Student Loans – Not All Hope is Lost!

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There are SO MANY STORIES I could tell about AIS, but I’ll save them for some other time. The point to all of this is that I walked out of that school with almost a perfect GPA, which in most schools should mean that I had a portfolio good enough to land me a decent entry level job. At AIS it meant that I had shown up, stayed mostly sober throughout my classes, and (most importantly) had paid my tuition. That was all it took to get almost straight As.

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Disclaimer: I’m going to share a link to a resource I found that might help me finally get rid of my student loan debt. It’s called Borrower Defense, and it is through the U.S. Government Financial Aid department. I AM NOT SELLING ANYTHING HERE, PEOPLE. You should know by now that I’m not a bullshit artist. This is a legitimate group, run by the U.S. Government, and you can research before you read any further if it makes you more comfortable. I’m simply sharing it because I had never heard of the service before, and so I’m sure there are others who haven’t either.

I also want to be abundantly clear that I am currently in the process of seeing if this works for my situation. I could be rejected, and be right back where I was when I started the process. I have no stats on how many people this has or hasn’t worked for, but it’s zero cost other than the time it takes to fill out the form, so I kind of figure you don’t have much to lose.

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I attended the Art Institute of Seattle (AIS), where I majored in Computer Animation. Despite going to college a bit later in life, I still had very little frame of reference as to what college should cost, nor what a legitimate school operated like. Prior to AIS, my only college experience was a year at a state run university, but I was 18 and couldn’t have given less of a poop about paying attention to my courses, let alone how that very legitimate school operated.

So I missed what were undoubtedly bright red flags raised by the AIS at the time, because I frankly just didn’t know any better.

For starters, I was given a hard sell in my portfolio review. I was told that my work was good, but just good enough to put me on the bubble of missing out if I didn’t choose to sign up for financial aid that same day. “Classes were filling up fast!” They told me that they couldn’t guarantee I would get in if more talented students applied later, so it would be best if I signed up for government assistance that day. But I shouldn’t worry, because they had on-staff people who could take care of all of my paperwork for me, and I just needed to sign! What a deal!

The second red flag about the portfolio review occurred to me many years later. Reflecting on what I presented at the time, it was at best some pencil sketches and maybe a single painting. AT BEST. It was certainly not enough to get me into a truly legitimate art school, and in hindsight I’m not sure it could have gotten me into the pre-school finger-painting class at my local YMCA. Yet they were very encouraging and told me I had true talent and they could see massive potential.

The final red flag of the recruitment process came when the portfolio reviewer (recruiter) told me that AIS had one of the highest industry job placement rates in the country. This was another one that I didn’t understand the magnitude of until years later when I spoke to a former AIS professor who told me that the school’s job placement rate included “art jobs” at places like Kinko’s, because it was copy and print and technically fell into a commercial art category.

Then there was the school itself…Read More »

The Vicious Cycle of Student Loan Debt

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.Read More »