This author was worse off than I was. I went to the “fancy” university because my ego said I should after working hard at school (granted, my state school’s financial aid package wasn’t amazing either; one Catholic private school I got accepted to was going to give me a nice chunk of change, but I didn’t matriculate there).
She opted for the state school and still ended up with a lot of debt.
Commentators have been writing that her priorities are still off because she’s saving for a wedding instead of putting it towards her debt. Damn, can a woman enjoy something from her paycheck??? To me, the comments smack of the same way people love to shake their fingers at anyone on public assistance the moment they pull out a cell phone at the checkout line (and, Lord have mercy, don’t let it be a smartphone).
Look, finances are complicated. If everyone–from the super elite to the middle class to the poor–lived within their means the housing crisis never would have occurred. Some people bought more house than they had money to afford (banking on the interest rates not skyrocketing like a NASA space shuttle), but because those people tended to be middle class we suddenly realized more was at play than their “lack of priorities.” Try as we might to deny it, from the top down it’s as American as apple pie to spend money on “the next thing” whether you really have it or not. It’s a dark side to our culture.
This school year I’ve spent 15% max of my salary on myself and others (that’s including food, clothing, trips, gifts, etc…). The rest has gone to Aunt Sallie. I have to keep living at this rate for at least another three years to pay off my student loan debt. It’s doable for me because I’m teaching internationally (read: housing paid for), don’t have kids, and don’t really enjoy shopping (thanks to my mother’s strong loathing of anything related to clothing stores and the potential crowd while growing up). That’s not doable for the average American.
So, although I am sooo happy to read the NYT article about the difference a four year college can make, we’re still caught in this conundrum where people are “saying go to college,” then “it’s your fault you chose to go to that one,” then “work full-time but don’t enjoy the fruits of your labor because that’s how it has to be” while, more than likely, they sit there never having experienced such a significant debt burden for a wonderful cause: an education.