The Community High grad says that when he picked Earlham "out of a hat," borrowing money was an abstraction. Now, says the philosophy grad, "When I'm thinking '$20,000,' I'm not thinking relative. I'm thinking of a brand-new car. 'Here's your diploma--also, you've got to give us a brand-new car!'"
Stansbury knows he's luckier than many: on average, recent college grads owe $25,000. Earlham, a small liberal arts school in Indiana, eased its $50,000-a-year room and board tab with grants averaging $10,000 a year, and his parents covered most of the rest. But he's still suffering sticker shock--not just for himself, but for his even more indebted peers: "Some people owe somebody three brand new cars, and that's insane!"
And some, like thirty-two-year-old U-M law grad Kerene Moore, owe the equivalent of five cars. Unlike many of her classmates, Moore, a Detroit native, doesn't come from money (her father was a chauffeur, her mother a home health aide). Divorced, with two kids and no child support, she filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. She says that at one point $2,000 would have been enough to stave off a loan default, but she just didn't have it. Sometimes she questions her decision to attend law school here: MSU offered her a full ride. And she still owes those college loans: bankruptcy doesn't wipe out student debt.