Student loan debt: How I got in deep

My mother was quadriplegic by the time I was in high school. My dad was a real estate agent who worked on commission, so he worked long hours to make ends meet. As a result, I took on a lot of responsibility at a young age.

I cooked and cleaned and did all the grocery shopping. I did the laundry and paid the bills (in the “balancing the checkbook and writing the checks” sense, not the earning money sense). I took my mother to the bathroom, fed her, and tracked her pill regimen. And most importantly, I believed that a college education was a good value.

I knew my parents couldn't afford to send me to college, and I wasn't allowed to have a job because of my responsibilities at home. So in lieu of saving for college, I threw myself into everything school had to offer.

I was salutatorian. I was on the dance team and the academic team. I was secretary of the service club and president of the math club. And it worked: not only did I get out, I graduated from college with a 4.0. Then I went on to get an MA and a PhD. Unfortunately, I got $100K in debt to go along with it.

I mention this only because it begs the question: what leads a (relatively) smart person to make almost ten years' worth of poor financial decisions? As immoral as universities may be, there's more to any individual's decisions than external influence.

Undergrad: An Auspicious Beginning?

When she was young and healthy, my mother had a full ride to Boston University. She dropped out because she wasn't doing well in her pre-med classes; what she really enjoyed was writing. I remember asking her, “Why didn't you just change your major?” She said it never occurred to her.

She eventually did get an Associate's degree from the local community college. However, she always regretted not completing a Bachelor's degree. Her experience led her to believe that the best degree was the one that you finished. She also believed that if you picked something you enjoyed, you were more likely to do well and be happy.

When I started thinking about college, my dad said “smart people major in business.” He suggested, “not that I'm telling you to follow in my footsteps, but female real estate agents make a lot of money.” My mom would nod sagely at his advice. Then after he left the room, she would stage-whisper, “do whatever makes you happy!”

I attended a state school, since the Florida Bright Futures lottery scholarship paid for 100% of my tuition and a book allowance. I was a National Merit Finalist. I received Pell grants and a variety of other scholarships. Since my education was paid for regardless of major, I followed my mom's advice and did what made me happy. I was a creative writing major and a psychology minor. I worked as a server and a tutor at the writing center. As a result, I graduated with no debt.

Grad School: The Downward Spiral Begins

I was intimidated by the thought of graduating and getting a “real job.” Instead, I decided to keep doing what I had always been successful at: school. I started an MA in creative writing. I also worked on campus 35 hours a week, teaching and tutoring. However, graduate tuition was expensive. Luckily, Stafford was there to fill the hole. I knew it was a loan, but I'd never borrowed any money before. I didn't have a concept of what borrowing really meant in terms of paying it back.

During this time I loved my job so much that I decided I wanted to run a writing center. My boss had a PhD in rhetoric and composition. I researched programs, applied to three, and accepted an offer from a top five program. It entailed moving across the country, which I couldn't afford; I wouldn't get financial aid until fall. Enter credit card debt.

The cost of living in my new city was also much higher. Again, Stafford and Visa filled the hole (though there were still a couple of weeks between moving and financial aid kicking in where I didn't wash my hair because I couldn't afford shampoo).

Yes, I was taking out more loans. But I was only making $14,000 a year and my paychecks were $750 apiece. The average starting salary of $50,000 was three and a half times what I was making. That could only mean my paychecks would be three and a half times bigger. Right?

Somehow the fact that this $14,000 was spread over nine months instead of twelve didn't seem significant. Taxes and payroll deductions for things like health insurance weren't even on my radar. I also don't recall a single time when I saw a total of how much I'd borrowed until my degree was almost complete.

Graduation Approaches: I'm in Over My Head

Even when I saw my total of about $100,000, it was poor math all the way. I thought, Okay, I was in grad school for eight years. That means I borrowed an average of $12,500 per year. I was also making $14,000 per year during that time, so my average income was $26,500 per year. But soon I'll be making $50,000. That's twice as much! This is no problem.

My program also claimed it had a 100% tenure-track job placement rate. It didn't occur to me that this couldn't be possible until after I was advanced to candidacy and took a job search class. Then, this statistic was amended to “100% of students who wanted to be on the tenure track ended up with tenure-track jobs.” Who doesn't want tenure?! I thought. This won't be me. This is no problem.

I did know, of course, that getting a PhD in the humanities wasn't going to make me rich (although the professors in my program all had 3000+ square foot homes in the nicest area of town). But it was more important to be happy than to be rich. Besides, I grew up poor. I was familiar with it. It didn't sound scary.

Then I went on the job market. My hottest lead turned out to be in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and I had a few realizations. I didn't want to live 200 miles from the nearest urban center. Not only that, I couldn't even if I wanted to: Jake and I had been dating for over a year. Our relationship was getting serious enough that he needed to be a factor in my plans.

By this time he'd graduated from law school and had a job making $90,000 per year. He was traumatized from the bar exam. The thought of taking another one only a year later gave him cold sweats. Even if he was willing to do it, he couldn't afford to make much less. A salary of $90,000 a year would be impossible to come by in a tiny rural town. Now my job search was what they called Geographically Restricted. That's academic speak for “it's your own fault if you don't end up on the tenure track.”

Suddenly, Unexpectedly

So I moved to Jake's city and geared up for another year on the job market. I got a full-time administrative position in summer 2008, right before the economy tanked. The week after they hired me, my institution implemented a hiring freeze. Six months later, they instituted furlough.

I combed the national job lists in my field, but I was Geographically Restricted. Even if I wasn't, it was one of the worst job markets in memory (and memory didn't have a lot of good years anyway). And then, there was the unexpected — though, given that I think I'm psychologically predisposed to happiness, maybe I should have expected it.

It turns out I LOVE my job. I love the work I do and the people I work with. I love the city I live in (even if it's 109 degrees outside right now). I have family in the area. Jake grew up here. At this point, he has over five years of business connections here, and I have four.

At some point, the the life I was living “for now” had become The Life I Want to Live. I have a ten minute commute. I leave work at 5 p.m. every day and don't need to think about it until the next morning. I don't check email during my off hours. I don't work in the evenings. I have pets, I am a hobby chef, I read novels. I think I would have enjoyed the tenure track, but I don't need it to be happy.

I just need to get our financial situation under control so I can keep living this life.

What About You?

This is my story. This is only my story. I cannot speak for others with student loan debt. But I know many, many people with high student loan debt (including lots of folks with totals higher than mine). So I know you're out there, fellow student loan debtors!

Let's build on last week's discussion (go check out the comments there as well!). What's your situation? How is it different than mine? How is it similar? I am especially interested in:

  • Your total student loan debt
  • What degree(s) you have
  • When you went to school
  • Whether anyone talked to you about student debt or the job prospects in your field
  • Whether the information you received about student loan debt or the job prospects in your field was accurate
  • What you wish you had done differently/advice for others
  • How you're dealing with your debt

There are obviously many decisions I could have made differently. It's undeniable. But since I can't go back in time and make different decisions, I'm declaring a statute of limitations on regret. Plus, I'm taking responsibility for my errors in judgment and paying the loans back. I have to, since you can't discharge student debt in bankruptcy.

However, as Robert Brokamp pointed out, there are systemic problems with student debt in this country (check out this paper for some facts on six-figure student loan debt). Those of you who have been through the system, how would you change it?

More about...Debt

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Lance @ Money Life and More
Lance @ Money Life and More
8 years ago

Thanks for sharing your story so hopefully others think about their strategy before taking on tons of student loan debt. You have to have a plan to pay it off and make sure it is a good investment because if you’re taking out debt you better have a plan to pay it back. I graduated with no loan debt as an accounting major but my girlfriend graduated with close to $80,000 in debt for her Nursing Bachelors degree. It stinks but she didn’t get any help from her family. Since graduating about a year ago she has paid off over… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

I also graduated with an MS with little student loan debt. One reason for this was my choice of school after getting three similar offers (free tuition and 20k stipend) from top programs. When Berkeley sent me their offer, they included a financial aid application, as no student could afford to live on that money in the Bay Area. The other schools were just as highly rated in my field, but in much more affordable areas. I figured I’d eventually end up in the Bay Area, anyway (I did – immediately after graduation)…

William @ Drop Dead Money
William @ Drop Dead Money
8 years ago

My experience is at the other extreme: I also grew up poor, and the scar it left on me was that debt is not an option. Not because of fear of debt, but because of fear of rejection. I simply believed nobody would lend me money. No matter what. So I never could stand the thought of applying for a loan. My mother fueled that and insisted my only way out was an education, and the only way to get an education was a scholarship. And the only way to get an education, was to get good grades. So I… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

My story has many similarities to William..sacrificing my high school years, doing my B.S. and M.S part-time while working full-time. I finished my Master’s degree in 2009, and I’ve never had any student loan debt. No one talked to me about it; I feared everything about student loans, so avoided them. I knew grads from my program and all were employed if they wanted to be.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago

A future “Ask the Readers” post could be “How did growing up poor/not poor/rich affect your personal finance as an adult?” I think the answers would be very interesting.

