Student Loan Debt; Is It Worth It?

Students, pharmacy or other, will sometimes be faced with the daunting issue of student loan debt.  Is it worth it?  Personally, the debt I incurred as a student during the early 80's was worth every penny.  My wife and I paid a mortgage sized student loan payment (albeit, 90's style mortgage) for 10 years until the debt was paid. 
Eric Christensen, Pharm.D. is a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist as well as a Certified Geriatric Pharmacist.  Today we have the honor of having Eric as a guest blogger on AudibleRx.  As Eric says on his website:
Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.  – Theodore Roosevelt

The Dark Side of Being a Professional Student

I’ve had my share of challenges to overcome, but overall consider myself pretty successful thus far at the 30 year mark.  Getting into pharmacy school, passing pharmacy school, and simply getting a job I enjoy are a few of the professional successes I’ve worked for.  There is one part of my and now (my family’s) lives that needs some tuning up.  My student loan debt.  I was the idiot in college that thought to myself “debt is a part of life, so why wouldn’t I take out the maximum amount of loans each year so I had plenty of cushion?”  Maybe idiot is too harsh, but I certainly went along with the crowd whom many are now in the same position I am.

I graduated in 2009 from pharmacy school with nearly 150K in debt.  I’ve made substantial progress, but still have a ways to go.  Married with two small children and a house payment, the income can go pretty quickly, leaving not as much as I’d like to tackle that debt.  If you’re going through pharmacy school, you will likely have more or less depending on the number of years, scholarships, help from family, and cost of your program.  I make a nice salary as a healthcare professional, and you likely will or do too.  However, what you may not think about is the future.  The rain cloud of student loan debt hanging over your head doesn’t care about your life.  I’m writing about this issue, because I did not have much guidance when I was in school and am hoping that someone will listen.

If I asked you the question, “Would you rather be in debt or out of debt?”, what would you say? – Pretty easy answer.  I’m asking you to NOT accept the notion that student loan(s) and their repayment are a lifelong experience. 

Let me give you one statistic – Your interest payment in one month at 6.8 % (maybe yours is higher or lower) for 150K is over 570 dollars.  You could do a lot of good and/or have a lot of fun with an extra 570 dollars a month.

While money certainly gives you the opportunity to take a trip of a lifetime or buy something ridiculously cool, there is something intangible that you may not have thought about.  Money gives you freedom – and to many this is the greatest gift of all.  Take on a new project you’re passionate about, donate your time to a cause you care deeply about, spend more time with your family, are all perfect examples of what you may be sacrificing by having to work to pay “the bill”. 

My advice: To future healthcare professionals, do everything in your power to minimize your student loan debt – you will not regret it.  Start today.  Develop a plan and execute it.  If you’ve recently graduated and have a mountain of student loan debt in front of you, my advice is to make an aggressive plan by minimizing lifestyle and frivolous things, then start climbing.  Don’t wait on this, your future you will thank you. 

Appreciate the opportunity to guest post on this important issue!  You can find me educating the healthcare world on medication management principles at

Eric Christianson, PharmD, CGP, BCPS

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