Quote of the Day:

"I have a higher standard of living in a Third World country than I would in America, because of my student loans."

–Chad Haag, who fled to India to avoid paying college loans


While there are no statistics on the phenomenon, MSN Money reports that a number of young people are skipping the country to avoid paying college loan debt. This burgeoning trend reportedly is reflected in Facebook groups, Reddit channels, and how-to sites.

Chat Haag is one of those who resorted to this drastic course:

Chad Haag considered living in a cave to escape his student debt. He had a friend doing it. But after some plotting, he settled on what he considered a less risky plan. This year, he relocated to a jungle in India. "I've put America behind me," Haag, 29, said.

Today he lives in a concrete house in the village of Uchakkada for $50 a month. His backyard is filled with coconut trees and chickens. "I saw four elephants just yesterday," he said, adding that he hopes never to set foot in a Walmart again.

More than 9,000 miles away from Colorado, Haag said, his student loans don't feel real anymore. "It's kind of like, if a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it, does it really exist?" he said.

Haag had an outstanding student loan debt of around $20,00 when he pulled up stakes and left for India. That’s a relatively modest burden compared with others. However, he found it difficult to make the $300 a month payment he owed given the kinds of jobs he managed to land. His most lucrative job was as a medical courier. He took home around $1,700 a month.

A middle class life seemed out of reach and, when he married an Indian professor, he applied for a five-year spousal visa.

Another college loan expat is Chad Albright (what’s it with the Chads?), who majored in communications at Millersville University in Pennsylvania. Facing a $400 monthly college loan debt and unable to find a job in his field, Albright became a pizza delivery person. His credit score plummeted. “I feel that college ruined my life,” said Albright, who now lives in Kiev.

Katrina Williams graduated from the University of Southern Alabama and was facing a monthly college loan debt bill of $700. She worked as a Starbucks barista, mail delivery person, and substitute teacher. Unable to make ends meet, Williams fled to Japan. She would love to come home, but, given her history of non-payment and the charges thereby incurred, her student debt now is around $100,000.

 Here’s the key quote: “I feel that college ruined my life.”

This is a crisis created in large part by the adults in these young people’s lives—the adults who made loans without regard for the consequences, and the adults who peddled the notion that, without a college degree, you can’t make it in America. My colleague Arrah Massimini nailed it in a recent blog. She was responding to news that some college loan debtors believe they may never repay their loans. She wrote:

No question many young people do not think about how easy it is to borrow, and how difficult it is to pay back. But why would we expect young people to understand something they have never experienced? Namely, that thrift and budgeting is hard. Make poor financial choices, and Murphy will come crash on your (IKEA) couch.  

Eighteen or so is just too young for most people to undertake the obligation of serious debt.  

But they will do it if they have been fed the line that life without a college degree isn’t worth living.