Thursday, August 11, 2011

Student Loans and My Soul

Something I've noticed since graduating is that people are kind of hush hush about how much student loan debt they have. We make jokes about how crippling it is or how universities squeezed all of the cash out of us that they possibly could.

But I'm curious about figures. I want to know exactly how much. And the reason why is pretty simple for me....I want to feel normal. I want to feel like there are other people in the same boat as me because that makes all the debt more manageable.

According to FinAid, the average 4-year undergrad. student comes out with $23,186 in debt. Obviously, graduate and professional students borrow a lot more with the additional debt typically ranging from $30,000 to $120,000. Twenty five percent of those pursuing a Master's borrow more than $42,898 in addition to their undergraduate debt.

These figures are pretty familiar for me.

I went to a public university for my BA and had in-state tuition. My parents paid for room and board and I paid tuition. I came out with roughly $20,000 in debt from that. I had a few scholarships but I borrowed extra money in my last two years to help cover my expenses. I gave piano lessons to help bolster my savings but I didn't have a real job; I also didn't have the time.

Then, I went straight into a Master's program in D.C. which is a REALLY expensive city. During the first semester I lived by myself (my partner still lived in California at the time) so I took out more money to help cover living expenses. I was lucky too because I had a friend who was willing to give me discounted rent on their basement apartment. I lived far away from school and work and I paid a lot to take the metro. I remember telling my sister, "I think I'm going to die all alone and in a basement". It was a rough couple of months.

Graduate school cost me roughly $53,000. It would have cost closer to $78,000 had my partner and I not moved in together. I worked the whole time I was in graduate school at internships that either paid OK or just gave a small stipend. This is not enough to live on in D.C., let me tell you. I'm not really sure how a lot of my friends did it.

On top of the giant expense...I did not love graduate school, not even close.

So now I feel like I have bought into the course of life that you're "supposed" to do to achieve your ideal career. But what I have is a lot of debt and no job to help support it.


Michelle Parker said...

I love your post! I can very much relate to it. After I'm finished with graduate school next semester, I will have around a total of $35,000 in student loans. The $35,000 is a combination of both undergraduate and graduate loans though, so I don't feel too horrible about it. I went to a really expensive private university and that's what's hurting me. I decided to go to a state school for my MBA (still a very good school) in order to save money.

Anna said...

Michelle, I think choosing to go to a state school is VERY smart. I went to a private, very expensive graduate school and I don't know that it was the best decision. I think $35,000 is very manageable, especially since you're getting an MBA.

anna said...

I know that this is not a very popular opinion, and I also know that the price of a good education is out of control....But, I also think that what you can get out of such an experience can be over and above either the dollar value or the doors that a degree can open to a well-paying (okay, just paying) job. I realize that you did not like graduate school, and I am very sorry to hear that. As a veteran of two graduate programs, I KNOW how shitty it feels when a graduate program does not seem to fit you or what you are seeking. However....I do think that education does have purpose and value beyond job-training. And yes -- it should DEFINITELY cost less. (Fewer administrators, or slightly lower-paid ones? Less fancy dorms and gym facilities anyone?) And no, it is not because college and university professors make too much money -- trust me on that one! Sorry for the rambling thoughts!

Anna said...

Anna, I appreciate your rambling thoughts. And I do agree with you that you CAN get an experience that is over and above the dollar values but I don't think it happens as often as it should!

Absolutely school is too expensive and I know it's not about teachers making too much money.

Thanks for reading :)

HS @ Our Debt Blog said...

So you have close to 78k? geez I'm skipping graduate school... doesn't seem like it's worth the $$


Anna said...

@HS, Yeah it's a lot and it doesn't feel worth it to me now. Perhaps it will feel worth it later? I don't know. I think that feeling is different for everyone.