05/03/2012 10:39 am ET | Updated Jul 03, 2012

What Student Debt Looks and Feels Like From a Graduate's Perspective

My name is Matthew Smith and I'm a "millennial": born during the Reagan era, I had my first Little League hit with Bush Sr., my first kiss and AOL dial-up connection with Clinton, my first student loan and MySpace account with Bush Jr., and here I am with Facebook, Twitter and Obama at age 30.

I offer the screenshot below as a small window into what student debt looks and feels like from the graduate's perspective. Just look at the "Amount Applied to Interest Column." Only this year, when my variable rate doubled, did I begin putting anything toward the principal. I'm sure others have it much worse.

I'm the offspring of a thrifty, hardworking, responsible mother. She instilled these values in me. To make ends meet I work part-time at multiple universities as an adjunct instructor, and also work nights as a bookseller; I don't own a credit card; I don't buy things I can't afford; for five years I've never missed one of these monthly payments, which are quietly removed from my checking account by a company called Sallie Mae. And yet, despite all this, thanks to my 6.54% interest rate (which seemed reasonable at the time), half a decade worth of payments later, I still owe over $1,000 more than the original amount I borrowed.

With my fancy college education, I'm tempted to say it feels like Sisyphus pushing his rock up the hill. But in truth, if I may cross myths and metaphors, it feels more like getting my eyes pecked out by a vulture.