The [true] Cost of an Education

I never planned on going to a private college in the south. In fact, I originally planned to attend a university close to home. But, things never turn out how we plan do they?

Seven years ago, in the summer of 2010, my family and I took a trip down south to visit a good family friend. At the time, I was a junior in high school and I was just beginning to look at colleges. This family friend of ours took it upon himself to schedule a campus tour of the local college; I was neither thrilled nor dismayed by this tour, as I knew I would NEVER attend school in a small southern town (especially one that was 10 hours from home)!

The moment I stepped on campus, I got this feeling. You know… that feeling. The feeling you get when you’ve found the perfect match and nothing else matters, because your heart is full of warmth and happiness. The pristine landscape, the precisely spaced red, brick buildings, and the striking southern charm drew me in quicker than a jet plane. I immediately fell in love with the small campus, the friendly and supportive people, and the value of the liberal arts mission. And, the rest is history.

I still remember the day I got the text saying, “Congrats! You’re in!” I was changing for gym class in the girl’s locker room and I must have received a handful of puzzled looks as I bounced around with pure excitement. This was just the beginning of my brand new life.

(You’re probably wondering the point to this little tale and, I promise, I’m getting there!)

With my troubled history of disordered eating, it took me longer than expected to graduate. Five years to be exact. Five years of higher education in a private school is not cheap by any means, even with the scholarships I received. By time I walked across the stage and grasped my hard-earned diploma, I was already over $40,000 in debt. Now, on top of the costs of living, I am expected to pay a large chunk of student loans back, and I am absolutely terrified. Why? Because I simply cannot do it.

I have a full-time job that pays pretty well, considering I just graduated from college. I am, by no means, living in poverty. I pay my bills on time, put food on the table, and have a little leftover for extras. I am the definition of living paycheck to paycheck. Throw in this massive student loan bill? Well, then I am most definitely struggling.

The thing about private loan companies is they do not let you enroll in any kind of income-driven-repayment plan. They expect you to pay it off in 10 years at a set amount every month. And, if you cannot make those monthly payments, they threaten to send collection agencies after you and your co-signers (my mom and dad).

I received a phenomenal education at my dream college; every student everywhere should have the opportunity to do the same. They should not, however, have to regret their college decision once student loan companies start hounding them and scaring them to death about the stability of their future. I am scared, I am depressed, and I am uncertain about my future. I am 23 years old and I am already a lifetime into debt. I wake up every morning with feelings of dread, because I wonder if living this life is really worth it. Will everything be taken from me tomorrow, all because I wanted a good education?

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