For the third installment of Student Loan Stories, we spoke to Sean, who has no intention of paying back his student loan debt.
Graduation Year: 2017
Degree: Culture & Media
Debt: $46K (a mixture of private and federal loans)
When I called Sean for our interview, my initial call was sent straight to voicemail. I later found out he thought I might have been calling from his student loan lender.
CASSIUS: How much do you have in student loans?
Sean: I have $46K in student loans. They’re a mixture of federal and private loans, and I think I’ve accrued about $2,700 in interest.
C: Can I get a little background on your college story?
S: I was a non-traditional student. When I graduated high school, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I know I wanted to be in media. I went to community college for my first two years and then went to the New School, so the $46K is only from my two years at the New School. Being a New Yorker, I didn’t want to go to school out of state for media when I’m right here, surrounded by media. So, I looked at all options and I figured I would go to a school that was cool, current, and known for its academics. The amounts seemed reasonable at the time, but I didn’t factor in taking out money for every semester.
C: When did you decide you weren’t going to pay your loans back?
S: I kind of always knew I wasn’t going to pay them back. After I graduated and was between jobs, I did put them in deferment, but I still knew I had no plans of paying them back. I had a degree from a prestigious school but was on food stamps, unemployed, couldn’t pay my bills, but you still want me to pay for these loans?! I’ve even told them they could take back my degree because I’m not using it.
C: Did you have a cosigner?
S: No, I don’t have a cosigner on any of these loans. It’s pretty much my responsibility to pay all of this myself, but I’m not paying it! If I did have a co-signer, I would be paying them back because I wouldn’t want it to ruin someone else’s credit.
C: Has your credit been damaged by not paying?
S: My credit has taken a nose dive because I have not paid, but I’m good at paying other things like my credit cards so it hasn’t gotten to the point where I wouldn’t be able to qualify for anything. When I got my apartment, I still did need a cosigner, but that’s probably because I never had an apartment in my name before.
C: Are you being contacted by lenders, and if so, how often?
S: All the time! I get a lot of emails and calls about twice a day. I just block them or move the emails to my junk folder. They’re getting crafty now. I get calls from 917 and 646 numbers (New York area codes) and numbers that look like mine. I credit their ingenuity. I wish they would channel that same spirit to programs that actually helped people pay back their loans. I also get letters from Great Lakes Servicing telling me about my payment options, but I just don’t want to pay it back. I just think that borrowing so much money just to get an entry level job when you come out and not being able to afford anything for yourself is disgusting. Especially living in New York.
C: What would your monthly payment be if you were to pay back?
S: I don’t know because I’ve never gotten that far or looked into it. I just send the emails to my junk folder. Since putting them in deferment, I haven’t actually spoken to them. I hope I don’t sound irresponsible, but I know I’ll come off that way. I just don’t feel like I should be taxed for wanting an education.
C: Do you feel like you’ll regret this?
S: No, it’s kind of like a personal rebellion and I haven’t regretted it up to now. I know that there are longterm ramifications for this, but as long as I’m able to get what I want like property or other things then I’ll be fine. It does make me feel sad. All I wanted was a better opportunity for myself by going to college. I didn’t realize there was a tax or baggage that came with it.
C: Do any of your family and friends know you’re not paying?
S: For my family, no. They don’t talk about it, but I also feel like if you didn’t help me you don’t have the right to ask me questions. Finances is such a scared conversation between friends that we just don’t talk about. I feel like student loan debt and salary are those two unspoken things. I guess they just assume I do because I seem so orderly when it comes to money. And it’s not something I really talk about because it’s not something I think about. The only person that knows is my therapist and she was speechless when I told her.
C: If you were to become a multi-millionaire, you still wouldn’t pay them off?
S: No. I’ll pay other people’s student loans and pay it forward. I actually want to start a scholarship where I connect with other people in the media to start an initiative to pay other people’s student loan debt. If someone got $50K towards student loans, that would change the game for them, for a lot of people. It sucks when you meet Black people who are succeeding and not creating opportunities for other people. I have reached out to celebrities on social media asking them to pay off my student loans and get no response.
C: So you’re okay if someone else was to pay them off?
S: Of course—it’s the American way. You can pay it off and I’ll work for you.
I’m sure a lot of people feel this way, but they’re not as calculated or intentional with their decision not to pay. It’s more like I’ll just ignore it, ignore it and it doesn’t get paid, but not intentional. I know it’s probably not the best decision longterm, but I’m still not paying. I’d rather not pay all this money for ten years while barely being able to afford anything for myself and just live my life now.