Lisa Aberle
Lisa Aberle
8 years ago

Jen from Boston – I think this would be interesting as well. I started a reader story about how it’s influenced me, but haven’t submitted it yet.

CincyCat
CincyCat
8 years ago

I read this post with a little bit of admiration, and a little bit of sadness for you. Not that you’ve asked for our pity (clearly you don’t regret your choices, which is also admirable), but I believe a lack of balanced advice was what initially led to your fear, which I think is really unfortunate.

It is entirely possible to graduate high school with honors, get those scholarships and still be on a sports team, drama club or choir – basically, not feel like you have to sacrifice the “carefree” days of your youth for the sake of fear.

Harry
Harry
8 years ago

I graduated in May 2008 with a BS in accounting and ~$60k in student loans. I had very little financial assistance from my parents but they said I was welcome to live at home while I repaid my loans. Not paying rent and eating my parents food allowed me to allocate most of my take home pay to loan repayment. I finishing paying off my student loans in December 2011 and have since moved out of my parents house.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Harry

It is nice if you live close enough to your parents, they are willing, and there are jobs in your field where they live for this to be possible. It’s not the case for everyone, but nice when it is.

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
8 years ago

I have a B.A. in Philosophy (really), an M.Ed in teaching English as a Second Language to Adults, and an M.A. in Translation — spread out over decades. I owe $86,000 in student loans. I was the first person in my family to attend college (my father dropped out in 8th grade and my mother had a HS diploma). My parents insisted that I attend college so I could have a better life. They did not have any money to send me, so I took out loans. As a kid I really wanted to learn a trade — carpentry or… Read more »

Brian
Brian
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

So, you chose to take on a debt nearly 2.5 times your future annual salary, and expect to have your personal obligation wiped clean after paying less than 20% of the principal amount, and none of the accrued interest?

I think I’ll have to disagree with your view that the forgiveness plan is fair, at least to those of us who will end up paying the rest of your bill.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Some of us think that we, as a society, benefit from the kind of work that people who have their loans forgiven are doing. It’s not about giving an individual a benefit; it’s about ensuring that bright, educated people can afford to do important work.

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

“Non-profit” can mean a lot of things, and a lot of Non-profits don’t do anything that I would say benefits society.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

I agree with this, although I do object to Anne calling her salary a “pittance,” when she earns about $10K more a year than the average American. And I say this as someone who makes about what she does, and lives in one of the most expensive cities in the country.

Jennifer
Jennifer
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

So because “some” of you think that it is a benefit to society, we should all be forced to pay?!? How about the “some” just voluntarily fund these people if it is so important to them?

And yes…this is me waving my Libertarian “Don’t Tread On Me” flag:-D

Brian
Brian
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Katie, I accept my responsibility to contribute towards the intangible, indirect benefits of society, but what is considered “important work” can be very subjective. Does Anne’s education allow her to perform at a level with $103,000** greater value than she could perform without multiple Masters degrees? Maybe, in her case, it does, but that’s unlikely to be true every time. Would that amount have a better ROI to society if spent elsewhere? I think that this makes it very easy skew the cost-to-benefit analysis of a degree program’s total cost, if that is even considered, by only looking at the… Read more »

Jim
Jim
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I’d rather give it to Ann than to give it to foreign countries in the Middle East, give it for war, corrupt governments, corrupt corporations, welfare abusers, etc.

Our money goes to so much needless waste. Why not help our own that work hard to help themselves?

Brian
Brian
8 years ago
Reply to  Jim

Jim,

You and I would probably be in agreement on many items in a long, long list of questionable government expenses, but making one poor spending choice still does not justify making a second one.

AC
AC
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Brian, I could not have said it better myself.

Take responsibility for your actions.

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Hi Brian,
What I chose to do was attend college at my parents’ insistence. At 17 years old, I had no idea what I was getting into, what I would earn, or what the amount I would have to pay off would be.
God bless you and your parents who raised you if you had your whole life planned out at 17 and you knew what you’d be earning and doing for work at that tender age.
We’re not all as lucky and blessed with foresight and good counsel.

teacher
teacher
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Amen, sister! I am taking the same route as you – loan forgiveness after 10 years. To all those who claim we’re spending their money for our bad decisions…I really hate the inflated prices I pay on consumer goods to pay your bloated salary. I know office jobs include a lot of sitting around (I’ve had them…all very well paid), so really, those expensive paper towels and bags of chips are just subsidizing “private sector” day long viewings of you-tube (is there really a private sector anymore?). You are deluded if you actually think you contribute more to society than… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

“And unthankful…trust me, we do a lot more work than a desk jockey!!” If you have to resort to denigrating and caricaturing someone to make your point, it must not have been so strong in the first place. You certainly contribute to society by being a teacher, but your self-righteous tone about how much work you do is quite a turn off. Do you spend time socializing with other teachers? Or are you working ALL day. You might not be able to watch you-tube videos sometimes, since presumably you aren’t at a computer all day. But we all find ways… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

#208: Wow! So everyone in the public sector is noble and struggling, and everyone in the private sector is overpaid? I am a “desk jockey,” and yes, I usually do have downtime in my day (or at least I can surf the Internet between taking calls and emails, like now). I have a lot of public school teachers in my life. They probably do work harder than me (for nine months of the year, at least). They ALL make more money, and I mean a lot more. And they’re guaranteed a pension, and oh yeah, they can’t be fired. There… Read more »

phoenix1929
phoenix1929
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

@ Rambling Ma’am: I personally question how much information a person has when they assert they have a lot of friends as teachers who make a WHOLE lot more than they do. Starting salary is around $24K to the low $30s, depending on the State, with very little increases until they hit about 22 years. (Most teachers don’t last this long, so they can attract people with promosing high salaries at the end, knowing most won’t get there.) Yes, they work 9.5 months a year and are unpaid for the months that they don’t work. You seem offended at the… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

# 291: “I personally question how much information a person has when they assert they have a lot of friends as teachers who make a WHOLE lot more than they do.” I make $35K a year. My mother is a public school teacher and makes over $90K. My stepfather teaches auto shop and doesn’t have a college degree; he makes over $70K. My friend is a special ed teacher who’s been in the workforce for under 10 years; she makes around $60K. My aunt is a speech pathologist in the public schools and makes over $90K. A friend’s mother was… Read more »

teacher
teacher
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

#244
Jane…project ever? I’ll keep my fingers crossed that your kids never end up in my class, cause I don’t want to waste hours listening to you yell at me about your kid’s underperformance and how I’m a martyr (that happens…it’s usually the unstable desk jockey type that likes to yell).
And yes, I am qualified to speak on work loads as I spent 10 years in very well respected private organizations before teaching. I know what happens there…sorry this bursts your dreamy bubble about the nobility of everyone that’s not a public servant.

redball
redball
8 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Ramblin’ Ma’am said: ‘I do object to Anne calling her salary a “pittance,” when she earns about $10K more a year than the average American. And I say this as someone who makes about what she does, and lives in one of the most expensive cities in the country.’ What city are you in? I live in the DC metro area and you cannot live well here on the allegedly “non-pittance” salary of $25,000 that you make! Also the median salary for Americans includes all working age groups (a problem b/c it’s obviously not fair to compare yourself to 18-year-olds!)… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  redball

Re. # 319:

I am in the Boston area, which is the fifth most expensive in the country. I don’t make $25K–I make $36K, about $10K over the median. I added the disclaimer because I anticipated that if I called $36K a decent salary, someone would chime in that I must live in the Midwest, or a rural area, etc.

If I had kids, it would definitely be a struggle–but hopefully then there would be a second income.

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  redball

Or more, once you put your kids to work!

Laura
Laura
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Just want to say that this IMHO sums up the problem: teens entering college, for the most part, simply do not have enough knowledge and life experience to make informed choices about taking on debt and navigating a mine field of choices. If a knowledgeable and concerned adult capable of guiding the student is involved, then there’s hope, but if a student is totally on their own, s/he is being asked to make big decisions without the necessary knowledge base to do so. Honey is smart, but when young, did not have the necessary knowledge base. Neither did I, but… Read more »

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

My high school did teach PF–but only to students who were not on a college track. The kids going on to jobs or trade schools learned “practical math” and “life skills” while the rest of us did calculus, trig, etc. But the former is much more useful in “real life”!

Cimabue
Cimabue
8 years ago
Reply to  Ramblin' Ma'am

Education has value in an of itself. We taught our children that the best work they could do to earn money for college was to get the best grades and be involved in the best leadership possible. That student profile actually pays better than high school “jobs”. Each of our kids received grants and aid worth far more financially than high school jobs would ever have paid them from the best schools to which they were accepted. Competitive schools do look carefully at the classes a student takes in high school. They also look carefully at the kind of leadership… Read more »

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

Agree. One of the first things I did after graduating from college was taking a $35 adult education personal finance class.

Yes I had a BA, no I had no knowledge of finances. That little $35 course has served me well. Learned how to calculate my net worth, which shortly after college was negative. Learned about investing, IRAs, 401k, mutual funds, etc. Learned how to create a little budget.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Sam

Maybe instead of phys ed classes colleges should require students to take a 2 credit pass/fail life skills class, which includes personal finance.

