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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.

Luckily, having chosen to study at a state school has protected me from racking up huge amounts of student-loan debt. For a fraction of the cost of private schools, I got a great education, was provided with the same opportunities as any Ivy Leaguer, and was taught by and worked alongside top scholars.

Plus, I got to make use of the Massachusetts state school tuition waver granted to advanced MCAS students. At least the state exam provided something positive, after stripping me of the chance to learn real critical thinking material in high school and replacing it with “teach to the test” curricula.

Graduate school within the UMass system has also been very kind to me. With most of the cost waived through grants and a teaching assistant-ship, I will graduate this spring with a Master’s degree for under $10,000.

Sadly, the bulk of my student-loan debt was acquired through one year in a M.Ed program that was required of corps members in the Teach for America Mid-Atlantic region. This program, required to obtain state certification and the ability to teach with TFA, put me back $25,000 for one year of coursework. The price-tag was nearly the complete sum of four years of undergraduate studies in the UMass system.

And, due to complications in the Teach for America program and my departure from it, in the end I had nothing to show for the $25,000 loan I accrued aside from a few M.Ed course credits.

But you live and learn. Perhaps someday I will use those credits to complete my M.Ed.

Because of my continued studies, I have yet to pay back any of my student-loan debt and have put it in the “out of sight, out of mind” category. I’m also in no rush to pay it off.

While paying the minimum will increase the loan amount and payoff schedule in the long-run, which most will argue is a stupid decision, I refuse to use my money that I need to enjoy life in order to pay above the minimum and get the student debt cleared away as quickly as possible. I know I will eventually pay it off, but I refuse to let it have a significant impact on the way I live my life, spend my money, and enjoy myself in the present.

Although, a bit of a side-note: I have always lived my life by the mantra “you could be dead tomorrow.”

In short, I believe that I should not be penalized and drained of my money because I chose to obtain an education. Something is clearly wrong with the immense price tag on education in America and the government needs to wake up to it. I don’t feel entitled, but something has to be said about the fact that the price of an advanced degree continues to rise astronomically each year while salaries and wages remain stagnant.

In terms of credit-card debt, I am responsible and somewhat obsessive by nature, which has allowed me to curb any debt. I have two credit cards and use them frequently to build credit and obtain bonus rewards, but I never allow the balance to get out of control and often pay off the balance completely upon use. I obsessively track my spending on both a daily and monthly basis, and I budget my money down to the penny. I do not live outside of my means, but I also don’t restrict myself.

As such, I would say that debt has very little impact on my life. At present, I can afford the lifestyle that I want to have and I try very hard not to allow money to get in the way of my personal happiness, success, and enjoyment.

I’m a naturally frugal person and have allowed myself to build a savings since graduating from college. While it will be more difficult because of the grim job market and lack of competitive salaries in my field of choice, I do believe that someday in the near future I will be able to fund the lifestyle that I imagined myself having in the future. I do not think that money will get in the way of that.

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