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Student Loan Debt, With Little to Show for It

More dropouts are struggling to repay money borrowed for school
Student Loan Debt, With Little to Show for It
Photograph by Charlie Schuck

Kevin Wanek was one semester away from graduation at Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., when he found himself in a bind. He no longer wanted to be an accountant, the field he was studying, but he owed more than $50,000 in student loans. Reluctant to take on more debt, he decided to drop out. “I started adding up what I owed,” he says, “and it really hit me.”

Though he had limited career options as a college dropout, he found an entry-level job at iTriage, a mobile-health-care-app maker in Denver, and over the past two years he’s become a computer programmer. Now he wants to finish his degree, this time with a focus on computer science. Yet with nearly all his disposable income going toward $600 monthly student loan payments, the 24-year-old worries he’ll never save enough to re-enroll. “It almost feels like the money is going into a black hole,” Wanek says. “It’s frustrating knowing that you’re paying for something you don’t have a tangible return on.”