Pamela
Pamela
8 years ago
Reply to  Laura

“Just want to say that this IMHO sums up the problem: teens entering college, for the most part, simply do not have enough knowledge and life experience to make informed choices about taking on debt and navigating a mine field of choices. If a knowledgeable and concerned adult capable of guiding the student is involved, then there’s hope, but if a student is totally on their own, s/he is being asked to make big decisions without the necessary knowledge base to do so.”

THIS.

Kio
Kio
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Yes, Anne I have to agree with you. I feel that “A College Education” is spoken of like the golden ticket in many middle and lower earning communities. It is this passage out of your current state. If you go you will have all the doors opened to you! It is hard, because your community is speaking from their experiences of “all the doors closed to them” because they didn’t have a college degree. But, it does not follow that a college degree will open all the doors. Certain degrees open certain doors. This is impossible to know unless somebody… Read more »

Kristin Wong
8 years ago
Reply to  Kio

So true! I didn’t figure this out until I contemplated going to grad school. I went to college without even thinking about it–it was just something I was “supposed” to do. My parents didn’t have college degrees, we were poor, and like you said–they viewed a degree as a “golden ticket.” The formula was simple: the more schooling you have, the more money you make. (Not that I’m blaming them at all–I’m glad I got my Bachelor’s, and I didn’t have too much debt–about 10K). But when I started thinking about grad school, I really didn’t have a plan, except… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Kio

I get the feeling that a college education has been oversold in this country, or at least families are given the impression that the higher earnings of a college grad will be instantaneously apparent upon graduation. Sure, the average lifetime earnings of a college grad will be higher than the average lifetime earnings of someone with just a high school diploma. But, the key words are “lifetime” and “average.” Somewhere along the way the thought went from “it’d be nice if those who WANT to go to college can go to college” to “EVERYONE should go to college.” Um, not… Read more »

Lindsey
Lindsey
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

I owe about 15% of what you owe, but I pay as much as I can toward it, about $400 per month. I should also mention that I make just under what you make and live in a fairly expensive city. It’s all about priorities. If you make paying back your loans a priority over eating out or whatever else, it can be done. Loan forgiveness for non-profits is crap. Many non-profits are extremely corrupt and should not get special treatment. There are many jobs that do amazing things for society that are not part of a non-profit.

CPALady
CPALady
8 years ago
Reply to  Lindsey

I have to say I had no idea that the “public service” loan forgiveness program was so controversial or that non-profits are so widely regarded as corrupt cheats… I serve on the board of a non-profit that provides services to traditionally marginalized groups (I’m intentionally obfuscating details for privacy, it’s a very unique organization). We would not be able to acquire as many talented individuals to provide service to our lean organization if they were also having to work in the best paying job possible in order to pay off their often expensive arts degrees. The “public servant” program allows… Read more »

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  CPALady

If a non-profit is worth government funding, then money should be allocated to the non-profit specifically. Instead there is a blanket policy to subsidize all non-profits, regardless of what the non-profit actually does for society.

For example, the College Board runs the SAT, which is a good thing, but they are a non-profit that makes a lot of profit and definitely doesn’t need special treatment. Many other non-profits are really political organizations, and I don’t want my tax dollars subsidizing right or left wing whackos.

CPALady
CPALady
8 years ago
Reply to  CPALady

Not all non-profits qualify as “public service” and political organizations most likely don’t (I believe only 501(c)(3) groups qualify, not 501(c)(4) groups) and even then there might be a limit to what 501(c)(3) groups one can work for and receive the benefit.

You don’t have an invalid point, I just wanted to be sure we’re talking about the same thing.

CPALady
CPALady
8 years ago
Reply to  CPALady

Okay, I got curious and looked it up. Any person who works for a 501(c)(3) while making 120 payments (under specified repayment plans) and is not in default can receive the public service loan forgiveness. NOT ALL NON-PROFITS ARE 501(c)(3)!!! (This is a general announcement, I see that misconception a lot) 501(c)(3) organizations provide the following sorts of services (from the federal student aid website): may be a qualifying public service organization if it provides certain specified public services. These services include emergency management, military service, public safety, or law enforcement services; public health services; public education or public library… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Thanks for sharing! I am investigating IBR right now.

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Anne, I would love to know where you got your Masters to teach English as a Second Language to adults, how long it took, and also how much did the degree cost. A university in my area is asking about $44K for a 1 year intensive master’s program to teach adults at the community college level, and I can’t get hired at the community college level without this degree or something similar. I’ve been in this field for 10 years and am not making much, but could do somewhat better with a masters (more job security, retirement, health insurance, …),… Read more »

Anne Cross
Anne Cross
8 years ago
Reply to  SweetCoffee

Hi Sweet Coffee, I attended a private college for a two year Master’s program it cost about $25,000 per year and did not offer any TA or RAs. My hope was then to get hired as a full-time professor at a community college. Turns out the community colleges in Massachusetts do not have very many full-time positions, so I taught as an adjunct at several colleges for several years. This offers no job security, no benefits, a very low salary (starting pay is about $2000 per course and goes up to $3000 depending on the number of courses you’ve taught… Read more »

SweetCoffee
SweetCoffee
8 years ago
Reply to  Anne Cross

Thanks Anne! Your experience with a hodgepodge of teaching community college classes rings of a reality I’ve seen– need to research this more… Maybe I should check out human services! 🙂 I really appreciate the suggestion to find out the ratio of tenured vs. adjunct professors where I might find employment after graduation. This idea sparked a good thought: ask the “admissions counselor” at the school I’m interested in about the ratio of graduates that get tenured positions versus adjunct, and what is the average length of time doing adjunct work before becoming a full-time tenured teacher? Thank you for… Read more »

LR
LR
8 years ago

I graduated college in 1989 with a BA in English/Classics and $6 K in student loan debt at 6.5% interest. Scholarships covered the rest and would have covered the whole debt had my parents not sabotaged my efforts to use one scholarship (long story–but it’s worth noting that not all parents want the best for their kids). After that, I went on to grad school in English–tuition and living expenses covered (barely) by fellowships and TAships. I escaped with a PhD, no debt, and a pretty jaundiced view of higher education. My best takeaways were excellent research skills and profound… Read more »

Amber
Amber
8 years ago
Reply to  LR

Totally agree with “You should NEVER pay for a PhD program.” If you are wanted badly enough, they will find a TAship or RAship for you. If they can’t, that’s a sign.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  LR

I want to agree with the never go into a PhD without a guaranteed assistantship, though it’s different in different fields. The department I work for now doesn’t have those, largely because it’s pretty grant-driven.

I’d also add that you should do your darndest to live on those assistantships! I had them the entire time I was in grad school and still ended up where I am now.

Tom
Tom
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

That is exactly why I chose a great school that was not located in the San Francisco Bay Area!

CincyCat
CincyCat
8 years ago
Reply to  LR

College admissions advisors = salespeople. Period. Their best customers are 17 year olds with starry-eyed, ambitious-by-proxy parents; or, those with parents with no resources at all to help their kids go to college. Those with plenty of money saved for college are harder to sell. That said, until we start requiring “practical mathematics” courses in high school (instead of pre-calculus), there will be many more 17 year olds, just like many of us were, who have no idea how simple interest, amortization, forebearance and investments really work until we’re 5 or 10 years into the game, and realize that we’ve… Read more »

Katherine
Katherine
8 years ago

My biggest takeaway from your story is how important it is to try out a job/many jobs before heading to grad school. If you had entered “the real world” after undergrad, you may have discovered a job that made you really happy before going into debt for your graduate degrees. I agree about having a statute of limitations on regret, so I’m not trying to make you feel bad about this–but this is a super important lesson for a lot of people.

Don’t go straight from college to grad school!!

POM
POM
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

I wholeheartedly agree. I had a hiatus from classes during undergrad when I worked full-time (albeit in a crappy job geared towards college students and part-timers). That gave me extra incentive to 1) not screw up in college 2) maximize my earning potential. Honey, does your job require a MA/PhD? Could you have landed in this job that you love without also getting 100k in debt? To answer the questions, Graduated with $2,500 (paid for one summer session on loans); fully paid off BS in IT, graduated 2004 No one really discussed the student loan, but I knew that debt… Read more »

tas
tas
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

I took 4 years off between undergrad and graduate school and have to disagree. For those of us who graduated in the last decade, the flexibility to ‘do what you love’ has disappeared. I returned to graduate school because I had few career options without another degree. The problem is that, as a commenter mentioned above, there is a lot of misinformation about whether a degree helps all that much — and what precisely it prepares you for. I’m now finishing and in a similar position as I was when I started, at least career-wise. I also am a clearer… Read more »

jim
jim
8 years ago
Reply to  tas

“For those of us who graduated in the last decade, the flexibility to ‘do what you love’ has disappeared.”

The actual practical nature of following the ‘do what you love’ path hasn’t really changed at all. Its not like previous generations all got to pick jobs they love in fields they love simply from deciding to do so. Theres lots of Gen X people out there with humanities degrees who are underemployed.

