Woster: Need work for those stifled by student loans – Mitchell Republic
The other night, while we were watching a granddaughter’s favorite TV show, her mom had to explain why Grandpa laughed when someone said “plastic.”
The reference, of course, was to the late 1960s film, “The Graduate.” At a party celebrating the main character’s college graduation, a family friend walks up to say, “Just a word. Plastics.” The graduate seems intrigued by the career advice. The line makes me laugh.
Nancy and I saw the movie shortly after it came out. We ourselves had graduated from college less than a year ago and were working our first “real” jobs. Plastics were not in our future. As it turned out, those jobs—as a registered nurse at McKennan Hospital and as a reporter and photographer at the Argus Leader—became our careers, one way or another.
We were repaying university loans at the time. The film graduate had no such concern. His family had money and he spent the summer of his graduation lounging by the pool. No college loans bothered him. Most young women and men, even in the 60s, weren’t so lucky.
My friends from South Dakota State and Nancy’s classmates at St. Catherine’s in St. Paul scrambled to fund their college education. We scoured the financial aid listings for any small allowance. We worked in the student union or in the gas stations and cafes downtown. We borrowed from our future earnings, what our college degrees would bring us, we were told.
Over the past few months, I’ve reflected on the college debt Nancy and I took on to get degrees in nursing and journalism. It wasn’t much, not in the context of today’s discussion of college loan repayment. Some of the college loan stories I read and hear about these days involve amounts of money that amaze me.
I’m also amazed by some stories of people who have made payments for several years and now have more debt than when they started. I know how interest works, but I’m still amazed that after 10, 20 more years after college, people have this debt.
I think I finished college with $600 or $800 in debt. I thought that was a bit for a guy whose first job paid $100 a week. The publisher told me that if I hadn’t graduated, I would have started at $90 a week, so it was already paying off.
(An aside to show how lucky I was: I left Brookings because of a bill at Fergen for two suits and shirts and a pair of dress shoes that I was going to need for job interviews. hiring and a stable job. I didn’t have a job when I got the clothes. Jim Fergen told me he trusted the middle schoolers and that I should make payments when I could, without interest. He also added two ties and a belt. I paid him as soon as I could cash.)
Nancy left St. Kate’s with something like $1,000 in debt. McKennan started her at $110 a week. Between us, we were pulling down $210 a week. We thought we did. I guess we did. We paid off our combined set of debts in one year. Hard to do that today.
Over the past few years, some of our leaders have talked about canceling student loans or restructuring the system so that the debt doesn’t continue to pile up. It’s an emotional matter, that’s for sure. On the one hand, there are people who have worked to repay their loans, so why not everyone. On the other side, there are people who are almost desperate, convinced that they will never have a job that will relieve them of the burden of the cost of their college education.
I’m not smart enough to know the answer. I see the argument of those who have paid off their loans. I did too. But it seems it was easier in my time. And I sympathize with people who feel suffocated by their student loans. It’s not a good way to live.
There must be an approach between everything and nothing. The smart people among us have to work on this. They really do.