Money Mic: Student Loans Dashed My Dreams of Buying a Home

student loan buy homeIn our Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with controversial views about money. These are their views, not ours, but we welcome your responses.

Today, one man explains why he and his wife have had to shelve their dreams of home ownership, thanks to being saddled with more than $260,000 in joint student loan debt.

As I was earning my master’s in environmental management from Duke University, I knew that a large student loan bill loomed ahead. After all, I had borrowed a lot of money to cover tuition and other costs in graduate school, plus I still had undergraduate loans to pay off.

But I’d always been told that I should try to get the best education possible—even if it came at a hefty price tag—to set myself up for the future. I wanted to pursue a career in a highly specialized field, and Duke offered one of the best programs for it.

To me, it seemed worth the cost. So by the time I graduated in May 2011, I had accumulated about $160,000 in undergraduate and graduate student loans.

It was a lot of money, but I knew a lot of people who were in the same boat, including my now wife, Kelly, who was in the same grad program and left Duke with about $108,000 in student loans.

We knew that paying those amounts back would be a challenge, but neither one of us carried much “bad” debt—I graduated with only about $1,000 in credit card debt, and Kelly had none—so it wouldn’t prevent us from meeting our future goals, right?

Wrong. And I didn’t realize just how much of an impact that debt would have until we attempted to buy our first home.

RELATED: I Want to Pay Off My Student Loans

  • NYC CFP

    1. If you can’t afford to put 20% down, then you can’t afford the buy the house.
    2. Renting a home is not “throwing away money”. It can create more financial stability and flexibility. When you are as young as these two, who is to say they won’t end up moving for a better job opportunity? Why tie yourself down with a home?
    3. Student loan debt is still debt. Yes, you may feel that it was worth it but you need to realize there are consequences.

    • Julie G

      I agree. I don’t understand this “best of everything” generation. You can get a perfectly good education at a far more affordable university; in fact, some very specific programs like theirs are BETTER at less expensive schools. $300,000 is a lot of money in combined education debt. If they are native North Carolinians, and had gone to NC State or UNC-G living off-campus at home, they could have paid for school with federal loans only (no private loans), possibly scholarships, and had combined debt of less than $80,000. I have a feeling they weren’t competitive enough to get scholarships at Duke, but I bet they could have at least gotten need-based, if not academic scholarships at another college or university.
      That difference in cost is huge. Prospective students: Please consider the cost to benefit ratio of your education vs. your salary upon graduation. These two didn’t get MBAs and they won’t be raking in the dough working in finance. They are not realistic. I’m sorry, it’s sad, but I am afraid young people have been swindled into thinking that an expensive education is everything. It’s not.

      • mostlywentzel

        All very true. We have tried to be very honest with our kids about how much education really costs. We have one heading to college in 3 years. We have told him we will pay out of pocket for anything he does at the local community college, plus we will probably have around $20k in his college fund by then. When I was in college, that would have been a lot. Today it’s a drop in the bucket. We have made it very clear to him that he needs to make some hard choices. Some of the colleges he is considering would be the equivalent of our current mortgage. We have told him we have no interest in taking on another mortgage, so he needs to be prepared to find scholarships and grants to offset that cost. I don’t want him saddled with $100k in debt and if he makes good choices, he won’t be.

        • Julie G

          Thank goodness there are some realistic parents out there like you…I think some parents must have no idea what they are telling their kids to get into financially. It boggles the mind. It was hammered into my head that I wouldn’t get an education if I didn’t get scholarships, and those wouldn’t come to me if I didn’t make good grades, so I made good grades and applied for every form of financial aid on earth. I would have never considered a school that I couldn’t afford.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            All, please read my comment above, it spells out why we have this debt and the struggles of our generation. It’s a huge problem. It’s called the student loan bubble. I fear for future generations because tuition rates haven’t been capped, like they should be, they keep rising well above the inflation rate. I’m worried that this is discouraging people from getting a higher education and preventing people that aren’t well off from going to college. Also, our guidance counselors and parents always told us to strive to be the best. That’s what we did and I like where were at now, just have these loans that are like monopoly money.

          • Julie G

            I’m sorry, but I think you’ve abdicated your responsibility for the situation you are in now by saying “our guidance counselors and parents always told us to strive to be the best” and leaving it at that. Just doing basic math – simple, basic math – you should have been able to understand the level of debt you would be in by going to Duke instead of a more affordable college or university. Just admit it already!
            I completely understand that college costs today are untenable. I do agree that everyone can learn from your story. However, I also intuit a high level of denial and yes, a touch of entitled whining, in your refusal to admit that you may have made a huge error in judgement in your choice of schools. “But everyone said we should have the best” just reeks of complete abdication of responsibility for your own situation.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            I went to Duke in grad school. Went to other various schools before that for undergrad. In the meantime I worked for a state agency temporarily in my field. They are the top-level school for my field (there are only about 3 like it in the US, I didn’t get into the other 1), they have the best resources and well-known professors that got me into a network that has helped my career substantially. Prior to that, I wouldn’t have had the job opportunities and ability to increase in paygrade like I would today without going to Duke. I took the risk, and it was worth it because I got a great education and a great job so far, and will hopefully move up soon. I don’t see why this is a problem and is frowned upon. I was accepted by the school and wanted to go because it was my best option. There were no permanent jobs at that time in my field at the level I was at that paid enough to pay for my living expenses and I would’ve had to be pegged into being at 1 level for a longer amount of time. Without Duke I wouldn’t be where I am today. A question for you is, if someone gave you an opportunity that could potentially increase your job opportunities, career network nationwide and worldwide, and further improve your work skills in your field to compete for top-level positions afterwards, would you take that opportunity even though there were loans associated? I did, and so far it has worked out and it was well worth my time and every penny of my loans.

          • Julie G

            It all sounds good … however, I don’t see how you and your spouse can be $300,000 in debt and expect to buy a house with practically no savings or down payment and wages that don’t support $300,000 in college debt plus at least another $200,000 in home ownership debt. You live in a really, really expensive state in terms of real estate costs, so expect to pay more than that for a house. That’s over half a million dollars that you don’t have, yet you magically expect banks to trust you with repaying that amount. I think you are misguided in your expectations.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            That debt is monopoly money. With changing loan regulations and the fact that she is on public service loan forgiveness, that isn’t a real number. I also might possibly be able to qualify for that forgiveness in the future as well, if I can get off this contract, even though I work for a public agency. The houses we were looking at were less than 180K. House prices in Sacramento in some areas are affordable compared to the coastal areas and LA/SF, which is where the prices are extremely high. Again, it is probably best that we ended up not having the mortgage, but it’s kind of ridiculous that right now regulations haven’t caught up with Bank lending and tuition rates, which is part of the story. the other part being, get fully qualified before looking for a house. There needs to be a reform with our education system, let’s face it. Tuition shouldn’t prevent you from getting the best education and training for your career.

          • Julie G

            “That debt is monopoly money. ”
            ” … that isn’t a real number.”
            I just want you to read your own words out loud. In the bank. LOL. I give up.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            It’s not. The reason is because in 9 years after minimum payments, due to student loan forgiveness program, it will be forgiven and go away for my wife’s money. Also, as I said if I happen to become eligible, then I will be a part of that as well. So, thats why I call it monopoly money as a joke term. It’s considered good debt, because it is invested into our career. The banks don’t care about people, that’s why I’ve switched to a credit union. The sad thing is that the lenders and banks are all pulling people by the strings with the changes in interest rates and what not, but that is a whole different issue.