Ramblin' Ma'am
Ramblin' Ma'am
8 years ago
Reply to  jim

And what’s more, isn’t the whole “do what you love” concept fairly recent? I doubt that our grandparents thought that way about their jobs.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  jim

I’ve seen both sides, in a way. I think the whole “do what you love” when applied to picking a college major has to be balanced out with practicalities. Sure, major in English if you want, but perhaps take some econ and accounting classes as electives? And work work work during the summers, whether it’s flipping burgers or an internship. It’s always good to show a prospective employer that you are WILLING to work and that you have worked! The flip side of doing what you want is majoring in business/pre-med/pre-law or whatever your parents made you do. If it’s… Read more »

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

I completely want to second this. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I graduated with a BS in genetics, but research sounded fun, and grad school was a great way to “get prepared for research” without a lot of thought about what I wanted to do. (Read that as scared of life changes, and I took the easy way out.) During grad school I got paid, but far less than research assistants I worked with who only had bachelors degrees. Same with being a post doc. And, for the joys of working longer hours at less pay,… Read more »

Jon
Jon
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

I agree wholeheartedly! I actually went for my A.S. so that I could get into the work force as fast as possible. Since then I have completed my B.S. doing night classes and I am soon going to be working on my Master’s degree (sans debt!). This was probably the best decision that I ever made. In my opinion there are three possible reasons people go straight to grad school. First, they had school paid for and don’t realize how important real-world experience is. Why not just get all of their schooling done with now and be able to focus… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Jon

I have to disagree. While, especially in this economy, a lot of folks are putting off joining the workforce, it can also be a good decision depending on your field. With a Masters degree, my starting salary was roughly $35K more than if I had gotten hired with just a BS (90K compared to 55K). Although I had an extra 45K in loans for those two years of grad school, I worked all through and was able to pay them off in 2-3 years. I’d definitely agree that for some degrees (e.g., an MBA) you want the work experience to… Read more »

Jon
Jon
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

My post is meant to focus on people who treat grad school and undergrad school like a utopia where jobs are unnecessary and bills don’t exist. It also considers the risk of debt, because you aren’t guaranteed an increase in income because of your higher education (Although that is generally how it works). I completely agree with continuing along with education at a quick pace, but I suggest to get a real job while you do it. In my situation I weighed the risk of debt, and I am waiting until my B.S. is completely paid off, I have a… Read more »

Choo
Choo
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

I TOTALLY agree with this!!

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

This would be my #1 advice for people, were I qualified to give advice 😉

Sam
Sam
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

I generally agree with this. In my experience, the students at my professional school that had taken a break between college and graduate school did much better than the students who were coming straight from college and treated it as more college.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago

Reading this article scared me. I think this path is completely representative of an American living above their means.

I understand it was disclaimered at the top why these decisions may have been made, but it doesn’t excuse it. The lack of foresight by such an intelligent person is scary.

imelda
imelda
8 years ago
Reply to  Dan

“The lack of foresight by such an intelligent person is scary.”

Or maybe… it’s just human?

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

Totally human. These decisions were made by a very young person. It doesn’t matter how smart you are; when you’re young and inexperienced, you’re going to do some really dumb things.

And sometimes even when you’re old. We’re still human.

cajh
cajh
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

THIS. If I had known 10 years ago what I know now, I think I would be in a much different financial position. Alas, I was an intelligent 18 year old who made incredibly stupid financial decisions and spent way beyond my means during college. Trust me, I’m paying for those decisions now.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Ely

I’m a pretty smart person. At least my mom says so 😉

Yet I CRINGE when I think of some of the stupid things I did when I was 18-22. And, no, I am not going to tell you what they are. I’m not as brave as Honey.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago
Reply to  imelda

It is most certainly human nature, but what is scary to me is that she incurred the debt, AFTER COLLEGE. She wasn’t 18 anymore. She was 22.

She went through 4 years of undergrad and couldn’t get a grasp that this grad school may not pay off? That’s the scary part. College didn’t do it’s job, didn’t prepare her well, IMO.

Obviously I am happy for her, she has found a passion. Just such a roundabout and not thought out way of getting there.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Dan

Well, I also did some stupid stuff between 22 and 29…. :/ Besides, didn’t they just come out with a study that the human brain is fully debeloped until 25? Anyway, just as you can’t expect an 18 year-old to be as wise as a 22 year-old, you can’t expect a 25 year-old to be as wise as a 35 year-old. Also, it seems as though Honey was starting out at a lower level in terms of financial knowledge than some of us here. I know she was definitely starting out with much less info than I did, and that… Read more »

AMW
AMW
8 years ago
Reply to  Dan

How about “you don’t know what you don’t know”? When you are 17-18 years old you are relying a lot on the people around you to help you make life decisions. Regardless how intellegent you are, if the people around you keep feed you the line that it will get you to where you want to go, or not to worry about it because you can pay it back later when you get that monumentous paying job the day after you graduate, what do you think they are going to do? How many people look at student loans as a… Read more »

cajh
cajh
8 years ago
Reply to  AMW

Those were exactly the comments I heard from people around me. I figured that since I was spending dramatically less than the people around me (students whose parents paid for their college education and some living expenses) that what I was spending was “fine” and “reasonable.” Unfortunately, my parents could not help me financially and I was not in the same boat as my friends. I wish now that I had surrounded myself with more financially responsible people because I think I would have received different messages and I like to think I wouldn’t have made such dumb decisions if… Read more »

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Dan

I think it’s a really rare 18 year old who is on top of all the trade-offs required by, and long-term consequences of, various life decisions that come rushing at them during their late teens and early twenties. If you have responsible older siblings and/or parents who carefully coach you through it, that can definitely help. I desperately tried to do this with my younger sisters as I learned, and one of them STILL blew me off, because that is how kids ARE. I entered college as the eldest daughter of divorced parents and basically no information about ANYTHING. I… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago

I took on six figures of debt for law school, and don’t regret it for a minute. I make a lot more than I would have made without the law degree. With the loan payments, I’m probably similarly situated financially to where I would have been without law school, but I also have a job I love that I look forward to going to (almost) every day. That said, I’m well aware I got very lucky. I graduated from a top law school in 2008 (i.e., just before the market for legal services cratered). And while my friends from law… Read more »

Meaghan
Meaghan
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Well, and you got a job in the field your degree was in – Honey’s an administrative assistant with a PhD, if I’m not mistaken.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Meaghan

Yeah, I was talking about me, not Honey.

Katherine
Katherine
8 years ago

“I didn’t want to live 200 miles from the nearest urban center. Not only that, I couldn’t even if I wanted to: Jake and I had been dating for over a year. Our relationship was getting serious enough that he needed to be a factor in my plans.”

Also, you say you “couldn’t” live where you received a job offer. Take a little accountability–you didn’t WANT to live there because of your relationship. No judgement here, I just think people need own their decisions and not think of them as situations they were forced into.

Jennifer
Jennifer
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

Could NOT agree more with your statement…I had never even heard of the term “geographically restricted” before reading this article. IMO…that term is nothing more than the politically correct way to say that an individual is unwilling to make hard decisions in a world that is not always fair. My husband and I live in two different countries….so the whole 200 mile argument made me chuckle a bit. He is active duty military and I am a nurse…he is stationed somewhere right now that I can’t get a job. Taking anytime off in nursing is career suicide…so here we are.… Read more »

Amber
Amber
8 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

“Geographically restricted” is a term used when applying for academic jobs. I am looking for jobs right now and advisors/professors always ask if I have any “geographic restrictions” when applying.

I do think one thing worth noting is that with academic jobs, it is difficult to move out/up once you have a position. So, most times, if you get a job, that is the job that you will have the rest of your life. This to me, is why I have geographic restrictions as well–I don’t want to spend the rest of my life living in Oklahoma.

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

My boyfriend, who’s working on his PhD, says this is the “two body problem” in academia. It’s hard enough getting a tenure track job when you have wide open flexibility with location, but once you have a spouse, it gets much, much harder. And, the demands placed on professors by the institutions is insane. I read a qualitative study done by a physics professor who’s married to another professor (bio?) about this issue. Some of the professor he spoke with reported having been told that they should divorce their spouse to get a job!!!!! And they were told this by… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

@Jen, the two-body problem is what it’s called, though typically that means both people are on the tenure track (which makes things much harder than if one spouse isn’t dependent on the U for money).

If you do decide to get a PhD and go tenure track, the piece of advice given most often (especially if your partner is also wanting to go TT) is NEVER WEAR A WEDDING RING TO AN INTERVIEW. Surprise them with your need for a spousal hire once you have the offer letter in hand.

