1 The Logistics of Paying for Your Education Yourself (Mostly) | The Billfold

The Logistics of Paying for Your Education Yourself (Mostly)

Yesterday, people whose parents had paid for their educations shared how exactly that worked. Today, we hear from people who financed at least some of their college expenses themselves. 

“‪I‬ had free tuition because my mom worked at the university where I went. But she wouldn’t pay for housing, so I took out loans to live on campus. I worked at a charter school in the extended day program all through school,Iit was fun and they paid really well—like $14 an hour. It was food money basically. I ate out all the time in college. I have a total of about $25K in loans. I know that’s not awful, but it’s more than half my salary.

“I took out way more loans than I needed. I have them deferred now. But when I check my credit report, it’s divided out into like 15 smaller amounts, half of which are closed and the other half have been transferred to Sallie Mae. So the initial loans I had have all been divided up and moved around.” —LC

“I got a half-tuition scholarship to a very expensive (but not very good) private school on the other side of the country. My college fund was pretty much wiped out in the dot-com crash. Between that and my savings, we had enough to pay my tuition, room, board, and a little spending money for my freshman year. My sophomore year, we got a monthly payment plan and my mom hit up relatives to buy me a “month” of college each, and I had a job for spending money. After that, everyone was pretty tapped out, so I had nothing but loans and 2-3 jobs. I graduated with $42k in debt, which will be paid off the day before I turn 45.” —GO

“My college tuition and dorm life was paid for through a combination of scholarships and student loans (mine). When my Staffords were maxed for the year and there was still a balance owed on the tuition bill, my not-so-well off father borrowed a parent PLUS loan (THANKS DAD!). I never got much in way of spending money for college, and I always had a job that paid for things like beer, clothes, and fun adventures. I did work study, ice cream parlors, waitressing, and bartending all through college.

“Once I moved out of the dorms, I was fully on my own financially.  I sometimes had to ask my dad to borrow money, of course, but I always paid him back, and with age those requests diminshed as I learned how to (sort of) budget. I also maxed out a credit card.

“I paid for law school and three years of living expenses (ouch! its too hard to work a job and make grades though, seriously.) with Federal Loans. I try not to look at the balances or the interest rates too often, since they make me woozy—I just keep my head down and make my monthly payments. As long as I’m lucky enough to keep my government job, those loans will be gone in 10 years. If I’m not so lucky, I’ll probably pay them off around retirement age.” —TY

“I paid for college with a cobbled-together combination of loans, help from my mom, and savings/monthly support from my dad—my mom got him to put away money for my brother and me for college instead of paying child support after their divorce. That $200/month sometimes made all the difference in the world. My first year wiped out all of my college savings (that’s what happens when you decide, at 17, to go to a private school that costs more than your mother makes per year) and the next two and a half years were touch-and-go about whether I’d be able to afford to finish or not. Through a lot of tears and two extremely regrettable private loans, I finished up.

“I lived in student housing the first two years, and was pretty okay working my 10-hour/week work-study job, but when I moved into an apartment I was 100% on my own. I had to rely on the kindness of my work-study boss (fudging my timesheets to say I was working when I was actually at my required internship), another job calling alumni asking for donations (it’s tough to extol the glories of a college that is putting you in crushing debt), and occasional help from my mom, who would sometimes psychically know that I was down to my last $3 and put $200 in my bank account.

“I know this situation was 100% of my own making—I could have attended a public university and lived at home. But I made a decision, at 17, that is going to impact me for the rest of my life.” —AB

“My mother died when I was 10, and as a result, I received monthly social security payments. My father used that money to invest in stocks and accrue interest, amounting to an incredibly large sum of cash which was basically handed to me upon turning 18. As my father was against helping any of his kids pay for college on principle, I put every cent of that money toward an expensive private school degree. However, I realized at the end of my first year that I wouldn’t have enough for four years, so I overloaded every semester and managed to graduate in three years. In retrospect, though I enjoyed private school, I really wish I had gone public so that, at the very least, I could have shared in the fun senior year that all my friends had or, better yet, have used the rest of it to help fund grad school.

