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Wednesday, June 13, 2012

How Much Do You Owe in Student Loans?

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 at 11:44 AM

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This woman, Damask Schantz, has $100,000 in education debt after graduating from Portland State University and University of Oregon—with an economics degree.

"I feel lied to. Counselors told me that with my major, I'd be making $100,000 a year," Schantz told the crowd of about 100 people who gathered Monday, June 11, to beat pots and pans in Pioneer Square in solidarity with Montreal students who are protesting a tuition hike. "Instead, I couldn't find a job for months and am now making less than $40,000." [EDIT: Schantz posted in the comments to clarify that her degree from U of O is in econ, but her PSU degree is a master's in International Management.]

Student loan debt isn't something we talk about a lot, but it's been an issue that keeps coming up at Occupy Portland events. And then this week comes big news: Student loan debt now surpasses credit card debt in the US. The Washington Post has an editorial today on how the increasing cost of education is kneecapping people unfortunate enough to be born after 1975 or so:

In 1980, a year at a public college cost about 12 percent of median family income; the maximum Pell grant covered 70 percent of that. Today, public colleges cost a staggering 26 percent of family income each year, and Pell grants cover at most a third. Republicans ignore this entirely. Democrats say that without their modest Pell grant boosts, things would be even worse.

While Schantz's deep debt is still an outlier, I don't see young people getting out from under the burden of expensive education any time soon. Just to gauge the situation, I'm putting up this poll to see how much student loan debt we all have here. I'm currently **debt free!!** but only thanks to luck and privilege—more than half the cost of my college was paid for by scholarships and my (very kind) parents covered much of the rest. I graduated with only about $8,000 in debt and now that's paid off, which leaves me in a surprising situation that's a whole other part of this story: Because I have no ongoing payments, I have no credit score. Not a bad credit score or a good one—just none. The easiest way for me to get a score is to get a credit card, which I'm worried will somehow trick me into owing someone money.

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