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

I feel you on that! We were happy (at the time) to be offered my husband’s position, but we had every expectation that it would be a stepping stone (because there was a lot of fluidity in the job market during the 90s). So the fact that it was in the one city that we had always literally joked about NEVER moving to, didn’t seem like a big deal. We’d be moving in a few years anyway. It’s 12 years later and we’re still here, in a place we despise, with a life that makes it increasingly hard to move… Read more »

KAD
KAD
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

Yep. Honey and Jen are right on the money here. And academic departments often lose wonderful people they have hired (or have offered a job) because of a spouse’s job. It’s more often the case that the spouse or partner is an academic — but not always. Some administrators are more flexible and understanding in this situation; others are not. One of the directors of my graduate program was legendary for having once said, “Husbands come and go, but tenure is forever.” This problem is a remnant of an outdated academic hiring and tenure system that assumed the professor had… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Amber

@Honey – That’s right, the two-body problem usually means both spouses are academics, and the study I referenced was about those types of couples. It’s just very, very sad. And ridiculous. I’m not in academia, and I can work remotely, so if my bf and I got married it won’t be aas much of a problem. However, there are still some places I wouldn’t want to move to……

snerk1
snerk1
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

“My hottest lead turned out to be in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and I had a few realizations. I didn’t want to live 200 miles from the nearest urban center”. This bothers me. I guess Honey doesn’t consider Pittsburgh an urban center because it is only 80 miles away. Even Cleveland is only 135 miles away:) I know that I am being obnoxious pointing this out but I think that it taps into what sets off the storm of comments each time Honey posts. I don’t think it is really her debt issues that set people off but that she seems to… Read more »

Addie
Addie
8 years ago
Reply to  Katherine

A lot of people are willing to move thousands of miles away from someone they’ve been dating for less than 2 years. I’m planning on spending the next 2 years at a school 6 hours away from my boyfriend of nearly 2 years just because it’s the cheapest and fastest way for me to finish my nursing degree. It’s always a personal choice, and one should weigh the pros and cons.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Addie

My nephew (now 21) has been going out with his girlfriend since high school. He didn’t get in her school. He spent 2 years at community college getting his grades up and fulfilling credits. when he was applying for colleges for transfer he got into her school, as well as a school with a well recognized program in his major. At that point he realized it was more important to go to the university with the strong program, so they will be separated for Another 2 years.

jen_alluisi
jen_alluisi
8 years ago

I finished my BA in English in May 1999 and my MA in education in August 2000 (I started my MA program the summer after my BA and just went 4 straight semesters – summer, fall, spring, summer – to finish just over a year after I started). I got both degrees at the same state university. I was lucky enough to have a grandmother who believed education was the most important thing a woman could do for herself and paid 90% of my undergraduate books & tuition (my parents and small scholarships mostly covered room & board). I graduated… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago

I went to college in 1992, and dropped out after my first semester due to drugs. My own drug use was not the problem, the problem was that I went straight from a dry conservative Bible-belt town to a dormitory at a serious party school. I had no clue how to cope with roommates who spent 90% of their time binge drinking and freebasing, and was too ignorant at that point to realize that all college situations were not like mine. My dad and granddad had both been in the military and had survived relatively intact, so after I dropped… Read more »

Eileen
Eileen
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Thanks for sharing Katie. Your experience would make an interesting Reader Story I think!

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Sounds like some amazing experiences 🙂 It would make an interesting reader story. One note about job prospects: even good ones don’t always stay that way. I graduated in field where there was supposed to be a 90% placement rate, practically guaranteed job security, an amazing pension, etc, etc. Is anyone laughing at me yet? 😉 Low and behold, the predicted wave of baby boomer retirements never happened. In my year, there was an 80% employment rate — and that included people who were barely employed. (i.e. working one or two days a week.) Now the employment rate for new… Read more »

sjw
sjw
8 years ago
Reply to  Elizabeth

A friend keeps on going back to school, trying to find that magical piece of paper. Did undergrad sciences, and decided that there were no jobs that would use that without additional years (she didn’t have the grades). She did an HR course. She talked about (but I don’t think she completed) a securities course. She went to teachers college (the most expensive one in the area for g*d knows what reason). She is now 35 and still working at the restaurant/bar she’s been working at since she graduated university. And she is still hoping to find that perfect piece… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

I guess I was the only one who didn’t like the tenor of this comment. I find what your mother said to be quite rude and cynical. “Any college major that ends in the word ‘Studies’ is a one way ticket to a lifelong career at McDonald’s.” This sounds like a scare tactic. I’m glad that my parents instead told me to major in what I’m passionate about. For the record, I’m not working at McDonalds (not that there’s anything wrong with that ;)). Most individuals who work there probably don’t have a college degree. Plus I find the use… Read more »

jim
jim
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Jane, That’s an interesting perspective you’ve got. I got an undergrad degree that ended in “studies” and I happen to think that the mom’s advice was spot on. I didn’t always think that way, but I do now. Unfortunately for my son, I was still of the mindset when he went to college that he should study whatever he was passionate about – which he did. He has 3 majors, 2 minors, studied and traveled abroad and got his pilot’s license while in undergrad. Now he’s applying for any job he can get – including deliverying pizzas and the like.… Read more »

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I didn’t mean to be demeaning or insulting. My apologies. 🙂 “And I would ask — where’s the line between navel gazing and honest self-reflection? How can strangers on the internet know the difference?” For me personally, that line is where taxpayer money gets involved. I’m all for self-reflection as long as it’s being self-funded. When people start asking for public assistance, however – grants, need-based scholarships, loan forgiveness, whatever – I think there needs to be a different level of justification involved. Or put another way: every man and woman would probably benefit from education in some way. Why… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

Katie – Sorry – I was pontificating about the use of navel gazing in general. My comment about it being demeaning was more general than specific to what you said. I think overall we agree with each other. I for one am appalled by the number of those commenting who have upwards of $100,000 in debt and are biding their time to get it forgiven. It seems to me there are an awful lot of people who made poor decisions and are now (not surprisingly) drawn to the non-profit sector. Didn’t one person even purposefully switch to non-profit work just… Read more »

Jenne
Jenne
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

I don’t think you can always generalize about the name (or even the nature) of the program.
For instance, “Business Studies”? “Accountancy and Tax Studies”?

Graduates of Columbia University’s liberal arts program are getting offered juicy finance jobs (not because they can do the job straight out of the gate, but because of the prestige of the name).

KAB
KAB
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

While your experience in the peacetime military of the 1990s may have been great, we are now at war. About 50% of vets apply for disability. A lesser percentage are approved for disability, but that says more about how the military and VA treat vets rather than their physical or mental condition.

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  KAB

“About 50% of vets apply for disability.”

Where in the world did THAT statistic come from?!

Katie
Katie
8 years ago
Reply to  Katie

In 2010, there were 21.8 million veterans living in the United States. (Source: US Census Bureau) That article says that 45% of the 1.6 million veterans who were stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan are filing for disability payments. It even says that the economy is a likely factor for applications being that high. Don’t get me wrong… that’s unconscionably high. I have a stepson in Afghanistan now, so this isn’t an academic discussion (no pun intended) for me at all. But “about 50% of vets,” as that article does suggest, do NOT file for disability. It’s about 50% of recent… Read more »

Paris
Paris
8 years ago
Reply to  KAB

While Katie’s clarification of the statistics is a useful correction of the data presented, KAB’s point that enlisting in the military for the purposes of self-discovery (which seems to be the point of Katie’s story – it gave her somewhere to grow up and learn discipline) has become a dubious idea after 2001 is very very true. While many commenters here are livid at the very idea that they might have to subsidize someone else’s education (through the forgiveness of loans to certain occupations), I think it is morally problematic that the major path to debt free education offered in… Read more »

Kingston
Kingston
8 years ago
Reply to  Paris

Or to have health insurance.

TB at BlueCollarWorkman
TB at BlueCollarWorkman
8 years ago

I dropped out of school in high school. Eventually I got my GED. So I never dealt with student debt. But I did struggle with not being able to find a job because I wasn’t educated enough. Big problem. I think student debt can be okay IF you know what you’re in school for and have a job in mind that you’re getting educated for. But going to college just because sounds like a bad plan. But not going to school because you might get debt is also a bad idea.

Jane
Jane
8 years ago

I graduated with a B.A. in German with about $20,000 in debt. This included study abroad in Germany, which still ranks as probably the best thing I’ve ever done. Then I received an M.St. from a British university. I had almost free tuition and housing, so I managed to pay all my expenses for the year from a summer job. Ten years later (!!!) I graduated with an M.A. and Ph.D. in history with no student loan debt at all. At one point I studied for a summer in NYC and had to carry two apartments. This put me in… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Totally agree with the don’t go into debt for grad school (unless there is a really, really good reason!) There’s an unwritten rule in Canada that you don’t go to grad school unless you’ve got some kind of funding (scholarships or research grants – both of which are dependent on your research area) or you’re independently wealthy 😉 I didn’t know about this unwritten rule until I was in an MA program, unfortunately! When it comes to PhDs, the thinking is that if no one is going to pay you to train in a certain field, then chances are no… Read more »

Jen337
Jen337
8 years ago

Your total student loan debt: 14k? 18k? I don’t even remember…. What degree(s) you have: B.S in Computer Science When you went to school: Georgia Tech Whether anyone talked to you about student debt or the job prospects in your field: Nope. Not only that, I had no hand in even applying for my student loan. After I lost my scholarships (due to personal reasons) my dad took out the loans in my name. I had no idea how much they were, or even how to check up on that information. Nobody talked about job prospects either, the assumption was… Read more »

thethriftyspendthrift
thethriftyspendthrift
8 years ago

(1) My total student loan debt was somewhere around $5500. That loan was the result of going away to school for one year. Otherwise, I lived at home and seemed to make money from school. I was in a system that has mostly commuter students, cheap tuition and my family is poor so I always had financial aid. (Oh yeah, and I spent six years as a full-time undergraduate. Whoops.) The debt has no real impact, since I pay only about $50/month and have around $2500 in debt remaining. (2) I have a BS in a science-related field and my… Read more »

