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Melissa Hutsell is an award-winning freelance journalist with a deep rooted passion for both community and international journalism. She was born and raised in Northern California, and has lived, studied, worked, and traveled in more 20 different countries. Melissa holds a Master's degree in Global Journalism from City University London, as well as degrees in Journalism and Globalization from Humboldt State University. Though she covers various topics as both a writer and editor, she specializes in business and cannabis journalism.
"Our Student Loan Secrets" is an ongoing project by “Death, Sex and Money”. The site allows users to explore individual stories from people throughout the world (you can even add your own). There is also a quiz for users to find out where they “fit in the statistics”.
The first episode (Part 1) begins to shed light on the impact, shame, and depth of student loan debt. The story begins with Jordan, who graduated in 2014 with nearly $60,000 in student loans. She’s never made a loan payment.
Though Jordan is opening up about her situation now, she hasn’t told others about it. "[...] I’ve actively lied to my parents about making payments," she said.
She’s not alone. As more Americans take out loans to go to school, more are clandestine about the realities of being a debtor.
As host Anna Sale explains, “We have more student loan debt than credit card debt in [America].”
Sharif is one of the seven in 10 Americans who graduate college in debt. He’s got more than $100,000 in student loans. He sits in his car to give his interview because none of his co-workers know. He said he feels like a complete idiot. When Sale asks why, he said he’s in no better a financial situation than he was before college, though he's got a six-figure job as a chemical engineer.
“[…] it almost seems like if I hadn’t gone to college, I probably would have been better off,” he said.
Another contributor, Vivian, holds a lot of guilt and shame. She said "Hell no" when asked if she's glad she got her degree.
The debt made Dena and her husband feel like bad parents. "There's this subculture of individuals that are book smart and world stupid," she said. "Or at least, that's how it feels, because you're struggling so much to make ends meet and it just doesn't make sense because that's not what we were told. We were told that doors would open and you would get a good job."
Part 2 explores how people are trying to meet their debts.