“I’m not entirely certain who would qualify as the one paying for my education—my mother? my father? myself? taxpayers? To be honest, I felt like I HAD to use that money to pay for school, as doing anything else with it felt to me like dishonoring my mother’s memory. I would be interested to hear from other mother/father-less kids who received these benefits and how the money was used and how they feel about receiving that money (assuming it wasn’t used by their surviving parent to help pay for their expenses, as the payments are originally intended for).” —LO

“I didn’t get any money from my parents for college, because there was no money to be given. I was lucky, in that a) I was a Brit attending college in the UK before tuition fee hikes, and b) we were poor enough to qualify to have those fees waived. I took out loans to cover living costs (the UK system also has/had means-tested loans, so that while anyone could access the minimum, those under certain income thresholds could borrow up to 4,125 pounds per year on relatively low interest, which I did). My parents didn’t/couldn’t give me additional money, but before every term, my dad would drive me up and swing by the local supermarket, and I would max out on groceries on his dime to last as long as possible.

“I’ve worked part-time jobs since I was 16, but didn’t have much in way of savings, so I worked a summer job before college, which paid for a laptop, and new clothes. I also picked up shifts there during holidays in my first year. My college ‘frowned on’ us holding term-time work, and honestly, I was too busy attempting not to have a mental breakdown and drop out to manage that on top of school work. Second year, I filled my vacations with internships, which cost me a lot in terms of train fare to London, and expenses—hello overdraft! Oh, and in being poor, I also got a bursary from my college of 1,000 pounds the first year, and then 500 in subsequent years, which was applied directly against rent.

“I graduated with ‘only’ 13,000ish pounds of debt including overdrafts.” —KE

“I went to a state school in Maryland on full scholarship and worked on campus every semester, as well as taking retail and restaurant jobs during breaks, to pay for my books, clothes and spending money. Since my scholarship covered room and board, I stayed on campus for all four years and only ate non-dining-hall food when I could pay for it myself. Also included was a semester abroad: My (divorced) parents paid for my plane ticket and gave me some money for food. I paid the other expenses from savings. After college, I went to graduate school on a full assistantship, which covered tuition and paid me a small stipend for teaching a class each semester. My parents’ contribution during this time was to pay my car insurance (my mother gave me her Ford Escort during my senior year of college, after she bought a new car—this was the first car I had ever had).

“During graduate school, I was the only person I knew who didn’t take out loans for living expenses; my stipend was tiny, so I lived in essentially a studio apartment in a college town in Ohio and lived very frugally. After graduate school, I moved in with my boyfriend, who I then married.  I am the only person I know with a graduate degree and no student debt, but my husband is just finishing law school, so I didn’t escape the student debt machine altogether.  Now that I have my own children, I want them to feel more free in their college choices than I did, but I fully expect them to work while they are students, and don’t expect to fully subsidize them after school.” —JR

“One of the few things Georgia does right is the HOPE scholarship, which is basically if you graduate from high school with a 3.0 or better and maintain that GPA through college, you get 100% of tuition paid for. I qualified for this, so I did not have to pay tuition at my local state school. I have three younger sisters and my parents don’t make much, so I worked retail jobs throughout college to pay my for my own rent and utilities. My parents gave me about $40/week for gas money. In my senior year of college, I quit my retail job that I hated and took out a $5,000 student loan to pay my living expenses so that I could have the freedom to work an unpaid internship and do some volunteer ESL teaching at a local nonprofit. I feel really lucky that I only incurred $5,000 in debt and that Georgia paid for my schooling, although I sometimes regret making the tradeoff between a local school I could attend for free and a more prestigious out-of-state university.” —AT

“About half of my tuition was paid for in scholarship grants, my parents contributed a portion free and clear (they gave me and my brother about the same amount, about a year’s tuition), and the rest I paid for in a combination of federal and private loans which were cosigned by my parents. I had a job all through college, for spending money, groceries, etc. Now I pay a loan payment of about $600 every month.

“My parents also helped me big time very recently by refinancing my private loan by taking out a loan against a property they own. I’ll be saving about $100 per month and thousands and thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. I can’t say I paid for college ‘all on my own’ because my parents have gone above and beyond in helping me in direct and indirect ways. Their simply cosigning my loans is an amazing gift. When I think of my parents, I feel weak with adoration.” —LR


30 Comments / Post A Comment

nerd alert (#436)

I also got the HOPE scholarship! Between that and the job in a kitchen, I graduated undergrad with zero debt. Grad school, however, cost me 33k in loans. Booo.

