THE BLOG

$118,000 in Debt

02/15/2011 06:26 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

I graduated from Linfield College in May 2009 with a Bachelor's of Arts in World Religion.
After graduation, I moved to Portland, Oregon, where I found work as a way-below part-time barista for minimum wage. I struggled to pay my rent for six months until I finally decided to move back in with my parents -- in Alaska -- and save some money.

I hoped to find a full-time job there, but ended up making coffee part-time all over again, for $8 an hour. Meanwhile, my six-month grace period for my loans ended, and I suddenly found myself facing $118,000 in student loan debt.

Ten months later, I still hadn't found a full time job, and I was over living with my parents, so I took the savings that I did have (which wasn't much) and moved to Olympia, Washington.
My goal was to find an entry-level state job, but the moment I got there, the state put a hiring freeze on the government jobs, and I was back to square one.

I spent August to October 2010 unemployed and applying to everything. EVERYTHING. It didn't even matter anymore what it was. But I wasn't hearing back from anyone. I'm curious how someone who has an excellent college education can't even get an interview at Costco.

All the while, I was paying rent, utilities, car insurance, credit card debt and, of course, my student loans. My loans alone total over $500 a month. Minimum payments.

I finally found a job at a craft store for minimum wage, roughly 15 hours a week. I've held on to it, but I am still failing at finding a second job or any full time work. I've racked up my credit card debt so that I can simply buy essentials, like gas and shampoo.

Of course, I've tried deferring my loans, but they won't let me. They've set up these unobtainable standards for people who need to defer. People who are struggling--really struggling--can't catch a break.

I am curious as to why some people I know, who have their GEDs and no college degree, have an easier time finding fulltime work than someone with an education. Our society tells us college is a necessary step; that a whole world of opportunities will open up to us simply because we have a degree, but I almost feel I've been lied to. My undergrad education is meaningless in the working world. I need to have at LEAST a Master's to be acknowledged. But now I can't even afford grad school.

What does this tell us about the education system in America?