Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Five Myths I believed about Student Loans

I realize graduating from college almost 20 years ago makes my experience with student loans totally different than what today's kids are facing, but here are a few things I wish I had known.

I though the future was so far away I'd never have to pay back my loans.  I know this sounds silly, but when I took out my first student loan at age 16 (I graduated high school at 15.), I didn't really comprehend this.
 At that age, I felt the future was so far off that I never really would have to pay them back. I also thought the little bit of money I had saved since I was five years old would make a dent in my education.  It didn't even buy books.

I also thought that a college degree would mean I would have enough money to pay back my loans.  This is far from the truth.  I had an extended illness after I graduated college, and I had to scrape every penny to pay $200 back each month because I couldn't work outside the home.   Just because you have the degree doesn't guarantee you will get a job.  This was more of a common myth in the 1990s when I graduated than it is today, but it would have been nice to know that this is not true.

I thought college degrees were created equal.  I didn't realize the huge lifetime earning income difference between a graduate with a degree in English Literature and one who majored in Chemical Engineering.  If I had realized that, I would have researched which graduates earned the most with a bachelor's degree and gone in the highest paying field I that interested me and that I was capable of mastering academically.  (I have a learning disability in math, so engineering is out of the question for me.)

I believed that you *had* to go to college right out of high school.   I wish I hadn't.  Not only was I young when I had to make such major decisions as to what to study (and I've never used my degree), I sometimes think I would like to go back to school, but since I have a degree, I can't get financial aid.  I often tell my husband he is in a better place than I am because he doesn't have a useless degree, and should he want to go to college he is in a more settled place to know what he would want to major in.

I didn't realize a private college education was not a financially sound investment in my case.  I spent only two years at a private school, and those were my first two years.  My dad was hit by a drunk driver and suffered a lot of health problems and I had to drop out for a while. I started taking classes through a state college that were offered at the local high school.  I realized there was no difference in the classes, and the price was much more affordable.  I didn't even have to take out student loans to take those classes, and that is something that I am thankful for because otherwise I would likely still be paying off my student loans!

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