The Battle of Debt

By Jatin Kapoor

For this project, we were able to pick a topic that we would go in depth in; whether that was content analysis, literature reviews, stats or more. However, the one that caught my attention the most was interviewing. It is something I am fond of, whether it be interviewing others, or being part of them. Doing research regarding this topic and how it goes, I conducted a topic of student debt that I wanted to do research on and interviewed 3 people regarding this topic and the student debt they have gone through/went through. Through this, I was able to learn a lot about the difficulties of student debt, how people handled it, and more. All this through questions I was able to formulate to ask them through the research I did. Now going into this topic more deeply, some of the questions that were formulated that were asked thoroughly to the 3 people were 

  • Does your student debt distract you from your studies?,
  • How much stress do you get because of debt that you are facing 
  • How do you manage school, work, and your personal life with friends and family?
  • From a rating of 1-10 Are you able to still enjoy your personal wants and maintain your needs, or do you have to sacrifice some of your wants?
  • How do you plan to get out of it? Have you set up a plan for what you will do? 
  • How do you look back at your experience?
  • What would you have changed about what you went through then

Among other questions that were important as well. 

Now discussing the interviewees, there were 3 people that were interviewed. One of them was a friend of mine who attends Cornell University, another was a friend of mine who attends NYU, and the third one was a cousin of mine who graduated from St John’s University 4 years ago. All 3 of them had to take student loans, and cover their debts due to expensive finances. All three went to similar situations and matched my criteria regarding what I wanted to know about student debt. I asked many of the questions I have shown above and many more. 

The first person I asked was a friend of mine who went to the same high school as me and went to Cornell for a massive tuition fee he pays per year. I was aware that he is going through a lot of financial struggles, that is why I decided to ask him about his thoughts and experiences for my research. He discussed how he was aware of the situation he was getting into, as he just wanted to do what is best for him, and get the best education possible, even if it meant he would have to work harder. This brought my attention, as it made it seem like many people are aware of the debt they are getting into, but at times have no other option. In addition, this friend of mine said despite him having to do extra jobs to maintain his debt, he has been entirely focused on his classes as well throughout the two semesters, and has maintained solid grades. He mentioned how although it is a challenge, if you are determined and willing to work hard then it really is manageable to be able to work and get rid of your debt as well as have high grades. Due to his responses regarding grades and management of workload, I asked him if he is able to still have fun in his free time and be able to hang with friends, fulfill wants etc. He said that although occasionally he tries to find time to go out with friends, he often has to leave it for the breaks whether it be winter or summer break for this, and has to sacrifice a lot of his wants to be able to manage everything. I found these responses from my first friend very interesting, as it truly captured the sacrifices and determination people go through in order to succeed. 

Now discussing the second person that I interviewed regarding this issue, it was a friend of mine that currently attends NYU. Although I asked pretty much the same questions that are part of my project proposal to all three people I will discuss some different questions I discussed with this friend of mine. This friend of mine is in the same boat as my Cornell friend, the only difference being he does not have to pay for a dorm as he is still in the city, so that helps with his costs. An important question that was part of my project proposal that I wanted to discuss with this friend is regarding the stress levels this person gets based on managing everything. He responded saying he has had nights where he has not been able to sleep due to the financial instability, but he said having his parents support helps him carry on and focus on life. He also said that was a major reason he chose to stay in New York for college so he could not be left alone and have the support of his parents in this difficult ride. So what I got from this answer was his stress levels are indeed high but he is able to manage the stress. This just exemplifies how stressful some of these matters could be and one has to be really strong in order to overtake these obstacles. Another specific question that I will mention here that I discussed with this student was regarding the time frame in which my friend will be able to get out of this debt regarding the loans. He said that although he does not have a specific time frame in mind, that he is progressing well and is giving the tuition at time and should be able to be out of debt by his end of college if all goes well. He said getting it done as soon as possible is what is giving him lots of stress regarding my previous question, but he is confident he is able to fulfill this. While the interview of the first student gave me tons of important insight regarding the management, how to go on with the workload, among other things, the interview of this second of my friend was as valuable. I was able to learn how much stress students can go through because of these situations, the value of support from your family, as well as the importance of completing your debts in time. 

Now heading on to the third person I interviewed, this was a different case as it was not a friend of mine, and it was not a current student. It was a cousin of mine who graduated from St.John about 4 years ago. I decided to make the third person I interview something different than the first two as the first two were current friends of mine going through the debt as we speak. So, as a result I decided to do something different, who went through this experience already, and can now reflect on what occurred. So I interviewed my cousin, and asked him from a different perspective through my questions regarding his debt. Firstly I asked, now that it has been four years since he has been done with his debt and graduated, what he feels he could have done differently when he went through debt. He said that he felt he could have been done with his debt in 3 years and have relaxed and enjoyed his senior year instead of the 4 years it did take them. He said he got fired from two jobs because of his school management, and how he struggled with time management. Due to this, it wasted a lot of time in getting a new job, and not even on the same salary level. He felt if he had been able to manage time well and keep his job, he would have had enough money to be able to clear his debt in 3 years. Based on these interviews, especially this person, it made me note that when going through these sorts of situations, time management and managing your workload is the most important thing to be able to handle your debt in time and without stress. Another question I asked my cousin was did he also have friends or classmates at the time that were going through the same things as him, and if so did he discuss with them their situations. He said that he often kept it private, and when he went through struggles he did not want other people to have pity on him and feel bad for him, as his self respect is important. However, he did add he regretted this now that he thinks about it. He said that although he did not have as much stress, talking it with someone who is experiencing the same or just knowing you have friends that relate to you could have been much better for his mental health. Overall, from my cousin I was able to get a different insight regarding student debt and some of the crucial matters that can help one overcome and manage student debt. 

To sum it up, student debt is an issue that has been going on for many years, and affects the mental health, stress, and work level for a student. Whether it be people going to a city college, state college, or having already gone to college, everyone has different experiences and different ways about dealing with their student debt but face the same situation. Ultimately what is important to realize is how being in New York can have a huge impact on debt. Based on most of my friends who are in college right now or some that already went through it, the ones in New York are the ones who are facing more debt, whether it be due to the prices of the dorms, tuition, among other factors. In addition, although being in NY can have its detrimental effects on student debt, it can also help. The main reason being one that was said above by some of the students, they were able to acquire decent paying jobs to help them pay off their debt. While expenses can be a lot in New York, there are not only good paying jobs here, but many of them for a student to do part time, get experience in, and make money. This is how experiences in New York can differ from elsewhere, but overall it is a lot about how you handle the struggle, not letting stress get to you, managing your time well among other factors like this.