            Also, the bank doesn’t have my loans, lending companies do.
            They profit a ton off buying out student loans and then you have to abide by their policies and I’ve been hassled like crazy by them for years even though I pay on time. The people that work for them aren’t knowledgeable enough, so I’ve gotten several answers about how to deal with payments and what not from them when I ask, so I gave up on that and have done all that research on my own. Also, payment plan types and rules for forbearance and loan forgiveness have been everchanging since I graduated, as well as interest rates, and rates for income-based repayment, that is why to me this student loan amount is never correct, even from when you graduate. Not sure if you went to college or had large student loans, but that is the way of the world. It’s monopoly money because it’s unrealistic and everchanging. Its not like we are the only couple that has this. Most people that went to my schools that took loans out are in my situation, and this isn’t uncommon at all.

          • mostlywentzel

            You might want to say it’s “not a real number,” but to the lenders it is and you will have your wife’s debt to content with for 9 more years – and yours for much longer. That number will not magically go away. You cannot bank on any lender believing that your wife’s debt will magically go away. What if she finds another job? Gets fired? Quits to raise a family? It’s great that she could have the loan forgiven, but there is no guarantee she’ll still be at that job in 9 years.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            She works for an agency in which she would have to do something really drastic to get fired since she already went through her probationary period. She isn’t quitting to raise a family, just maternity leave, we discussed that because we need 2 incomes. There is a guarantee that she will be in a “public service” agency or job to have the loans forgiven in 9 years. How does a mortgage lender know that someone with another permanent job without student loans could won’t fired or laid off the next day after mortgage approval? I ask that question every time. They have no answer, but they will approve that person because their job is “permanent”. We’re still paying our monthly rent with no problem, which is the same amount that we were pre-approved for in the mortgage. In 9 years, her federal loan money will be forgiven.

          • Julie

            There’s no guarantee at all. The public service forgiveness program doesn’t fully roll out until October of 2017, the full regulations haven’t been written yet.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            Not true. The PSLF was passed in 2007 and is fully functional. My wife has already applied and is on the program. You might be thinking of some other student loan forgiveness bill or regulation. Here is the website detailing what the PSLF does and who qualifies. https://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service

          • Julie

            Look at your own link. 120 on time monthly payments after October 2007 means that absolutely no one is getting anything forgiven until as early as October 2017. There’s a solid chance that when this actually goes into effect and becomes “fully functional” that the restrictions and qualifications can become far more onerous. It isn’t guaranteed.

            Applying just ensures you are eligible with the loans you have. Read the fine print: “*The application is under development* and will be available prior to the
            date when the first borrowers will be eligible for PSLF Program
            forgiveness, in October 2017.”

          • Eastwestcoaster

            Your acting like this doesn’t exist or won’t happen. Yes, in 2017, it will be the first time that this will have eligible people to receive forgiveness due to the nature of the program. They have employment certification to make sure that your 120 payments qualify while working for an organization that is certified by the program. Starting in 2017, this program will be forgiving loans to people that applied previously and had their jobs certified by the program. Application is under development because they don’t need an application for forgiveness until 2017. They have applications for job certification and certification by the program. Like most government things, they will wait to produce the forgiveness application. If they go back on the word, I’m sure there will be a mutiny and lawsuits right and left, but I’d be surprised if that happens.

          • Julie

            Federal regulators don’t need to “go back on their word” to say that the program costs more than originally planned and they are making more restrictions on qualifications, loan amounts, etc when they write the full regs for applications.

            I’m not saying it will go this way. I’m saying that it could not work out and you are betting a lot of money that it won’t and calling it a guarantee. There are no guarantees. Laws change all the time, as for lawsuits? There are a pretty limited set of circumstances where you can sue the federal government.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            I know how that works. Why would they even have this program available with job certification, if they weren’t going to go through with it? If they try to pull the plug, there will be public outcry, and I can see a class action lawsuit (the fed. agencies actually get sued a lot by many organizations and people). Either way, in the next decade, I’m predicting a student loan bubble burst unless some new regulations are put forth and then it will be a repeat of 2008. There has been a recent push to help people with these issues with new bills being brought to congress. At the moment they aren’t passing, but I think it is a matter of time because students and former students are fed up with the student loan “business” that is going on. Either way, I hope to work my way up my career path and pay these off eventually.

          • Vikki B

            Be careful about forgiveness. I’m facing this. Because income-based repayments barely cover interest on that amount of debt/and because you’ll continue to rack of more interest and barely touch principle – you will have a huge forgiveness balance. The IRS will tax you on that if you work for a public institution. I’ve been talking to accountants and many say if I’m technically insolvent, I can reduce the amount I’ll have to pay but I’ll still pay. I’m trying to save for retirement too (like everyone else) and those dollars WILL be considered when the courts go to calculate my insolvency. Be very careful!

          • Eastwestcoaster

            I’ll be keeping an eye on that. Thanks for the insight. This forgiveness program is new and the IRS hopefully will figure out the program in relation to taxes. That seems very counterintuitive to the incentive that the program provides to help people working in public service.

          • Vikki B

            I hope the IRS does figure out something because you’re right –it doesn’t make much sense to offer income based repayment, only to rack up more interest and then tax you on that interest and the principle. But, without that option – I’d be in default so at least I have that option. Personally, I’m quite worried and I hope something will change. I’ll reach pay-off with forgiveness in my 50s. I don’t want to take a big debt into retirement. Of course, at this rate, I may never retire. THey may find a pile of dust on my keyboard. Ha ha! I appreciate your honesty. Some people are quite judgemental, unfortunately. Like you, I see the mistakes I made and the things I didn’t understand as well as I thought I did. I also saw it as “good debt” while I accumulated loans for a bachelor’s and masters. But, when the economy tanked, and I went to forebearance, I accumulated another $80k+ in interest alone. Gulp. When I reach forgiveness, I’ll be mock-forgiven for $200k (principle and more interest!)

          • george bailey

            “That debt is monopoly money” That’s a dangerously crippling lie you’re telling yourself. Real hours of work are going to pay off that loan, even if you believe it will be forgiven, in the interim that’s actual cash out of pocket.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            Not crippling, in fact if I think too much about my loans, my brain would explode and I’d have a heart attack. I’ve already been paying on my loans, so I understand about paying them back. “Real hours of work”, not understanding that. I work at a decent place and have been using my real hours of work to pay off my loans and other things. We know how much is coming out of our monthly income through loans. It’s really insane.

          • Pam Moyers

            Struggles of ;’your’ generation. Seriously? Shame on you. Talk to someone who remembers WWII rationing; the depression. Be grateful you are employed

          • Eastwestcoaster

            Wait, what happened after WWII, our economy boomed for about 2-3 decades and cost of living was cheaper and things were more affordable, with way more jobns available (not as much outsourcing or globalization). We (the millennials) are living in a situation (technically with us being involved in the Iraq war etc.) that is similar to that era. 2008′s recession was the second worse to the stock market collapse of 1929. When I graduated from undergrad there were hardly any jobs and still to this day it’s tough. Please do your research, there are articles all over the place about how our broken education system is affecting us and the economic issues of the 2000s as well. Why do you think there are people working at fast food restaurants (no offense to them) with college degrees? Answer: just to get by.