AnnieNilsson (#406)

Interesting. My dad died when I was 12, and this is the first time I’ve ever heard about SS benefits for kids. Were they in your name, or did they go to your dad and then he put them in an account for you?

I assume any benefits we received went toward general expenses while we were kids. My father had seven children all told. Only two of us ended up going to college, and when we did, our mom paid for our tuition. When I went to grad school it was funded through a scholarship and TAship with stipend.

It’s been interesting to see how everybody’s family seems to have a different approach to this stuff. I don’t have any children, but if I do eventually, I wonder if I will try and save the entire amount for them or what. A few people in the comments yesterday mentioned that they felt almost stunted by having it all worked out already, not having to learn the value of their own work at a young age etc.

I certainly see that in my younger self. I was an entitled shit. But then again, my sister also had her college paid for, and yet she was super smart about getting paying jobs throughout college and every summer, and then she immediately got a grownup job when she graduated, and has been responsible and generally awesome ever since. So, it all came down to personality with us.

Likewise I have some friends whose parents didn’t help them at all with tuition, but that didn’t help them to become fiscally responsible, they simply took out unfathomable amounts in loan money and I guess will be paying for the rest of their lives.

So, the solution is obviously halfsies. Right?

Megano! (#124)

@AnnieNilsson I got the Orphan Benefit when I was in University, but I am in Canada. It just required filling out a form every year (well two forms here) and getting the registrar to sign it, so it was relatively painless.

Blondsak (#2,299)

@AnnieNilsson Your mother would have had to apply for the benefits to receive them. The money went to my dad but he already made enough money without them to pay for any expenses while I was growing up. When I was 18 and it was discontinued, he transferred it all to me. I was incredibly lucky in this regard – most surviving parents need the benefits to care for their children.

There is more information on survivor’s benefits here: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10084.html

honey cowl (#1,510)

This is interesting because even though I graduated with no debt, I feel like I belong in this group. My parents are ridiculous savers who built up a significant sum that I was allowed to use for education however I saw fit (pre-recession; I started college in 2007, and a huge percentage was wiped out in 2008/09 by the market). I could have gone to a public school to save money for grad school, or picked an expensive private school, or somewhere in the middle, but anything over the specific dollar amount my parents had saved would have to be covered solely by me.

Being the grad-school despiser I was and still am, I chose an amazing private school across the country. I had to work my ass off throughout high school and college (to the tune of 25 hours a week in high school and 40+ hours a week in college, in addition to full-time studentry). Of course, my younger brother has never worked outside of a summer in his life, but that’s a whole different can of worms… he was also forced to bypass his dream school because of his mediocre grades and ensuing lack of scholarships, whatever.

I got the highest scholarship offered by my university. I finished in 3 1/2 years to save on that last semester. I worked as an RA, which was the single worst job I’ve ever had and basically changed my entire personality and outlook on life, for free room and board sophomore & junior years. I made myself miserable working 20 hours a week as a barista on top of school and RA commitments, which were often 15-20 hours a week. But hey, I have no debt.

And yet somehow I am supposed to feel guilty that my parents handed me this huge sum of money? Some of it is leftover, and what am I going to do with that? I hate it when my student-loan-having friends judge me for having none, because I worked hard in addition to my parents’ gift. Ugh now I’m just mad.

@Lauren Well, right. But imagine having done all of that throughout high school and college, and *still* having to pay $600 a month to Sallie Mae for the next 20 years of your life.

Your friends probably don’t judge you…they’re probably jealous.

littleoaks (#1,801)

@Lauren I think this series has demonstrated there are many, many factors that play into paying for school beyond “my parents shelled out-of-pocket for my private school tuition and I have never worked in my life” vs. “I am emancipated from my parents and simultaneously work four jobs.” And it’s not a scale of increasing virtuousness in between the two. One can certainly accept parental help without being lazy or entitled or feeling guilty or defensive. I too had a scholarship supplemented by parental assistance and my own jobs, and while I don’t think at 18 I appreciated the full significance of a debt-free young adulthood, it definitely didn’t make me lazy. Support from my parents during college pushed me to work my hardest–it was a gift I didn’t want to squander.

kitten_witawip (#1,309)

I paid for my tuition myself, no student loans. I worked three jobs, paid for my own apartment, food etc. It can be done but you are going to have a completely different experience. I listen to people now wax on about their school years and I think WTF. For me it was sheer hell.

kellyography (#250)

I paid for tuition at a private university myself with loans, working three jobs, and applying for every scholarship and grant that would have me. I also finished my entire first year before even setting foot on campus by taking AP and college courses in high school, so that saved me on taking a fourth year.

