We often hear about how to get out of student debt, but what decisions can we make to benefit our future PRIOR to taking on those loans? According to the Huffington Post, college graduates from the class of 2014 owe an average of $29,000 in student loans. While I don’t disagree that college is becoming ridiculously expensive, I do think we all need to take a little bit of personal responsibility in the decisions we make about attending college.
When I was a senior in high school, I took the SAT and applied to 10+ universities- about 50% of them private. I got excited when the acceptance letters to these private universities started rolling in. In a way, they felt better than the State school acceptance letters I received. It’s not like I was applying to Harvard or Yale, but in my circle of friends there was this status that came with attending a private university.
I was leaning toward a private university, when I had a sit down with my parents. They wanted to make sure I understood what I was taking on. While the private school did offer some grants, I would still graduate with over $75,000 in student loans versus less than $25,000 if I chose the state school. My parents encouraged me to think long and hard about it, and after weighing my options and visiting the state school, I knew it would be a good fit.
I had plenty of friends who chose the private university option, and many had a great experience. However, many of them graduated with over $100,000 in debt and got a job out of college making $40,000. Some of the schools I had looked at would have taken me nearly 20 years to pay back on a standard payment plan- that is a long time!
Now I am not against going to a private university, I think there are advantages to both sides. I just think we need to do a better job having that initial conversation. Prior to taking out these loans, we need to understand how much debt we will really be responsible for repaying and how long that will take. I think we are quick to jump on these universities and blame them for having us $150,000 or more in student loans, when we all are in control of our own education.