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Question 3

Do you have student loan or credit card debt?

Photo prompt #3: Take a picture of the most expensive thing you own.

College debt and credit-card debt are, thankfully, a thing of the past.

I went to a $40,000-a-year school and ended up with around $70,000 in debt, after scholarships and grants. Not bad, I know people with a lot more than that.

Everyone thought that we would be okay with that debt level when I graduated. However, I was not counting on both of my parents either resigning or retiring from their jobs before I had even graduated. Call it an outcome of parents having a child at ages 39 and 40, respectively. Not to mention my father having to be in and out of the hospital straight through my graduation until he passed in September, 2011 — only four months after my graduation — and suddenly debt was an extremely real, more burdensome aspect of my life.

In past posts, I have mentioned that I would not have changed a thing about college. If I could have done anything different to avoid the high debt level and still have gone to the same school, I would have tried it. No one in my family could have predicted what happened afterwards, which left me with $850-a-month student loan bills until my father’s life insurance policy finally paid out, very nearly a year to the day after he passed.

In my final semester of college, before things like the real world were even a passing thought in my head, a seminar I was taking for political science was focusing on education, so naturally the cost of it had become a regular topic of discussion. On the college-level, we were able to identify a number of reasons for the cost.

1. Everyone expects a well-groomed showcase of a campus when they take a tour.
2. Everyone expects their college to have the resources they need at their fingertips.
3. If you go to a school that offers smaller class sizes, you’re going to expect that there are plenty
of highly trained professors to make that a reality.

Of course, anyone can identify more reasons. In fact, the thing that is truly “broken” about the cost of higher education is that the last decade has seen a drastic cut in state investment in public and private colleges. I won’t explain my logic — you can find it in nearly any news article on the subject. The actual costs of running a college haven’t necessarily changed, it’s how the burden of it has shifted to students.

Going forward, since my loans were paid off in one fell swoop, I definitely feel like my lifestyle is going to improve. I haven’t done that much with the remaining money from the payout. Bought some new silverware, planned a trip to California in February, started thinking about grad school.

However, before the life insurance payout, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to stay afloat for much
longer. If Romney calls the middle class those who make $200,000 a year, then I’m only 10 percent of the way there. I never picked up summer tires, I had been putting off computer repairs, I had to settle for a very small apartment with my girlfriend — it’s been a crapshoot. I was loathing every purchase, from coffee to vegetables.

That’s all wrapped up though, now I’m debt free and have a Spartan resume.

One comment:

  1. Vincent Capone at 1:47 pm, October 9, 2012

    You touched upon a really poignant theme: that college costs are rising because parents and students are expecting colleges to cater to every whim and need. Colleges are increasing their presence and supports to encourage a broad applicant range. While I did take advantage of my school’s resources, I do believe there were many areas which my school could have cut the fat.