My Personal Truth Living with Student Loans

Today, I’m writing on a subject I live with every day: student loan debt.

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Living with Student Loans Debt

See, I had no loans as an undergraduate. I turned down college at UCB and UCSD to attend San Diego State University. Why? Because at 21 years old I didn’t want loan debt in my early 20s. My parents helped pay my tuition and I earned an income working part-time for Syrrx, a bio tech company in La Jolla.

While at times I do regret not participating more as an undergraduate in student events, having work experience made life so much easier! Syrrx provided free breakfast, lunch and/or dinner and my earnings went towards living expenses. I had fun working, too! Because of my work experience I found a job in Sacramento after only two weeks of graduating at San Diego State.

Now, fast forward four years to graduate school.

I could not afford graduate school unless I had student loans. I lived within my means, with a bit of credit card debt. I put a healthy chunk of money into my savings for global education. But, I could not afford the ever-increasing tuition.

The Good

Student loans let me to live abroad. I’ve always dreamt of having a global education. Without student loans, I would have remained at my job at UC Davis Medical Center only dreaming of something more. Student loans let me walk through 12th century castles in Wales, drive cross-country with friends to Scotland, listen to British professors explain Irish poets, or meet a certain someone whom I live with now. Student loans made the world an accessible and smaller place. But more than that, I finally had time to research and write to my heart’s content! Student loans made me believe I could pursue all my dreams in only a few years.

I never would have grown out of apathy if it weren’t for student loans. They gave me the chance to kick ass.

The Bad

But, the world after graduating instead kicked my ass. Everything changed within a few years. Before it took two weeks to find work, now I wouldn’t even hear rejections. For every 15 CVs I sent out I would maybe receive a few rejections and, maybe, receive a phone interview. I did receive positive feedback from recruiters. People liked me and liked my experiences. But I didn’t have that extra OOMPH to land a job. I was competing against better caliber people with higher degrees and more professional experience. When I finally did get hired from a few companies they were contract only, providing barely enough money to get by. I did have a good job working as a Research Assistant in Sacramento, but I was laid off after three months. So, what the hell?!

Meanwhile, my student loan interest accrued. The little I did pay back only went towards interest, hardly ANY to the principle. The majority of the money went to living expenses.

I began to worry about my future and question my past decisions. What the hell did I do to myself?!

The Straight Up Ugly

When I finally confronted my student loan debt it was a staggering $50,000. That’s a very jagged pill to swallow. Hell, just looking at that number sends shock waves throughout my body. That’s like paying for three or four cars. Only I couldn’t sell this debt away, this was my monster creation.

I deal with that everyday.

Aside from student loan repayment misery there’s the extra added emotional turmoil. I do not LIKE having any debt. I want to get married, have kids, buy a house. I’m plagued with having too much debt. I have every intention of paying it back but let’s not forget, the cost of living increases each year. Student loan interest, if not fixed, can fluctuate. That’s a shit load of uncertainty.

Whilst I am chipping away at my debt as best I can, each month I change tactics at how to confront it. Some days I feel it best to put everything I have towards paying it off (and live on ramen) another part of me is saying don’t kill yourself! Pay it down modestly. This is not debt that will go away any time soon, is it worth living like shit? Meanwhile, I’m not getting any younger. This is my internal struggle.

Did I learn anything? Yes, you bet. 

My advice to people considering student loans: know exactly what you are getting into. If I could talk to past Kassie, who was bouncing around with no plan, I’d tell her to get her shit together and focus on helping others. Take enough for a few loans, forget the rest. Focus on marketing skills like pursuing science, web coding, ANYTHING contributing to the world. Securing marketable job skills NOW. Not having a clear focus is what landed me in hot water to begin with.

It’s great I realised where my passion lies, but now I have an extra special weight with student loans. I need to plan three months ahead before making decisions. Like poor Frodo, it’s a burden that I alone must bear. No one else will pay this back I need to do it. Also, thankfully, having awesome family and friends helps alleviate some of that heavy burden when I get too hard on myself.

Let’s be honest with ourselves. This is a shift in thought people need to realise. Let’s mentor our young students! Really, truly think about what debt you’re going to inherit when finished.

Only then we’ll start tackling the root of the problem.

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13 Replies to “My Personal Truth Living with Student Loans”

  1. Great post! I also struggle with knowing how much to pay down at a time. I am also tempted to put a ton toward it each month, but that requires sacrifices in the meantime, and you’re right – its not going away anytime soon. (And interest is RIDICULOUS). As someone who likes to have control over things, its hard to not have much control over this one. Thanks for posting!

    1. Thanks J-Bo! I’ve been debating writing this for weeks. It’s not something I like to admit. It’s embarrassing, isn’t it? But it’s a real thing we need to admit, confront, and try to change. There has to be a happy medium, don’t you think? One of the things I’ve learned living out here in England is that loan debt isn’t near as outrageous. What you pay back is based on your income. It comes out pre taxes from your paycheck, you never do anything else. It’s more manageable debt, I’ve found.

      These are honest conversations I feel we need to have and change in the States. 🙂

      1. totally. Doing my best to do the same. I think my plan of attack might be moderately aggressive. Not too extreme, because I can’t handle living in utter poverty for another 3-5 years lol!

    1. It’s really tough. I think it’s finding that happy medium where you can pay some down each month without stressing about it 🙂 Hopefully this will be that year haha!

  2. Coming from a country where education is free, I have a hard time picturing what it must be like to be in debt because you chose to go to university. Education should a right. At the same time, we tend to take it for granted over here…
    You’ll make it eventually Kassie!

    French Laura

    1. “French Laura,” I love it! It’s good to hear from you!

      Education should absolutely be a right I agree. I wouldn’t mind paying back the debt, if it was based on the salary I’ve earned. Unfortunately, it’s not lol. I’m slowly chipping away at it. But it can be extremely frustrating if all my bills go towards student loan debt.

      Thanks for your response, btw.

  3. Just move to Europe and forget about your student loan. The US government won’t be able to garnish your bank account outside of the country and your wages will be safe also.

    1. Hi Fred, I’ve been living in the UK for almost 4 years now. The problem with that is if I default they will go after any co signers, such as my parents. In addition, it will completely ruin my credit if we do want to move back eventually and buy a house. Since the time of posting this things have slightly better and slightly worse. I’ve paid off a massive chunk, but the government also decide to raise the interest rate to 6.8%, instead of keeping it at 2.5% like before. Student loans are the worst things you can possibly get in the US and I actively discourage anyone I meet from getting them if they are thinking about it! 🙂 but on the whole, I’ve paid off nearly 10k in a few years.

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