‘The Story of My Education Has Been Long And Miserable’

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

“The story of my education has been long and miserable.  My family is lower middle class and was very frank when they told me they wouldn’t contribute anything monetarily. Luckily dad works at a local university, and the balance of my tuition after scholarships and grants (of which I had several, as I was in music and was good) was completely paid for by the school.  My first school mistake was made in my first semester, when I took on too much. I going from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, between school, band, and my job. I had a nervous breakdown, and basically gave up.  I ended up failing out after my third semester, and lost any chance at the school paying for anything for me ever again.”

“After that, I began an eight year trip towards a bachelor’s degree, taking on loans left and right, deferring them for years while I meandered my way towards finishing school.  I never thought about the cost of classes that I would start and give up on mid-way through, always too late to get any kind of refund.

“About a year ago, I finally sat down and decided to finish this damn thing, and I got my degree in Human Resources this August, right after getting married and buying a house. (Goal for 2013: No major life events!)  I just got my first email about my student loans, which I can no longer defer, and I’m looking at around $800 a month, which is more than half my monthly net. My husband, who was fortunate enough to have his parents pay for his undergraduate, has around $600 a month in law school debt, and is working a low-paying attorney job.

“I have no idea how we’re going to make it, especially with this new house—if we fall behind and have to file for bankruptcy or something, he’ll be ruined, as he’ll likely lose his license.  But I recognize that our situation is directly a result of our choices, and had we known better, we would have made different ones—I wouldn’t have failed out of my first school, we would have waited to buy a house, I would have actually thought about the costs I was incurring.  So, we’ll make it work, somehow, and eventually we’ll get out from under the monster we created.”

How did you pay for your education? logan@thebillfold.com

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17 Comments / Post A Comment

This is depressingly similar to my tale of woe (throw an untreated learning disability in there, and cut my bachelors down-though not my much-to 6 years, and then add like two years of unfinished grad school to ice that cake of despair), and I’m still in deferment.

Luckily, my job pays a portion of my schooling, so I’m going to finish that masters without incurring a ton more debt (ugh, even $5000 seems unmanageable). And I’m planning to save a large portion while in school so that when my payments begin, I can subsidize them to make them manageable.

Ok, I also do not own a home (How did you get a home loan with all that debt?? Doesn’t it destroy your credit? What the hell were you, and seriously your husband, thinking?). On the flip side, I also do not have a husband who is a lawyer, so no one shares my food, health care, heating, electricity, water, etc. bills.

Some advice: GET A SECOND JOB. Or even a third one. Tough love, but you made this bed-don’t lose the house/go bankrupt and make your husband lie in it.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@Jake Reinhardt Uh, her husband has debt too, and a low paying job. I don’t get the hate here.

readyornot (#816)

@Jake Reinhardt wow, tough love indeed.
Maybe it’s because I come from a totally opposite situation, but I have nothing but real sympathy for BB. You and your husband can do it, BB! We’re rooting for you. Are there extra rooms in the house you can rent out? Stay up to date on job postings in both of your areas; surely something more manageable will come along soon.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@WaityKatie I’m not reading it as hate, but I also am very confused as to why this person and her husband bought a house when they already have massive debts and low paying jobs. Though to the OP’s credit she does take ownership of the situation she’s in.

I agree about getting a second job. Doesn’t have to be huge, even a couple of hours a week provides a bit of a buffer.

AmandaA (#936)

@Worker Parasite I think part of the problem is that A LOT of people (generally older. Like, say, my parents) still believe that renting is “throwing your money away” and that if you can scrounge a downpayment you should buy a house like, right away, no matter what the rest of the situation is. And in many parts of the US (where I’m assuming the writer is from!) houses are cheaper than they’ve ever been. Especially if “my husband’s a lawyer!!” comes up — suddenly all the uncles come out of the woodwork to tell you how much you need to buy a house.

Good luck, BB! You can do it!

@WaityKatie There is absolutely no hate there whatsoever. If anything, I share an innate sense of panic over large debt that seems impossible to deal with. Which is why I know from a very personal level that she needs to get a second job!!

Also, she did make her bed, with 8 years of undergraduate tuition borrowed, and if they declare bankruptcy, she doesn’t suffer that much in earning potential, but her husband surely does. And there is also a reasonable expectation that as an attorney, $600 a month of debt will be manageable-no such thing with a BA.

I’m currently doing the second-job seeking dance myself, and it sucks, but part of taking responsibility for past mistakes is owning up and then fixing what you can without harming others in the process. It’s definitely possible, but as I sort of whined it out with my combo therapist/career counselor, she was like, “yeah, your life is never going to get better unless you have more income. No amount of budgeting is going to help you right now. You need more money.” It was a total slap in the face but she is completely correct. Time to hustle.

