Here is an interesting article about a case of student debt gone to extreme. It talks about a woman who, due to poor financial management, will probably live with her student debt for the rest of her life. The debt is ruining her life and preventing her from starting a family.
Most students who take loans to pursue their education manage to pay off their debt eventually, but it can still be a heavy burden for years, and it's not always worth it, especially if the person in question is a woman who eventually decides she wants to stay at home with her family, on a permanent basis or at least while her children are young. I can't count the times when I've had readers tell me (through comments or emails) that they are only working to pay off their student debt, so that they can stay home with their children. The early years in marriage often take some financial adjustment anyway (new responsibilities, purchasing a house, having a first child). Starting family life with the additional burden of debt must be very stressful.
I believe that the need for higher education for any and everyone must be re-evaluated in the first place. Universities, and here in
especially private colleges, have become places that gobble up our money, often without the students' effort paying off in the future. In some professions, it's very difficult to find employment. Others don't pay off nearly as well as you'd think, considering how much effort people put into acquiring their degree. Israel
In some fields, like nutrition, young professionals (around here) are paid very little in their first years of work, until they have enough authority to build a private clientele, and the prestigious work in hospitals, which helps to keep up a professional profile, is always low-paid. One can often get more in unprofessional jobs. When I see how my friends from university are doing in that regard, I think to myself that when they are no longer single, they will need to re-evaluate. Either they will postpone having children (for how long, I don't know, nature does have its limits), or they will stay home with them – or they will work nearly for free, daycare costs deduced.
Ideally, I think a person should save up for education in advance. It makes more sense to me to postpone higher education for a year or two, work and save up, than to take a loan and dive in, and later have that loan hanging over your head for years. If parents can help out that's wonderful, but I don't think they should feel obligated to do so, and if they do help, I think they are within their rights to question whether that particular education path they are paying for is indeed a sensible choice for their child.
During my years in university, I lived at home, went to and from campus by bus, worked part-time in private tutoring and translating, and in general lived very frugally. I don't have and never had a credit card. I finished my education with no debt, which was wonderful because, although there was no way I could anticipate it, I got married very soon after graduation. My husband was always very financially responsible as well, so we were off to a good start.
I'm not saying a student loan should never be an option. Sometimes, when it's fairly certain the professional degree will be a great economical boost, it would make sense to take a modest loan rather than to work for more years in unprofessional low-paying jobs. But overall I believe we should all strive to be debt-free.
We opted not to take a mortgage, but instead to buy a house in an area where housing is cheaper, and where our savings were nearly enough to cover the house. You can imagine how glad we are about that now. Yes, there are still bills to be paid, but at least we're not slaves to mortgage. Mortgages are so common here that having one isn't considered being in debt at all, but it is debt, and one that will often keep a family tied in a knot for 20 or 30 years. People live in nice, impressive apartments, but they haven't really paid for them yet, and if the main bread-winner is laid off, the situation can become very complicated indeed.
Debt will weigh you down. Living with past debts will often prevent you from doing what is good for your family now, such as having the wife and mother stay home. If you are out of debt, good for you – stay out of it. If you are in debt, work carefully towards eliminating it.