      • kgal1298

        Part the issue being is how many freshmen start college and end college with the same major. There are better ways to go about education, but it’s hard to say what ones salary will be upon graduation.

        • Eastwestcoaster

          Agreed. Salary changes in fields in today’s world about every year or 2, either up or down, so they need to be savvy about this.

  • Sherry Condie

    My husband and I are having the same problem, but running into a problem where the bank is concerned. We were pre-approved, put an offer in on a house, and the offer got accepted. It wasn’t until we lost our down payment and the cost of the inspection that we were told that the bank could not commit to a mortgage. Two days before closing we had to back out of the offer, which put ourselves and the seller in a bad position. We lost $1400. We then tried another bank and asked that they do the pre-approval and mortgage commitment together, so we knew that we could put another offer in without the risk of losing money. They refused to do so and said that we had to have a signed contract on a prospective house before they would commit to mortgage. It seems like the pre-appproval process should be re-evaluated for instances like these.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Agreed, this was another critique we had of the housing process. Sorry to hear you went through the same situation.

  • SumDude

    Having tons of student loans myself (and my wife), I understand the burden of student loans. With that being said, you really need to take a look at your finances and determine if you can truly afford to own a home. You are putting away $50 a month each? That’s not very much in terms of savings. Work on increasing that savings amount first and reset your pending habits based on how much you have saved. You want to have enough saved for a down payment (5% is ok and it does not have to be an FHA loan) plus extra for emergencies. Buying a house is expensive. Make sure you are truly ready before you buy. Good luck.

    • Rob Wilson

      SumDude, good tips. Yes, $100/month isn’t going to go very far towards a down payment and the “high yield” savings account isn’t going to pay them anything at all.

      In my comment above I suggest that Jeff and his wife explore ways to make more money. Have you and your wife gone that route?

      http://www.robwilson.tv/how-to-make-100k

    • mostlywentzel

      Yes – buying a home is expensive and many people forget to look past the home purchase itself. Once you are in the house, there are lots of expenses you may not have accounted for – appliances, window coverings, garbage cans, lawn mower – the list goes on. It’s actually even higher if you buy a new home. Most older homes already have a coat of paint on the walls, at least blinds on the windows and owners will often throw in appliances as part of the deal. A brand new, never lived in home, will usually have contrator grade plain white walls, nothing on the windows and no fridge or washer/dryer. Plan to spend a good $5k right off the bat.

      • kgal1298

        Old or new you’re still going to have issues. I grew up in a 50′s house that really needed some work. When my parents moved in the damn walls were purple…ugh and the yard we never had the money to take care of it so that went to crap too eventually my parents filed for bankruptcy and lost the house. On the up and up it really opened my eyes to the cost of home ownership and in some cases the cost of having kids too. Man I don’t know how my bro does it he has 3 kids and a house…sure it’s in Michigan, but when you’re income isn’t that high that’s a lot.

        • mostlywentzel

          I don’t disagree. I just think some people have a tendency to think that “new” means it doesn’t need anything, and that is very far from the truth. It just boils down to knowing what you’re really getting yourself into when you buy.

          • kgal1298

            Ain’t that the truth. I don’t think I’d buy in LA unless I had at least 200K in cash. Mainly cause the cost of homes is astronomical here new or old.

      • Eastwestcoaster

        This was understood when we were looking. We had money set aside to do these things.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      We’re saving this much at the moment. Before we were in a different situation and we plan on figuring out a way to save even more. Thanks for the comment.

  • TheresaKP

    No offense, but for “well educated” people, these two sound like a couple of whiners who didn’t do their research. It’s hard for me to feel sorry for them when I have a sister-in-law who took out student loans to go back to school in her 30s; got a teaching degree, but could not get a tenured job; is now in her 40s and may lose the home she has had for over 25 years, where she lives with her husband and children. “My generation & mixed signals?” They’ve been given every advantage, including “Public Service Loan Forgiveness.” It’s hard for me to feel sorry for them, when all they have to do is “be patient,” while so many people will never recover from the mess the economy is in. I tried getting a grant to go back to school when my household was on unemployment and we struggled for several years — I was told 20k a year of unemployment benefits was “too much money,” and refused any help whatsoever. I also live in an area that was blasted by a flood almost 2 years ago and have to watch while people are still not back in their homes, probably never will be, and the government assistance is a joke. Get over yourselves, grow up, and come into the real world.

    • Rob Wilson

      TheresaKP, if you truly feel that you need additional skills to get a better job, you might want to look at taking free courses from top notch universities online via coursera.org, edx.org, etc.

      I believe that in this economy, it’s more about “What do you know?” rather than “Where did you go?” Those platforms can help you improve your life…for free, no loans necessary.

      How to Go to Harvard and MIT for FREE
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKZ2SYjALts

      • TheresaKP

        Thanks for the advertisement.

    • Sarah

      Saying no offense and then saying something somewhat offensive is an offense. Also, it’s almost like you are joining them in their wailing. You don’t have to feel sorry, you don’t have to pity them. He is just narrating the mistakes, trials and tribulations of getting educational loans and how they linger in our lives under the misconception that they might not affect us entirely.
      Everyone has problems, undermining other’s in lieu of the personal ones you feel closer to has no effect whatsover, except, trying to one-up with who has the worst problem.

      • TheresaKP

        What I’m trying to convey is that there are people with REAL problems. This isn’t one of them. Grow up.

        • Eastwestcoaster

          This is a giant problem in our millennial generation. They are calling us the boomerangs because we go to college and go back to our parents because we have a hard time finding jobs after college and earning enough money. There is a student loan bubble in which lot of students may not be able to pay for the loans and then it will burst and it will be like 2008 all over again. People in our generation are waiting longer to have kids, buy houses, and do other things our parents were able to do. My parents both went to college and were able to afford a house and have money to raise me and a sibling. This is no longer the case if you are a person who went to college and have large mounts of loans.

    • brodymichelle

      Have your sister look into a program called NACA

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Please read my comment above. We aren’t whining and if you haven’t learned anything from this article, I’m sorry. I’m not looking for pity, I’m looking to educate others who might be in the same situation. Been in the real world for a long time now. We aren’t being given an advantage. Our loan amounts per month take up a big chunk of our monthly income. They have public service loan forgiveness and teacher loan forgiveness as well. The amount of interest accruing on our loans is astronomical, so I don’t see how this is an advantage. i still have to pay off my private loans, which are about $300 per month at the moment for 30 years. I don’t appreciate those comments.

      • TheresaKP

        So basically what you’re telling me is that the problem is that you have to wait for things. Ok.

        • Eastwestcoaster

          No, that wasn’t the point of the article or my story. I’m sorry you aren’t learning from it.

          • TheresaKP

            What I think you’re sorry about, is that I don’t agree with you. I stand by what I originally said. And don’t think I didn’t learn anything. I certainly did.

          • Eastwestcoaster

            I’m shedding light on a common problem. I don’t appreciate that you think we’re whining, that could be farther from the truth and to insult our intelligence level is something I’m not even going to comment on. I wouldn’t stoop to that level. You should know better than to do such things.

