I already knew that I am not the only one swimming in a sea of debt I took out in order to better myself, my future and the future of my family. However, I didn't know just how many other people are in the same situation. The Federal Reserve recently released a report revealing that student loan debt now exceeds Credit Card debt in the United States. In light of that report and a conversation I had this morning over coffee with a middle-aged business man, I thought this situation warranted a blog post.
I am writing, not to complain about my personal situation, but to shed light on just how large a problem this is in our country. Like many other individuals with lofty goals, aspirations, and desires, I entered law school in 2006 with the thought that if I was going to work 60 hour weeks I should make more than the $30k/ year I was making at the time. I thought that I would work hard in school, graduate with honors, find a solid clerkship, and land that first job that would double or triple the salary I earned in my job as a loan officer and management trainee that garnered me $30k/ year. I was wrong, not about everything, but about what was waiting for me on the other side of the experience.
I didn't grow up in a wealthy family, so I played basketball at a Division 2 school to pay for my undergraduate work. I enrolled in law school as a part-time student so I could work during the day, go to school at night, and work on the weekends to pay my way through school. I made the dean's list about half the time I was in school, graduated Cum Laude, landed a good summer clerkship with a well-respected firm, and passed the bar on my first try. The only problem is that there were no $60k to 90k/ year jobs waiting for me on the other side of the mountain of debt I piled up to pay for my education. So, I started a firm with a business partner and we have been at it for close to a year now.
I paint the picture of my situation to illustrate what has happened to so many people like me. I have the good fortune of being blessed intellectually enough that I did well in school and am getting by in the real world without outside support. However, I can't really touch my student loan debt. I have a house payment (my student loan payment) and no house for the bank to foreclose on. I still believe that I will make it through with hard work and a bit of luck, but most other people aren't as fortunate as I am. Most students didn't do as well as I did, can't find a job in the legal field, are overqualified for other jobs resulting in employers shying away from hiring them because they would have to be paid a higher salary and are generally in a desperate situation financially.
I recently signed a petition that asks the government to forgive student loan debt as an economic stimulus. What we have created in the past 5 years is a generation of individuals who did what they were supposed to do in order to better themselves and are worse off than they would have been without putting in all the hard work and effort they put in.
So, I solicit your thoughts on the matter. I know I'm not the only one whose daily dose of reality is a mountain of debt that seems insurmountable and grows larger because of my current situation. Tell me what you think.
Here is the link to the article about student debt exceeding credit debt: http://blogs.ajc.com/business-beat/2011/10/19/student-loan-debt-now-exceeds-credit-card-debt/
Adam W. Howell, Esquire