I never received anything from my family for college, but because I was not allowed to go to the rough-and-tumble public high school, I had to go to a private high school that cost as much as the local state college, so any “college funding” from family was out of the question. The total amount I’ll pay off in student loans is about $30K, but I should have it all paid off by Christmas, four years early.

I liked the small campus and class sizes of my university, and probably wouldn’t have liked going to a giant state school, but I probably would have been able to actually focus a lot more on my education had I not had to constantly work to keep up with rent, department fees, and all that. I probably would have also been able to take advantage of semester abroad opportunities, which sounded like a lot of fun.

elizabeast (#629)

When I was 17 and applying for college, I set my sights on an expensive (and not even very prestigious) art school. I got in, I took out loans, and now I’m just chipping away at nearly $100k in debt.

So, AB, I totally hear you about a decision you made at 17 affecting the rest of your life. Perhaps 17 year old me should have known better, but she didn’t, and no one ever sat her down to explain the financial implications of her decision.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@elizabeast I hear ya. I’m in the same boat with law school. Although I made that decision at 20, so I should have been fully mature and responsible by then I guess. I love to hear people screaming about how we should shut up and pay what we owe (plus double in interest, usually). That’s fun.

elizabeast (#629)

@WaityKatie I feel both ways. As much as I feel like I spent more on college than I should have, I also feel that I made a decision and I should pay what I owe. HOWEVER, I think it was the responsibility of the adults around me to have a Real Talk with me about the decision I was making.

I paid for college, grad school, and my current doctorate program through absolute luck which I’m so, so grateful for. I won scholarships for my undergrad, which was a tiny conservatory in the middle of manhattan, so it wasn’t cheap. My grad school was free, thanks to a wonderful donation some anonymous AWESOME person made to every music student who would get in there, and my doctorate program is paid for because I work for the school. I paid for housing by teaching stipends and the gigs here and there. I’m grateful everyday that I was able to get into these programs so that I don’t have debt hanging over my most definitely impoverished future

Tuna Surprise (#118)

My dad worked for the state university when I was a student so I got half off (what was an already low tuition). My parents paid the half we owed (somewhere around $2000 per year) and I paid everything else – books, rent, food. I worked all through college (but only 15 to 20 hours a week). When I was a junior, my dad got laid off so I had to double up on classes to graduate a semester early before the benefits ran out. I graduated without any debt.

I went to law school and took out loans to pay tuition and most living expenses. I graduated with 100k+ and have paid it off with a soulless big law job plus frugal living.

nogreeneggs (#154)

I’m the oldest in my family and my parents told me throughout high school they wouldn’t be able to help me in college so I decided to go to a State school. I worked 2 jobs (one work study, one internship type deal) through college for textbook and spending money. I graduated with $22k in Federal loans (most of that from the last two years due to rising tuition *frown face*), did not go to grad school like I had planned, got an entry-level job a few months after graduating, and started putting all of my non-living expenses money towards my loans. I paid off my loans a year and a half after graduating and I’m super proud of that.

Sometimes I’m disappointed in myself for not going to grad school but I think I have a good life and I realize there are other ways to be accomplished. And in my case, grad school would not have lead to making more money; it would have been specifically because I’m an overachiever and tied to self-worth so I think I made the right choice.

nogreeneggs (#154)

Wanted to add:
Even though my parents didn’t help me financially, I do want to thank them for helping me be financially smart and educating me about the cost of life while I was growing up. Even though it was really annoying when I was in high school to hear that it might not be a good idea to go to my Dream Expensive Private School, I’m really glad now that they took the time to prepare me for after college and that I actually listened to them. Love you parents!