  • Kate

    “My generation, especially, has been given mixed signals by society. We’re told to attend the best schools we possibly can—but then we’re punished when we can’t afford it.” Completely agree. I worked as hard as I could all through high school so that I could get merit-based scholarships to a good school. Family, teachers, etc all told us “you need to go to the best school you can!” I didn’t even think going to low-cost community college was an option I could consider without being ashamed. Went to a great school, paid for about half my education with merit-scholarships, still ended up with 100k in student loans. Though I’ve been paying them back consistently and on-time ever since I graduated and was even able to recently purchase a home with my fiance after saving up for a down payment, it’s still frustrating to think that I wasn’t taught that it was perfectly acceptable to go to a low-cost state or community school.

    • MarcoMars

      It’s like shameful to go to a community college. I just transferred to a 4-year school and when I ask others did they transfer they act offended.

      • flours

        No shame at all in Community College…I think people should be ashamed they pay 3-5 times more per credit hour for the exact same class…you won’t see the majority of those people after graduation, don’t let them make you feel ashamed at all…I went to Community College…my career pays 6 figures…(eventually – did not start there by any means)

        • Kate

          Flours,

          I love your take on community college! I definitely agree with you now, after having graduated from an expensive university – I just wish I was told this back when i was 17 years old applying to schools. It’s a very young age to be taking on such financial responsibility – I think going forward as a whole our generation should make sure that when we talk to our future children about secondary education, we lay everything out on the table and really let them know that there are so many different paths to take – they don’t necessarily need to go to a “good school” to do well later in life.

      • Kate

        MarcoMars – exactly, and I think this is a huge problem in our society right now. There is such an unfortunate stigma that surrounds community schools for absolutely no reason – it should be reverse! I wish I had saved so much money by going to a community school or in-state school – but I wasn’t well educated in finance at that age and I didn’t understand the vast debt I was taking on by going to a “better” university. All I focused on was how amazing it was that I was about to have half of my education payed for by my merit-based scholarship, and I thought that would help me graduate with very minor debt. But I was wrong! haha.

      • College Grad

        Community college does carry a stigma, and that’s typically because the education students receive isn’t up to par with 4 year schools. (Obviously this is not always the case, so no need to correct me on this. I know it’s not true for every single person.) This is by no means the fault of the students, but is a flaw in the higher ed system. Community colleges are forced to hire professors at lower wages, or even worse, adjunct professors at less-than-minimum-wage and who are juggling teaching classes at multiple schools just to make a living.

        In turn, the community college students who transfer to a 4-year school may not be up to speed in content. Also, they typically have issues transferring all of their credits over, even if they meticulously planned which courses to take. As a former academic advisor at a 4-year university, I watched students go through this countless times. Because of these circumstances, students ended up taking at least one extra year of school, sometimes two, and sometimes they had to change majors.

        The whole university system (in which I’m including community colleges) in the United States is deeply flawed. It’s completely different from college in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and even 90s. And anyone who graduated from college in those years have little room to talk because it’s just a different experience. Colleges and universities now have different values, goals, and outcomes. They are mass-producing workers instead of well-rounded, educated people. And since they are producing, they are a business, and students are suffering.

        As people have stated before, there is a student loan bubble that will eventually have to burst. We can try to be as educated as possible about costs of college, student loans, and implications for the future after graduation, but the truth is you can’t always predict what happens.

        • flours

          I can appreciate that you include the disclaimer that your experience does not apply to every student…in my state, the community college system and university system went through an effort about 15 years ago to eliminate this gap. The courses are the same from one to another (that means CC to CC as well as CC to University). To teach these college transfer classes at CC, you must have your masters, although yes, you can be part time. Of course, I actually saw my professors every class at CC and saw the teaching assistant at University (some classes I never even met the ‘teacher’). There are many programs at our CCs that transfer directly to one of our state schools directly as a Junior, and even more college transfer classes.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      I didn’t have that option in my field. Also, as I stated above, I went to community college for 1 year, and still have tons of loans. If I were to do it all over again, I’d say to go to community college to get your core classes done and then go to the college that has your major or program you like. You still will have loans, but maybe not as many or as much debt.

    • Tania

      I’m in my mid-40s and what we were told isn’t any different. We also grew up thinking we should go to the best school we could. The difference I think is the mindset and ability to fund that education through debt, not the aspiration to get the best education we could. I went to a state university as a resident and I make a good salary and worked for prestigious companies. It all depends on where you will live and what field you are in. Also, at some point, your work experience will completely overshadow where your degree was obtained. I do agree that young people need personal finance classes and how to determine what post-secondary education is affordable to them. But being told going to an ivy league school is fantastic is nothing new and that sentiment will never go away.

  • kmae1028

    It always bothers me when people say “throwing away money on rent.” I mean, no, you aren’t getting any equity… But you are getting a safe place to sleep and keep all your stuff.

    The other thing that bothers me is the guy in this piece saying that finding out what he owes on his loans is a “wild-card.” He could find out in 5 minutes how much they are by logging into his account, and then he could also figure out what they will be in the future by using the interest rate and calculating it.

    It doesn’t sound like they have a budget. Saving $100 bucks a month on their income doesn’t cut it. They could afford a down payment if they would pay off their loans and save like crazy for a few years. On their income it is completely doable.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Please read my comment above.

  • Rob Wilson

    Jeff, thanks for sharing this story! As a financial coach, I work with a number of young professionals who are in the exact same position; Did everything they believed they were supposed to do, yet have not been rewarded on the other side.

    My suggestion to you and your wife would be to not spend all of your time and energy looking for ways to “cut back” i.e. carpooling, not eating out and limiting vacations. I’m certain that you didn’t spend all of that money on your education to have to worry about whether you should get an extra latte or not. Further, limiting your vacations will only leave the two of you burned out.

    SUGGESTION #1

    I would suggest that you (or any other readers in this position) spend your time and energy on looking for ways to make more money. There isn’t enough “cutting back” in the world to help you pay back $160,000 faster (I only mention your part of the loans because there’s little incentive for your wife to accelerate her payments if hers will be paid back in 10 years). For most people in your position, the answer is that you simply must make more money.

    Look at getting a new, higher paying job (in or out of your field), freelance on the side or start a business. Let’s assume you want to pay back $160k in 5 years (I know your balance is lower than that now but let’s just start there). You only need roughly an extra $2700/month (after taxes) that you can divert to your loans, which is nothing more than having 27 customers pay you $100 for some product or service.

    I’m fairly certain that with your education and experience, you could create a product or service that you could sell to 27 people for $100 per month. If you want your American dream, your task is to find out what that is.

    SUGGESTION #2

    I agree with one of the other commenters, renting is not “throwing away money.” In fact, when you look for this higher paying job, you might need to move. If I were you two, I would look for a small apartment building with a nice unit that you could move into. In this way, you’d be purchasing an asset (rental property) rather than a liability (single family home), which would allow you to begin accumulating wealth as your tenants pay your rent for you. Buildings are for sale all the time for one reason or another, and on most of these deals, the cash flow of the property supports the bank loan, rather that your own credit or income, though you will still need to come up with a down payment.

