For me, going to college was always a part of The Plan.
As a first generation college student, my parents wanted for me what they didn’t have (as do most parents): a life and financial status that was proactive, not reactive.
A salary fat enough to the point where I didn’t have to worry if something went wrong with my car and Christmas would never be a burden. Peace of mind and financial freedom.
But so far, my (nearly) two college degrees have absolutely not ensured any financial freedom for me, at least not any I’ve yet seen or could expect to see even in the next few years.
Basically, the financial burden of college has only ensured:
- Negative net-worth
- Unfavorable debt-to-income ratio
- Deferment of my dreams
- and so on…
I still believe that education is an excellent investment, but I also believe that many societal factors have pressured people like you and me to borrow much more than we actually needed in order to score a good job in the area of our choice.
Here are some reasons you shouldn’t blame yourself exclusively:
1. Schools encourage bad borrowing habits
Sitting at my first university orientation, I remember the admins talking to a group of us about work study and part-time jobs during school. The presenter told us that we shouldn’t work for more than 10 hours a week as full-time students because we needed to focus on our schoolwork.
While studying, preparing, and staying organized are extremely important to doing well in post-secondary school, warning students not to work more than 10 hours a week makes them fearful that they will hurt their academic performance for doing so. This also makes students feel like they shouldn’t be working at all, which takes funding your education yourself completely off the table.
I’m a frequently listener of Dave Ramsey, who also highly values education but not when it comes with a ridiculous pricetag. Dave encourages college-aged callers to his talkshow to pay off their tuition and bills in cash prior to or during their enrollment.
The idea that students should not be working at all while in school needs to be trashed. I wish that I would have known that I was stealing from my future by borrowing money to go out with friends or eat on campus. I wish I was made to see how all of this would build up into thousands of dollars needlessly spent, instead of a flying through a few “sign here” boxes on some online documents making me promise to pay it all back when I graduated.
2. Pricey, prestigious schools make false promises
Touting an elite college sweatshirt creates the illusion that you’re better, stronger, and faster than anyone else.
But studies show that it might not give much more than bragging rights and the same stamp on a piece of a paper, but with an outrageous pricetag.
When I was looking at colleges as a 17 year old, I scoffed at community colleges. I was arrogant and completely ignorant to the types of programs offered for a fraction of the price of private schools. It mattered most to me what kind of person people would think I was for attending a private university, which was another illusion that I’m still paying the price for.
Openness to more affordable schools isn’t a big marketing item towards high school students. It’s all about the campus life, dining options, entertainment, sports, and other things that would still probably be just as fun at a more affordable school. And in the end, were these things really worth paying off for the next 10 years?
3. You’re doing the best you can with the knowledge you have
Whether it was 3, 4, 5, or 10 years ago, we all made the financial decisions that we made while we were in college. There isn’t anything we can do to take them back.
But we do have a responsibility to do something now and not repeat the same process under different circumstances.
In the last year, it’s become my husband’s and my #1 priory to make a savings plan for the things we want, not look into our financing options. In many cases, if you need a loan for it, you can’t afford it.
What do you think about the student debt crisis? Have your student loans delayed your personal goals (buying a house, going on vacation, etc.)? Leave me your thoughts in the comments!