How Artists Get Massive Student Loan Debt

a big man holds a bat over small man who is reaching in his pockets to pay up

You heard that college was your ticket to a better life, and you agreed.

You pay to apply to colleges, asking them to allow you to be a student.

You got accepted into several colleges, but you choose the one with a recognizable brand name, even though it costs more money.

You pay a fee, and enroll at a the brand name art school.

Even if they gave you partial scholarships, you wouldn’t be able to afford the tuition, so you borrow money in the form of student loans.

You’ve never had a limitless line of credit before—your local bank wouldn’t loan you $10,000 to start a small business.

You can’t get a $300,000 mortgage to buy a house, but you can easily get $300,000 in loans for books and tuition to study art.

The financial aid office has you sign a contract that allows them to disburse money to you over the next several years without you having to oversee the process. They find private and federal loans to cover the costs of your education. It seems like they’re working on your behalf, but they’re really making sure the college gets paid.

Say your tuition is $10,000. They get you to borrow $12,000 or $13,000 and refund you the difference. You’re 18 (or 38) and you’ve just been handed a check for two to three thousand dollars. You’re in school full-time. You can pay the refund back immediately to the lender, or you can use that money to live. You buy food, pay rent, get school supplies, and a new laptop—all so you can focus on doing your best in school.

You start to look forward to your three thousand dollar check each semester so that you don’t have to work too much outside of taking classes and doing all that homework. Several years fly by.

During the graduation formalities, you are required to to sit for your student loan exit session. In a short video presentation, they tell you that you have six months before you’re expected to begin making payments.

After each segment of the computerized presentation, you have to take a quiz and click the correct answer to prove you were paying attention. If you get it wrong, they simply reiterate the correct answer and tell you all of the bad things that will happen to you if you default on your loans. 

At the end of the presentation, they tell you the approximate amount of your estimated monthly payment. For some reason you didn’t think paying out an additional $450 every month for the next twenty years would be a big deal, but suddenly you have to come up with the cash.

That’s when it hits you.