Tom
Tom
8 years ago

-Your total student loan debt I graduated with a bachelors degree in 2007 with about $28K. It would have been more if I hadn’t been a resident assistant for 3 years, plus taken winter session classes to graduate in 4 years I’m sure I signed the promissary note and all the mandatory “exit counseling” (offered online, which is a mistake for 20-somethings, who know how to click next-next-next-finish-submit without reading anything), but felt really unprepared when I got my first student loan bill. I didn’t realize what the monthly payment was going to be, and anyway, no one ever taught… Read more »

Jen from Boston
Jen from Boston
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

They do the loan exit interview online now?!?!? UGH! That was the one and only time I ever got any bit of decent financial information from my college!! And people were able to ask questions. So, the one good piece of advice we got in our exit interview (they did it as a group session), was that while we could pre-pay without penatly, we should prioritize paying our credit cards first. The interest on our lonas was only 5%, and interest on the credit cards would be much, much higher. The financial aid lady told us to just make the… Read more »

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  Tom

I agree that it would be very helpful for students with loans to understand the impact of interest and how long it will take to pay it back. The information on your credit card statement is new– and a result of the Credit Consumer Protection Act. I mention this because politics is often a dirty word in the comments section, but policy determines what kind of information creditors are required to give us and how we receive it. Something like this for student loans would be terrific.

Theresa
Theresa
8 years ago

Thanks for sharing! Our paths almost seemed to cross somewhere. 🙂 I have debt just under 10k right now. I actually graduated with a BA in English debt-free, thanks to my mom’s help. I landed a work-at-home job as a tech writer shortly after my daughter was born, and after a couple of years I decided I wanted to go for an MFA in creative writing. I got into a low-residency program, but the cost was really bothering me, but the head of the program called me and convinced me that taking out loans wouldn’t be a problem. He was… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Theresa

I work with graduate students now, and if they come to me and say they are unhappy and want to leave the program, I am supportive of their decision. Which I think is important, because their advisors are often very upset about it. But yes, why keep taking out debt for something you know won’t make you happy?

JB
JB
8 years ago

I had approximately $24K of federal student loans when I graduated in 2007 with a bachelors degree in mechanical engineering. I went to a state school near where I lived to keep tuition as low as possible. I did live on campus the first 3 of 5 years and off campus for the last 2. My parents agreed to pay what they could, which was rent and most of the tuition. I was responsible for covering the rest. I had a job in athletics that paid well but it was a lot of hours. I quickly found I had to… Read more »

Matt
Matt
8 years ago

Graduated this past January with a Bachelor’s in Molecular Biology & Microbiology, $31K in mostly subsidized loans. Got a job immediately in a chemistry-related field. Not making a ton of money but I was more than prepared when I made my first student loan payment this past month. My monthly payment is about 30% more than the minimum. I am on track to be debt-free in 7 years, assuming no increases in income. I work 45 hours a week and lead a thoroughly enjoyable life (not sure if that was a question but I thought I’d mention it). My advice?… Read more »

Jenifer
Jenifer
8 years ago
Reply to  Matt

STEM?

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago
Reply to  Jenifer

Science, tech, engineering, math.

You know, the current big field. Which means it’s the next field to become oversaturated with graduates who can’t find a job in their field.

Dan
Dan
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Current? This field has always paid. Engineering has been hot since I was a freshman (in 1998) and hasn’t changed.

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Amanda

Engineering was hot when my dad finished his PhD in nuclear physics in the mid-70’s and it will remain hot as long as Americans take the attitude that it isn’t cool to be super-smart. My brother is a chemical engineer and most of his classmates and co-workers have been Indian or Chinese; he is one of the few ‘white guys’ in the industry.
American companies would rather hire Americans, but there is a dearth of them at the highest levels of STEM. The field is unlikely to be oversaturated anytime soon.

kuz
kuz
8 years ago

I ended up taking out around 10k in student loans because my parents encouraged me to use that to ‘help build my credit’. I didn’t even need the money so I invested it but looking back it seems like strange advice. BS, MS in Ag Business/ Econ. (current Econ PHD) Job prospects were about as good as the individual made it. The most employable people found work easily while other still don’t have great jobs. (even when graduating in 2009) The big ‘secret’ to graduate school is in the US (in employable majors) is that should be free/you get paid… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  kuz

Most of the really cutting-edge research comes out of state schools, which typically have better graduate programs. I think Ivy League is really only worth it for undergrad (and at the undergrad level they have a lot more leeway to help you with aid that ISN’T loans, assuming you are awesome).

Jon
Jon
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I’m surprised to hear you say that. My goal has been to get undergraduate degrees “wherever, however, as fast and as cheap as possible” and then get an Ivy league graduate degree or two.

Do you think that Ivy league graduate programs are not as involved as other state schools, or are you referring to the cost-to-education ratio?

If money was not an object, would you still choose a non-Ivy league graduate program over an Ivy league graduate program?

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Jon

Absolutely I’d go state again for the PhD. Most Ivy leagues are so enveloped in their own tradition they don’t even offer grad degrees in the fields that are considered cutting edge now. The program I graduated from was top 5 for rhet/comp, the only Ivy in the top 10 is the U of Pennsylvania (which I did apply to). It does depend on the area you are studying, of course – Joe Mihalic (read his blog if you haven’t, it’s amazing) took out a crap-ton of debt for his Harvard MBA and he was very strategic about it. Or… Read more »

Dan
Dan
8 years ago
Reply to  Jon

I think you misunderstood the advice. Go whenever/wherever because for undergrad, because it doesn’t matter. Go where it matters for grad school. But “where it matters” is not necessarily equivalent to “ivy league.” Where is strictly degree dependent.

Jenne
Jenne
8 years ago
Reply to  kuz

Actually, in my field (library science), where the required/terminal degree is the master’s, and it’s a professional rather than research degree, most people will have to pay for their degree rather than being paid to get it.

In that case, you’re better off going to the school that gives you the best scholarship deal– which may well be a private one, since public school funding is being cut all over the place– and going to a state school for the final degree, since that’s where the cost is going to really sock it to you.

Emily
Emily
8 years ago

I’m glad to hear that at least Honey is happy where she’s ended up (life-wise, not debt-wise), but I still have no idea how she got there. Coming out of undergraduate there was no debt, then a couple of graduate degrees later there was $100,000+? Where exactly did that money go? Tuition? Supplementing income? I got the impression there was a teaching fellowship for the PhD (hence the $14,000 a year), which usually pays tuition, so how much was being borrowed just to supplement the lifestyle? It worries me that this information isn’t in here because right now it sounds… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Emily

Ditto. When I first read this I thought she didn’t have any fellowship at all. But based on her comments, it appears as if she did. I think she is obfuscating a bit here – perhaps out of fear that the backlash will be even more fierce once people learn the whole story?

So really this is a lesson in not living above your means, rather than a lesson in not going into debt for your education.

partgypsy
partgypsy
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

That’s what I’m wondering. In my graduate program with at the time 12-13K in assistantships a year it was possible to graduate without debt. But the students buying starbucks 5x a week or financing a car, that’s a different story. Somehow the reality of how they were financing their lifestyle didn’t hit until they graduated.

SavvyFinancialLatina
SavvyFinancialLatina
8 years ago

Like some of the readers, I come from a poor family. Unlike some of my classmates, my parents couldn’t afford to send me to school. They could help, and they did. Academics and extra curricular activities were my only way to get a scholarship. Hence, I worked my ass off, got a 4 year full ride scholarship to a great university. At school, I somehow found professors and mentors that talked about job prospects after school. Actually, we had a lot of professors who suggested majoring in MIS or engineering to get a job. Graduated B.S. Global Business – 2011… Read more »

Jon
Jon
8 years ago

When I was young, we could have been considered poor. As I entered High School, I eventually had to start paying for lunch. Now, I’m not sure how much money that means we had, but I assume we were no longer “in poverty.” I would say that at this point my family was probably between mid and mid-upper class. My parents helped me by paying about $10,000 total for my college. I went to a technical school and got 2 associate degrees. From there I got a good job, got married, bought a house, and went back for my B.S.… Read more »

graduateliving
graduateliving
8 years ago

Thanks for sharing your story. I’m really looking forward to following your journey! Student Loan Debt: ~$18,000 *began at ~$32,500 Degrees: Working toward my PhD in a field in humanities When you went to school: Finishing my final year of coursework now Did anyone talk to me about student debt/job prospects: Yes on both fronts. I was lucky that I started reading PF blogs during my first year of graduate school (I also graduated undergraduate debt-free), so I was aware of the debt I had; as far as job prospects, our program is really good about being up front and… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  graduateliving

Sounds like your eyes are open!

