Twelve 20-somethings chronicle their lives for WBUR. Learn more.
If President Clinton has taught me anything, it’s that good things are measured with arithmetic. I will be paying off my student loans for roughly the rest of my life, so I figure that if I get a job with a 401(k) I can retire on, then college was a good investment. If the number of years of my life, minus the amount of time it takes to pay off my loans equals anything, then, technically, I made a good investment.
Even as I type this, I feel cynical saying that absolutely anything above breaking even is a good outcome, but seeing as I currently have a mound of debt but no 401(k), it does seem realistic. I can’t even be sure that I got my full money’s worth while in college: I got two degrees but only one diploma, almost no financial aid, and, as we all now know, I do not spell any better than I did when I was in fifth grade.
Even to me, quantifying the value of my college experience by whether or not I pay it off and still get to retire seems unreasonably biased. I may be overly skeptical because I am spending the next few weeks reflecting on and writing about a time that is unconventionally tough on people just like me.
But I never want to come off as thinking college is useless, or had no hand in the successes I do have in my life. I know that during those four years, I grew more both intellectually and personally than I could have anywhere else. I lived in the nicest dorm room I have ever heard of, made the friend I still call my best, worked on projects I still claim on my resume, and found the field I hope to work in for the rest of my life.
This is a question I had never thought I would have to ask myself. Even having done so much I am proud of, it is hard to look back fondly when I am so overwhelmed by student loan debt that I find it hard to spend time with friends because it means spending money, and I get more collection calls than personal ones.
There have to be colleges out there that would have cost me less money, not to mention schools with a student body with whom I would have had more in common. But, on the other hand, had I not gone to Emerson, I might have ended up on a track that did not lead me down the road into the Boston theatre community, which has embraced me and does share a lot of my values.
I have heard a lot of “hang in there” since my first blog post went up.
I hear it from strangers and people I very much respect, and I know it’s about valuing the arts and my role in them so that others will too. I wish that were my issue. I am dedicated to doing what I am doing; the pressure I feel is from living like I am young and feeding myself like I am still growing, while trying to make payments to Sallie Mae that are half the size of my rent.
I am so confused. I know that college is responsible for both my income and my debt. All I can say right now is that I do think that college was worth the money that it is currently costing me, but I really will not know until I pay off my loans and take a look around.