I Paid Off My Student Loans. These Are My Thoughts

“I just paid off my student loans!” – Joe Millennial, age 72

Seriously, most millennials will never feel the financial relief of unloading their student loans until retirement…that is, if millennials are ever fortunate enough to retire in the first place.

Honestly, I was lucky. My initial loans were about $10,000, but ballooned up to $14,000 due to accrued interest during a long period of forbearance. Either way, that’s significantly less than what most people have to deal with. Once I got on my feet, I made every single monthly payment. It actually didn’t seem like the number was going down because the predatory interest kept bopping it back up, like a buoy out on the ocean.

When the repayment freeze went into effect during the early days of the pandemic, I had brought my loan down to under $4,000. I continued to make several interest-free repayments until it was brought down even further to $3,000. At that point, student loan forgiveness was the hot topic in politics, so I waited to see what would happen. Whether it was $10,000, $20,000, or even more, I waited to see if the government would foot the rest of my bill.

Is that wrong?

I think if you borrow money, then it’s your responsibility to pay it back.

But I also think it’s categorically immoral to loan large sums of money to stupid 18 year-old kids who graduated high school last week and have no clue what they want to do with their lives. That’s absolutely predatory and the system is fundamentally broken.

For years, the sentiment was that you go to college immediately after high school. If you didn’t, then you were a loser and a scab on the system. Forget about figuring out what you want to do with your life. Forget about travelling the world or getting a job straight out of high school. And community college? Ha! That’s for losers. How about trade school? Excuse me, what? No, after high school you have to spend $900,000 on a college education from a fancy-pants university and on this issue there can be no debate.

That was the mindset we were brainwashed with.

Fortunately, I broke that mindset when I attended junior college for my first two years of college education. It’s a decision I was actually kind of forced into because I didn’t apply to any universities in time and my high school GPA/test grades weren’t good enough to get me anywhere to begin with. And you know what? At the time I felt like a loser for attending community college. I felt like I had failed. All of my friends were either attending universities (seen as winners) or they were working. Community college? Pssh.

$20/unit was the cost of my education for a majority of my time at Sierra College in Rocklin, California. But during my two years at Sierra, I feel like I received a quality education. I took courses from professors with a wealth of practical experience who had a passion for teaching. Not to mention I also grew up a bit. I always feel like I was slow to mature, and at 18 that was no exception. I think it would have been a crime if I had been allowed to take out a loan for seven billion dollars or whatever the going rate for college is these days.

I’m also willing to go as far as to say I received a better education at Sierra than I did at San Diego State University. While I did have some great classes and professors, the business program that I majored in left a lot to be desired. In fact, the most valuable lesson I learned from my time at State was how corrupt the system is.

I wish I was joking.

Certain classes were designed to set students up for failure in an effort to keep the overall GPA down. That’s what gave SDSU the ability to brag about how awesome their business school was. If everyone is getting A’s, then it looks like a Mickey Mouse program. If it’s impossible to crack a 3.0, then suddenly it’s considered prestigious. For someone who never excelled with traditional lecture halls and coursework, that proved to be a real problem. My brightest moments were always on creative projects and presentations. Those scores were always great. My exam scores? Not so much. It was hard for me to excel in my studies.

I had one professor who, on the first day of class, actually had an approximate listing on the syllabus of how many students would receive an A, an A-, B+, etc. That always seemed wrong to me. Like, it doesn’t matter how well you do in the class, but rather it depends on how everyone else does. Ironically, no one knew what was going on in this class or what the hell the guy was talking about half the time. Following our bombing of the final exam (where we collectively averaged 48%), the professor sent out an e-mail shaming us for doing so poorly. We countered by destroying his ratings on Rate My Professors. I wound up getting a D despite the fact that my overall percentage was about 50%.

But I digress. The point is college is not for everyone, nor should it be pushed as the be-all-end-all. Graduates should have choices for what they want to do after high school, including the choice to not take out a student loan. It still burns my balls when I read stories of teenagers who are taking out loans in excess of $50,000. My gosh. Like, why? I graduated in 2010 with about $10,000 in debt. It took me 13 years (plus an additional $4,000 in interest) to finally pay it off. I can’t imagine–scratch that; I don’t want to imagine how long it’ll take zoomers to pay their debts off (or even my fellow millennials for that matter).

It does feel liberating to finally be rid of this expense. I still think Nelnet or the government or whomever should send me a congratulatory card or something. Like “congrats on paying off your debt, bruh!” I think that would be a nice gesture. You’d think with how much money they generate on interest rates alone, they’d be willing to send you a little somethin’-somethin’.