My Quarter-Life Student-Debt Crisis


I’m turning 25 next March. When I was 16, I imagined myself very differently at 25. My naive imagination pictured a lavish lifestyle. I was supposed to have a nice house, a ton of money, and an engagement ring. I have none of these. Most of my 20-something friends are in a similar situation, and we feel robbed of what we were promised when we were kids.

Living in southern Europe has further confirmed the fears for my generation. At this point, I don’t know who is worse off—the Italians or the Spanish.

Unemployment rates are skyrocketing among young people and we are blaming ourselves. We are highly educated. Most of us have a bachelor’s degree if not a master’s. When the universities came to recruit at my high school in Canada, they all had a really nice PowerPoint presentation prepared for us. They showed photos of smiling, multicultural campuses, students reading under the trees—it was a form of sugary propaganda. We were the fresh meat, ready for student-debt slaughter. My education cost me nearly $30,000 (Canadian dollars) for four years, and I lived at home. Two years after graduation, I’m making around €1,200, which is the equivalent of around $1,720 CAD. After paying my rent and other living expenses, it’s hard to make a dent on my student-loan payments.

Staying in Canada wouldn’t have provided me with a world of opportunities, either. I would have had to move to a bigger city, rent an expensive bachelor pad, and probably work as a bartender or waitress. I prefer teaching English as a second language overseas. My former classmates opted to enter the public education system, forcing them to move halfway across the country where rent is three times higher than in Ontario and it’s really damn cold.

I don’t want to come across as a brat who isn’t willing to make life changes to find career options. What I’m pissed off about is that our post-secondary institutions are nothing but a moneymaking scam.

The university brainwashing must stop. I was sold an idea that was completely untrue. My teachers and professors promoted the overpriced North American university system as if it were a godsend. In truth, I could have avoided the student-loan hell and gotten an ESL teaching certificate that costs around $1,000. It would have provided me with the same opportunities, especially abroad.

Education is supposed to be the key to freedom, but it has been nothing but a heavy chain preventing me from achieving any sense of financial independence. The average cost of tuition at a reasonably sized Spanish university is around €1,000 a year, while Canadian universities start at around $3,500-4,000 annually, not including textbooks. If I’m going to be unemployed or earning minimum wage, I’d like to be debt-free at least, but that ship seems to have already sailed.