The last thing that anyone wants to do is punch themself in the face. With tuition rates across the country steadily increasing at an average of nine percent per year, there are few controls that students have over the financial choices of a university. However, there is plenty of control available in their own decisions.
Today, I want to share with you a story that, I hope, will convince you to heavily consider how much money you’re planning on spending to attend school. In the interest of confidentiality, I’ll refer to him as Dr. Smith.
I was under the impression that being as educated as possible would lead to great doors being opened for me, and I was right, in a way. Doors were opened for me that would have never been opened if it weren’t for the level of my collegiate education, but what I failed to see in the process of receiving my education was that the cost was simply insurmountable. After high school, I was influenced to attend a private university because it would help me to attain the prestige that I desired, so I went without any question whatsoever. Cost didn’t matter because I was convinced that a degree would get me exactly what I wanted. Once I got through the first level of college, I went to another private school to attain my master’s degree, and after that, yet another private university to attain my doctorate degree.
As far as being educated goes, I’ve done it all. I have published many works and met incredible intellectuals, but there is just one problem: I have so much debt that the only way that I will ever get out of it is by my own death. Sure, I love what I do, but the burden of the cost is so great; my wife and children live in another state, I fly back during summers, if I’m not teaching, and Christmas break. The only chair that I could find open in the subject area that I was given my expertise was here, a thousand miles from the people that I love.
In retrospect, my life would be much different if I didn’t have $250,000 in loans that I’ll have to pay every day of my life for the rest of my life. I love teaching, but the burden of debt is so heavy, not even my life insurance policy will cover the cost of my education once I die. I wish that there were something that I could do to change my situation, but I’m paid a teachers’ salary, even though, by many people’s standards, I am highly qualified. I wish that I had considered another path, because I honestly believe that I could have gotten exactly where I am now with more affordable degrees. Prestige only goes as far as your pride will let it, and that pride will cost people dearly.
I agree. Students in the U.S. graduate with an average of $10,000 in student loan debt. Our national student loan debt is over $850 billion, and growing at exponential rates with no sign of slowing…ever. Not only is this loan burden tough on Dr. Smith, but it’s tough on the economy. If you have an issue with the growth of the economy, listen up. Unemployment rates are higher than ever and test scores are lower than ever. We’re also spending more money on school than we ever have. Maybe we need to reconsider the way that we do things.
Dr. Smith is an incredible person. He is brilliant and intelligent, but he is stuck. The only way that he will get out of his debt is by his own death. How depressing is that? As clear-thinking students, it’s important that we consider this kind of thing before we sign a loan paper. Dr. Smith didn’t, and now he’s paying the price. I sure don’t want to be in his shoes.
Consider your future as you prepare. Don’t punch your future in the face.
Zachary Freeman is the author of Free Money Please!: The Ten-Step Guide to College Financial Aid. He can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow FMP on Twitter and Facebook!