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American students crushed by US college loans escape to India

Loan-strapped American students have opted to leave the US and relocate to countries like India and the Ukraine for a higher standard of living.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   29-10-2018

Chad Hag and his wife at their wedding this year
Chad Hag and his wife at their wedding this year

In what might be a stunning reversal, American college graduates paralyzed by crippling student loan burdens are slowly making a beeline for low-cost outposts like India, Ukranine and even Japan in hopes of finding jobs and a better quality of life.

Chad Haag, a 29-year-old philosophy major from the University of Northern Colorado, who also has a Master’s degree in comparative literature from the University of Colorado Boulder, has relocated to South India. He now lives in a concrete house in Uchakkada village, in Kerala for Rs 3,750 a month. 

“I’ve put America behind me,” Haag told CNBC reporter Annie Nova. “I saw four elephants just yesterday,” he said, adding that he hopes to never set foot in a Walmart again.

Haag’s debt is currently on its way to default. But 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.

The philosophy major acknowledged that his student loan balance of around $20,000 isn’t as large as the burden shouldered by many other American borrowers, but he explained to CNBC that his difficultly finding “a college-level job” in the US made that debt “oppressive.”

“If you’re not making a living wage,” Haag said, “$20,000 in debt is devastating.”

Haag offered a peek into his life: He struggled to come up with the $300 a month he owed. The first job he found after he graduated from the University of Northern Colorado in 2011 was “on-again, off-again hours at a factory, unloading trucks and constructing toy rockets on an assembly line.” The American then went back to school to pursue a Master’s degree in comparative literature at the University of Colorado Boulder. After that, he tried to make it as an adjunct professor, but CNBC reports that he “could barely scrape a living together with the one class a semester he was assigned.”

Haag had some hope restored when he landed full-time work as a medical courier in Denver, delivering urine and blood samples to hospitals. However, he brought home just $1,700 a month. This left little money to pay down his student loan bill. He couldn’t afford an apartment in the city, so he lived with his mother. He lived like a hermit and cut out on going out with friends to restaurants or movies.

Chad Haag and his wife
Chad Haag and his wife in a jungle in India

“I couldn’t make the math work in America,” Haag said. He finally took a leap of faith and packed his bags for India.

This year he married an Indian citizen, a professor at a local college. He now has a five-year spousal visa, and plans to renew it when the time comes.

Average student loan debt for the class of 2016 ranged from $19,975 in Utah to $36,367 in New Hampshire, according to a report published recently by the Institute for College Access and Success.

There are stories of young Americans straight out of college trekking to India to look for jobs, a better lifestyle and even the limelight.

“My brother-in-law Sam lives in Mumbai and acts in Bollywood movies. He has chiseled good looks and plays the foreigner or the token white in Hindi movies. He is happy. He has no plans of coming back to America,” a waitress in Blue Smoke, in Battery Park in New York, who didn’t want to be identified, told Braingainmag.com.

“Sam says he has a better lifestyle in Mumbai where he has access to Bollywood parties, the good life and lots of friends,” she added. “He gets stressed out sometimes about his work visa renewals, but otherwise Sam who has been to acting school says there’s literally nothing for him in America.”

Chad Albright who attended Millersville University, in Pennsylvania, where he studied communications and history couldn’t find a company in the US to hire him in his chosen field. Crushed by student loans which he could never pay back by working as a pizza delivery person, Albright first moved to China for a $1,000 job teaching English in the Chinese city of Zhongshan.

He is currently living and working in Ukraine, where he is now a permanent resident. He first taught in Kiev and now does so in Odessa, a port city on the Black Sea.

“I am much happier in Ukraine,” Albright told CNBC. “I lost faith in my country.”

It is estimated that a nearly a quarter of American adults currently have student loans to pay off, and most do not have the financial literacy to manage debt successfully.

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