I graduated from high school really, really young. My parents always said they weren’t going to pay for college for their kids, but they didn’t expect to have a 15 year old in college either. SO I went to community college for 2 years and they picked up the tab for that, probably around $2000 total. I got a couple hundred bucks in scholarships here and there and lived at home, but paid for my own gas, car insurance, cell phone and food/entertainment with about 30 hours a week of babysitting. I saved a few thousand dollars as well.

When I went to transfer and finish my degree I was fed up with community college, living in the state where I grew up, and living with my parents. I was going to pay for it and I was a dumb 17 year old, so I decided to go to an expensive out of state private school for my last two years. To be fair, I also got a really obscure degree that was only offered by a handful of schools in the country, and most schools offered it as a BA, not a BBA which I wanted. Anyway.

I also lost a bunch of credits transferring and had to take a hefty summer semester and a few 20-21 credit semesters to finish in 2 years. I graduated with $60,000 in loans, $11k of which were Stafford loans (maxed out every semester) and $49k of which were Parent Plus loans in my dad’s name (I was 17 and didn’t qualify for loans and as a transfer I didn’t qualify for most scholarships or grants). I think my grandparents gave my parents $5k, which they used to make my loan payments over the two years I was in college. My parents did not give me any monthly allowance or anything in college. My dad got everything consolidated for me when I graduated and paid the Plus loan for a year as my graduation gift, and I took over payments after that. That was six years ago – I paid off my Stafford loan this year and still have something like $40k on the Plus loan, but I’m chipping away. What sucks the most is that I can’t even use it as a tax deduction because it’s in my dad’s name, but he was able to get a much lower interest rate than would be offered now, so refinancing to put it in my own name isn’t an option.

I was also lucky in that I was able to temp at the place I had my first internship for the remaining 1.5 years of college. They paid me $10 an hour as a temp and hired me when I graduated, so I was able to cover living expenses and not take out additional loans. My loans are pretty much only for tuition.

It’s funny – writing it out I see how much my parents helped me through college. I took the bulk of the burden financially and always say I put myself through college, but I wouldn’t have been able to do it if my parents hadn’t footed the cheap community college bill and juggled my massive private school loan for a couple years until I was on my feet and able to take over payments.

ranran (#1,002)

I find it really interesting that SO many of these are framed as a question of expensive private school vs. affordable public school. I don’t doubt that it’s a thing for a ton of people, and I assumed it would be for me, but it actually…wasn’t at all. After I got in, early action, to the expensive private school I really wanted to, I applied to my state’s public university because I hadn’t gotten a financial aid offer yet and didn’t know if I’d be able to afford the tuition, which was, at the time, about the amount of my parents’ incomes combined. Turned out that after scholarships need-based grants, my cost was almost exactly the same at both. I gradated from what’s apparently one of the 25 most expensive colleges with about $5,000 in loans, and I think that was all from my two years in the dorms — by the time I moved off-campus, my grants were basically covering my living expenses. I fully realize that it doesn’t work that way for everybody, or even most people, but I’m always surprised that I don’t run into more people with the same sort of experience.

nogreeneggs (#154)

@ranran Well for me, the only reason I wanted to go to a private school to begin with was because all of my friends were going to private schools. My parents helped me see that it was pretty stupid to quadruple my student loans just because “everyone was doing it.” And in the end, I went to a really academically good State school, better than most of the private schools I was looking at (for my major/minors at least). Sometimes the affordable* school is also the best choice academically.

*I’m using affordable in the loosest possibly way.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

@ranran My experience was sort of similar. I applied to two SUNYs and assorted private schools, and the fanciest school I got into was also the most generous with its financial aid. Incidentally my freshmen year was a weird year for my parents financially, (reorganization at my mom’s firm), and my financial aid only grew more generous the next year, which was ordinary and the subsequent two as my younger brothers enrolled in college (one at the same school as me). Aside from that first year, my costs at Fancy U were comparable to attending one of the SUNYs and the benefits of going there, in the simple terms of the alumni network and the edge it gives me in applying to graduate schools were totally worth it. I was able to major in a useless humanity, be deliriously happy with my academics for four years, and still get a decent job after graduating. I graduated with about $15,000 in stafford loans, which I am completely responsible for.

