I was told that student loans were just part of going off to college. I was told they were normal. I chose to attend a four-year private school with little push back from counselors or teachers about how I was going to pay for it. Four years later and a bill of over $150k, I graduated with a degree in engineering. I was fortunate that I graduated at all. I was fortunate that I had my parents to help me along the way, yet I still left school with $30k in debt and my father with $60k in Parent PLUS loans.
This personal anecdote characterizes many of the 44 million Americans who, collectively, have over $1.5 trillion in outstanding federal student loan debt, amounting to an average of $35k per person with monthly payments of $393. This debt has extensive implications as millennials have begun to delay homeownership, marriage, and starting a family.
We have constructed a misguided vision in our society on higher education. The Obama White House archives say that “earning a post-secondary degree or credential is no longer just a pathway to opportunity for a talented few; rather, it is a prerequisite for the growing jobs of the new economy.” Perhaps it is time that another message takes precedence: if a college education is a goal, it can and should be achieved debt-free.
Enter Anthony ONeal. At 19, after some poor financial decisions, he found himself deeply in debt and living out of his car. Since then, he has become a national best-selling author who has helped hundreds of thousands of young adults “learn how to make smart decisions with their money, relationships and education” on his nationwide speaking tours.
He also now creates the Borrowed Future, a new podcast series seeking to tackle the student loan crisis head-on by breaking down the social views on student loans, the myths associated with going to college and taking on debt, the current debt crisis, and how to go to school debt-free.
ONeal argues that student loans not only steal the futures of our next up and coming generation, but negatively affect the national economy. With a million student loan borrowers defaulting on their debt each year and eight million people already in default, it is clear that student loan debt is crippling our next generation.
Personal finance expert and the number three talk radio host in the country, Dave Ramsey, on the premiere episode of the podcast series described the idea of taking on debt to go to school with the potential that you may not even graduate as “ludicrous.”
“Is education a good thing? Yes. Is it worth investing in? Yes, in a proper setting with proper analysis as to what kind of a degree you are going to get and is it applicable in the field,” acknowledges Ramsey, but getting an education never warrants going into debt.
ONeal echos Ramsey’s warning about the dangers of student loans, citing the National Center for Education Statistics study which found that “the 6-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time undergraduate students who began seeking a bachelor’s degree at 4-year degree-granting institutions in fall 2011 overall was 60 percent.” That means that 40% of students, many of whom have taken on student debt, did not even end up with a degree.
The Borrowed Future podcast series, now ranked #12 on the iTunes podcast charts, details not only the current student loan crisis but how the next generation of students can avoid becoming part of the $1.5 trillion statistic. “You’re not going to be in that,” says Anthony ONeil. “You’re going to graduate college. You’re going to walk into your future, not a part of the stat, but you’re starting a new stat. What’s the new stat? I’m not in the stat, that’s the new stat.”
ONeal breaks down how to avoid student loans and graduate from college debt-free. “It’s not going to be easy,” he says, “You need to have a plan.” That plan starts with taking the debt off the table, researching school options, applying for scholarships and grants, and working along the way. ONeal provides students and parents a free scholarship search tool and Debt-Free Degree Calculator to help formulate the roadmap to obtaining higher education, debt-free.
The podcast is a must-listen for parents and for prospective students looking for options on how to attend college without making the same mistakes of myself, Anthony, and 44 million other Americans. ONeal argues that the only option is the Debt-Free Degree.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.