My parents couldn’t afford to pay for my college education. It’s that simple. There’s no whining or complaining here. Just straight facts.
I wanted to attend college so I could afford luxuries I just didn’t have as a kid. Every teacher I ever interacted with said some variation of “Get good grades. Go to college. You’ll get a great job.”
Not all degrees will land you a well-paying job. Plain and simple. I studied Biology and was also Pre-Med. I love science and, until a few years ago, honestly thought I would pursue a career in medicine. But, you want to know something astonishing?
You can’t do much with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology other than work as a lab technician, pursue a research degree and stay in academia, or TEACH.
I decided to teach (while earning a decent living) and still believe it was the better option. While teaching, I researched options in both legal and medical careers, found available scholarships, and even compared loan amounts and institution tuitions before deciding against being a Doctor. Medical professionals do not graduate and land a job paying six-figures. In fact, they go on to make (in many states) less than a teacher. So that you know – the average surgical resident earns less than $50,000 per year. [I made nearly $70,000 as a high school coach and teacher.] The average attorney salary in Texas is about $110,000.
No one ever presented these factors to me; I also didn’t have the urgency (in my younger years) to take the time to research every single option. Instead, I was left to trust those telling me that school was the best option. Though I am quite happy with how far I’ve gotten, in my career and personal life, I think it would have been easier to make better decisions had I known all the facts. I may not have chosen a private school education, or maybe I would have changed my career path sooner. Who knows? Because of this experience, I opted for a straight-forward approach with my own students. And now you, my dear reader.
When I taught high school I told my students that school was expensive and ::gasp:: it just isn’t for everyone. Who the hell was I to discourage students from going to trade school or joining the military? I felt then, and still do, that my students would benefit from knowing how expensive an education truly is; plus, they’d be able to weigh their options ahead of time.
Because anyone can say “I’m going to college” but so few can afford to attend. Classes cost money. Housing costs money. Food? Yeah – that has a cost too. [As an undergrad, I budgeted $30 a week on groceries. It was manageable. I ate a ton of sandwiches and cereal, but I fed myself. #LittleVictories]
The problem with budgeting for college is that not many institutions break it down for you. What’s worse, is that the school offers you financial aid – and few institutions require a financial aid seminar to encourage better spending habits. (Y’all should really get on that)
One of my college roommates would receive her FAFSA refund and immediately go on a shopping spree: new MacBook, Wii, espresso maker, trip to Hawaii…you name it, she’d buy it. But as the end of the semester drew near, she was bumming off my oven fries or claiming that the bread I bought was her purchase. Not cool.
For those of you who don’t know – FAFSA is the “Free Application for Federal Student Aid.” It’s a lifeline for many who cannot afford to pay for school out-of-pocket. You can borrow up to the entire cost of education for your school year. As a student in private school, borrowing the max was pretty much what everyone else did. I borrowed that much and, some semesters had to take out private loans. As much as I love my Alma Mater, I still wish Baylor weren’t as expensive. The amount you receive from FAFSA varies based on your economic need.
Unfortunately, I had to request private loans – which tend to have a much higher interest rate than public loans, and are subject to further restrictions. As I am now in law school, it takes many extra steps to keep my loans in deferment, where they accrue interest, but I am not required to make a monthly payment on the balance while in school.
Here’s what 1 of my loans looks like:
Notice that the daily interest is $2.47…that’s half of my morning macchiato. DAMN.
The $15,000 I originally requested will cost me nearly $22,000 when paid off. Although I am currently in school, I think about paying my loans off every single day. The debt bubble bothers me. I will have 3 degrees worth of debt. But the truth is, I wouldn’t have been able to attend school without borrowing the money. All I have to do now is graduate with my J.D., pass the Bar, and land a job. NBD, right?
It is completely possible to be responsible with your loan money (and pay it back later). To accomplish such a feat, you need to set a budget and, possibly, make a few lifestyle changes. Getting through law school is hard enough without worrying about how many hours you need to work this week to pay rent, bills, and feed yourself.
Trust me on this, take stock of what it is you owe, how much it will cost you in the long run, and make a plan to pay it off! I strongly recommend making interest-only payments while in school. It will help lower your payments slightly. Every little bit helps!
Once you graduate and ace the Bar, you’ll have a job paying you more monies than you’ve made in a long while – so you’re going to need to set yourself up to pay off those loans (rather than blowing an entire paycheck on prosciutto and bubbly). Make good choices!
Have questions? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org