Student Loans & Debt Forgiveness: 4 Things to Know

How much do you know about the proposed Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012? How much do you care? If you’re thinking about taking (or have already)  out government-based loans to pay for music school, you need to pay attention.

Our purpose is not to convince you one way or another about the proposed act. It’s sufficient to say that it is controversial, and that it will not evaporate all the problems of skyrocketing tuition and mounting student loan debt. But something needs to be done. Whether you get a symphony job, create your own music business, teach, or work in music industry (or in any other field for that matter), paying back student loans is a daunting task.

1. There are ways to educate yourself about this. For starters, US News and World Report recently posted an article, “Learn What the Student Loan Forgiveness Act Could Mean for You.” It’s written by Equal Justice Works, a national non-profit founded by law students in the mid-80’s that advocates for reducing the burden of educational debt for current students as well as those who’ve already graduated.

You might also want to visit FinAid’s page on Loan Forgiveness learn about existing ways of lowering student debt through joining the Peace Corps, military service, or teaching and practicing medicine in underserved communities.

2. Some hardcore introspection is necessary. What will it cost you to go to the school of your choice if they accept you? What kind of loan debt will it leave you with? How will you pay that debt off, even if the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 (or a subsequent one) passes? And how will student loans facilitate as well as inhibit your career goals?

3. There are no guarantees or black and white solutions to this conundrum. Some college advisors advocate for paying what you can afford. In lieu of excessive student loans, they encourage you to attend state schools with lower in-state tuition plans or community colleges for the first year or two, to allow you to take lessons with great private teachers while stockpiling tuition dollars for the future.

Transferring, after a year or two, to a more competitive school will then become a less expensive option. There are others who will tell you to follow your passion, take out those loans if they’re the only way to finance your education, and trust that the money will follow.

4. Be wary of anyone who tries to convince you they know what’s best for you. Ultimately you will have to live with your choices, so you need to proceed in a way that feels right and will let you sleep at night. Talk with your family. Take a look at College Confidential’s thread, “Student Loans Surpass Auto, Credit Card Debt.”
Then talk with current students and recent grads. Find out what they did and whether they’re happy with their choices.

By making an informed decision about your own path to financing college, you won’t end up shocked or disappointed as you go forward. In the meantime, pay attention to what happens with the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.


  1. Alicia

    The average student loan for a BA or BS degree is $90k which students end up paying until they reach old age. Not only that, but students graduate with their degree; and are not able to qualify to purchase a home down the road because of the student debt that lingers over them. Students beware and be smart!!!!!! Ask your parents to guide you or ask someone whom you really trust. There are so many options for college that were not available many years ago. The main point is that you do your homework and don’t let anyone pressure you to do something you are not comfortable with in regards to any kind of loan to pay for your tuition, books, etc. Attending a community college for the first 2 years is an excellent option. You save approximately $7,000 per semester by attending a cc. The public university charges now approximately $8,000 p/semester. I work at a cc; and have seen many bright music students continue their music education at the university, and they say it was the best decision they ever made to attend a cc. Good luck!!!!

    • Thank you for your very good points. Doing one’s homework on choosing an education, a degree, and a method of financing should never be taken lightly. And attending community college before embarking on a BA, BM or more certainly is one of many possible choices. Community college makes so much sense for some students in certain situations. The point is that there is no one right or perfect path. Each student must decide for themselves with focus and assistance from parents, counselors, and others whom they trust. We do need to make one correction about student debt. The latest figures (2014) show that average student debt at graduation is approximately $33,000. Though not $90k, that is still very substantial, and students must factor in their projected ability to pay in the years ahead. That said, there are numerous scholarships available locally and nationally for students willing to put in the research. Plus, major funding is available from many universities and colleges for most degree programs, including music. Make sure to talk honestly and directly about your situation with any music school you may be interested in. Don’t just assume you can’t afford a music degree.

    • Alex,
      You bring up an interesting point. We suggest that students look very carefully at this option from many angles before putting a toe into these waters. Bankruptcy can be a solution to debt problems but must never be taken lightly, and the limitations and repercussions need to be fully understood before moving in this direction.

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