It’s possible to go to college and not take out student loans. I believe very few student loans are good, but for the most part, I try to run away as far as possible from student loans.
I went to undergrad in Nigeria, where I spent less than $500 (in total) on college fees. Even though I didn’t have to work in college, first because it’s just not a common practice for Nigerian college students, spending $100 a year on tuition meant you could afford to simply focus on your studies and not much else.
Of course, this comes with its own downsides: which include the worth of such a degree (some people equate higher tuition to more prestigious degrees), what job you were able to get after, and the living conditions in the country where you went to school.
Looking back now, I realize the best position to be in is to come out of school into a good job, and get into a stable job afterwards. For many people that take out tens of thousands in student loans, this is not the case… which is why my default response to any student loan is to say: “no.”
I believe the main purpose of going to school is to get a suitable job afterwards. A job that not only pays your bills, but where you can grow and learn, so you’re not bored out of your mind/purpose.
Yes, you can meet your BFF, your future spouse, your future business partner in college, but if you end up not being able to use that college degree to get a good job, then you’ll keep questioning the value of that degree (and why you got that degree in the first place) more times than you think.
Yes, we all want the connections, the friendships, and the alumni network. But if my degree can’t help me (in combination with other factors e.g. hard work, kindness, etc.), that’s when I’d start questioning why I got the degree in the first place.
For me, I’ve always wanted to come to graduate school in the U.S., so by working hard during my undergrad years (even with such low tuition paid), I was able to achieve my goal of getting into U.S. grad school, and also get my grad school tuition paid for.
The real benefit here is to make sure I take advantage of this opportunity by:
- Not racking up consumer debt
- Working hard a lot to get a suitable job afterwards
And working hard to get a suitable job doesn’t start when I start schooling. No, it starts from the time I start thinking of colleges to apply to. I would look at the starting salaries of graduates who finished with my desired major, and make sure the salaries are worthwhile for me, long term.
Even schools make it easy to get loans, ALWAYS, ALWAYS look for funding, scholarships, and grants.
Do everything you can to make sure you’re not taking on loans to fund your education. Schools and programs promise their applicants a lot. It’s my job as an applicant to do my research and verify those claims.
Between R and I, we have $90,000 in student loans (from both of us). I have a first-hand experience on how loans and debt can really make for very uncomfortable conversations and decisions in a marriage. Each time you hope to achieve a life milestone (house, having kids, giving back, investing), you get this sickening feeling at the back of your head when you remember your student debt.
It’s why we’re now getting our grad degrees (PhD and MBA) with as much funding as we can get, while leaving as minimal as we can.
To be clear: I don’t think that ALL student loans are bad, but I’d really really THINK ABOUT getting a $1 in student loans before taking out the debt. Explore EVERY POSSIBLE OPTION before signing those dotted lines.
Getting into debt is so easy, but coming out of debt is so so hard.
Over to you: Do you have any college debt? Do you think your student loans helped you achieved your goals?