Screw It! I’m Never Paying Back My Student Loans

This article is a warning to prospective art students who want to borrow thousands of dollars to pay for an art degree without having any plan or intention to pay those loans back. If you’re a well-intentioned student who borrowed money, but then fell on hard times, then this article and its message is not for or about you.

a man sharpening a large scissor while another man watches

If you’re thinking of sticking it to the man by borrowing thousands of dollars for college with no plans of ever paying back your student loans, think again. You’re actually being screwed by big banks who are sticking it to you—hard.

Borrowing thousands of dollars in student loans without having any intention of paying it back is like walking into a car dealership and driving off the lot in a new vehicle knowing that you never plan to make a single payment.

While many artists can’t qualify for a car loan, student loan lenders care less about your ability to repay. No matter if you’re an 18-year-old with no credit or a 58-year-old with bad credit, student loan lenders will gladly hand you(r financial aide office) a hundred thousand dollars for college tuition and related expenses.

In the beginning, your lender seems patient when you you’re late on a payment. They’ll probably let you defer. In fact, they might even prefer it, because your interest is growing fast. They also might not tell you that you’re going into default (270 days without paying) until after it happens. Why? Because the federal government reimburses the lender for your unpaid principal balance plus any interest owed when you default.

So, the lender gets their money and they still get to collect from you. Meanwhile, your debt grows and your two-to-four years of college ends up costing you your financial freedom.

Why the Scare Talk?

Your college got paid. Your lender got paid. You still owe a ton of money, and you still don’t care. What happens then?

While the federal government can’t imprison millions of outstanding debtors, at least not physically, they can and do jail you mentally. Your thoughtless act of theft is the dumbest kind of crime, because it leaves a paper trail that leads creditors right back to you.

It’s easy to say “whatever” if you’ve never had creditors calling you day and night. Changing your phone number every few months is a pain, and it can prevent you from getting artistic opportunities if you can’t be reached at the number your professional contacts had from last year.

You can ignore incoming phone calls, but your family will no doubt become annoyed when creditors start calling early in the morning and late at night. They call parents, siblings, and extended family members who share your same surname. Happy Holidays, Auntie!

Meanwhile, the federal government can grab up your tax returns. Your paycheck can be garnished—meaning they’ll reach in and take a little payment from your job each week—and your employer will know about your debts. Your Social Security benefits can be altered. You may not care about that when you take out your student loan, but when you’re older and looking to get SS benefits, it might suck to have them limited.

They Have to Catch Me First!

It’s easy to be broke when you’re broke, but it gets tiresome. If you try to rent a car or get a credit card, you’ll find it isn’t as easy as getting a student loan. What’s worse is that being in default means you’re always marred financially. You might not be able to get any kind of loan. Your credit gets shot. Finding an apartment can be a struggle, even if you have money coming in. You’ll get higher rates if you can buy a house. Finding a mate become more difficult. Your insurance rates climb and you might have to put down deposits just to get utilities. Not fun.

If they garnish your income, you’ll start to hide your earnings and look for ways of making money under-the-table. Maybe you wait tables. Maybe you work labor on construction sites. You do secret stuff for cash.

Living your life knowing that you always owe is heavy. It can kill your spirit. It weighs on your muse. The constant demand of your time and money takes a toll on you. Like your degree, massive outstanding debt is a mental construct that will never go away. Unlike your degree, the debt is like allowing someone to attach a small straw to your integrity and suck away at it a little or a lot at a time, every moment of every day.

The Man is Sticking It to You

If you think the bank was dumb to loan you money for school, you’re mistaken. You can’t beat them at their own game. You’ll end up paying them twice the amount of money as their indentured servant. Why not stay out of debt and just be creative instead? If you’re already living on the edge financially, don’t borrow money to get an MFA you don’t need.