Few ever really go into a situation thinking ….
I'm just going to royally screw my future self over with this one.
YET…. many people go to college for the wrong reasons, date and marry the wrong people, have children because they think it will fix a situation, and the real stinger of today's population… go into debt that is UNIMAGINABLY difficult to pay back if not impossible.
It's been 8 years since I became an elite member of a coveted society, no not the kind with blue haired ladies, preppy clothing, and golf, but yes, the kind with very high membership dues. You guessed it ladies and gents, the higher education club. Its' members pay based on whether they are residents of an area or coming from out of state. It's also tiered by public establishments where any ol' chap can come in or private entities where many from the upper crust of society attend an establishment that their mother or father has been a member.
There are a few sprinkles in between of people who slip through the cracks and attend a "club" because they know how it can benefit them in the future and their community at large, but I digress.
Now, 3 degrees (2 undergraduate and 1 graduate) and 2 certifications (transactional law and mediation) later and quite a bit of immigrant thrifting, I still have a nice 6 figure debt staring me in the face.
What now? Pull my hair out, file bankruptcy, oops just kidding that won't even discharge your student loan debt, (* For all of you smarties that know of theBrunner Test YES, there is a loophole, and DOUBLE YES, it is very difficult, but not impossible, to discharge in bankruptcy. The test requires some hardcore proof of undue hardship.*), live in my parents basement OR get over it and push forward like a champ!
Truth be told, if it weren't for having used those years to experience beautiful things, countries, ways of living, meet new people, grow my own business, as well as have a property to use as collateral and great self-taught understanding of the maneuverings of finances, then it really would feel like I piled all those Benjamins onto a pyre struck a match and watched it burn along with years of my life that I wouldn't be getting back.
How I approached the hot mess that is higher ed is the only reason that I feel like I (figuratively) turnt up/LIT/rocked those eight years instead of (literally) just burning away money and time.
SO, What's the Problem?
Problem. What problem? Isn't everyone else in America in the same boat? This is the part where I ask you if everyone's jumping off a bridge then would you do the same?The answer is NO, you don't do the same and you don't have to. The problem is that you think you have to get into this debt to get that piece of paper. In fact you can actually choose NOT to get into debt in the first place, or at least not a ridiculous amount.
Some Statistics to Piss You Off
Let's take a big picture look see here, when it comes to higher education:
there has been a 225 percent increase in tuition costs at public universities since 1985…
Many can't even gain access to the higher education they need to get good jobs. Let's not talk about the more prestigious universities. Look at some comparisons…
If we want to generously round down then it's about $120,000 for 4 years at a private institution. That's around 3X, THREE TIMES!!!!, more than public four year colleges. This doesn't even begin to factor in room and board.
A few years back London streets were congested with student protestors because the government wanted to increase tuition from 3,000 to 4,000 pounds. A 1K difference and these kids were storming the castle. We don't even BLINK at something like that.
Forbes compiled a pretty snazzy table to really hit you where the sun don't shine.
It's now 2017 and the figure of debt is calculated up to $1.4 Trillion.
That's all fine and dandy if these people were actually graduating and getting jobs to sustain the lifestyles that they want but come on, that's not reality. A new Harvard Study recently found out that:
" Only 56 percent of the students who enter America’s colleges and universities graduate within six years, while only 29 percent of students who enter two-year programs complete their degrees within three years, the study found."
You've gotta be kidding me, is there no end to the madness?! You go to college, can't even finish it, and then, to add more crazy to the mix, you still have all that debt even if you have to drop out?!
What's the Alternative?
Glad you asked because there are actually quite a few alternatives and a lot of them are things you can do before going to college, some to maintain a healthy financial state during, and even quite a few after you've gotten your paper and rolled it into a tube leaving it at your parents house never to be seen again. Instead of the joe schmo route of hating your debt-ridden life you could go another route… Preparation is key, people, and makes for a great alternative. Here are 6 things to help you take the road less traveled while working, in a pragmatic way, inside the current system:
1-Look at your comparable options, there are resources to help you input what you're looking for in a school. At Build Your Own Rankings even such things as what kind of extracurriculars and sports programs you're looking for, the major you're looking for, size of school, location, financial aid needs, etc… can all be modified by you and it will generate and rank the schools that fit your inputs in a shortlist for you. This includes going to a community college, going part-time, trying a vocational school, and then when you finally really know what you want… investing intelligently in yourself.
