It's a common American story: A boy (or girl ) is born; the boy's parents tell him to go to college; the boy goes to college; the boy is broke for the next 20 years, trying to pay off that college education.
Eventually, the crushing debt of student loans suffocates the boy, trapping him in a life of servitude to "the man" and sets him up for failure before he even begins. But whose fault is that?
Last week, I read an article online by a student who blamed pretty much everyone for his debt: his parents, his high school admissions counselor, his teachers. He blamed everyone except the one person who was truly to blame: himself.
I think we all recognize that the cost of higher education is getting pretty crazy. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the cost of college tuition grew over 79 percent percent between 2003 and 2013, drastically outpacing increases in the cost of clothing, housing, medical needs and almost every other expense in American society.
And, to pay for the rising expense, students are taking out record loan amounts to satisfy those thirsty schools. According to the Wall Street Journal, "The average class of 2015 graduate with student-loan debt will have to pay back a little more than $35,000." Ouch. And that's only the average. Stories abound of liberal arts majors leaving school with six-figure student loans.
We could spend hours debating why the cost of education is rising so much, and even more time hypothesizing about what this means for a debt-ridden student's future. However, those arguments don't help any of the millions of young adults trapped in their student loans today. And, let's be honest: Those discussions probably aren't going to solve anything either.
For that, we have to get real. So, let me be frank and speak directly to the students for a moment: Your student loan debt is your fault -- 100 percent of the blame lies with you. No one forced you to take out a loan that cost more than the price of a new Tesla. You were greedy, selfish, and idealistic and maybe a little stupid.
You may have been told that student-loan debt is just an investment, but you are the one who chose to believe it, chose to finance calculus, keg stands, and an air-conditioned dorm room. The easy route.
Why I can call you stupid
Now, before you get all insulted at my "judging you," let me tell you that I was in the same spot. I didn't graduate with hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt but I did graduate with a higher-than-average amount. I also expected to easily walk into a great job that would easily cover my loan payments. Only . . . that didn't happen.
Instead, I ended up working for $8 an hour, dishing up ice cream and singing for tips. And it was 100 percent my fault, not the economy's, not my parents', not my college's.
It was my fault for taking out the loans, in order to have fun rather than think about my future, think about how to use my education to hustle and find the right job.
So, when I call you stupid, know that I'm also calling myself stupid -- and that that willingness to take the blame is the first step in recovery.
Now, you might be wondering, why would I write an article like this on a blog about entrepreneurship? Because that is exactly how you are going to fix your problem.
How to escape student loan debt
Okay, so the debt is your fault. But how can you pay off thousands of dollars in debt? U.S. bankruptcy laws generally do not allow you to wipe out your student loan debt. And that's a great thing too, because the entitled "let's-find-the-easy-out" members of my generation would gladly take advantage of that hole.
So, what else do we have?
A small but vocal minority in the US political system today are shouting "Cancel all student loan debt" or, at least, "Make college free for everyone." I'm not sure which is more stupid, but I can almost guarantee you those shouting the loudest have never owned a business, and probably not even a checking account.
Ignoring economic principles because you don't like them is like ignoring the tornado sirens because they hurt your ears. The students I knew in college that had college 100 percent paid for are still working at Cold Stone Creamery, making $8 an hour. Free college doesn't solve anything.
So, what else is there? One thing: hustle.
It's not going to be easy, nor fast. But it can be done. Of course, you could pay off all those loans through your current job. By adhering to a strict determination, setting a budget, pinching pennies and using the extra money from your job to pay the debt off -- it could be done. Dave Ramsey advises people to follow method all the time, and it works.
However, you probably don't have the money in your budget to pay off those loans. Perhaps you could kill your Starbucks addition, but honestly, if you kill that daily latte and now have an extra $60 a month to put toward your student loans, how much is that really going to help?
You'll still be crushed by debt and a little more unhappy to be around.
Yes, you need to live on a budget. But you also need a way to make a hell of a lot more money. And entrepreneurship is the way.
You've got to step out and start building your own dreams rather than spend your time building someone else's. Because, here's the truth: if your boss is paying your salary, you are bringing your company far more value than it is paying you. Your skills are worth far more than that measly paycheck.
It's time to put your superpowers to better use. And that doesn't mean quitting your job today. But it might mean hustling your nights and weekends on your house-lipping business, your t-shirt design company, your app idea, your whatever. Maybe it means becoming a weekend freelancer, or negotiating a commissioned-based salary at work or doing whatever to make an extra six figures a year.
Entrepreneurship has no limits and asks no permission. It doesn't need to fill out a time slip, or pass a quarterly review to get a 50-cent-per-hour raise or secure an approval for vacation time. Entrepreneurship can let you earn an extra $10,000, $100,000, $1 million or more per year if you truly want it. No one has to approve it -- you just need to make it happen.
So, stop whining about your student loan debt. Take responsibility for its existence due to your stupidity -- and its demise through entrepreneurship.