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@AmandaA Ugh, yes, on the “throwing your money away” people. I’m sure it’s even worse if you’re married, because the Next Step is to buy a house, regardless of whether you can afford it. But even as a single woman, even after the mortgage crash, I STILL get pressure from people to buy a condo. I can’t afford to buy a damn condo, my debt is more than the cost of a lot of condos right now!

WaityKatie (#1,696)

@Jake Reinhardt But…she said her husband is in a low paying job. The assumption that “lawyer” = “600 a month in debt is manageable” is false, false, false. Especially now. (Although 600 a month in law school debt is virtually pennies compared to what most lawyers end up owing – I can only assuming he’s on IBR or something). I agree that they probably shouldn’t have bought a house, though.

@WaityKatie Totally, I get what you’re saying, I’m just stating that it’s a misconception many, if not most, people have when going into law school that they can afford that. There is no way possible she thought that an HR degree was going to bring in the big bucks. So while his might be an explainable folly, and a product of the current economic environment, hers is kind of a “well, duh” situation.

Worker Parasite (#2,292)

@AmandaA Agreed, I get a lot of that, but I live in a country that has a housing market exactly like the US did 5 years ago. Nobody believes that it’ll crash, but it’s frustrating trying to tell people that I don’t think buying a house for 10x the average income makes sense, when historical norms are around 3x, and having them say “Real estate just goes up up UP!”

Buying a house is not necessarily a terrible decision. Houses are cheaper than ever in a long while, interest rates are at an all-time low, and there are many programs for first-time homebuyers that are set to expire eventually, in theory. If you plan to stay in the same place for a while (which seems a safe bet for a lawyer who probably doesn’t want to take the bar/make all new contacts in a new place) and don’t live in a superheated urban market, it is a perfectly sound decision. Like, a friend of mine who just got married bought a two-bedroom house in Austin, with a yard, and has a mortgage payment that’s smaller than the rent on my closet-sized studio in DC.

Also, large student loan balances don’t really affect your credit rating unless you start falling behind on payments.

sventurata (#27)

@Jake Reinhardt To be fair, she started off in music… HR is a surefire employment winner by comparison.

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@stuffisthings I think it depends on the loan. If it’s a government loan, you are probably okay. But a private loan, say from a bank, no way!
Buying a house is a great idea if you can afford it and don’t want or need to move. But if these guys can’t find decent paying jobs, moving might be the best option and selling a house in certain places can be tough. Why strap yourself in if you aren’t ready?

minijen (#656)

Deepest sympathies to the author, I’m facing stupid debt from screw-ups, major changes, health issues, etc. It sucks. While I second the above suggestions of additional income via a 2nd job or renting a room, I’m not sure what your specific situation may be. Any chance you are a two-car household that can go to one car? Also, Income Based Repayment: http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-based

Good luck!

Ok, lost in my original comment is the fact that I am legitimately wondering how they got a home loan. Not in the snarky way, in the genuine way. Does student loan debt not factor into loan decisions? What about income? I’ve never bought a home; someone school me!!

loren smith (#2,300)

@Jake Reinhardt I really legitimately wonder about this too. And I mean this as honestly as possible, although it sounds snarky: Why would you accept a huge bank loan if it was offered to you if you were in such a bad financial situation?. When my bank or credit card offers me something, I automatically think that they are out to trick me and steal my money. Is that a fundamentally different way of considering money and responsibility?

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

@Jake Reinhardt There are lots of ways! Student loan debt is not the same as credit card debt and a few years ago they really were giving mortgages to everyone. I knew a couple who didn’t have the cash for first, last and deposit on an apartment, so they got a 0 down mortgage on a condo instead. And yes, they lost the condo to foreclosure about two years later. Maybe his parents gave them the money for a down payment? Maybe they got a lot of money when they got married that helped them with the down payment? Maybe at one time, they did have some money squirreled away and put it all towards a house? Do we know where the writer is from? Some places are CHEAP to live, like just about anywhere in the middle of the country.
And I am with all of you that want to tell the people who say renting is a waste to suck it. How is having a roof over my head and the ability to move if I need or want to a waste? The other day my hot water heater was busted. I called the landlord who fixed it. If I owned a house, I would have had to call the plumber myself and paid overtime charges for a weekend visit or waited until Monday. There are plenty of benefits of renting! Sell that house girl and rent something affordable! You can do it!

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