loans and Federal Pell Grants because it was the most obvious option.
I preface all of this by acknowledging that everyone’s needs, wants, and goals are different. Whether or not you decide whether or not college is for you, is solely up to you and how you envision your future. While I didn’t particularly want to go to college, I knew that it was something I had to do to open the doors I wanted to get into. It was an investment. It was also a period of time where it was socially required to move ahead and Master’s degrees were becoming the common benchmark for building a successful career. The days of settling into the American dream without the burden of student loan debt like many Baby Boomers and Gen Xers pulled off is gone.
So today, in yet again another addition of “my humble opinion”, we’re evaluating whether or not student loan debt is worth it.
Student loans provide access to education which in turn opens doors
College should be seen as an investment in yourself and your future. Depending on what your goal professional goals are, there’s value in seeing it as something that is meant to take you from point a to b.
Federal loans can be affordable option
Not all loans can end up costing you tons of money in the long run. Federal loans can generally be an affordable option that provides the same interest rate across borrowers. This means that they are accessible to all.
Student loans can help subsidize your life while in school
Life can be expensive and without the support of family or a job, it can feel overwhelming. Technically you’re being thrown into a world that requires skills and education that you might not traditionally be exposed to. Things like budgeting, paying for a place to live, or purchasing your groceries can be a new experience. Loans can help cover these expenses, however, it’s important to not abuse these. We all want those Jordan’s too, but your student loans shouldn’t be the thing that buys them.
Student loan debt never goes away.
Even if you were to file for bankruptcy, federal student loans will never disappear. If you accept the money, you also have to accept that you will have to pay it back. While providers will generally give options for repayment plans, monthly loan payments will have to be included in your budget for the lifetime of your loans.
Student loan debt can potentially slow down other big life events.
Loan payments can put a dent in your available disposable income. Things like buying your first home or even your dream car can sometimes need to be put on the backburner when it comes to hitting life benchmarks. Even things like having children or moving to more expensive cities might need more consideration. The nice thing is, federal loan providers will generally outline what your payments into the completion of the loan might look like.
Student loans might lead you down a path you’re stuck on and don’t want to be on.
If you’ve invested your education in something you’re no longer interested in, you could feel stuck. This is primarily for the doctors and lawyers out there. After spending so much time and money on, you’re in it, and pushing forward to access the financial benefits of those careers could be your only option through it.
We talked about this with Kendell from Bae on a Budget and her experience with law school. Read about her experience here.
Defaulting can lower your credit score.
Loan providers will frequently offer options to defer loan payments when asked. If you avoid making payments without looking into deferment options, this can harm your credit score that will likely not go away until you start chipping away at the debt.
Private loans can be expensive
Knowing what you’re getting yourself into is key. While federal loans can typically be an affordable option for borrowers, private loans can add up, have different rates, and different terms when it comes to repayment. Always dig into the terms outlined. A great way to start is by googling the phrase you’re unsure of.
College education and how you pay for it is your choice. The reality is, it’s one of the biggest decisions we will ever make with our lives, happens at an age where we have very little worldly experience. Pursuing whatever it is that you think you want is the only way you can find out what you don’t want. These points are intended to set you up with the tools to be able to cope with financial decisions you make now’s impact on your future.