Sara Routhier, Managing Editor and Outreach Director, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives to curate educational, enlightening articles that provide you with the must-know facts and best-kept secrets within the overwhelming world o...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florida. ...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Apr 20, 2012

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The internet and other media sources are filled with emotional appeals from student loan borrowers who are suffocating under the weight of their debt. Our nation’s educated did everything they were told to do by their high school mentors: they applied for college, they pursued a degree, some went above and beyond by obtaining master’s or PhD’s, and they bought into the promises that they “could be anything they wanted to be.” During the course of this quest, they agreed to student loans that they believed they would be able to pay off once they graduated. After all, any bachelor’s-wielding individual is supposed to make, on average, about $2.2 million in lifetime earnings, or so Georgetown University tells us in a report called The College Payoff.

But perhaps it’s time to take a step back and view this situation from another stand point. We live in the most privileged, most free country in the world. We’re all given access to a basic education, and the United States houses some of the most respected and most advanced universities that mankind has ever seen. We can go to college and study ancient literature, quantum physics, tactical historical battles, the theory of painting, the art of medicine, and even something as new as social networking. We’re given the privilege of obtaining an education if we so desire, and for that, we’re very lucky to have student loans.

And that’s a very important distinction: we can obtain an education “if we so desire.” Nobody places a student loan contract on the table, a pen in our teenagers’ hands, a gun to their heads’, and commands the word, “Sign.” Education is a privilege, and one that nobody is obligated to pursue. But many who did cash in on that opportunity have grown disgruntled and bitter, claiming the student loan industry has wronged them.

Have We Become a Nation of Entitled Children?

There are flaws with the system—absolutely. But, as asked before, please just take a step back. Consider other countries whose inhabitants would love to acquire an education, but can’t due to lack of finances, lack of means, or out of fear for their lives.

In Gansu China, most children don’t have access to even basic schooling. They’re forced to work in the fields as farmers and they will be destined to be nothing more than agriculturalists living in impoverished conditions due to their lack of education.

Ethiopian women are born into a culture where 48 percent of girls are married before they reach the age of 15. Once married, they’re expected to cease their studies and begin bearing children. This expectation is so prominent, that, according to Pathfinder International, only 8.9 percent of married Ethiopian females are reported to be enrolled in school.

According to The Star, families in Iraq often prohibit girls from going to school. Not because they wish to subjugate their female children, but because they don’t want to risk their girls being kidnapped and raped.

Sudan suffers a similar problem, where abduction, rape, and forced displacement have destroyed more than 1 million women’s lives in the past 10 years alone.

Mankind has a craving to be educated, and when we look at the educational opportunities available in the United States, complaining about student loans to satisfy that craving sounds petty at best, entitled at worst.

Ignorance and Despotism

Student loans enable us to pursue an education and ensure that we avoid being shackled and bound by our own ignorance.

Ignorance is exactly how the early United States kept African, Chinese, and Native American slaves under control. Their deliverance came in the form of education.

Consider Thomas Jefferson’s observation about education: “Ignorance and despotism seem made for one another.”

Despotism, the governing system of a single, often oppressive, ruler or group of rulers, thrives off of an uneducated society. That’s why there are so many stunted Middle East and African countries: their oppressive rulers make it difficult, if not impossible, for their citizens to obtain a good education.

While our government has its flaws, it’s certainly not a despot (anymore), and, despite what conspiracy theorists may preach, we’re not an ignorant society. When comparing ourselves and our educational system to other nations’, student loans are almost welcomed.

As we finish this objective look at our educational system and the opportunities available to us, don’t forget how fortunate we are. Despite what some may believe, education is not a right—it never has been. It’s been a privilege that people have fought and died for, and continue to fight and die for today in less fortunate places.

Our education system, while not perfect, is what propelled the United States to the forefront of the world race. It’s what allows our citizens to objectively look at our own government and ensure it’s working for the people instead of against the people. It’s why other countries look so enviously at the United States, and why their people are willing to break the law to immigrate here. Our student loans enable us to develop the necessary knowledge to live as free men and women, and that’s something we should be thankful for.