Driving to work on Monday morning I had to turn the radio up at the news. Robert Smith had vowed to pay off the entire class of 2019’s student loan debt at his graduation commencement speech for Morehouse College. I practically ran a stop sign as I took in the enormity of this information. The entire class?? Surely, no one is that lucky!? My first, visceral reaction was one of deep-seated jealousy. Bold-faced, unabashed jealousy. But, wait. Deep breaths, I told myself. There might be more to the story.
The news, oh boy
I love keeping up to speed with news on student loans, whether its politicians making pie-in-the-sky promises about debt cancellation, or the federal reserve debating another rate hike, I keep on top of it all. But this wasn’t just another boring piece of regurgitated news. This was unprecedented. I parked my car in our office lot and hurried into work, logging into my computer quickly so that I could find an article online.
Yup, the billionaire owner of Vista Equity Partners had agreed to pay up to 40 million to relieve the 2019 new grads of their debt burden. The articles were accompanied by photos of young students beaming in the May sunshine in their hats and gowns, posing next to pictures of the answer to their prayers.
I sat at my computer a bit dumbfounded and feeling, if I’m being completely honest, a bit ill. Why them? Why the class of 2019? Where’s my billionaire, my benevolent benefactor, my Santa Claus?? Here I am slogging away, chipping away, making sacrifices daily, weekly, yearly, and some fresh-faced eighteen-year-old has just been handed debt payoff on a silver platter.
The true value
The funny thing is they can’t even really understand the value of the gift they’ve been given. See, knowing you must pay back your loans and actually living it every month are two vastly different things. No matter, this lucky lot has been spared the rigors of shoveling oneself out of debt hand over fist. The ripple effects of having their slate wiped clean is incomprehensible. Student loan debt has been shown to delay home ownership, marriage, children, and in the long run, likely, retirement. It can also stop you from following your dreams, going out on that limb, taking chances with your future.
And, I’ll say here that I’ve always taken ownership of my loans, paying them back dutifully each month, spending shrewdly, going without out. I entered into a contract, signed on the electronic dotted line, and I’ve honored my end of the deal. And, I have a degree to show for it, which has probably elevated my income to a point that being a high school grad only wouldn’t have. It’s likely opened doors for me. The benefits of a student loan aren’t as concrete as a car sitting in your driveway, or a beautiful home to come back to each evening, but there is evidence that having a four-year degree is a leg up in the rat race.
So now that I’ve got that out of the way, I can also admit how unfair this seems, and if I’m feeling this way I can only imagine what the 2018 class of Morehouse is feeling, as many of them may still be sorting out the intricacies of their loans and interest rates, struggling for employment, and ordering their lives about them.
And what of the class of Morehouse 2020? After all, lighting doesn’t strike twice. What about the kids that worked their butts off for scholarships, or the families that scrimped and saved to pay for their child’s schooling rather than financing it?
Life’s not fair
I can’t help the way I feel. Yes, I may try to be happy for them, but sometimes when others land a huge windfall and it can be really easy to feel the unfairness of it deep in the pit of your stomach.
Well, life’s not fair. Our parents have been preaching that to us since day one, and, oh my gosh, is it true! So, there really isn’t anything that can be done about it either. So, today, three days later and a little distance from the unsettling news I’m doing what I’ve always done when met with the unfairness of life:
I’m staying in my own lane.
Yep, it’s a blow to the morale, but the gift these students received doesn’t really affect me. I’ll continue, one foot in front of the other. Saving, making smart money decisions, watching my spending, paying it down. When looking around at the lot of others, there will always be some who have it worse than you, and some that have it better. You’re either going about life feeling smug or self-pity. Neither are pleasant places to dwell.
Keep your nose to the ground, your eyes on the goal, and don’t worry about the people passing you by. You’re in your own lane, tending your garden, vanquishing your debt. As you were!