“I don’t care what side of the fence you fall on in terms of whether or not student loans are good, not good, beyond evil, a godsend, etc. Speaking from my own personal experience they have been a burden for the majority of my adult life, and I have paid probably close to double the amount of the loans in interest alone.”
My sister is 4 years older than I am, and when it was time for her to head off to college, my parents were in a great financial position. The result of that position is that they paid for my sister’s college, all of her books and needs, her food, and her housing four all four years while she attended a major university.
She looks back on it now as some of the best years of her life, and readily admits that part of the reason was because of how stress free and fun it was to not have to worry about the financial aspect of college at all.
Tangent: My sister majored in Business Administration, where she got straight A’s and made the Dean’s List of her university. She then parlayed that education into a job on a dude ranch in Montana where she made close to minimum wage giving horseback tours for rich city people like in the movie “City Slickers.”
She eventually got a very good job and now makes a solid living, but for a 4-5 year stretch there, my parents weren’t too thrilled about spending that kind of money on college when they could have just paid $250 bucks for horseback riding lessons.
Around my Junior year in high school I think my Mom began to realize that I wasn’t college-minded, and so she started to bribe me to attend. The bribes started small, but eventually she told me, “If you go to college, not only will we pay for everything, but upon graduation we will buy you a brand new pickup of your choosing.”
For a small town kid, your pickup was your world, and so this was the equivalent of telling an old, chain-smoking, Frank Sinatra-loving, widow in Vegas that the penny slots were now free until the end of time.
I reluctantly agreed.
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, my career plan was to be a radio Disc Jockey, and so my major was to be Broadcast Communications. The problem was that I hated school, and my heart just wasn’t in it at the time. I dropped out after only 1 year.
Tangent: I’m thinking about this now as I’m typing it, but I’m always amazed that my parents didn’t just stuff me in a dumpster at some point, cut their losses and move on.
My sister was Valedictorian of her high school, held several school basketball records, got a 4.0 GPA throughout high school and college, and (with the exception of the dude ranch speed bump) made a hell of a career for herself.
By the point in my life that I’m referencing here in this post, I on the other hand had maintained a crisp 2.8 GPA, had ruptured two discs in my back in football leading to MOUNTAINS of medical bills for my parents, and was now dropping out of the school they not only offered to pay for but also agreed to throw in a $50,000 pickup as a completion bonus.
Best-case scenario was that I finished college and got a job as a radio DJ where if I stayed at it for the better part of 30 years would have resulted in me netting a salary of somewhere around $83 dollars a year.
It’s amazing they even publicly acknowledge that they were related to me.
My Mom was beyond furious upon me dropping out, and told me it was a huge mistake. She was also extremely angry at my father as well for dangling the salary carrot in my face, and while I don’t blame myself for them eventually divorcing, I do believe this was one of the catalysts.
My father eventually went bankrupt when the milk market (yes, that’s a thing) collapsed, and lost his entire business. I had moved away a year prior, and was working a lame entry-level job for an exercise equipment manufacturer.
Upon finally transitioning to my current industry in videogames, I decided I wanted to pursue a career in art, and specifically computer animation. I enrolled at the now shuttered Art Institute of Seattle, took out a massive stack of student loans, and got to work!
While I did become an Animator, and later parlayed that into a position of Art Director, I still have student loan debt. Keep in mind that I went to school around 20 years ago!
I really should have listened to my Mom and taken the free education… and that pickup!
Fast forward to 20 years later, still holding the debt, with a child age 11 and another age 8. We should have a substantial amount of money saved for their educations, and yet given our situation, we don’t have a dime saved for them. It’s a shameful thing to say, so try not to beat me up too badly for it, but the situation is what it is.
Which means that if and when they decide to go to college, they too will most likely need to take out student loans.
I don’t care what side of the fence you fall on in terms of whether or not student loans are good, not good, beyond evil, a godsend, etc. Speaking from my own personal experience they have been a burden for the majority of my adult life, and I have paid probably close to double the amount of the loans in interest alone.
My only option as I currently see it is to dig out of our financial situation in the next 3 years, spend the following 3ish years from that point forward trying to get some kind of little fart-in-the-wind amount of money saved for each of them, have them take the rest in loans, and then actually assist them in paying those loans off as quickly as possible.
I know it’s not ideal, given that that means interest will be accrued on the loans, but I don’t really see any other options.
I don’t point to my student loans as the sole reason I’m in the mess I’m in. In fact, the loans are just a small part of the reason. I know lots of people though who do point to their current student debt as the main contributing factor as to why they can’t help their children more with their continuing education.
My wife and I have agreed that we need to break this cycle if possible, and so we’re going to help our kids as much as we can before and after they attend, while at the same time educating them to avoid our mistakes.
Also, if you run into either of my parents on the street, thank them for not throwing me in a dumpster. I think the smell of garbage would have been far too distracting to write this blog.
Thanks for reading, and keep digging!
Given my situation called out in this post, do you have any advice for me? What about you? Do you have student loan debt? Have you paid off student loan debt? I’d love to hear answers to any of the above or any thoughts you might have in the comments below.