There are a lot of things that I would have changed if someone gave me a time machine to use. The one thing I know for sure I would have changed is how I handled my student loans. Student Loans can end up being financial traps that are hard to escape from. On one hand, it is almost impossible to pay for a college education without a student loan. However, racking up $80,000 or more for a degree in history is a little too much.
It used to be, at least when I was attending university, easy for students to receive loans. They practically handed student loans out like they were handing out free candy. I can remember walking into the student loan office, filling out a few forms, and in a matter of months I was handed a check with a large sum of money that was left over after they paid my tuition. Here I am, a financially naive young woman, who has just been handed a check for over $3,000 or more; what I’m I going to do with it?
I think the blame for all the student loan debt that adults of my age are experiencing does somewhat fall on those who create such loans and who make it way too easy for young students to acquire. Not all the blame can fall to them though. I take full responsibility for how I handle the extra money I was given. It wasn’t their fault that instead of taking that extra money and giving back to the loan, I instead went clothes shopping. It wasn’t their fault I took the left over money, and instead of working full time, used it to pay my rent. How I handled the left over student loan money lies totally with me.
Here’s the tough question: was my degree worth getting into all this debt? The answer is no. Does this shock you? Well, let’s look at it logically. I have a Bachelor’s degree in History, and I would never ever change my degree. I love history, and it was worth my time earning this degree. However, looking at it from a financial point of view, the amount of money I spent on this degree is not. Currently my job does not allow me to make large payments on my student loan, and the truth is unless I become a doctor or a lawyer it never will.
It is understandable for doctors or lawyers to have high student loans. These degrees require so much education and most students earning these degrees cannot work during their education. They in some ways have to depend on loans. Here’s the catch, if they work hard once they graduate they will be able to easily pay off their loans. They will not only be making enough money, but some even have their loans paid off for them. I will never make enough to pay off my student loans any time soon; my degree does not lead to earning a large paycheck.
Here is how I should have handled my student loans. First, instead of going full time to school, I should have worked full time and taken courses in the evening or online. That way I could pay for rent, food, and gas with the money I was earning from my job. It probably would have taken longer for me to earn my degree, but it is taking me even longer to pay off my loans now. If I did need a student loan, I should have taken any left over money and put it straight back toward the loan. That way I would not have owed that money once I graduate. One last thing I should have done: I should have at least been making small payments towards my loan, because once you graduate you have to start paying the loan.
I can’t go back and change what I have done, but before you take out a student loan take a look at your degree. Figure out a way to pay at least part of your degree while you attend school, even if you have to work part time. Never ever use the left over money for frivolous things and make an effort to make small payments on that loan. For most degrees, a student can work during their education, so think ahead plan and always look for ways to earn scholarships. The truth is if you want a degree you will be poor during the process and you will not have a social life, but if you plan ahead that degree will serve you well in the future and you will not be chained to a student loan.
Written By: Kristy Trowbridge