With student loan debt hovering at around $1.2 trillion, it can be hard to fathom why America's students are not just throwing in the collective towel, sodden with debt-sweat, and defaulting.
But education is important to young people no matter the cost. So much so, in fact, that students are using their ingenuity not just on their studies, but on paying for them, too.
According to a survey released earlier this week by the personal finance site My Bank Tracker, around a third of Millennials would be willing to sell an organ to pay off their student debt. The site polled 200 random users, whose average age was 32 and who had accumulated an average of $34,500 in student debt. Other respondents said that to pay off their student debt, they would be willing to turn their life into a reality TV show (55 percent), sell off half of their possessions (43 percent), "take part in a questionable health study" (38 percent), or sign up for the military (32 percent).
Should it be legal to sell your organs to pay off loans?
The study posed the options as hypothetical be-all-end-alls of debt, but anyone actually interested in selling an organ should think twice. Selling your organs for profit is, or course, illegal, and as VICE pointed out, the organ racket is not really a seller's market. Brokers take significant cuts (no pun), leaving the seller with only a small fraction of what their kidney might be worth. To ease this process, a Scottish Dundee University professor suggested in a 2011 British Medical Journal article that making organ sales legal for students in the U.K. would both boost the market of healthy organs and assist debt-laden students.
Some students are turning to sex work.
But while inclined U.S. students would have to wait for legal channels to open up in order to get decent returns, some are already turning to other unorthodox methods to pay for school.
As ATTN: noted last month, an increasing number of students seem to be turning to sex work in order to pay for school. On one site where users pay fees for live video chats with paid performers, about a third of the more than 10,000 women are in college, with many using the income to pay for tuition. Others who are comfortable with sex-related work have used gigs such as porn acting to cut down on high student fees. One much-publicized case was Miriam Weeks, the Duke University undergrad who acted in porn and was outed by a classmate who recognized her last year. But instead of shrinking away, Weeks, who goes by the nom de guerre Belle Knox, published a piece in Time urging people to focus their attention on what drove her to porn, not her personal choice to participate:
Everyone is focused on my decision to perform in porn to pay my tuition. Let's start paying attention to what got me here. Sky-high tuition bills result from a culture, from out President on down, telling every kid to go to college, regardless of their future plans or ability to graduate. And they result from schools being all-too-happy to raise prices to catch all the money flowing from the federal spigot.
Other ways students can sell their bodies.
The My Bank Tracker survey notes, somewhat suggestively, in the same column as the organ donor responses, that female college students can pull in up to $8,000 for egg donations and make a cool $45,000 "if you want to be a surrogate[.]" But according to some reports, donating eggs for tuition money is already a thing. USA Today reported in 2013 that egg donation—despite being an arduous and sometimes dangerous process—has become an option for some to pay for school-related fees, quoting one University of Missouri student as saying the procedure "would be a great way to pay for some of the things I want to do while I'm in school, like study abroad." And as CNBC reported, many egg donation companies advertise in school newspapers, with some offering higher compensation for students attending Ivy League universities.
Schools like New York University warn against the promises of easy egg donation and even mention "high college and other bills" as a reason why female students might turn to the procedure, in a way lending an added degree of absurdity to the marketplace: schools are noticing that students are going to extreme lengths to help pay for a college degree, but it's unclear how far these institutions are willing to go to actually make college more affordable.