Student Loans: What Did We Think Would Happen?


You Took Out the Loan – Repay It!

Is that really the best way to look at student loans? Let’s break down how this happened. After all, we cannot fix a problem unless we identify the problem first.  

Let’s start with the fact that we sent our kids to government institutions of learning. We ensured that they spent most of their youth in front of a government employee that was told to tell our children (almost every single day) that college was important. They told our children that a college education was essential to get a decent-paying job. This was also reinforced by the fact that, as parents, we told our children to listen and obey their teachers. What did we think was going to happen?

Then our kids came home, and most parents reinforced such statements with declarations of the importance of education in today’s world. The cost of such education wasn’t really a big part of that indoctrination. And if they didn’t get that speech, they might have seen their parents struggle because they didn’t understand economics but knew they wanted a better life. So perhaps the kids associated economic hardships with a lack of education and wanted a better shot at financial stability. Or maybe their parents did well because they had a college degree when most didn’t, but the job market desired it. Regardless of which occurred, what did we think was going to happen? And since most don’t have thousands just lying around, they were forced to take out student loans.

So let’s talk about guidance. What guidance was given to our children regarding direction or major? As a society, we have brainwashed our children into doing stupid things like “follow your heart” or “do what makes you happy.” Aside from the fact that this is terrible advice, this is why Liberal Arts degrees with ridiculous majors are common. What in the world did we think was going to happen?

But it’s so much worse than all that. Let’s examine the fact that the rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until about 25. With everything I’ve presented thus far, are we seriously going to expect our children to make a responsible and thoroughly thought-out decision regarding their future? If you think this would have gone any other way, I almost don’t know what to tell you. But seriously… what other outcomes could you expect?   

So it’s NOT as easy as “You took out the loan; pay for it!” If we force all these conflicting messages about college into the minds of our children, we must own part of the fallout. Because, again, what did we think was going to happen?

Interest on the Loans

Unfortunately, the loan itself is not the problem; it’s the interest. The way that most student loans work is by charging what is known as compound interest. Compound interest is calculated on the principal amount of the loan PLUS the accumulated interest of earlier periods.

Let’s make this simple. Let’s say a student has a $10,000 student loan debt. And let’s say that (for whatever reason) they have to put off paying their student loans for ten years – probably because their Liberal Arts degree didn’t land them the high-paying job that they were promised. At a low 3.96% interest, that student will now owe no less than $14,849 at that 10-year mark. That’s because that loan accrues interest at a whopping $1.10 per day. An easier way to say this would be that the student has to pay for the interest and the interest on the interest.

When the student enters the workforce, they are playing a game that, for some, never ends. But let’s pretend they could land a higher-paying job. Of course, with a Liberal Arts degree, it likely wouldn’t be a slam dunk. So perhaps it’s just a little higher than they could have landed without the degree. Well, now they are getting taxed on their higher wages while paying on the principle of their loan AND the compounding interest. For many, it’s simply not worth it.

So now the government wins twice, and society wins a little. The student… still waits to see the payoff. Now let’s talk about that tax part for a second.  

The Tax Benefit

Of course, our government wants people to get higher-paying jobs. When people get higher-paying jobs, the government receives more “revenue.” Society doesn’t seem to mind because they get all these great benefits from the government that provides such services through loans and taxes.

As previously stated, the student’s higher wages are taxed at a higher rate. This is because they supposedly fall under a higher tax bracket. But of course, they are paying a loan that won’t go away for some time due to the compounding interest. They don’t have all this extra money to spend on things that would otherwise stimulate the economy. This is a problem on a couple of fronts. Sure, the government can give services to those in need, but the irony is that the student cannot buy goods that will stimulate the local economy. This can ultimately put people out of work and in need of government help. Does this sound like a cool scheme yet? What did you think was going to happen?

Remember that this student followed the advice of the people we told them to trust… and all to get a higher pay job that they cannot reap the benefit of. Meanwhile, the banks, the government, and those without a job reap the benefits of the student’s sacrifice.

So when the student eventually figures out that they got a raw deal and complains about it (like the rest of us SHOULD be), people in our society have the audacity to say something stupid like “I don’t care! You took out the loan… you’re so smart… you figure it out!“? Seriously? What did you think was going to happen?

The Economic Benefit of Removal

Yes, it’s true that society as a whole benefit from an educated population. This has been proven time and time again. But have we forgotten about the student in this assessment?

Now we are faced with a student loan debt crisis, and our economy is on the brink. In a scheme that was likely methodically planned, our government is poised to assume a ridiculous amount of power as a result. The sad part is that the people who haven’t thought this through are helping it along – albeit unknowingly.

Economics is funny sometimes, but it works well when people have extra money to spend. This is because extra money is spent on goods that are made by people who have jobs making those goods. But when people don’t have extra money to spend, they don’t buy goods, or they’re forced to buy cheaper foreign goods. When people don’t buy goods, there are no jobs to fill because there is no demand to make the goods anymore because nobody can buy them. After all, they don’t have the extra money to spend. Simple enough? Gee… what could we possibly do to help people get extra money to spend on goods to help keep the people in our society employed and to keep the government from gaining power by expanding the nanny state?

Here’s a neat run-on sentence – imagine if those students who got the degree and landed a higher-paying job had the extra income they were promised they would make if they went to college to get the degree they were told to get—got that image in your head? Here are a few questions to ponder: Would they take that extra money and buy cars, houses, and various other goods? Do you think that purchasing such things would create a demand for more people to make such things? Of course, it would! Meanwhile, the government and the citizenry would still benefit from the taxes generated on the higher income. It almost sounds like a perfect scenario – minus the excessive taxes, which is another issue in and of itself. But I digress…

The point is that it would be a win/win in many ways if we could find a way to reduce the burden of the debt we have all but imposed on our students. This seems like a simple equation to follow. Unfortunately, this tiny little article is unlikely to change much of anything, and we will watch as our economy continues to crumble and our government continues to grow.

But if you happen to be one of the few that can see this problem for what it REALLY is, then perhaps the next time you hear a student complain about their student loan burden, have a heart and realize that they are more of a victim of the system that ensured that they would become a slave to the debt that was pushed upon them by the people they trusted most.

Most didn’t think about what was going to happen when it comes to student loans. Therein lies the biggest problem of them all. And here we are. In fact, the person who orchestrated some of the loan processing through Fanny Mae once said, ‘We unleashed a monster.’ Indeed, you have!

But that’s not even the worst of it. Tuition rates are now 1400% HIGHER than they were in the ’70s. It’s not because prices are on the rise. Tuition rates are at least four times HIGHER than the rate of inflation. It’s an unfair and broken system. Something must be done.

Now, I’m not saying we need to wipe everything clean. Even though that would likely create an unrivaled boost in our economy, that is probably not prudent. However, if we could apply some thought to the problem of student loans, we might be able to do some good for everyone. Solutions might include simply getting rid of the compounding interest burden and working with the principal. If we did that, we might see a massive shift in our economic health and the overall well-being of our students. Besides, the government probably shouldn’t be profiting from its youth anyway. After all, that’s definitely NOT what the Founders had in mind… or anyone else for the first hundred years or so…

“The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.”

Andrew Johnson (President of the United States from 1865–1869)

If you want a deeper look at student loans, you could review an article I did a few years ago by clicking here.