DROWNING IN DEBT: College Grads Share Their Student Loan Horror Stories

drowning underwater

Photo: misshedwig* on flickr

$38,000. $84,000. $253,000.$500,000.

Those five and six-figure sums might look like payouts from different rounds on ‘Who Wants to be Millionaire,’ but you won’t find Regis or an oversized check anywhere near this kind of money.

That’s because these totals represent what different people owe on their student loans. Some are in such deep debt that they can barely make payments on the interest of their loans. Forget actual loan payments. Those will have to wait for a better day.

Since Occupy Wall Street exploded two months ago, a website called Occupy Student Debt sprung up alongside and collected horror stories of higher education.

Some are straightforward:

Original Balance: $199.256.90

Current Balance: $253,015.63

Paid so far: $29,242.15 (I’ve never missed a payment)

Interest rates: up to 10.7% (Citibank)

Others full of panic:

HELP!

I graduated college in 2005, originally borrowed a total of $54,232.62, even only paying a lower interest rate and a fluctuating repayment plan over the course of almost 7 years of paying back my loan. I still owe at this time an amount of $54,158.13. As you can see, not much has come off at all.

And plenty more seem like all is lost:

I GAVE UP ON BEING A LANDOWMER YEARS AGO

Never mind the American Dream. Now, I’d just like to be able to pay my rent. Bills take care of my health and my cat’s health. Even my cat didn’t realise what she was in for in 1996, when I started grad school at a private university. Silly me.

Universities, banks and politicians… please explain yourselves.

More than 300 people have posted on the site with tales of financial ruin. Thousands more suffer in silence just fordoing what we were taught all along: work hard, earn good grades, get into college and make something of ourselves.

Rising tuition, dried up state funding for public universities, easy access to loans (i.e. Sallie Mae) and a culture that pushes young people to four-year institutions (whether they want to go or not) have all led to statements like this:

Education debt… is a loaded gun to my head.

While we may never pinpoint the root cause of student debt, it’s quite clear where we ended up. A Pew Research study this past week revealed that a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times that of a 35-year-old. That is believed to be the biggest wealth disparity in American history, and surely student debt, along with high unemployment, factors into the equation.

In late October, President Obama tried his hand at tackling the student debt crisis with an executive order that lowers to 10 per cent the maximum percentage of income students will have to pay toward their loans. Students will also be presented with new ways to consolidate loans and create lower interest rates.

Obama’s efforts won’t be a cure-all, especially since the new rules don’t apply to people who have already graduated but rather those entering college next year. It will instead ease the pain for future students (and likely nab the president a few extra votes in 2012).

You can question the merits of OWS, but the movement did spur the creation of a sister site dedicated to telling the world about America’s corrosive student loans. Heck, maybe all the rancor over student debt even prompted the White House to act.

College students deserve a system that, at the very least, gives them a fair shot at paying off loans and living without the crushing weight of intractable debt.

Do you have your own student debt horror story? Are four-year colleges and universities still worth the price of admission? Let us know your thoughts.

Danny Rubin is a national news consultant for media research firm Frank N Magid Associates. He is a former television news reporter, lives in Washington, D.C. and tweets as @dannyhrubin.

Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work — this isn’t your parents’ career-advice blog. Be Brazen.

Read more posts on Brazen Life »

NOW WATCH: Money & Markets videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.