Co-signer Blues

31 07 2012

It seems only slightly ironic to me that I’m paying for my own college education (thus the reason for working full-time while attending college online) and I’m taking out very small student loans, but I just had to co-sign for my youngest son’s privately financed student loan. When you choose to attend a private college that costs more per year than what your mother earns per year, it’s likely that Uncle Sam’s student loan limit won’t cover things.

Another happy moment: “Mom, my books are going to be $700 so I need you and dad to pay for those.” Great. I just spent less than $150 for the three textbooks I’ll need next term, but English and Literature textbooks are cheaper than Macroeconomics and Accounting textbooks. Actually, he did visit one of my favorite finds (chegg.com – see it on my links page) and Amazon and get the final bill for his books under $500.

All this makes me wonder why higher education is so expensive. In socialistic societies (thinking most of Western Europe), college is state sponsored just like primary and secondary education. It’s not mandatory, of course, but why wouldn’t you choose to attend college (called tertiary education if you want a cool new vocabulary word) if it was paid for? Well, I’m sure Oxford and the other private colleges will cost you a pretty penny, but isn’t a degree a degree? Probably not, but a free degree is better than being $60,000 in debt when you graduate from college. Those spendy schools are for the wealthy.

If you think signing your own promisory note for a student loan is delightful, you should become a co-signer. When the first line is something like: “If the signer of this note defaults, you could be required to pay the full amount of their indebtedness,” you definitely ask yourself how much you trust your child. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t co-sign for anyone who I didn’t have mortal control over. (Did she just say “mortal control”? Yes, and that means I hold his life in my hands. I am his mother, after all.)

“I’ll just run to Switzerland,” he tells me. Is this engendering confidence for any of you?

“Now that your dad’s a world traveler (more on this later), he’d hunt you down.”

“I’m joking, Mom. Can’t you take a joke?” Let me tell you I’m going to make you pay $19,000 for something you didn’t buy and see if you think it’s funny. I’m guessing not so much.

It just amazes me that tertiary education is touted as invaluable to live at the middle class level in America, and yet college is made unattainable for many even in the current middle class because of the continual increase of tuition. If you can afford to attend (by putting yourself into debt for 20 years), you may end up ruining your credit when you can’t repay the loans because the job market is in the tank. You have a college degree? Awesome. That’s no guarantee that you’ll get a good-paying job. Or any job.

Is it any wonder so many kids are just giving up on the idea of college? Should American government do more to help them? Yeah, because the American government isn’t on the verge of bankruptcy. Is there an answer to this issue? Maybe I’m making an issue of a non-issue. What do you think? I’d love to hear what your thoughts on these topics.

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