    Just my two cents. I talk more about this here:

    How to Make $100,000 in America
    http://www.robwilson.tv/how-to-make-100k

    If you would like assistance implementing this type of plan, I’d be happy to help.

    Cheers!

  • cc11782n

    HS Class of 2005 here. I have a real problem with people saying that we’re a generation of whiners that didn’t realize the consequences of our actions. I think at 17, 18 when you’re graduating HS and going through the applications process, at least for my classmates – no one was discussing cost or majors. We had no concept of how much schools would cost and a lot of us had no idea what we wanted to do.
    When I was graduating high school, not one of my schools guidance counselors suggested the low-cost local community college or spoke to me about the cost of higher education. Instead, they focused on my class standing (top 10%) and told me to shoot for Ivy league and top tier schools as the name on your degree matters more than anything and “you’ll be guaranteed a good job on graduation”
    I’m not saying the fault lies totally with them. I could have done some research but at 18 without a clue in the world what I wanted to do – these counsellors are the people we trust to help us out. Neither of my parents went to college so they didn’t realize what was involved in an applications process or understand why I needed to go to get a job. For them, college was never necessary.
    I just think a lot of people in my generation went into schools without thinking of the cost or alternatives because the economy was good and we were told we’d get jobs. And now we have to face the reality that sometimes that just isn’t a guarantee. And I don’t want to say that we’re whining – I think that’s unfair. I just think a lot of my peers are coming out now, realizing the consequences and the impact of their debt loads, and wondering how they’re ever going to get ahead when we were told this is how it has to be done.
    For the record – I ended up choosing to go to the local community college – because I had no idea what I wanted to do and I was told that I had to go to college to even have hope of getting a job. I ended up graduating with honors and getting into Ivy league schools post-community college, but I took a second tier school closer to home with more financial aid and a great career and co-op services department that got me a job on graduation. My parents struggled with money all my life growing up and I knew I didn’t want to struggle so I at least had some foresight to know to consider money when I was applying to schools and choosing majors – but I can see how others wouldn’t have “a care in the world” when thinking of which school to go to given the same message of “you have to go to a good school to get a job”.

    • mostlywentzel

      You made some really good choices – good for you. No one has to go to an ivy league school to get a good education or a good job. You need to do well no matter where you go, be ambitious, be realistic, and be open to anything.

    • Courtney

      Wow. Our stories sound very similar!

      I was pressured to go to the top public university by my high school counselor once I was accepted without any scholarships ($45,000/year). My mother wouldn’t even let me visit the campus!

      I stayed in state and received a great education. It also helped that I live in the nation’s capital and had access to great job opportunities. I was able to find great internships during the semester and was offered a job right after graduation.

      My student debt is minimal ($20k) and I cringe when I hear these stories of those paying back $100k. I could have graduated without any debt, but I decided I really wanted the experience of staying on campus even though I was only a half hour away from home.

      After college I moved back home for a year and a half. I saved up enough to put a down payment on a HUD foreclosed fixer upper and I am really enjoying the advantages of home ownership at such a young age. I honestly can’t rent anywhere in the DMV for the amount I pay on my mortgage.

      Though I was pissed at my mom five years ago for not letting me go to my “dream school”, I can’t express how grateful I am that she didn’t let me ruin my financial future at 17 years old.

      • Eastwestcoaster

        DC and large cities are great to live in to have internships, however if you live in rural areas, this is much more difficult, but can be done.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Thank you for explaining this to the others that don’t seem to understand what we were taught in school (at least in mine) while growing up. It was an honor to go to a good college and you were commended, nothing was ever said about what happens after, it was all sugar coating. I hope that high schools now are teaching more about the tradeoffs, now that tuition is out of control.

  • hypnometal

    One thing that the author mentioned was how much competition they were getting from investors just sweeping in to buy an investment property with cash, which no one fresh out of school will be able to compete with. I mean, true, it doesn’t do any good to whine and complain about circumstances, but I think we as a society as a whole need to be responsible for the consequences of the actions in letting wealth inequality grow rampant as it has. Sure, this couple will do things individually to get a handle on their situation, but we also need to band together to take care of the systemic causes of this crisis. If the 1% keep buying up single family homes with the intention of renting them out and making money off the rental income, then raising rent in order to make markup from their mortgage payments, how many middle class families are going to be underwater when they can’t afford rising rent payments, especially when they would actually have an easier time making a mortgage payment were they able to qualify for a mortgage in the first place instead of having to compete with the 1%-er swooping in to buy their 632nd investment property with cash?

    Another issue – the author said that the bank didn’t want to count his income because he was a contractor. But in this day and age, companies are deciding it’s more economical to hire temp workers and contractors than it is to give someone a regular full-time position, so the market is going to be saturated with more of these contractors that the banks aren’t going to want to play ball with, so then how will the market and the larger economy stabilize?

    Again, I’m not saying to ignore individual responsibility. But by the same time, we can’t ignore these systemic issues either.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Thanks for pointing out the other half of this story, that “middle class” people are being pushed out of home ownership by investors who swoop in and rent out large areas of homes. This happened in Sacramento after they figured out that this would be the next big city to invest in as home prices soared 45% in 6 months while we were looking. Then the investors stopped this past year and now all I see around the place I’m currently renting are large areas of rental houses.

  • Megan B.

    My fiance and I are about to be in a similar situation, looking for a house with student loan debt, but our debt is much less. Would it help if we mention our concerns with the effects of our student loans up front? I think it was more of a lender issue than a student loan issue, especially since they weren’t counting his income either. I would have tried another lender. Are there lenders out there who have a better track record of working with individuals with student loan debt? I feel like the buying the house process is so draining even without issues, so you have to be patient and prepared for all the little hiccups.

  • Boo

    If YOU don’t pay for your education, who does? The taxpayer? Why? You getting a degree and working in your chosen field as an electrical engineer isn’t going to do ME any good.

    People make choices. You decided to go “the best” college you could, and you paid for it. Now you owe money. It’s pretty simple.

    And did you REALLY think you should or could buy a home practically straight out of college?? Seriously?

    The fact that your parents didn’t want you to “waste money” on rent and yet you barely have anything left of it, would tell me you’re not exactly the financially-responsible types.

    You managed to sign contracts that enabled you to lose some of that money (an expensive tertiary education means nothing if you didn’t have the common sense to READ a contract before signing it) and you went and spent it on non-down payment expenditures anyway. I’m sure they were thrilled.

    I’m really tired of the “whoa is me. My life is at a standstill because I have student loans and it’s someone else’s fault because they told me I had to have the best education.”

    No, you have student loans because you chose to go into a field that required a degree and you chose to do that at an expensive college.

    How about pacing yourselves and buying a home when you can actually afford the down payment and the monthly mortgage payments?

    “Next time, however, we want to make sure we’re fully qualified for a mortgage..” Gee, ya think?

    • Eastwestcoaster

      You are already paying for higher education. Federal loans are generated from federal taxes. That is why this is a huge issue for our economy. The fact that colleges are allowed to keep increasing tuition even now, is also troublesome to me.

    • Boo you

      It’s incredibly naive of you to think that you don’t benefit from electrical engineers, or any number of professions that require these higher degrees. An education isn’t a superfluous thing for individuals to get because the extra letters look pretty after their names. They are a form of societal contribution, and thus should be (1) respected and (2) supported by the people who will benefit from them. That is why there are programs for public service forgiveness and teacher forgiveness.

