Many people have and will continue to condemn me personally for my tremendous but unexceptional student debt, and the ways in which it has made the recession’s effects linger for my family. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in the past decade accepting this blame. The recession may have compounded my family’s economic insecurity, but I also made the conscious decision to take out loans for a college I couldn’t afford in order to become a journalist, a profession with minimal financial returns. The amount of debt I owe in student loans — about $100,000 — is more than I make in a given year. I am ashamed and embarrassed by this, but as I grow older, I think it is time that those profiting from this country’s broken economic system share some of my guilt.
Because of the loans’ disgracefully high interest rates, my family and I have paid more or less the equivalent of my debt itself in the years since I graduated, making monthly payments in good faith — even in times of unemployment and extreme duress — to lenders like Citigroup, a bank that was among the largest recipients of federal bailout money in 2008 and that eventually sold off my debt to other lenders. This ruinous struggle has been essentially meaningless: I now owe more than what I started out owing, not unlike my parents with their mortgage.