Hannibal wrote: Ok, think about how long it would take you to pay off a 40k loan. Depending on how long you take to pay it and the interest, that's around $500/month for 8-9 years. You could easily be putting this into retirement/survival, whatever. Now imagine while you are paying that off, you are paying interest on a 120k loan.
It's a big fucking difference.
Your ability to pay 40k = easy. Your ability to pay off 120k = difficult. Your ability to pay off 160k = difficult. You are in some hardship past a certain point (I would argue 100k, others might say 120k, but it's not going to be 40k) which restricts your ability to do what you want. You having 160k in debt is going to be just as restrictive of your job opportunities as you having 120k. There's going to be very few, if any, jobs after grad where you're going to say "man, if only I had 120k in debt I could take that. But alas I have 160k; there are many many jobs where you will say "man if only I had 40k in loans, I could work there, but I have 120k and I can't afford to ). We are not saying that the time to pay off 40k and the time to pay off 120k is the same (unsure why you reference only paying interest on 120k versus actually paying back 40k; i don't think anybody is going to argue if they had 120k they would only pay interest), or that it is easy. We are saying the opposite.
To summarize, we are not strictly talking about 40k in debt. We are talking about the difference between owing 120k and owing 160k.