I belong to a Yahoo group for parents of college-bound homeschoolers. Recently a conversation came up about student loans. Many people chimed in and attested to how evil and unwise student loans are. I disagree. I do feel that if you are not careful, you can end up owing to ridiculous amounts of money. However, I also feel that student loans have made it possible for many people to climb out of abject poverty, get an education, and create a better life. And Prosper makes personal loans easy that students can use in order to pay for their tuition fees and pursue their education. Although I managed without a student loan, not everyone gets lucky like me. This is my story of how I managed without a student loan.
I am one of those people who was helped more than hindered by student loans. I grew up in a household where dad dropped out of school in 8th grade. He drove trucks and did security work for a living. Mom was a nurse and later went back to school to become a teacher. Mine was a very large family, and we were pretty poor. My mother returning to school did change our fortunes some and raised our income, but before that, we were on public assistance due to the sheer size of our family.
Only the girls in my family went straight to college after high school. The guys were too busy working because it was easier to get a job young than to study and put off earning potential. My older sisters and my mom went for free, on full financial aid and we just assumed that I would also get the same treatment.
By the time I got to college, there were only 5 kids left at home and together mom and dad were earning a decent living, so there was no financial aid. In our ignorance, we didn’t know that until the day I registered for a class, so I had to sign loan papers to fill the gap between cost and scholarships. Fortunately, I was smart enough to realize the college my parents had me choose was not affordable, so I transferred to community college and then moved on to state college. I worked my way through college, working 40 hours to pay for room and board and relying on loans to pay tuition. This was not unheard of in the late 1980s. But now, since the cost of living has lapped the minimum wage, I can’t ask my kids to work through college as I did. It’s not even feasible. I paid off my loans in 15 years, using several forbearances, and therefore paying off a lot more than I initially borrowed.
Still, I don’t regret going to college and taking those loans. Looking back I can see that the people I grew up with who did not go to college are still living in the same situations I grew up in. I am actually glad to have the loans to pay off because I have the ability to pay them.
Now, I do agree with a lot of the parents that we should pay for our student’s education with cash whenever possible, but we are taking a small loan to fill the gap between what we can budget and what he will owe. As much as it pains us and him to take this loan, we know that he can’t go to college without it. We also know that he is invested in his success. If he doesn’t finish, the money he has borrowed is wasted, and we are not the only ones out of money.
In summation, I stand by my assertion that there are good reasons for people still take out college loans. For me, it was to give me access to an opportunity that I would not have had otherwise. For my son, it is to give him that little extra help to allow him to get the same education I received and to help him value the cost of his education instead of sending him off Scott-free with no responsibilities.