student debt

Student Debt



loan major (2) Green Beret
BA storm (2)  convoluted
BS achieve whatever it took
debt split (2)  leap of faith
goal (2) part-time take out (3)
fathom blue-collar community college
aware default come my way
assume make sure put through school
vague hindsight condescending
utilities headway pay in full
stuff off campus living on my own
butcher apprentice internship
incur hard time for the world
afford elect (2) screenplay
merely retrospect put money aside
expose transfer breathing room
suck (2) figure out take it back





Cindy: My name is Cindy. I majored in biology, and I have $35,000 in student loans.

Student 2: I have a BA in film and television producing. I have a debt of $65,000.

Student 3: My debt is about $33,000.

Briana: Just saying this is terrifying — especially in front of a camera—because it make it so real.

Student 4: My grandfather was in World War Two — he was in the Big Red One, which stormed the beaches of Normandy. My dad was a Green Beret; and he was Special Forces in Vietnam.

And what my dad always told me was he didn’t want me to do that. And he said you have to work hard, and you gotta go to school, because I didn’t get to go. And I want that for you.

And I said “okay. I also want that for me . . . and thank you dad.”

Student 5: My parents are both college professors, so it was really important for them that I go to college. There was never any question about where I would be going, or that I would be going.

And so I needed to do whatever it took to make sure I had a college education.

Student 6: My dad being very blue-collar; my mom not really getting an education outside of some schooling, some high school.

They definitely wanted to give us a little bit more of what they were able to achieve in their lives.

Cindy: If I hadn’t taken out student loans, I wouldn’t have gone to college. So I just took them because . . . otherwise, it would have been going college part-time or starting out at a community college.

Student 7: When I took it out, I think my goal in my mind was to just graduate — use that money to just graduate. I wasn’t thinking about paying it back.

Student 8: I had no idea what a student loan was when I went to college. My dad just told me ‘we’re splitting it.’ I’m like ‘okay.’ You just have no concept when you’re younger what anything costs.

Briana: When I was 18 and I decided ‘yes, I’m going to do this,’ I did it as a leap of faith. You know it’s going to work out. This is a huge amount of money, I can’t really fathom how much money this is.

So yeah: I’ll do it for my education . . .

And it’s definitely a stress every day.

Loan Confusion

Student 7: I wasn’t fully aware about how long I was going to take.

Student 9: I’m not exactly sure how much I have to pay each month.

Student 10: I just learned what my debt was.

Student 11: Honestly, I don’t know any of this terminology like credit, defaulting on your loans . . . It means nothing to me.

Student 3: I do know that the interest rate was something like, I think eight percent? Zero point eight percent maybe?

I don’t know.

Ash Matani: I knew it — and yet at the same time, I didn’t really process it. I didn’t think to myself, “Oh hey, I’m going to be in debt for the next ten years of my life.”

This is great!

Student 12: I just assumed, well I don’t have that much student loans . . . and really every year in September and January, I just signed whatever came my way, not really looking at it, just trusting that I was being taken care of.

Student 13: I really wish I knew more before I went in and got all this debt.

My mother put herself through school while raising two boys on her own . . .

And she is 46 years old — and she is still paying off her loans.

Lack of Help

Cindy: Any resources that I found online weren’t really all that helpful; they were little vague and they essentially just said, “you’re going to have to pay these loans back eventually, with interest.”

Student 4: If you go to websites that teach you about debt, they’re not only convoluted and condescending, but they often will ask you if you want more loans!

Student 14: In hindsight, it would have been great to have better resources in my hometown or my school to prepare me for what I would be in for; not just for what college would be like, but what after-college would be like.

Student 12: And then I was rudely awakened, after I had graduated and started getting letters saying “You owe $35,000…And we need it by this date…If you can pay it in full, that would be great!”

Really? Who can pay this in full?

Student 15: I have a $500 monthly payment that I have to make on all of my loans. Every month.

And so, you factor in rent…and utilities…and everything…and I usually have about an extra $100 a month, for myself.

Student 4: I now owe with interest every single month about $900 in debt, which means if I want to make any sort of headway between now and 2052, when I’m scheduled to pay it off, that I have to pay at least $1,200 a month — every month.

Student 16: I think when I was 17, applying to schools, someone had told me that I would have to pay $450 a month, I didn’t think it was that much money.

But now, after living on my own, off campus and paying a lot for my own bills and stuff, I understand that is a lot of money and especially given that the economy is so bad that I’m nervous about finding a job that will pay enough for me to pay my loans, but also for me to stay alive, and pay rent and have food and stuff.

