Student loans are one of those things that most of us will have to deal with at some point in our lifetimes but nobody likes to talk about. And, I can see why. Money is a touchy subject for many of us, especially when the conversation shifts to debt and admitting how much we owe. Student loans can be a huge source of anxiety, shadowing us as we begin our post-college careers.
This weekend, after much focus and planning, I hit a personal goal: I paid off my student loan. In my case, the reason this was possible was because I made the choice to do my entire design program at a community college. Post-graduation, when I had a good month, I would double, triple and sometimes quadruple my payments. I wanted it to go away, badly. I don’t even use a credit card, yet the high interest rate on my student loan made me feel like I had one.
In 2010, total outstanding student loan debt exceeded total outstanding credit card debt in America for the first time ever. — SignOn.org
Society places so much emphasis on getting into the top schools and students feel the brunt of this pressure. If you have the chance, by all means, go for it and relish the opportunity. If you can’t though, please don’t compare yourself to your peers; this is your journey. School really is what you make of it, whether you have a top name splashed across your diploma or not. The truth is, if you are determined, you’ll find a way to carve out your path.
When I went back to school in 2006, my top three choices for graphic design programs were at well known art schools and universities but there was no way I could afford them. And when I tallied up the total cost of these programs in my head, I knew the only way I could take this route was by racking up massive student loan debt. Honestly, I just couldn’t stomach it. So, I enrolled in a two-year limited entry graphic design program. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I made. I still got a great education, a great internship and I still found a great job post-graduation. What I didn’t have a chance to learn in school (two years goes by fast), I eventually learned on the job.
If I’d had the opportunity, you bet I would have chosen a top art school. But because I knew it wasn’t an option at that moment, I made a choice. Everything turned out okay. I loved my teacher, I loved my program and I loved my college. And in comparison, the debt I incurred was minimal. Just because a school is expensive and well regarded doesn’t mean that it’s the best fit for you — for your learning style, for your goals or for your budget. No matter where you choose to go, your heart has to be in it.
I’ve heard so many students say, “I’ll worry about my loans once I finish. Right now, I just want to have fun.” That out of sight, out of mind mentality can really come back to haunt you, though. Remember, that’s real money with real interest you’re borrowing. Read the fine print; those interest rates on private loans are high. It adds up fast. And forking over a huge payment every month post-graduation is a harsh reality.
Since 1999, average student loan debt has increased by 511%. — SignOn.org
To me, it’s really upsetting when you’ve done everything right, earned an education and are left with mounting debt with an interest rate as high as some credit cards tacked on. There’s something really wrong with this country and the predatory lending practices when it comes to student loans.
All I’m tying to say is, give your choices some thought. Weigh what feels right for you when it comes to your education. Know what the interest rates are on your loans. Be aware. And always remember that If you want something out of life, you’ll find a way.
• Are you or someone you know struggling to pay back your student loans? Please consider supporting this petition. You can make a difference.