      You benefit a LOT from these people. Yes, they made choices about which school they went to, which is why they have to pay back a portion of these loans. But if you would prefer not to use any of the benefits that higher education has brought to society, then have fun living in a cave.

      • Eastwestcoaster

        Thank you!

    • hypnometal

      “And did you REALLY think you should or could buy a home practically straight out of college?? Seriously?”

      Given that there was a time in our parents’ lifetime when that wasn’t such an unreasonable expectation, I think it’s fair to ask how we went from a point where a college graduate could buy a home shortly after graduating to where we are now, where a college graduate has to wonder if they’ll ever be able to buy a home.

      “No, you have student loans because you chose to go into a field that
      required a degree and you chose to do that at an expensive college.”

      Name any white collar field that _doesn’t_ require a degree! Sure, we can debate the merits of going to one college over another, but making a comment as if you can just forego the degree altogether and still get hired and expect to make a decent middle class salary is pretty disingenuous.

      “How about pacing yourselves and buying a home when you can actually afford the down payment and the monthly mortgage payments?”

      Again, we’re well within reason to ask why today’s college graduates are finding it harder to do so than the college graduates of yesteryear. And we’re well within reason to say that we should band together and make those systematic changes to ensure that problems like these get fixed.

      • Eastwestcoaster

        Thanks! Sometimes, I feel as though generations older than us don’t understand what we have gone through during the last decade with the economy and tuition increases. You can’t just forego a degree if you want to work in many fields, so eventually, unless you have lots of money, you’ll have to pay the piper (lending company). Also, we need to stop the inflation and tuition hikes, it has gone too far.

  • http://sjmarathon2012.tumblr.com/ WhitneyF

    Unfortunately they can’t go back and re-do the past, but it seems like the cost/benefit of that grad program is the real issue here. They paid all that money for school and between the two of them were only making $90K in an area with a very high cost of living. They should’ve researched what type of salary their degrees could earn before committing to such an expensive program. Maybe their best bet at this point is to try and find jobs in a more affordable part of the country. Owning a home in California is going to take much longer than owning a home in Oklahoma.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Sacramento is the most affordable big city in CA. Before we started looking house prices were extremely low until 3 months in when the investors showed up. Also, we’ve done our research on salaries. We have the ability to increase them by a lot if we are offered those higher paying jobs. That’s why in maybe 5 years, we will reassess the house situation. BTW, we have gotten raises since the housing search we were on.

  • BohdanUke1

    Oh, poor babies… all those degrees and no common sense. I’m so crying for y’all… can you feel it?

    I’d sue all the schools you went to… that they did not prepare you for life, since it seems that frivolous cases are bona fide now. Or, you can give up your citizenship, go to Mexico and jump the fence back in to America. You’ll be treated royally… while us bozos continue support you with our taxes.

    It’s a win-win. Go for it!

  • Tara D.

    Thank you for sharing your story. There is so much anger in the comments. Everyone feels that their problems are “REAL problems.” It’s all relative. I understand that some of you are upset (for a variety of reasons), but attacking someone for their point of you doesn’t help anyone. I’m sure none of you have ever made a decision that you wish you could change, especially before you were 25 years old. I’m not saying that this couple shouldn’t learn from their mistakes, but the point here is that young people aren’t always aware of the consequences of their actions. In fact, brain development isn’t even complete until age 25. This gentleman shared his story and we can take from it what we want, but calling someone a “whiner” is just childish and says a lot more about you than the man writing the article.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      There are obviously people who don’t understand our situation. Thanks for understanding. I think you understand that this is probably the biggest obstacle in our lives at the moment. Everything else has gone well so far.

  • NW

    I think it’s sad kids this young were pushed in to buying a house. figure out you life, find out if you really want to live in that city for an extended period of time. AND THEN buy a house. Makes me sad when young people are in a rush to grow up and be that way for the next 80 years. Just do you the best you can and everything else falls in to place.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      I’m curious as to what things were like 50 years ago. We live in a much different world now. We are certain we want to stay here for awhile. We are doing the best we can and trying to improve ourselves. Also, if we were to have a house, we know that if the market doesn’t tank, that it could be resold at the moment for a higher price, which is what some of our friends are doing that bought a house, lived there for 2 years and are now selling it for profit/equity and moving to a better house. Thanks for the encouragement.

  • Adrienne

    I doubt they’re saving at all for retirement. Perhaps they should think about that before buying a home.

    How did they not know that their debt-to-income ratio was too high? I thought it would be obvious. It seems like all their “research” was comprised of looking at redfin instead of checking out library books and websites on the actual home-buying process.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      We do have some money in a retirement account. Student loan debt is like monopoly money and considered “good debt” right now as opposed to credit card debt etc. We had realtors who helped us out and showed us houses and explained the process, and our loan officer never said that we would have issues with the student loan debt, even after going over that upteen millions of times with them until the underwriter said no and they acted surprised. I still feel like this was a waste of 9 months because we weren’t qualified. So, that is my advice, to get fully qualified before looking. It was a mistake and we will learn from it. Anyways, we are reassessing our finances and will look at houses again in 5 years or so.

  • KC

    I would have taken the gift of $18000 and placed it into an investment fund to produce yields (offsprings)

    • Eastwestcoaster

      It was used towards our wedding as well. Those aren’t cheap these days. Hindsight is 20/20. Learn from your mistakes and I hope people learn from this article.

  • kgal1298

    See I live in LA and I can tell you here it’s perfectly normal to not buy a home until you’re 40′s because the costs are so high and you may have to move around town for work. On the up and up I have lower debt ratio thanks to the loan system causing me to leave school after I only incurred about 30K in debt. Which is being paid off now. I had it rough for a few years, but I learned a lot and now I share a 1 bedroom apt for $900 a month in Burbank which means I can throw more at my debt. I don’t care what anyone says I’d rather have no debt than a house any day. At least then I could save up money and travel more.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Did the amount of money you owe discourage you from continuing your education? It that is the case, I’m sorry for what happened. This loan system is messed up and it shouldn’t discourage people from getting a higher education.

      • kgal1298

        Not that. They literally decided my family made too much money for aid. My mom worked making 12 bucks an hour and then my credit wasn’t good enough to get anymore loads because my debt to income ratio was already too high. I didn’t have a great education in terms of finances growing up so I could have avoided it, but you live and learn and at least now my credit is way up and I make a very good income for what I do so I can’t complain too much. It does suck I was only about 25 credits shy from my degree though, but I’m not even sure now I’d want to finish it because my school made me so mad. I went in constantly and asked them how I could fix this if I should transfer to community college for courses or something and they just kept giving me bad information. Seriously the financial offices at colleges can sometimes be helpful, but almost always confusing.

        • Eastwestcoaster

          Sorry to hear about that experience. Sounds frustrating. At least it sounds like you were able to overcome it. I had issues with getting federal loans when my parents still claimed me as a dependent (even though my dad is disabled and my mom made a decent salary, but not enough to pay for my tuition). Those standards need to be changed as well, another sign of a broken educational system. So, in my first few years of college I had to get private loans through undergrad. Afterwards, I qualified for federal loans when I attended grad school when I could claim myself as independent. Private loan companies are difficult to work with as well, but that is a whole other story. Glad things are working out for you, despite your experience at college.

