• December 2014

The Student Loan Dilemma

By Eurah Lee
The Millennials Radio Show

The white picket fence? The American dream? What about the drama of the student loan?

Sure, getting a loan was essential to me going to college. But the longer I think about it, the more I realize that I am indebted to the federal government for the foreseeable future.

That’s the topic of my first episode of the new “Millennials Radio Show” on the Inkandescent Radio Network.

As a free spirit who prides herself on having little to no debt, this is a dilemma. Student loans are just one issue that my fellow Millennials and I are coping with as we make our way from adolescence to adulthood.

We know that the process is one that will take time, patience, and guidance from those who have made their way through the world in beautiful ways.

We also know that we are considered the greatest future generation by some. So what do we want? What do we dream of? What do we insist on changing?

Scroll down to read my first installment for this new show. And click here to listen to The Millennials Radio Show on the Inkandescent Radio Network.

Following Generation X: The College Loan Dilemma

When it comes to the classic American dream, my generation’s most pressure-filled social demand is getting an education. It’s about that critical piece of paper that promises to help us obtain a position in the nation’s cultural and economic structure.

Not only are the demands of getting an education extremely high, but so is the price tag.

To pay for the opportunity, many of us have no choice but to get student loans. These federal ties bind us to the US government for years, and I don’t think enough of us are actually considering what this means for the short- and long-term.

Here’s my concern: Are we going to have a generation of people who are just working in whatever job they can get to pay off their loans?

Dr. Jennifer Sanchez, a global ethics professor at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), says she sees many students stuck in this trap. “We’re not fostering an educational system that allows people to do what they want to do, to be fulfilled in their lives and in their careers,” she says.

Former VCU student Jon Penick says his loans got so expensive that he had to leave school before graduation. “I couldn’t afford it any more, so I chose the alternative route and joined the Air Force. It enabled me to get the rest of my education without the burden of exorbitant loans.”

Here’s my question: Are the loans worth the cost?

Ben Blevins, director of the nonprofit organization Highland Support Project, says, “One of the mechanisms historically used to control a population is debt. Students are put into a huge amount of debt, so they do not engage in social justice. Rather, the American dream is, ‘Oh my God, let me have a job so I am not out on the street and I can have things.’”

The bottom line: Perhaps we are simply dealing with an outdated version of the American dream. But what is the Millennial generation to do? Are we paying for years of our own enslavement? Are we paying to live inside the white picket fence?

What would our lives—and futures—look like if we were spending these precious college-age years roaming around the world, crossing borders of self-discovery? Do we even have a choice?

Questions, thoughts, ideas? Send Eurah Lee an email.