My parents covered the gap between financial aid and loans out of pocket, and my living expenses, which I did everything in my power to minimize. I lived in my sorority house as a sophomore and part of my junior year, which was by far the cheapest three semesters of living expenses I had, including the dues. (Full disclosure: I also was very, very, very lucky and wound up getting about $7000 in scholarships from the sorority over my 3.5 years in it.) I worked a combination of jobs from sophomore to senior year, and basically paid for all my living expenses besides rent as a senior.

I’m entertaining the idea of going to law school next year, but if I don’t score enough in fellowships/aid its just not happening. $15,000 in debt is totally reasonable and manageable. $150,000 is not, even if you do get one of those crazy biglaw jobs.

highjump (#39)

I went to an expensive private school based on the fact that they had a super high success rate for the pre-medical field I was then interested in. Switched my major to humanities and a social science and had the best but most expensive four years of my life.

My parents paid for my books for first year, but I graduated with almost $80,000 in loans (maxed out my federal options, a PLUS loan that I am making the payments for, and a quasi-private loan from the Bank of North Dakota). During school I had a work study job and a second retail slave job to the tune of 30hr/week. In the summers I always had 2-4 jobs except for the summer I spent interning in DC which led directly to the job I have now and almost $4k in credit card debt (but that is another story). Right now my student loan debt is about 150% of my salary and my monthly payments on the standard repayment plan are more than my rent in DC.

I loved my college years, and I would not have the job I have now without my majors, but this debt is awful. I wish I could save all of this money for a house or a car or really anything else.

awk (#840)

I went to an expensive private college in Ohio. During year 1, I took out the normal combination of public/private loans and got a decent (50 percent) scholarship. My parents paid roughly $1,000 of the $12,000 bill.

Somewhere about halfway through the first semester, I had a $12,000 epiphany and realized that my financial choices were fairly unsustainable. No kidding, a few minutes later, I called the local National Guard recruiter because I’d heard they provided tuition assistance to their members. This was post 9/11 but pre-Iraq War.

ANYWAY, since I’m a dork who is also a fairly advanced tuba player, my recruiter got me into a National Guard band (this is a thing the military has). I had to do all the normal combat training but when I got done, I just played the tuba. It also turns out that I’m fairly adept at navigating bureaucracies and was able to use a combination of Ohio, Defense Department and Veterans Affairs funding to pretty much pay for all of my school tuition/fees, along with books and living expenses. I worked an internship one summer and 12-hour shifts in a factory the others. I also got paid for the time I spent on duty. In the end, I had about $10k in debt which I paid off while working my first big kid job and living at home.

charmcity (#1,091)

Let’s hear it for public universities! It’s not the glamorous choice for most high school seniors, but I don’t know any of my peers who made that decision and now regret it.

hungrybee (#73)

@charmcity Not a single regret on the public school front. I was able to pay for it all with subsidized Direct Loans, which made it so much more tolerable to borrow for grad school a few years later. It also made me much more savvy at navigating large institutions, which was borne of necessity, but has served me well.

genkiliz (#683)

I lost both of my parents by the time I was 19 and there wasn’t any money to be had – the joys of not having any family savings or life insurance – not to mention I had to help pay for my sister’s expenses during her senior year of HS. So I paid for my entire college education myself.

I went to an expensive Ivy League school, but was given generous loans, grants and scholarship money that paid for about 75% of my tuition not including living expenses. The rest I earned during the school year and summers.

I worked as a waitress 4 nights a week, and did work-study 15 hours a week or so at the library so that I could study while doing my ‘job.’ Besides freshman year, when it was required, I lived off campus because it was cheaper, and didn’t participate in a meal plan because again, going independently was cheaper, especially when one meal per waiting shift was free. Waiting tables more or less saved me because there was no way I could cover the other portion of my tuition, all of my living expenses and still send a hundred or two home each month to help my sister out for things like prom, or new shoes, or whatever, if I made minimum wage as opposed to the 100+ a night I made as a waitress.

I also graduated a semester early, which made up for a semester I took off to save money and work two full-time jobs and which also helped to decrease the cost of college. When I finished up, I only had about 20K in loans, which is not so bad considering the cost of one year of tuition alone was, at the time, about 18,000.

