One of the most amazing things about student debt is that it stands directly between innocence and experience. In the past, debt has always been something reserved for mature people. When you’re already engaged on a career path, when your life is already running on the track of your adulthood, that’s when a person has historically been ready to take on debt. Strangely though, young people are now being asked to enter adulthood in this way right as they enter college. When you begin to accrue thousands of dollars of debt as an 18 year old, the rest of your life feels oddly set in stone before your feet are even solidly on the ground, because you know one thing for sure: you have to make enough money to pay off your education.
The Youngest Debtors In History
Pew Research recently conducted a study on student loan debt. For the first time in history, 40% of households headed by someone under the age of 35 owe student loan debt. Twenty years ago it was about half that. One reason is, of course, because more and more people are attending college. At the same time, twenty years ago college was affordable – not more affordable, but truly affordable. It’s kind of mind-blowing when you think about it. People could purchase higher education in a price range that fit within a livable budget; college tuition could be looked at on a scale and within a budget that included things like food and shelter. As the world around us gets bigger, faster and more plugged-in, the basics of living become as abstract as our refresh rates. When you’re fresh out of high school, having maybe worked part time for minimum wage, how do you even wrap you mind around a $30,000 tuition? But you know you need to go to college to get a good job; you need to have a job that pays for school; and the combination of the two holds the promise of a comfortable lifestyle.
Struggling to find meaning in our lives is a big motivator for us all. We want to better understand the world around us and how we fit into that picture; we want to discover what drives and inspires us to move forward. It’s interesting that the way our society has progressed, we’ve begun to ask young people to grow up faster; our culture has shifted such that choosing to encumber oneself with debt, thus joining the adult world more quickly, is really the only choice that makes sense. If we are to remain a forward looking people we must embrace the new, and move ahead with it as we try to create positive change. Student debt is here and likely to stay, at least for the foreseeable future, but that’s no reason to view it as a burden. With government-supported options for low monthly payments and debt forgiveness as well as numerous debt management solutions, student debt can become part of an affordable lifestyle.