Would You like Room for Cream with your Crippling Student Debt?

by Tashi Farmilo-Marouf
Tashi Farmilo-Marouf

We grow up on a diet of societal rhetoric. From the time we are little, we are dictated to – either outright or through a thousand subliminal daggers to the brain.

We are told what to eat, what to wear, who to emulate, what to listen to, what is best for us and what we need (like a hole in the head).  And like the good little sheepies we are, we obey orders. We fall into line. We toe the line. We walk in line and, some of us who are fed up with lines, end up walking the line.

Many of us pursue higher education with student debt, in search of a silver lining. We’re instructed that if we just go to university, our lives will be all set. We’ll get a good job. We’ll be respected. We’ll use all of those teeming brain cells that so desperately want to be fired up for some purpose other than picking what to binge watch on Netflix tonight.

Don’t most of us yearn to be of use to the world, to make a footprint, one that only higher learning can provide?

The only problem is that most of us can’t afford the nine or fifteen, or even twenty-five thousand dollars a year for university tuition. So we borrow. We borrow for tomorrow, hoping tomorrow we’ll be better off than we are today because let’s face it: most of us leave university worse off. We leave strapped with a student debt of around forty thousand dollars, on average. That’s enough to take that dream vacation, in a new wardrobe, with matching luggage and a few new cubic zirconium necklaces to boot!

And, thanks to that economics class I took, I know that forty-thousand doesn’t stop growing after we leave school – it comes with a pal called interest. Interest is like your super-needy mother-in-law who never stops calling, texting or coming over unannounced. You know, the one who walked in on you and your husband in bed last week in the middle of some kinky, flagrante delicto.

Interest, it just keeps coming. It doesn’t leave you alone when you can’t make a payment; it just gets bigger, like a tumor. But, unlike a tumor, you can’t just go to the doctor and get it chopped off. It’s with you until you pay it off.

When we’re done throwing our graduation caps in the air, we can join the thousands of other graduates in search of that perfect job to match our very practical degree in the arts or philosophy, like English Lit! Like the vast majority of graduates with student debt, we may end up taking a job at a lower level than we expected – in the service industry, perhaps. MacDonald’s and Starbucks always seem to be hiring. But no worries, we’ll be talented enough to recite Shakespeare as we prepare the next customer’s macchiato.

The silver lining here is that the banks who lent us the money to become the world’s brightest baristas are really happy that we’ve bettered ourselves! Not only are they raking in every extra dollar that we earn from our minimum wage jobs, they are also getting expert service as they order their morning coffee from us, educated and articulate coffee-making machines that we are.  As they sit in Starbucks checking the latest stock options and looking over their own hefty bank balances in the Cayman Islands, we can flash a smile in our nifty black uniforms, wondering where it all went wrong. We’re not only serving fresh java to fuel humanity with our higher knowledge; we’re serving the 1%. And I don’t mean milk.

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