I'm sure I'm not the only child of a baby boomer who was told college was non-negotiable. I'm sure I'm not the only person who didn't know what they wanted to study in college but who wanted to "get as far away from home" as possible. I'm also sure I'm not the only person who left only to come back and study at a state school. And I'm 100% sure I'm not the only person with significant student loan debt.
We've talked a lot about credit cards, "bad" debt, and even worse habits. Like many people, I don't think about my student loans as bad, since I got something out of it (although, with a B.A. in Sociology/Anthropology, whether I got the better deal is up for debate). Yesterday, I read an article in my hometown paper about Stockton students having some of the highest student loan debt in the state (read it here). Approximately $30,000 for a state school. Granted, this is about a quarter of the debt you would have if you went to an out of state, private college, but, still, I find that number shockingly high. Let's run & compare my numbers as a Stockton alumnae, shall we?
Year 1: About $15,000 for room & board at Simmons College in Boston, MA after grants & scholarships (half the total price). That's a hefty price tag for the "college experience". My major? Being ridiculous.
Year 2- Fall: I'm only coming up with about $2,000 in loans, which doesn't seem right, but I did obtain some grants, scholarships, and continued in the work-study program. I transferred to the Catholic University of America for fall semester because I decided I wanted to be a theater major.
Year 2- Spring: I leave CUA two weeks into spring semester because I realized I wasn't crazy enough to be a theater major. It's too late for me to transfer into Stockton, so I work & party pretty much everyday. Summer 2006 is still one of the best memories of my life (so far).
Year 3: I start classes at Richard Stockton College. I live at home, since my mom's house is less than five miles from campus. I decide to go for a Sociology degree because it would be the fastest track to graduation. Mom helps me out financially with school and pays for one semester a year. Loan amount: $4,170.77
Year 4: Stockton needs to fund it's expansion projects and tuition is slowly creeping up. Loan amount: $5,440.31
Year 5: Mom has to take a pay freeze, so she can't help me with school this last year. Stockton ups their tuition significantly. I took loans to pay for the whole year to the tune of $12,761.13.
When I graduated in May 2009, my total loan debt was approximately $28,000 and it hasn't decreased much at all. I should also note that unlike Years 1 & 2, I did not receive any scholarships/grants/work-study at Stockton, which definitely contributed to the overall total.
Once I started working, between my low wage (thanks to that Sociology degree) and my bill payments, I couldn't manage the $400 a month Sallie Mae wanted and I signed up for a 5 year interest-only plan. I'm almost into year three of the plan and I still couldn't fathom finding an extra $200 a month to pay for my loans (I pay about $200 per month right now). While it's not something I stress about now, in a year or so, I'm going to have to figure something out!
Do you feel like you got your money's worth out of your degree? If I could do it all again, I would've gone to community college for the first two years, then transferred to a state school. Although I met some great people and got to experience life on my own, I'm not sure it was worth $15,000 (and then some, when you include the other bed debt I got myself into!).