Quote from elkpark
I don't mean to sound heartless, but nobody holds a gun to anyone's head and makes them take out student loans, and nobody forces anyone to sign loan papers without reading all the fine print carefully and making sure they understand what they're taking on ...
No, you're not forced to take out student loans. But when I was 18, they were presented as a great way to be able to pay for school in addition to the grants and scholarships I had. I knew I'd have to pay them back, but I didn't really understand the implications of non-dischargeable debt or how to estimate my monthly expenses post graduation (and our school gave us HIGHLY inflated examples of what we could "expect" our income to be with our liberal arts degrees). Luckily I've never defaulted, but I have friends who have run in to financial difficulty (because sometimes **** happens that radically changes your financial security) and it is a hard road to rehabilitate those loans.
I think individuals still need to be responsible for their financial decisions, but I wish there had been better education available when I was first starting school. Even though I was legally an adult at 18, like most other 18 year-olds, I was still very inexperienced and reliant on authorities like my parents and the financial aid office at school. My parents went to college in a very different era than I did, and I was the first kid in college, so it was as new to them as it was to me. And my school's financial aid office....well, I realize now that they have their own interest in the matter that's not necessarily MY interest.
Student loans are a good tool, and I've continued to use them judiciously to continue my education and we'll probably use them to some extent with DH's education. I think the entrance counseling for new loans needs to be a little more detailed, and I'm all in favor of financial management classes for young adults and high schoolers.