  • RO

    So between the two of them they are bringing in $90,000 make a plan to get higher paying jobs and have some kind of ROI on your expensive degrees. Wife may not have an incentive as she is waiting for loans to be forgiven. My question is why was there a need to have a wedding with the down payment money vs. paying off some of the debt? I am from the same generation and maybe it is a matter of upbringing – to get a home you need at least 20% down, payoff as much debt as you can, do not work a job that does not allow you to honor your obligations in a timely manner.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      In the article, it states how we were able to have a wedding. It was paid for by gift money, that I’m forever grateful for from our parents. Otherwise, it would’ve been us getting married with a witness at the county office. We wanted to tie the knot, as we have been together for a long time.

      • Rob Wilson

        Why must you wait to get higher paying jobs? I believe that with the education you have, you can monetize your expertise and make more money…now.

        • Eastwestcoaster

          Not sure where your going with this one. Our field is extremely competitive. Not easy to get a job. If you’re talking about starting a business, I have those ideas, but there is no way I can foot the bill for that at the moment. People don’t come to me as a consultant, in my field you are in bidding wars to be a consultant for any project and usually well-known companies outbid smaller ones.

  • Eastwestcoaster

    Hey Everyone, this is Jeff from the story. I want to say thanks for reading. The purpose of this story was to inform people who have large amounts of student loans about the current issues in obtaining a mortgage. I’m glad that this has informed some of you and possibly helped you, the others who say that we’re whining need to understand what it’s like to be in our shoes. Much of the other parts to this whole story weren’t in this article, as it would’ve been about 50 pages otherwise. I want to thank Camille and the staff at Learnvest for interviewing us and writing an excellent article that everyone can learn from.

    When I started college in 2003, we were in a different economy. In the years that I went to college. 2003-2007 undergrad 2008-2011 grad school, as has been documented in several other reports, the tuition rate went up 500%, which was above the rate of inflation. So, when we started we had no clue that it would rise that high and it was unpredictable, but we wanted to finish our degrees. Me and many other students had to deal with tuition rate hikes every year. Also, interest rates depending on loan types, are ever changing.

    I went to community college for 1 year and still ended up with a huge chunk of loans due to my family being unable to pay and the fact that my summer jobs only helped me pay for some of my living expenses. We also both are in the same field of work and in that field you need to have a master’s degree to move up the ranks and paygrades. Without going to grad school, I would’ve never had the expertise I do now or would’ve even been considered a job candidate for what I do now. To elaborate on the “wildcard” part of my loans, it is that I know what they are now, but I’m in the process of consolidating them in the next few months and payment plans, interest rates, and other programs seem to be changing at a fast pace at the congressional level, which effect my federal loans. In response to the “contract” we signed when we agreed to go to college and pay the loans, it’s a forced signing. Its either you go to college or you don’t and in order to go to college, many have to take out federal or private loans. There also aren’t many full-ride scholarships and even the partial ones I received were only enough to pay for books and 1 month’s worth of living expenses. I worked many jobs outside of college and knew that I wanted to stay in my degree field and knew that there were opportunities to move up.

    Also, the economy was so bad when we graduated and the competition is so high, that to get hired by any company or agency in your field is a blessing. We were living with our parents after graduation because of the lack of funding for these positions at the time. Since I was offered the job in CA, it has been a life changer and we expect to keep moving up. Also, there were no college programs in my home state that either had the resources, classes, or capabilities of the ones I went to, so I had to go to school out of state. Some of my in-state school actually had a higher tuition than the out of state ones as well. I also wonder why there is upwards of a 15,000 to 20,000 per year discrepancy in in-state and out-of-state tuition when it makes no difference.

    There seem to be a lot of misconceptions and people who write this off as “whining” when all I’m doing is telling my story and hoping others learn. This only points out that our education system in the US is broken at the current time and that something needs to be done. I enjoy doing what I do and I don’t think our situation is any different than many other couples out there looking for houses that went to college. The average student loan debt now can be upwards of 100K for a 4 year college in-state, seems to make a lot of sense?? Hopefully this article inspires some of you to take action or contact your congress reps to create changes, otherwise this will be a perpetual cycle, and prevent further generations of people who don’t have a lot of money to start with from obtaining a great education and being the best and most productive citizen in our society.

  • abeachandabook

    Your final comments really got to me — the message your generation is fed about what everyone should do, and then setting them up for a rough and stressful road ahead. What’s right for one person is not at all for another. Our two oldest children who were attending college both u-turned their career paths when they realized that their indecisiveness could get expensive. They both discovered that sometimes one major, good decision can solve 90% of their problems.

    You two have already achieved much and you’re both mature, educated, and hardworking — all the ingredients for success, and it will work out; really, it will — but, do it your way.

    There’s a book called Easy Life Skills You Never Learned in School, which I asked my kids to read. It teaches you how to discover yourself, what you want, who you are…and make good decisions based on that knowledge, and not on what everyone else tells you is the right thing to do. You can visit http://www.optimindshaping.com to check it out — it could be helpful in making pivotal decisions for your future. Good luck to you both.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Thanks!

  • tracy

    Eastwestcoaster,
    I am hoping that you are able to buy a home in a few years. Yes, your generation is in many ways paralyzed by the debt and lack of good jobs. I am hoping my kids are able to homes, cars, and move on to do some of what they want. I will have 2 or 3 in college this year, and I am afraid they are taking on too much debt. I am encouraging one daughter to turn back part of a loan, as she worked a ton this summer at a fast food place. It will free up her future in ways she can’t imagine. I have my college debts on hold, as an income based payback for community college debts two years ago. I know when I bought my first home, I was able to buy one for less than $30K. I am in my 5th house. In another ten years, I won’t need a house anymore and can rent or move. I know many kids are going to grad school because they can’t pay their debt for bachelor’s degrees, which is a slippery slope. Best of luck with your bills and housing, sounds like you are thinking a lot about options. My one piece of advice, I worked as a loan specialist at one point, and could submit loans to MANY lenders. A mortgage broker can look at a lot of options for you and find one who will look at your loan differently. It seems to me once you have had your contract job for two years, you should be able to count it all as income. That is a year away. Happy house hunting, or apt hunting.

  • Jason Mikhail Poe

    I feel that this article highlights how the student loan debt crisis is just as bad as the housing bubble crash. I take full responsibility for my behavior, however I was completely mislead in my youth for how much these loans would cost me long term. I was told “everyone takes loans, take as much as you can to cover living costs.” But never was I told approximately the loan would cost when I graduated. I also was told by the institution that my starting salary would be more than high enough to cover any loan payments. WRONG ON ALL ACCOUNTS!!!

    You cannot rely on educational institutions to lead you to making the best decision for your financial future, but where can students go to get honest information before they sign the line?

    • Julie G

      “But never was I told approximately the loan would cost when I graduated.”

      I have been reading a lot of variations of this in the comments, and it seems like a lot of students and recent grads are so passive about their education costs, I don’t understand it. It’s simple math.

      If your loan is for a full year, let’s say $15,000, and your percentage rate is 5%, then when you graduate and start paying it back you’ll write a check for $15,750 if you inherit some money and pay it back all at once.

