‘My Parents Told Me That If I Wanted to Go to College, I’d Have to Pay for It Myself”

We’ve invited readers to share their stories of financing education.How did you pay for your education, B.G.?

My parents told me that if I wanted to go to college, I’d have to pay for it myself. Alrighty then. After graduation in May ’09, I had about $23k in loans to pay off. Here’s the breakdown:

Degree cost: About $190,000

School scholarship: I chose a school with a “need-based” financial aid program and received about 70% of the total cost. Dear parents, thanks for being poor! Love, me.

Loans: I took out a Federal Stafford Loan (subsidized) for each year of school, which totaled $16,875. Thanks to a job that makes payments on my student loan, as of right now I have $3,411.52 left to pay.

Outside scholarships: My mom made me apply to a scholarship a week my senior year of high school, and there were a couple that wrote me a check all four years. 

I think the most I had was like $2,500 my freshman year and it decreased every year after that. Here is where I have a bone to pick with the so-called “need-based” program. One organization sent the scholarship check directly to the school, but instead of applying that money to my personal standing balance, they simply decreased the amount of the scholarship from the school! What! They claimed I no longer “needed” as much from them with the outside money coming in. Anyway, it decreased my motivation to apply for scholarships.

Hard work: Each year I was on the hook for an average of $10,000. Yikes! That meant three long summers of waiting tables, dog walking, babysitting, receptionist work, pretty much anything for a buck. I knew how much I needed to earn each day in order to pay for school. A work study job and tutoring paid for booze, parties, and basketball tickets in the student section.

Generosity of relatives: I really, really wanted to study abroad the summer before my senior year. Except I couldn’t afford either the cost of the program or the cost of not working for a summer. But I have a big family, and one aunt and uncle loaned me the money for the program, and one aunt and uncle loaned me $6,000 for my senior year tuition. I stayed in a lot that year since money was pretty tight, but it was worth it.  As a graduation present, the first set forgave the loan! I can’t ever express how grateful I am, for real. And I worked my tush off to pay back the other set—I did, one year and eight months after I graduated.


How did you go to school? (Or, support yourself after high school?) logan@thebillfold.com


8 Comments / Post A Comment

WaityKatie (#1,696)

YES about colleges decreasing your aid in retaliation for getting scholarships. That aggravated me so much when I was in college.

Aunt Ada Doom (#678)

@WaityKatie Yes, yes yes! Then one fellow recipient of a shared scholarship told the granting institution “You know, don’t bother with the money, since they don’t apply it to what I owe anyway.” Then there were phone calls and discussions between [large financial institution writing checks] and [expensive college] and suddenly the grant got applied much better.

As annoyed as I was at the time, though, I kind of wonder now if that wasn’t kind of being a jerk? I mean, if it was needs based (only, no merit) and the college really decided I could pay what they said and paid the rest, then was I being selfish by wanting that money for me? Maybe.

Best thing for my college finances: have main breadwinner parent be a full-time student on grants during high school. Household income so low.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@Aunt Ada Doom In my case there was a chunk of my financial aid package that was a merit scholarship from the school, so, like, any additional merit scholarships I could go out and get would just reduce that one. Maybe it was merit AND needs based? Unsure. Either way, my and the parental contribution always stayed the same, and both were higher than we could comfortably afford. Seems unfair to be penalized for seeking out sources of aid that the school wouldn’t have to pay for.

wrappedupinbooks (#1,426)

I will be forever greatful to whoever was in charge of my scholarship from my sorority who had the foresight to set those up as a check to the receipent personally. The best!

francesfrances (#1,522)

This is amazing. How the heck did this person pay this much off so quickly? How did they work/earn so much during school! I’d love to know what more: what did you major in, what’s your job now, what’s your income, rent, monthly student loan payments, etc. Teach us!!!

lhorntx (#2,302)

I used to consider not telling the school that I won scholarships but I got scared that they would find me out and I’d get in trouble for some type of fraud.

eraserface (#1,628)

@lhorntx Yeah…I worked at my university’s financial aid office throughout college, specifically processing outside scholarships and such, and it is technically considered “hiding your assets” not to have the check sent directly to the university. I’m sure some people got away with it anyway. It definitely (wrongly?) taught me that if you have need (I did), applying to outside scholarships can be a waste of time because the university will give you the money to match your need anyway.

lhorntx (#2,302)

@eraserface thanks for responding. Now my question of if my finaid office would have found out can be put to rest.

Comments are closed!