Friday, May 18, 2007

Maybe I will win the lottery

Because that might be my only chance I have at finishing college.

I was talking to a friend earlier this week about college life. I had just been approved for more financial aid, a result of my father being denied a PLUS loan. My friend, thirteen years older than I, was telling me about his series of college transfers and degree changes and in the back of my mind all I could think about was my five-figure amount of debt. He continued to tell me about about being a in a fraternity, blah blah blah, and then he asked me what I thought about sororities. In one answer, it all came out, perfectly.

"You know, it's not the designer jeans and purses that I envy. I'm not jealous over the SUVs or the fancy get-togethers. I don't care about that, it's just stuff," I said. And then with one sentence, I heard myself say what I really felt about the situation,

"The only thing I envy about people like that is that when they're done with college they will be debt free and I will be twenty grand plus in the hole."

I am not angry at them. No one chooses what financial situation they are born into. What I am most upset about is the system.

Financial aid, on both federal and state levels, is determined by your parent or parents income. In my case, I am awarded financial aid based on my father's income. I am not rich enough to have my father pay for it and not challenged enough to qualify for grant (free) money. About a year ago I did receive some grant money. My father had lost his job and was unemployed for almost a year. When we filed for aid it opened the door for grant money- a whole year after he had been without health insurance. This grant money came after my grades suffered because I was working to make sure I could afford to see my doctor, eat, pay rent, and buy my prescription. And grant money is considered a source of taxable income. I had to pay taxes on the grant money--- money I received because of a financial hardship. Thanks Uncle Sam!

The bottom line is this: I am going into debt to earn more money.

Oh, but student loans, that's good debt.

Debt is debt. Interest rates, low or fixed, still create interest. You have to pay the loan plus interest back, no matter what. Declare bankruptcy and student loan debt is still there.

Now, I am facing the point where I am quickly approaching the max amount of student loan/financial aid given for obtaining an undergraduate degree. I've been in college since the Fall of 2002, withdrawn from two semesters, and struggled to make it through each semester. College hasn't been easy. I've had friends and family die, personal health issues, and financial situations hinder me from being the academically gifted student I was in middle and high school. I could write, and need to write, a separate essay about my first three years at NC State. But that shouldn't be the focal point of my financial aid evaluation. I am still in college. I've finally figured out what I want to do. I am making progress towards earning two degrees. And, I will graduate.

I will find some way to pay for college. And when I am done, out in the real world, and have my student-loan debt payed off I will start a scholarship fund. There will not be a focus on academic performance or extreme financial hardship. I want to be able to give money to those who have no other option except student loans. I want to encourage and help someone to finish their education, perhaps give them an opportunity to study abroad- something I won't be able to do. I want to help prevent their debt from reaching the twenties. So they don't have to cry, and stress, and worry about how college is going to be paid for.

1 comment:

Mary said...

I feel your pain, except add another zero to your debt and then you will have my 6 figure debt. I had to take out loans for undergrad and grad school. It really sucks, but I am repaying now and I have just made peace with the check I write out every month.