Sunday, December 5, 2010

Day 468 - Excuse Me?

I had logged onto the Internet today and I found this article cued up in Yahoo!'s little news reel:

"Student's Loan Debt: $200,000"

Um, excuse me?  Did I just read $200,000?

Yes, I did.  The article follows Kelli Space, 23, who graduated from Northeastern University in 2009 with a shiny new BA in sociology and a monthly student loan obligation of $891 a month.  Her monthly loan payments will nearly double next November, when her monthly payments are expected to increase to $1,600 a month.

At that point in the article, I wanted to pull Kelli out of my computer screen, smack her across the face, and tell her what it's like to have $1,026 in monthly student loan obligations right out of the gate.  Yeah, Kelli Space who works one full time job and set up a donation website to help her pay back her loans, suck it up.  You get a profile on Yahoo! Finance while I've taken a little over $4,300 out of my savings account in 2010 alone just to cover my student loan debts.  Beat that, says my diminishing financial reserves.  I work two full time jobs and still can barely pay my loan bills, let alone those credit card bills for things like gas to get to work that I've been paying with money out of my savings account.  I've even taken to adding Google Adsense to "The Years Spent PC" to maybe earn a little extra cash.

Yet, there's a part of me that wants to empathize with Kelli and turn around and tell the people commenting on the article calling it "liberal bullshit" and telling people that "if you can't cover the cost of attendance with gift aid and federal loans, then you shouldn't be going to such an expensive school" just what is up.  Let's review the situation I was in six years ago.

When I was a senior in high school, I applied to four schools, which shall remain anonymous.  I was denied admission to school #1, which was a private out-of-state university that would have tacked on surcharges because I was an out-of-state student. 

School #2, an arts school with a writing program, offered me a full ride package that included federal loans, but no need for private loans.  The school was in a huge metropolitan area known for publishing houses, so I could have had it all right at my finger tips.  However, I was forced to turn down said full ride because my dad was afraid I'd get mugged within the first 15 minutes of being on campus.

School #3 was a state school that fell under a tuition increase cap, meaning that it could only increase tuition at a maximum rate of 5% or so per academic year.  Despite this school being the cheapest of them all, I was awarded $1500 in financial aid, no federal loans, and was told that I'd have to make up the rest of my $15,000 balance for my freshman year in private loans.

School #4 was a private liberal arts school that later became my alma mater, offering me what started out to be 50% of the cost of attendance in financial aid my freshman year, with that same amount being a little more than a third of the cost by my senior year.

See the problem here, folks?

Yes, students should exercise caution when borrowing money for school.  For some, starting at a community college in a non-terminal associates program and then transferring to a four year college or university is a great option (until you get to the four year school and realize you need to retake classes.)  For another bunch, simply earning a professional certificate or an associate's degree is enough to get them into their field.

However, I take issue with people who believe that those who are studying anything besides business, engineering, or "high profile" majors should not be in college.  What about those who graduate with teaching degrees?  Every culture needs teachers, and in ours you have to go to college and earn your license to be a teacher - it's a fact of life.  What about our nurses (medicine is considered "high profile")?  What about our radio jockeys, journalists, politicians, hospitality managers, interior decorators, and artists?

Hell, what about our writers?  You can't turn around in this world without being influenced by a writer.  Should all of us who have aspirations beyond six figures and fancy business cards be excluded from a college education because the humanities, the arts, the social sciences, and education don't necessarily pay as well as business degrees?

It all boils down to this.  Unless you're shouldering a mountain of student loan debt, take a look around before telling us who should and should not attend college.  What we need instead of segregating our society into the educationally-entitled and the educationally-unentitled based on our future plans is some reform.  Cap tuition costs, provide more aid, cap the maximum interest rate on student loans, extend repayment terms, something.

Because as I'm contemplating temporarily changing my repayment plan on my federal loans, any ounce of reform is better than nothing at all.


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