‘I had to escape this debtors’ prison’: College grad flees U.S. to avoid student loan debt

‘I had to escape this debtors’ prison’: College grad flees U.S. to avoid student loan debt

Eventually, he just couldn’t take it anymore. The rejection, the depression, the mounting bills, it became too much to deal with all on his own, Chad Albright said.   “I had to escape this debtors’ prison,” he said — it felt like there was no other choice. “That’s what America became to me, a prison. So I left.” Albright bought a one-way ticket to China and boarded an airplane, uncertain if he would ever return to the country he once considered home. It was 2011, and Albright was 30 years old, starting over in a country more than 7,000 miles away from his life in Pennsylvania — away from his family, his friends, and far away from the $30,000 he owed in student loans. Borrowing money for college seemed like a sound financial decision at the time. Albright thought his degree would reliably lead the way to a well-paying career.  With tuition comes high debt. And when delivering pizzas was the only job he could find two years post-graduation — with the country’s outstanding student debt rising above $1 trillion, and one million people defaulting on student loans every year — it didn’t seem like it was worth it after all. “I was expected to make a $400 loan payment every month, but I had no money, no sustainable income,” Albright said during a Skype interview. “College ruined my life.”

In high school, he read books about the American dream, classics like “The Great Gatsby” and “The Grapes of Wrath.” If he worked hard, it would pay off — that’s what he was always told. But, Albright said, he now knows those were just stories. “There was no future for me in the United States,” Albright said. “And the American dream? Yeah, it doesn’t exist.” And few places have higher student debt than Pennsylvania. Average debt per student in the commonwealth is $36,854, one of the highest in the country, compared to the national average of $28,650. To get educated, most students go into debt. About two in three students who graduated in 2017 had student loan debt.

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