Suzanne
Suzanne
8 years ago

Thank you for the story. I also made it through undergrad with no loans. And I lived frugally. But, like the writer, I got into trouble when I got to graduate school . I went to business school, which had a culture that I had never seen before – “we’ll all gradute making so much more money, let’s spend now”! That works for a lot of b-school students, but not all. *Plus*, I had a half-tuition scholarship. Woohoo! I could spend even more! When I graduated, I did get a job making more than double my previous salary. And I… Read more »

J.Mill
J.Mill
8 years ago

Yours and my story parallel right up until you go to grad school: grew up poor, did well in school, got scholarships for undergrad and graduated with a degree in Creative Writing and Psychology with no debt! I’m glad you’re happy now and hope you can chip away at your debt in chunks!

Terri
Terri
8 years ago

“I leave work at 5 p.m. every day and don’t need to think about it until the next morning. I don’t check email during my off hours. I don’t work in the evenings. I have pets, I am a hobby chef, I read novels. I think I would have enjoyed the tenure track, but I don’t need it to be happy.”

Sounds like you have a lot of time for a second job.

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Terri

I have numerous side-hustles, yes!

Terri
Terri
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

I love seeing your posts because there are always more comments than I have ever seen on GRS!

Looking forward to more updates from you!

Been there done that
Been there done that
8 years ago
Reply to  Terri

Gee there are some nasty comments for Honey. The way I see it, she is up against her (perhaps first) signifant life challenge as a grown woman – a marriage with challenges (and let’s be honest she’s not alone on that front), substantial debt and a reality gap between where she thought she’d be and where she is. Just possibly this will be the making of her. I think her challenges will substantially be on lifestyle adjustments (i.e. slashing expenses) rather than chasing extra income. Cooking at home from scratch can be a cheap hobby and should be encouraged. Honey,… Read more »

Mrs PoP at Planting Our Pennies
Mrs PoP at Planting Our Pennies
8 years ago

Coming from the STEM side of academia, I never understood the financing behind higher degrees in many of the humanities. In STEM, it was pretty much the case that if your phD wasn’t fully funded (through research or teaching), you either (1) had no business being in the program and were likely to flunk out or (2) were studying something that was so obscure that it wouldn’t be useful after graduation. Either way, if the money was coming out of your pocket to be in grad school, you were probably making a bad financial decision.

Emily
Emily
8 years ago

I think this is the case for most non-STEM subjects as well. Honey does actually say in the comments that she had funding–the student loans seem to be paying for lifestyle stuff?

Choo
Choo
8 years ago

So let me get this straight? You basically ruined your job prospectives because of a guy that, at the time, you had only been dating a year? And you had to make the sacrifices not him? You didn’t even consider moving to PA and having him get a job in the closest big city so you could see each other on weekends? That’s so irresponsible. Also, I hate it when people use this line and blame the banks for not giving them information on the debt they signed paperwork for: “I also don’t recall a single time when I saw… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Choo

I was irresponsible at the time I was taking out loans, yes.

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

Your total student loan debt: Took out one $10,000 loan for living expenses during grad school. Had 20 years to pay it off. Paid it off in 4 years and 2 months. Parents paid for books a few times and that’s it. I was responsible for my education and got scholarships, did work study, and saved money. My AA was fully paid for by the state since I was still in HS when I earned it. What degree(s) you have: AA (’99), BA in philosophy (’02), MEd in early childhood ed (’04). When you went to school: A highly-ranked community… Read more »

Amanda
Amanda
8 years ago

I had a full-ride (tuition, room, and board) to Northeastern University in Boston and studied Electrical Engineering. I was on internship half of the semesters (the school had a phenomenal coop program) and made enough money to pay living expenses and I also had some money from my parents that I could use as I saw fit since I didn’t need money for tuition. So, I obviously didn’t need loans. I got married young – after my 3rd year of college, but my husband was blessed that his grandparents paid for his college tuition. On the other hand, we worked… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

I made it through undergrad without any student loan debt, but racked up $33,000 in grad school. My grad school tuition was covered by a research position for 3 semesters, so I used the loans largely for living expenses. I thought having student loan debt was “normal” so I didn’t worry about it. My biggest financial regret is having the student loan debt (much of which was unnecessary). But, I worked really hard to get rid of that debt as quickly as possible. I have paid all of it off. I think that Honey is in a bit of denial… Read more »

CPALady
CPALady
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

I like to think that people are allowed to work in a job they love at the cost of quickly paying off debt if that’s the path they choose. You need to *choose* it (that is: make a conscious decision that you are going to take a longer repayment period, more interest, maybe a later retirement, in order to increase your quality of life). But it’s as valid a choice as deciding that what’s most important is depleting your debt load as quickly as possible. It is possible that Honey is not facing up to the full facts about how… Read more »

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago
Reply to  CPALady

I agree that there is nothing wrong with making a choice to work in a job that you love compared to paying off debt more quickly. I am not sure whether or not Honey has really looked at those choices. I think part of the problem is that we tell ourselves that debt is “normal”, it is “ok”…as long as we can make the payments we can “afford it”. But that really isn’t true.We can’t afford it, and it affects us in more ways that we are aware of. I applaud Honey for telling her story. I would be curious… Read more »

Cgirl
Cgirl
8 years ago

I graduated college in 2004 with a BS in German. I had about $26,000 in debt; which included 2 semesters abroad. I knew when I graduated that I wouldn’t find a job using my degree. I knew I wouldn’t be teaching; I can’t stand teenagers and never bothered to get a teaching certificate. And German isn’t a language that needs a lot of translators. However, my father often said “it doesn’t matter what the degree is in, most employers want to see that you can stick with something for 4 years.” I’m starting to think that my father was wrong,… Read more »

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
8 years ago

I don’t mean to be a English language tyrant, but the term “begs the question” does not mean “raises the question.” It refers to an argument in which the conclusion is based on the premise that the conclusion must be true, or just simply based on a false premise. Example: Steve is trustworthy, because he told me he is.

William
William
8 years ago

@Matt at Healthy N’ Wealthy : Sorry to be a philosophical tyrant, but “begs the question” does not include “simply based on a false premise”

For instance, the follow argument is valid, but not sound and does not beg the question:

P1: All philosophers are immortal.
P2: Socrates is a philosopher.
C: Socrates is immortal.

This is clearly wrong (premise 1 is false), but it does not beg the question in a technical sense.

Compare to this valid and sound argument:
P1: All men are mortal.
P2: Socrates is a man.
C: Socrates is mortal.

… Sorry, couldn’t resist.

Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
Matt at Healthy N' Wealthy
8 years ago
Reply to  William

Thanks for the clarification! I almost didn’t put that in there because I wasn’t sure. Should have gone with my gut!

Alan | Life\'s Too Good
Alan | Life\'s Too Good
8 years ago

I think it’s crazy how much students can get themselves into debt these days. When I went to University student loans were just starting really – I had relatively little student debt but it was still a burden and that despite working whilst at university. These problems can and should encourage us to look at the alternatives – there comes a point when it’s a price not worth paying and with advances in technology you can often find the same education at least in terms of content online for minimal cost to free – the problem is then one of… Read more »

Pattie, RN
Pattie, RN
8 years ago

Something went nutso when student loans started to cover “living expenses” instead of just tuition,fees, and books.

That was bad enough, but the “living costs” changed from being enough to live in a double dorm room and eat on campus, to covering apartments, groceries, gas, and the cars needed to commute from off campus. And the life of debt begins….

Lisa
Lisa
8 years ago

I graduated with a BA in Women’s Studies in 2007 with $22000 in loans. Over the next three years, I had that paid down to about $7000. For 2 of those years, I worked in a group home that paid me a stipend of about $750 a month plus housing, food, and medical coverage (and after 3 months, I received student loan repayment assistance from them which meant an extra $150/month to put towards loans). On paper, I was making next to nothing, but because I really had no bills beyond student loans (which were actually in an interest deferment… Read more »

Patti
Patti
8 years ago
Reply to  Lisa

Yay Women’s Studies! That is all.

Kate
Kate
8 years ago

Undergrad: I lived at home for most of it. I spent 3 years at community college and 2 at the local University. I worked up to 5 jobs at a time and had been saving since I was 8 years old (did you know you could start working that young if it is in a family business – a great way to get an allowance) With a major in Biology I knew that I could only be somebody else’s flunky unless I went on to grad school Dental School: In 2004 I went to one of the top dental schools… Read more »

Honey Smith
Honey Smith
8 years ago
Reply to  Kate

Kate, you should submit a reader story about buying your practice! I don’t know anything about the dental industry and am sure it is fascinating. Do other medical professionals have to buy a practice, too?

