How can I help the universe when my student loan debt is suffocating me?

Logic that seemed sound to many not that long ago went something like this:

taking a low-paying non-profit job or basically paying someone to show you the ropes (happens often in international settings) was fine to do after college and while starting a career because there would be a financial reward/stability later that would balance the risk.

Does that logic still hold?

New data from The Project on Student Debt a national bi-partisan survey of adults ages 18-34 reveals:

  • Two-thirds of graduating seniors left college in 2010 with an average of $25,250 in debt.
  • The class of 2010 also faced the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates in recent history at 9.1%.


  • The U.S. Department of Education shows a sharp increase in the rate at which student loan borrowers are defaulting.
  • Across all colleges, about 320,000 borrowers who entered repayment in 2009 defaulted by the end of 2010 – 81,000 more than the those who defaulted by the end of 2009.
  • More than half of this increase came from students who attended for-profit schools:

So can you afford to fly to Kathmandu to learn how to be a community health worker on your own dime? Can you afford to work for a non-profit in DC?

Well that is up to you. But I would pour myself a hot toddy and ponder my options.

  • The mean studio apartment rate in DC is $1748 per month. If you made $25k/yr you would have a little over $2K per month pre-tax……

Others seem to be answering the question by getting experience in other ways:

  • Teach for America had a record number of applicants this fall;
  • Peace Corps just had its 50th birthday—you can defer/forebear federal loans;
  • There are a myriad of programs (aka fellowships) under things like Ashoka, Echoing Green and Skoll Foundation;
  • Launching a social enterprise (building a business with a socially responsible bent is a model that is filling the internet and conferences.); and
  • Going to grad school.

What are you doing to avoid financial collapse but still change the world? Share your insight using the comment bubble to the right of the post!

2 thoughts on “How can I help the universe when my student loan debt is suffocating me?

  1. I know it is CRAZY!! I just met a woman who is working really hard to get a non-profit off the ground Everybody Eats DC and she has been coach surfing and hustling for 2 yrs!! Let alone my friend Alicia who made 1k a month out of grad school several yrs ago at a little non-profit in Denver.

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