Confessions of an Accountant: ‘I have 130K of College Debt’

Confessions of an Accountant: ‘I have 130K of College Debt’

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.



7 thoughts on “Confessions of an Accountant: ‘I have 130K of College Debt’

  1. You bring up a great topic. Before I went to college my parents offered to give me the first year’s tuition if I wanted to stay home and start my own business. If I had it all to do over again, I would have taken them up on their offer, but I was really eager for the college lifestyle experience, and I too had a big ego that would only be satisfied with a good college name. I think if everyone had a chance to travel and work before college, everyone would wind up in a lot less debt. It would give people a chance to find out what they’re interested in outside of school.

    It’s kind of ridiculous to ask an 18 year old to know what they want to do with the rest of their lives, and to expect them to understand what it’s really like to be $200K in debt.

    • Thanks, Tracy! Wow, that’s really interesting that your parents offered that to you! I couldn’t agree with you more. I wish I had taken a gap year too as a way to refocus and recalibrate my goals. I’m hoping to “gift myself” with a year off when the bills are paid.

      I also think it’s ridiculous to expect an 18-20 something year old to understand how much money is when we’re talking $100K+. An 18-20 year old with no credit or work history would not be able to buy a house but yet are able to take out enough in student loans that would be equivalent to buying a house (in Houston at least). Something needs to change.

  2. I remember at freshmen orientation week a long time ago how many banks were pushing student credit cards. Education is one of the few pathways to economic mobility left but there are land mines to be negotiated. If you must borrow, a subsidized loan through the government is the best way to go. Regardless, how is it possible that students loans can never be discharged? Compounding the foolishness of having 18 year olds sign for lifetime debt is putting parents and in some cases grandparents on the hook with them. Financial responsibility is all well and good but when it comes to borrowing, it’s good to know when you’re swimming with sharks.

  3. Amen. I couldn’t agree with you more. I remember getting a phone in my dorm room my freshman year. One of my first calls was from some company trying to get me to open up a credit card account. Only two organizations had my phone number at the time: the university and the phone company. I’m banking that it was the university that gave out my phone number. That floored me. I refused the account. I’m determined to pay off my loans because if not it’ll all roll to my grandma. That’s not an option as far as I’m concerned. Yes, a path to economic mobility riddled with landmines…

  4. Pingback: Money Magazine’s College Ranking System Takes Affordability into Account | (Im)Migrating with a Purpose

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