The Hawk-Mo Hotwire

Micro Entrepreneurism, Simple Living & Art

The Great Consumerism of Higher Education

All through high school, all I wanted to do was go to college. I couldn’t freaking wait. The idea of going to college is what got me through high school in all its clicky-awkward-drama-filled-never-cool-enough-emotional-rollercoaster of teen angst. High school was, in my opinion, only something to be survived, so I could move on to bigger and better things with life in college. College was my carrot.

But I was sold a carrot I couldn’t afford. My hand was held, by many well meaning people, as I walked willing straight into the land of massive debt. Ah, yes, the American dream. The American way. Debt before college, debt after college. Debt is the answer. If you think I’m being sarcastic, I am. If debt doesn’t scare the living poop out of you, it should.

Debt makes me feel like an indentured servant working for a feudal lord. The crazy thing is, I chose this existence. I was duped into believing that going in to debt to go to college was a good thing. A reasonable thing. It’s just what you gotta do to get an education. Don’t worry about it now, you can pay off later, for the rest of your life.

I was a Bright Futures Scholar, which means I could have gone to any public institution in the state of Florida for FREE. But did I? Hell no! I was stubborn and the freedom of distance was more important then the freedom of money. Do I wish my mother had drawn a line in the sand and said, “Thou shall not”? No, because quite frankly it wouldn’t have worked. But do I wish that someone had really made it clear to me how much it really effing sucks to be in debt? HELL YES. That might have worked.

Either way, two years later I finally wised up a little and did end up going in state (still as a Bright Futures Scholar, so still free), and graduating. In the first two years at Salve Regina, and Northeastern, respectively, even with huge academic scholarships and lots of financial aid, I still managed to acquire approximately $16,000 in debt. After transferring in state, and continuing to be enrolled full time for three more years, I think I only added another $2,500 to that.

I spose $18.5k for a college education really isn’t that bad in the scheme of things, but just because I got out light, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make me sad to know how many other kids (I guess we’re really grown ups, sort of) my age paid a lot more. And how many more high school students are still having their hands held as they walk down the aisle to a lifetime of debt. I’m actually mad about it.

Education is great, don’t get me wrong. College was an awesome experience, and one I’m glad I had. And while I don’t need a degree to do the work I do now, I recognize that the experiences I had and the people I met created a platform that has helped me do what I do today, however unconventional a use of my degree that may be. But at what cost?

After college, living on my own, I was stuck living pay check to pay check and not making ends meet. I remember very clearly, calling my mother one day in tears after doing a budget and realizing I was making decent money (and not spending frivolously), but it still wasn’t enough to even keep my head above water, let alone make any progress. I know that wasn’t really the life my mother wanted for me when she sent me off to college.

I think going to college should be less of a discussion about how many schools you’re going to apply to and how pretty the campuses are and what fabulous job you’ll get with the degree you have, because, lets face it, the job market isn’t what it used to be; and more a discussion about the financial aid packages you can get (grants & scholarships vs. loans) and how you can still go to college, but do it in a way that you can afford to pay for it now, rather then later. Because no matter what school you chose, financial freedom, independence and flexibility gives you far more options then the degree you got and the debt its tied you to.

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About mudly

Mud is main blog writer extraordinaire, picture guru, and the garden and adventure instigator. She loves to cook, but doesn’t much like following a recipe. She also loves typewriters, the color turquoise, and wearing tie dye with stripes. And she dorks out on permies.com while dreaming up and planning her next garden.

3 comments on “The Great Consumerism of Higher Education

  1. Meka
    April 3, 2011

    Ahh this hits home. I too paid and paid and I wanted to go on and get my masters but the money factor held me back. I feel education is priceless….IF you look at the whole picture. the experiences, not just the book work. I am still in school for crying out loud. I love to learn. I can’t help it. It may not help me get a better job , but it helps me and my family. I have a degree in psychology with a concentration inchild psych and alcohol and chemical dependancy couseling( yes you may laugh now) Kurt has a masters in Engineering……WE teach sailing and fitness for crying out loud!!!! It all led us to this point, but I don’t want my kids to have to pay those loans forever either. I try to save for them, but you know my company isn’t any Fortune 500 so we just muddle along. I’m rambling… As long as we are aware, that’s how we change the cycle in a positive direction.

  2. John
    April 3, 2011

    well said MeriGold

  3. Kris
    April 5, 2011

    I’m hoping after 2008 people will start looking a college a bit differently. It is a lot of responsibility and debt that you are signing up for when you are 17, maybe 18, with no idea of the consequences that come with it. After paying for years, I still owe more for undergrad that you took out Mud.

    Everyone is taught that there is this correct path, but no one tells you that even if you graduate high school near the top of your class, you will still end up owing a small fortune, and that student loan debt doesn’t go away.

    The aid keeps going too. I have another friend who took advantage of that scholarship, and she said its not full-ride anymore. Please let me know what states still do that, so I can move there when I have kids.

    A great post!

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This entry was posted on April 3, 2011 by in Everything All in One Place, Rants and tagged , , , , .

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