The Big Story Blog

Reader stories, insights on the student debt dilemma

Posted at 2:17 PM on October 27, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Education

Telling our stories is the best way to learn from each other. We reached out overnight and this morning to Minnesotans in MPR's Public Insight Network and asked them to tell us about people they know taking on loans for college or dealing with paying off college debt.

We got some great responses that really brought home the struggle many of us face making decisions about taking on student debt, whether it's worth the expense and what government should do, if anything, to ease that burden.

Dan Iverson, an electrician from Mound, told us his daughter has taken on $50,000 in student debt as she prepares for a career in medicine. Given her future earnings potential, "I would have to say the debt was worth the future return.


However, the willingness of the private lenders to enslave our youth, our future in any manner of debt, whether it be education or otherwise is disgusting and unwise although legal. I am a product of the 60's and feel such a sense of loss that this great experiment in democracy has systematically traded away it's noble ideals for unscrupulous profit.

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Matt Johnson, a medical laboratory scientist from Minneapolis, got that job in medicine. But with more than $70,000 in debt to earn a bachelor's in chemistry and clinical laboratory science, his income isn't enough to cover all his bills.

"My parents did not have the finances to help pay for school but made too much' for me to qualify for grants and many scholarships," he wrote us. "The money I send for my loans each month is money not going towards a home, car or other consumer spending.

He believes public higher education should be free and student loan should be eliminated in bankruptcy.

Jane Wilson is a student from Bloomington who told us she took out loans to go back to college and retrain after being out of work for three years. "Without the student loan money there is no way could have afforded to go back to school and retrain. I chose vocational training, because it is a surer bet than an traditional 4-year liberal arts education."

She urged policy makers to find some way to hold down tuition costs. "They have escalated faster than the rate of inflation for many years."

Asked if her college experience was worth the debt taken on, she wrote simply, "TBD."

Dean Seal of Minneapolis reminded us that it's not just about the money coming out of college.

I have two masters degrees in theology, and it cost me about $60,000. I work two part time jobs with no benefits for about $30,000. I had my student loans restructured so I can afford the payments. I hope I live long enough to pay them off.

Financially it cannot be seen as a smart move, but no one goes into theology to make money. I understood that it was not guaranteed that i would get a "real job" in my field.

But I love the work I do, teaching religion at Augsburg College and doing Bible study and education at Church of the Apostles in Burnsville.

"I have work where I don't feel like I'm drivin the getaway car," he added, "and that makes the investment very worthwhile., It greatly improved my quality of life. I have no regrets."


About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.