It was a lot of work, but I had a ridiculous amount of fun too and have gained the most enormous sense of accomplishment and pride from the challenges I’ve overcome! And, my best friends from college are yes, some of my classmates, but my very best friends are all my old co-workers. Honestly, I don’t think I would have changed much about the whole experience.

Rappingtomato (#2,303)

I went to the small, cheap, local school – my parents couldn’t even afford to let me apply to more than one place.

Getting any help for college was not an option, so by junior year I was working full time 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and taking classes on my lunch break and after work.

I don’t tell people about it because there’s no way to without seeming like I’m complaining, which I’m not. It was just the reality of the situation that I couldn’t go to football games or parties or out to eat with my friends who just refused to believe I couldn’t make a phone call and get money.

But I’m also not bragging, because it was only done out of necessity, not out of some noble call to be independent.

The upside is I had my loans paid off within a few years of graduation and immediately began squirreling away money for my pretend/maybe/future kids to go anywhere their brains can take them.

allreb (#502)

My folks started saving before I was born, and even so really only covered about a third of my college (including room/board). I lucked into having some much-better-off relatives who also valued education (and considered me a grandchild even though I’m actually their grand-niece) and chipped in to cover about another third. The remaining third was a combination of loans and scholarships/grants. I went to a stupidly expensive private school (…it seemed like a good idea at the time…) with a repayment plan that was originally going to span 30 years. But I’m chipping away at it faster than the minimum requirements and have it down to about another 12 years (after having paid it for the past seven).

allreb (#502)

@allreb Oh also – a big chunk of the living expenses my parents contributed to were also out of social security. My dad turned 65 when I was only 15, so I got benefits for the next three years. They went into a separate account he held for me and used for Stuff I Needed — clothes, books, etc through high school, the computer I got to start college with, and then the rest for living expenses freshman year (so I would be able to focus on transitioning into college without worrying too much about money, which was lovely and I’m very grateful for). After that it was gone and I had a workstudy to cover all of my own meals out/books/etc.

I went to an expensive private school on a full-ish scholarship (80-90% of tuition) and federal loans covered the rest. For room and board, my parents paid for one year on campus, and I got a private loan for my second year when my sister started college. Third year I split between study abroad (fully funded with an additional scholarship I got for choosing a less-popular locale) and living off-campus (parents paid for housing, work-study and jobs paid for food). Fourth year I was an RA, so room was covered, and I paid for a meal plan with my summer job earnings.

I had summer jobs throughout college to pay for incidental expenses. My parents didn’t pay for a lot beyond my first year, but what they covered gave me peace of mind. I was able to do an internship while living off-campus because my parents covered my rent, and I always knew that they’d have my back in an emergency. I probably could have relied on them more, but the jobs I had in college were fantastic resume-builders and I didn’t suffer academically.

The only way it’s held me back is that I can’t fathom going to grad school! The best programs in my field are full-time and I just can’t bring myself to not only quit my job, but take out loans just for day-to-day expenses.

helloimgreen (#998)

I have about $90k in student loans from five years at a private university. This could have been much higher, especially with that unplanned fifth year, but I was fortunate enough to qualify for a good amount of scholarships and grants. I took out loans to cover the remainder of my tuition and for room & board/rent/bills each year because I knew I wouldn’t have been able to scrounge that up each month.

I worked two, sometimes three, jobs throughout college for spending money, and often had to send some home to help my parents out. I wore myself pretty thin across a terrible major that I hated (but was too stubborn/proud to switch out of), my jobs (that I probably should have quit), and the 2345346 student organizations I was extremely active in (overachiever golden child, etc. etc.), but I honestly wouldn’t have traded in my experiences for a cheaper or easier university. I went to college 2000 miles away from home to be wholly independent from my parents, and I don’t think I would have the fiscal attitude I do today if I never went out of state.

It was hard when I was still working those part-time jobs after graduation and the 6-month grace period on my loans passed. But then I got hired by my alma mater for a job that matched my interests (student affairs, much different from my health sciences degree) and things started to turn around. I want to get my Master’s eventually, and if I continue to work here I will not only get that paid for, but I’ll also have loan deferment! I’m working on getting this process started once I figure out what I want to study. Everyone in my office has been here for a long time, so having that job security and knowing what is possible in my educational future is comforting.

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