      Or, if you have to pay over time like most of us, you’ll owe around $100 per month for fifteen years, based on any basic loan payment calculator. Just google “student loan calculator.” I chose bankrate’s but any will do.

      Your college financial aid department should have this information. It’s not hard to figure out. I just really wonder about people who borrow X number of dollars and then say they don’t know what they’ll owe upon graduation. You’ll owe X number of dollars, plus the interest! It’s simple.

      • Jason Mikhail Poe

        I didn’t mean the total amount of the loan, I meant calculating monthly payments. I also graduated pre-Google and didn’t know where to find the information. I relied on people were basically sales people. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Now I think that we need to make sure that this information is in everyone’s hands or that schools are required to give the information out so that students/parents know how to calculate a monthly payment before they sign the dotted line.

    • hypnometal

      Well, that’s part of the issue. There is nowhere you can go to get honest information. Schools will tell you whatever they have to to get you to come to their school and accept whatever loan you have to to get you in the chair and to get your loan money. Banks will tell you whatever they have to to get you to accept the loan and then get you on the hook for the next however many years (especially since you can’t discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy) Parents and guidance counselors have your best interests at heart, but as you grow up, you realize they don’t really know any more than you do, especially since the world no longer works the way it did when they went to college (if we can call the current condition “working.”)

      So how can anyone these days truly take personal responsibility when you know you don’t know everything, you can’t know everything that you need to, and no one is trustworthy to guide you in the way you need to go?

  • hypnometal

    As to the difference between a community college education vs. an education at a top tier school or even a state school. In addition to the state schools and top tier schools hiring the higher quality professors, there’s also the fact that they’re more on the cutting edge of research and development in a way that community colleges are not which, theoretically, should give graduates of those schools a more competitive edge, or at least the ability to specialize and provide a unique contribution.

    But why aren’t we seeing that specialization translate into the workforce? Because we don’t have a diverse economy. The only reason we have students earning “wasted degrees” is because we have the 1% determining what are valuable skills instead of the market as a whole, and so instead of getting unique contributions from everyone and making society as a whole richer for the experience, all these graduates are competing for the same jobs, all competing for the same scraps of approval from the 1%. But the 1% can only hire so many accountants to manage all the investments that make them obscenely wealthy.

    What we need is a more diverse economy that allows for more non-traditional career paths. In fact, we should be abandoning traditional career paths altogether. And we need a middle class again, one that can support diversification of the economy, so that many of these so-called “wasted” degrees won’t be wasted after all. Then more college graduates could earn incomes that would allow them to buy houses and stimulate the economy further.

  • Yami

    If two people earning about 90k a year cannot save more than $100 a month. You will never qualify for a house. You need to first manage your expenses.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      That is our current amount we can save, but will be changing, as we have reassessed things to save more.

  • Rachel

    1. If you really want to go to an expensive college, at least start out at a community college so you can get through the gen ed.’s cheaply. Then you can transfer to the school of your choice and grow student debt for two years instead of four. Less you have to pay back.
    2. Don’t bother trying to buy a house without a 20% down payment. You may think you’re saving money that way but you’re not. The less you have down on the house, the more interest you’ll be charged and thus more money overall.
    3. What good is saving only $50/mo for a future mortgage? That’s $600/yr. I would be saving more than that per month if I wanted enough for a down payment in 5 years, even with this “high-yield savings account” they’re putting it into, it wouldn’t come close to the down payment necessary for a mortgage in 5 years.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      Again, we are now saving more money per month, we’ve reassessed. We also still have some money left from the house hunt.

      • Rachel

        If you’ve already said that before, I didn’t read it, so I apologize if this is a repeat comment on your part. There are so many comments. Good luck with the next house hunt!

  • Krystal Kelley

    I had a similar conversation with my mom who wants to get her graduate degree. She hadn’t really thought through paying for grad school on top of undergraduate loans nor had she considered what she’ll make after getting her graduate degree (in education). I think she’s so focused on the dream that she has not considered the full impact. Please do a thorough cost – benefit analysis that takes into account growth in your field of choice and income for the region you want to work before signing up for an academic program. Also, the best schools are only good up to a point. The name of the school will only get you add so far. Oftentimes, it’s the companies that recruit from the school and/or the networking opportunities that you have that really make an impact on career opportunities after graduation.

    • Eastwestcoaster

      I agree. In my case, it was worth it to me because of the career and financial state I was in and skillset I had, but in other cases, especially people who want a second/third career later in their lives, it becomes much more difficult. As far as the school quality, in my situation, I can attest that I benefited from that, but in other cases, it might not be worth it if there are the same programs at other schools. In my case, like I said, there are only 3 or so schools that had my degree track at the master’s level and I was accepted to 1.

  • Rinderoo

    So let me see if I understand this… I can go to an Ivy League school and borrow 108K, work for a Public Service organization, pay $500/month for 10 years and the rest of the loan is forgiven??? This person is paying back about 60K out of 108K and their complaining because they can’t buy a freaking house because their debt to income ration is too high? There’s something seriously wrong with this system and these two seem like they’re ‘owed’ a house. Such an attitude of entitlement, starting with ‘the best’ education. I’m just disgusted with this system.

  • Vikki B

    What he fails to realize is that three-year forebearance is going to rack up A LOT of interest on that much student loan debt. I know because I made that “rookie mistake” during years of financial stress/furloughts/pay cuts/job loss, etc. And, even if he gets income-sensitive repayments or income-based, he’ll get nailed down the road when he has to pay taxes on the forgiveness amount. (His wife won’t have to, as a government employee.) He better find himself a government J.O.B.

  • Meredith

    First of all, it is difficult to know what your monthly loan payments will be, especially as an entering freshman in college since loan interest rates and pell grants (as well as scholarships) all fluctuate. Secondly, no one knew the recession was coming, and it hit people in my age group (graduated from college in 2006) particularly hard because we didn’t have tons in savings or amazing work resumes to fall back on. The people in this article are not whining or asking for pity; they are describing their financial realities. The whining and screaming is being done by commenters who think they are superior financially. We all have ‘if only’ or ‘hindsight’ financial decisions. Like this couple, I pay my loans, save for retirement and try to save up for a house–just at a slower rate than my parents were able to. Not acknowledging the role student loans play in hindering our economic growth doesn’t make it any less true for millions of Americans.

  • ame3636

    Sounds like their biggest mistake was going to Grad School because of the timing. They would have been much more likely to find a better job in 2007 than 2011, then they could have built up experience and gotten their grad degrees down the road. I guess they couldn’t have known that going into it..

  • M

    I work in the environmental industry and in the public sector and I would never advocate for anyone going to graduate school to get a job in this field. You will not get a return on your investment. Go to undergrad, get a science based degree, (an internship is helpful), and get out there and get an entry level job. If you are mature and know how to present yourself to future employers you will get hired. Then stick it out with your employer and you will work your way up to a higher and more senior position. I interview and hire people as part of my job and advanced degrees mean nothing to me. I am looking for experience (if you are applying for a non-entry level job) or I am looking for maturity, enthusiasm and sense of responsibility (if you are applying for entry level). I am sorry that this couple was misled about the need for a graduate education in this field. Schools are looking to make money, not train the future workers of the world, sorry to say.