Audrey
Audrey
8 years ago
Reply to  Honey Smith

You’d be amazed at the amount of money that doctors and dentists need for their practices and a lot of them try an maintain a certain high level life style too. It’s amazing that they have specific home loan programs for residents and “new” doctors. I work in the med center, so my loan officer told me to tell any doctors I know (the loan cap for houses was 1.5 million). Plus they easily get loans for buying into current practices, buying buildings and equipment if they start a new practice, and cars. I’m not surprised how much doctors and… Read more »

Kristen
Kristen
8 years ago

I don’t have time this morning to read through all the comments, but wanted to say that while I’ve been pretty hard on Honey in her previous posts, I have a lot of empathy for her after reading this one (and I got through college with no debt- thanks to my grandmother and going to community and state college- so it’s not b/c I’m in the same situation.) We need a better system as a community to help guide our young people in making decisions like this that will impact the rest of their lives. Ultimately, not helping the young… Read more »

Mandy
Mandy
8 years ago
Reply to  Kristen

Student loans are not the only debt problem. Many kids find themselves in a lot of credit card debt after college. Just adds to the problem.

Steph M
Steph M
8 years ago

I was fortunate enough to receive a full scholarship for my undergrad. I graduated with a BS in Finance in 2009. I am now working and pursuing my MBA part time. Since I never had to pay for school before, writing the check for my fall semester hurt! While I should be able to pay for my MBA without taking on any debt, I decided to submit the FAFSA for the first time this year. Seeing the amount they offered it’s no wonder people get into so much debt. My total tuition for the semester was around $4k and they… Read more »

akajb
akajb
8 years ago

I’m lucky, in that I grew up in a middle class family. My parents highly valued education, and I knew from a young age that my choice was university or some type of education after high school and they would help out, or move out and get a job. My first degree is a BSc in Computer Science that I completed in 4 years. I finished debt free between scholarships, some help from my parents, working part time, and 2 co-op semesters. I took a year off to make money and save with a job I got from my co-op… Read more »

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
8 years ago
Reply to  akajb

I suspect you went to the same university as some of my friends 😉 Funding in CS is quite plentiful compared to other faculties, but tuition costs are much higher too! I would recommend that anyone considering doing graduate work learn how the funding game is played. If you can get external funding, schools will usually offer you internal scholarships as well. Little know fact: Schools want applicants to bring cash of their own to the table. Granting agencies pay it to schools in a lump sum per year, and schools get to hold on to it — earning interest… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
8 years ago

BA in English, MFA in Writing. Work as a college administrator; taught freshman comp. I am basically Honey but decided not to go for the PhD. Total student loan debt: 24K Total free tuition used as a university employee: $72K Whether anyone talked to you about student debt or the job prospects in your field and it was accurate: I considered that my responsibility to research, and had to make the decisions based on whether or not I was ultimately successful in that career or not. I just want to say that THERE ARE WAYS to get your degree without… Read more »

Jane
Jane
8 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

“do not bother unless you are absolutely willing to move ANYWHERE for your first academic position.” The problem, Stephanie, is that Ph.D.s often take a very long time. When you are finished, you very well may be an entirely different person. When I first started at 22, I thought I would be willing to move anywhere for the first job. Two kids and one husband later, this is now not the case. Plus the reality is that you are expected to move SEVERAL times and often for post-docs or 1 year positions. Your moving expenses are rarely paid. It is… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
8 years ago
Reply to  Jane

Don’t I know it! My husband and I met, married, and had a baby while he’s been working on this PhD.

My point is, we make choices. If you invest in a PhD for a TT job, you’re not going to get the payoff unless you go after that job.

If anything, I’m criticizing her husband for hobbling her career path. You can be a lawyer anywhere.

Oleron
Oleron
8 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

You absolutely cannot “be a lawyer anywhere.” Each state requires that you either pass its bar exam OR that you have been in the ACTIVE Practice Of Law for, usually, at least 5 years. . . AND can prove it.

Honey did mention that her husband almost had a nervous breakdown taking one bar exam. Heaven forbid that the poor man should have to go through that again.

Tracy
Tracy
8 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

So true. This is one of the most painful facts of life that we managed to willfully blind ourselves to/be misled about during most of our undergrad years and during the decision to go to grad school. Part of it was that the job market had actually been very good for biology research up until the early 2000s, and part of it was that we were being advised by faculty that had mostly been hired during the ‘boom’ years of the 60s and 70s, when higher ed was expanding like crazy. We didn’t expect to live exactly where we wanted… Read more »

Mark
Mark
8 years ago
Reply to  Stephanie

The year my dad graduated with a PhD in Achitecture history there were only two teaching positions open in the whole country. Sometimes you don’t have much choice so you have to deal with it or change plans.

AC
AC
8 years ago

I have no student loan debt. I graduated with BBA in 2000 (thank you mom and dad), an MBA in 2002 (thank you graduate assistantship), and am working on an MIS (thank you current employer). No one talked to me about student loan debt or the job prospects in my field, but I chose a career that I knew would hire (Accounting/Information Systems). In retrospect, I wish I had applied for more scholarships at a variety of schools. I want to do the same for my child (pay for his education) so he already has a scholarship fund in place.… Read more »

Sara
Sara
8 years ago

I graduated in 2004 from undergrad. I did not have student loan debt and have not been to grad school yet. When I was in high school and college, what I’d been told about grad school was that if you were going to go to go get an MA or PhD, especially in the humanities, that you had to be an elite enough student to get it paid for by someone else, or you were just wasting your time and money. That stuck with me, and I think it’s still true today. If you aren’t competitive enough to get a… Read more »

CPALady
CPALady
8 years ago

I love talking about student loan debt (oddly) (maybe not). I went to undergrad as a traditional college student with my parents mostly supporting me in 2000-2003. Due to a variety of circumstances I chose to leave in 2003, thinking I would take a term off, get my S* together and return to school. Instead I started working full time as an admin, and pretty soon it had been a few years. I returned to a different school in an entirely different program (accounting) which I thought was the worst subject ever back when I was 18. But this time… Read more »

Adrienne
Adrienne
8 years ago

In 2003, my total student loan debt after a BA in Foreign Languages & Literatures was $20k. I’m sure I received some cursory counseling through the student financial aid office at my school. My mom also warned me against taking out too many loans. However, there wasn’t anything saved for college (neither through my mom’s financial planning nor through my own 4 years of part time work through high school). However, even if someone had taken the time to counsel me thoroughly on the importance of keeping any debt at all to a minimum, I’m not sure I would have… Read more »

Cat
Cat
8 years ago

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and History and a Bachelor of Business Admin, I graduated in 2005 with $54000 in debt. I am still paying my student loans (feel like I will be forever) on repayment assistance. No one talked to me about student debt, and I just wish I had spent my money more wisely. I always worked, but I used that money for non necessities like clothing and going out when I should have been saving it. The job prospects in my field (accounting)are good, but I think people have a different perception of accounting… Read more »

Ely
Ely
8 years ago
Reply to  Cat

What do you mean when you say ‘good money’? I do just fine in accounting, and I don’t even have my BA yet.

CPALady
CPALady
8 years ago
Reply to  Cat

I “just” have my bachelors in accounting and consider my salary quite good. I make more than my lawyer husband and I spent 1/4 of the money to get my degree.

You absolutely do not need an advanced degree to get “good” accounting jobs. Maybe you need an MBA (MAYBE) if you’re on a corporate CFO track… but that sort of goes above & beyond “good” money and into “ridiculous” money.

Em
Em
8 years ago
Reply to  CPALady

Same here. I have a bachelors in accounting plus some extra hours of accounting classes so that I could sit for the CPA in Ohio. No MBA, but I do have my CPA. I make a little over $70k, not in managment, not in public accounting. Just an analyst at a large company. 40 hrs a week, 28 vacation days a year. CAT it sounds to me like you don’t actually have enough accounting classes in your background to be a true accountant and that’s why your not making any money. You’re an over qualified clerk. You have to major… Read more »

Marisa
Marisa
8 years ago

I had a choice when looking at colleges: my parents would pay for my tuition up to a point, beyond that it was up to me. I chose to go to a good state school instead of an out-of-state private school, and I’m so so so glad I did. I worked odd jobs throughout school, was an RA for free room and board, and took advantage of every scholarship and opportunity I could find. I graduated with a BA in English/Anthropology (useless!) in 4 years with no student loan debt. And then I decided to go to grad school. I… Read more »

Teresa
Teresa
8 years ago

I graduated in 2007 with a BS in Information Systems and about $25,000 in student loans. I luckily ended up with an internship my last semester which turned into a full time job when I graduated where I now make $70,000. I’m still paying off all of my student loans and the new car that I just had to have (and totally regret buying.) The real story here is my younger sister. She graduated in 2009 with a BA in Fine Arts. After graduation she had well over $100,000 and absolutely no interest in art at all. She now works… Read more »

Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

Thanks to help from my father and working part time, I got my bachelor’s degree with no debt, but borrowed $20,000 for a master’s degree because I also was good at school and afraid to find a job in my field in a less than stellar economy (back in 1993). Totally understand that. I paid off my student debt and helped my husband pay for his bachelor’s degree by working freelance jobs at night. I make a good living now, own my own business, but honestly, I feel like that master’s degree was a total waste of money. It was… Read more »

Kayla
Kayla
8 years ago

Thanks for sharing your story. It is very helpful to me as I am a student having to figure out my own financial situation. For now I have a lot of scholarships helping me out, but I may not in the future. Thanks again for sharing!

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