About Money: Thoughts of a Student Debtor

A.M. Swearingen

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I’m in debt. Here, I’ll say it again: I’m in debt. 

I’m in the red, down and out, strapped for cash, on the rocks. And guess what? That’s okay.

I won’t tell you exactly how much money I owe the government via student loans, but I will tell you it’s going to take a huge chunk of my life to pay it off. 

So, why would I choose to go into crippling student debt?

For pretty much the same reason as everyone else: it’s the only way to pay for school.

I had many schools to choose from but of course my top choices were the most expensive. I chose to go anyway. And I’ve never regretted that decision. But here’s the thing, there was only so much scholarship aid I was eligible for, and I wouldn’t be able to pay the remainder of the bill on my own, even if I worked full-time alongside my classes. My only option (like a lot of students these days) was student loans.

The whole time I was an undergrad, the loans loomed at the back of my mind. From the moment I opened my first bank account at ten years old, my parents drilled it into my head that debt—student, credit card, or otherwise—is the bane of financial existence. And that kind of thinking can really take a toll on a person. It took me a while to realize that my student debt wasn’t a monster waiting to swallow me whole the moment I took my eyes off it. In fact, I wish I would have figured it out earlier—it would have saved me a lot of stress.

What really solidified my attitude toward my student loans was getting more of them, believe it or not. That’s right, I went to grad school. Deciding to pursue a Master’s degree was difficult. I had to weigh the pros and cons of a lot of things, and let me tell you, the weight of a con like “more student loans” is hard to balance out. 

In the end, I decided that I wasn’t losing money; I was investing in myself.

It was hard for my parents. It still is. For them, debt is a monster, but it’s not for me. Not anymore. I talk about it because it’s part of my life and likely will be for a very long time. This acceptance, this lack of fear, is especially difficult for my mother to understand and it frustrates her. Her frustration makes sense. She wants to protect me; she’s my mother. She wants to make sure I give the student loan “monster” the respect it deserves. 

But for me, there’s a difference between respect and fear. I respect my loans and I know that I’ll eventually pay them, but I don’t let them dominate every aspect of my financial life. Let me put it this way: student loans only become “crippling” if you allow them an overbearing influence in everything you do.

According to society, my net worth dictates that I’m worth less than nothing right now. That’s a daunting thought. Also, it’s not true. No person is worth less than nothing, ever. When you feel like your student loans are all you are, or your parents constantly remind you of them, remember you’ve made an investment in yourself. Like all investments you have to give yourself time to grow.

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