2-Get to know the financial aid and admissions people, so you can negotiate your tuition. As crazy as that sounds when I was headed to law school I went to an accepted students day in New York, met the head of Admissions and some deans… really made myself known and when I couldn't decide on going or deferring the head of Admissions called the vice dean, who stepped out of a meeting, and tried to convince me why the option was right for me and how they would work on making it as feasible as possible for me to go. That conversation, with some back and forth questioning and prodding, was worth it 4 times over… it turned into:
- lowered tuition,
- the school paying for my books (thousands of dollars worth of law books per term),
- a flight out to the law school to make sure I made it in time for orientation, and
- a hotel room until I found an apartment.
This was all because I opened the conversation and ASKED them what could be done to make it easier for me to make the decision. Yes, my grades, track record, and the fact that I'd been working my behind off for a few years before going to grad school definitely helped but you won't get answers unless you ask the questions. The worst they can say is no. It may feel uncomfortable but about half a grand was saved doing this simple exercise of asking, the only way you receive. At least you won't be negotiating with this guy.
3- STOP taking out more debt than you need. For real though. If you know the school's tuition, what it costs to make rent, pay for food, and the other necessities of school living then that's the only amount you should be taking out. #SpringBreak in Cancun shouldn't be Uncle Sam is paying you for, that is unless you can get some serious purpose other than Tequila ridden drunken nights and potential drama. The Mintapp has templates galore to help you get started, FOR FREE!
Not to say that you shouldn't use the money to chase your dreams, I know of entrepreneurs that have used financial aid money to fund their ventures. Sometimes it's a better investment than the formal schooling itself.
4. Open your eyes and look for scholarships. If you're a high school senior, current undergraduate, or graduate student in the U.S., or an international student coming to study in the U.S., there is a patented scholarship-matching platform which will help you find free money for college by delivering a smarter, targeted list of scholarships that are uniquely suited to you. Over $70 million in scholarships have already been won using scholarship search platforms on Scholly and schools even have individual grants and loans sometimes based on major BUT you have to ASK!!
5. Buy used and look for resources that others can share with you. It didn't take much time to learn that the reserves section of the library in my undergrad had ALL of the books that I needed to read/study for classes and if they didn't have it you could either ask a professor to borrow an old copy or put it on the reserve list. VOILA! You shave off hundreds per term. Plus, Ebay, Chegg, and many other sites let you rent books rather than buy them brand new. The same goes for housing furnishings, clothes, and just about anything you may need. Pop some tags! JK, but hey there are many options out there and you'll get the same quality of content just with some ruffled edges.
6. Consolidate all of the loans, ALL OF THE LOANS! Many people are coming to the realization that eventually graduating, passing the deferment mark, and coming up on a default means they'll need to start thinking about repayment even at a bare minimum. There are so so many companies out there now that help lower your interest rates and shave thousands, even maybe tens of thousands off your total amount. Start looking. When life gives you lemons, make that lemonade or so this makelemonade.cosite aims to do and has a free student loan refinancing calculator to help you figure out what you could get your payments down to per month and the overall savings.
Unless you can really get to preppin' no matter the stage you're in your financial future is gonna look like that apocalyptic nuke at the top of this article. Here it is again in case you need some more deterrent.
You can rise above it, prepare for your future and #RISE above the (in)debt(ed) life aka the indentured servitude of the 21st century that is student loans. In the mean time, build your work ethic and stop thinking that everything has to be done the same way everyone else does it. #WorkHardforthe$$$ and learn what you need from your life because it will teach you things school never could. Maybe even take a gap year to figure your stuff out? No matter what…
Here for you,
You Live. You Learn.
P.S. If you don't know where to start pre, during, or post college then our Workforce101course is a great way to figure out what suits you in personal and professional life while you're hustlin' and making things happen.