I haven’t missed a $450-$2,695 payment in 10 years. I’m far from finished.
I knew what I was getting into.
I’m a first-generation college grad born to two amazing parents from South America. I prepared to graduate from a private, all-girls, college-preparatory high school at 16, got a partial academic scholarship to a private university, and proceeded to take out $15,000 a year in federal Stafford and parent plus loans to cover the rest. (Fun fact: no one, not even the government, is willing to lend to a college-bound kid who’s not even remotely 18 yet. This meant my parents had to put their credit on the line to help me finance my education. I know that’s not unorthodox, but it would have been nice to at least have the option to shoulder the burden myself from the outset.)
So, let’s recap. It’s 2008, I’m aware America’s economy is going up in flames, but I got a pretty significant scholarship to attend college—which no one in my immediate family has done before. I went in with my eyes wide open, researching interest rates, deciding against private loans, refusing to accept my dad dipping into his 401k to fund my endeavor, and getting an on-campus job to subsidize costs while I was in school. (I obviously wasn’t aware of what we should all know by now — women, and Black women in particular, are disproportionately ensnared in student debt.)
“There’s more you could have done!” say folks who refuse to empathize with us (greedy/lazy/opportunistic/careless?!) millennials. “You chose to play rugby and spend frivolously on cleats, gas, and stitches for your unnecessarily procured gaping wounds! You could have sold a kidney, donated plasma, or went to a community college! How dare you even begin to complain about a college experience you knew would cost so much?!”
Stop right there, y’all. I knew. I was ready.
I lay awake at 20 years old in the spring of my senior year with unwavering determination. I was going to get a kick-ass job in journalism/communications/marketing and not even wait the six-month deferment period to allow my loan’s interest to capitalize. I viewed my loan balance as yet another thiccc rugby woman I had to stiff-arm into submission (and I’d had plenty of practice). I wasn’t scared. I’d incurred a significant fee to…