Career Consequences

Student 17: I couldn’t imagine going into the workforce today with the amount of debt that so many people owe.

Me, even with no debt, I feel like it’s going to be a tough road ahead of me.

Student 18: I graduated undergrad with $40,000 in debt. And I studied German. It’s not like…nobody needs someone who speaks German. And so I had a really hard time figuring out how I was going to pay my loans.

Ash Matani: Oh first I’m going to write a screenplay. And then I’m going to win a lot of Oscars.

And then I’m going to have SO much money, that my debt isn’t going to matter anymore.

Student 19: I would to do internships with people that I really like, and jobs and businesses that I would really like to work with.

But I’m not sure I’m going to be able to do that.

Student 20: In fact, probably with my English degree, I’m going to apprentice to become a butcher . . . which has nothing to do with Hemmingway or Joyce or whatever.

Student 21: I wish money had not gotten in the way of me continuing my education. I elected not to continue graduate studies after a year because I didn’t feel comfortable incurring forty to fifty thousand more in debt per year.

Student 4: The job I have right now has nothing to do with what I studied, neither in undergraduate or graduate. It’s merely because I have to pay this off. And because I was told you need college.

Student 20: I realize that it’s not worth the money sometimes. It’s not worth me spending the rest of my life paying off the debt, that I probably can’t really afford.

Student 12: In my lifetime, the student loans will probably be one of the largest investments that I will make, outside of whether or not I ever buy a house.

And if I don’t pay off my student loans, I’ll probably never buy a house because my credit is going to suck.

Ash Matani: For the next ten years, no matter what job I’m doing, I’m going to have to put money aside every month — and not for something useful, like an apartment or a car.

It’s going to be to pay off . . . my debt.

Student 19: I would say, if you can go to a state college or community college, and get little or no loans…and possibly transfer out of there…get scholarships.

Then just be open to that.

I feel like I wasn’t open enough to community college and state college.

Administrator: I would advise everyone who is applying for a loan to a school now, to make sure to ask as many questions as you can.

Go and find out how to get loans for school.

Hit the internet.

Make sure you ask questions about interest rates. That is very, very important.

Student 8: Work while you’re in school, if you can, and even start saving and putting things aside. And it gives you a little more breathing room to figure out what it is you want to do.

Student 7: If you can, put yourself in a position of making interest payments while you are in school, so you can pay less later on — something I didn’t do, that I could have done.

Student 12: Or maybe even taking a year off and working, which doesn’t have to be before college, but maybe at some point during the college experience.

Student 21: I am very happy that I went to school. And I’m very happy that my kids went to school.

And even though I do have debt, I know it’s something that school and education have made me very happy, and it has made my children happy.

Student 7: In taking on the amount of debt I have, I think it’s paid off for me a lot: I’m doing something that I love to do.

I feel that I’m pretty successful.

Student 8: In retrospect, I’m at a job that I could never have dreamed of being then if I didn’t go to the school that I went to.

Student 22: I’ve read books that I would have been exposed to. I got to learn about different cultures.

It was very eye-opening.

Student 2: My experience has been so great and I wouldn’t have learned what I did anywhere else.

So I wouldn’t take it back for the world . . . I’m in it now. It is what it is.

Briana: My name is Briana. I’m majoring in environmentalism and art.

And I don’t want to major in debt.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


1. Are the student debts small, medium-sized or large?

2. The students are all from blue-collar or working class backgrounds. True or false? Describe some of them. What have their parents wanted for their children?

3. Did the students think seriously and carefully about signing up for a student loan? Were they fully aware of the consequences of student loans? Did they fully understand it?

4. What is the reality when they graduated? Is life easy or very difficult for them now? The students feel differently now than when they first started university. Is this correct or wrong?

5. The students all found jobs related to their university major. Yes or no? What were some of their expectations?

6. Will the student loans effect their long term future? Give examples. Is student debts only a problem of young people?

7. What are some of the advice the former students give to avoid or minimize debt?

8. Do they regret attending university? Was their university education a complete waste?

A. Is student debt a problem in your city or country? Is university education cheap, expensive or free?

B. What do parents, teachers and authority figures tell children and young people?

C. Are there too many university graduates, especially in liberal arts major like history, literature, psychology, sociology; and not enough in engineering, computers and science?

D. What advice could you give to young (American) students?

E. What may happen in the future?

Comments are closed.