Monday, 17 September 2012

Why go to university in the first place?

As I was thinking about my previous life in student loan debt, one word came to my mind.  Why?  Not why did I get a student loan but why did I go to school in the first place?  Yes, I finally realized that this was the most important question one comtemplating taking student loans should ask themselves.  Unfortunately for me, I asked this question 23 years too late.  However, I think it's important to answer because it was what sent me on my student loan journey.

So, why did I want to go to school?  As I am sitting here typing this blog, nothing earth shattering comes to mind.  Things like, I always wanted to be a doctor (that's what my father wanted me to do) and needed to go to school to fulfill my dream.   You see I had no dream job that I wanted to do.  I thought about being a chemical engineer.  I did like chemistry in school but I think the job just sounded cool.  I really didn't know anything about it.  My English teacher wanted me to major in history in university.  I liked history but never really dreamed about being a history teacher. 

There was also all my friends and peers who were going to university.  We used to talk about being on our own and making our own decisions, being old enough to drink, being able to go to whatever parties you want to, getting that college experience.  I guess therein lies the problem.  You see,  if you want to go to school for the college experience, to find yourself, to try different things, to be personally enlightened that's your choice.   However,  if you are going to go school for those reasons, you'd better have all your university tuition already paid for.  Why you might ask?

Because if you don't you'll have a small mortgage to pay for after you finish university, if you ever finish.  Yes, you'll be in debt and with no plan to get yourself out of it.  The reasons above have university as the zenith or pinnacle of your dream.  So while you are in university, you enjoy that life but once you are out reality sets in.  You need a job, you need food to eat, you need a place to live and yes, you need a plan to pay back your student loan.  However, if your reasons for going to university are for the above, you'll have little or no plan;  I know I didn't.

So what's the moral of the story or the answer to why?  Well, if you plan on going to any post secondary institutions after high school, you'd better pick a field or job that you can pretty much guarantee a job after completion.  I am not talking about taking an arts program or business administration.  No something that gives you a specific skill and that will be in demand.  If you are taking a student loan, you don't have the luxury to find yourself and waste time in university.  You've heard the saying time is money and it's true, the more time in school; the more money it is going to cost you.  So, you have to take the emotion out of going to school and look at going to school as a purely financial decision.  You have to look at it this way because you are taking a student loan and this will affect you financially for the foreseeble future. 

So if you are thinking of going to university or college and taking a student loan and not strictly looking at the financial aspect of getting a job that can cover your expenses and your loan then you should rethink the thought of going to school because you might be living your fantasy but not taking a hard look at reality.   Eventually, we all fall back to reality, trust me.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Trapped by a student loan

Imagine that you are a hungry rabbit in the forest looking for food.  You haven't eaten in days and you are feeling desperate.  You have to eat or you'll perish.  Just when things look bleak you see an oasis.  Actually you see food, a big carrot!  It looks so good.   You notice a ring around the carrot but you are not concerned.  You also see a string on the carrot but it's no big deal as you know you can chew right through it.  All that matters is that you are going to eat and eat well!  You make your way to the carrot; sniff it a couple of times and then take a big bite. Then snatch!  the ring that was around the carrot is around your throat.  It's a rope and it's too big to chew through.  You try to wiggle out of it  and pull hard to break it but it just gets tighter, choking you.    You realize that you are trapped and there is nothing you can do about it. You are in big trouble.

Have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever felt like you were trapped and there was no way out of it?  I did for a long time; actually for 22 years.  No I wasn't in prison or locked in a dungeon but that was how long I had a student loan.  For over half my life, I had to live with the yoke of having that student debt.  It was incredibly hard and frustrating and I honestly thought that I would never pay it off.   But just over a year ago, I finally did pay my loan off and boy my first year without student loans feels really good.  I feel like that rabbit who somehow got free of that trap after things looked so desperate.   Yeah, I feel good.

And that's why I started this blog. I know there are many people - in fact potentially millions -  that are in the situation I was in.  You know, middle aged ( I am 41 now), your student loan in default and you don't know how to get out of it.  I know there are others who are comtemplating taking a student loan for schooling but they don't know all the pitfulls and traps.  I want to share my experiences with having student loans so that others can be more informed and have a better outcome.  So that's what I am going to do; I am going to share different aspects of my student loan experience and my family's(yes some of them got trapped too! In fact, some of them are still deeply in debt).  All with the goal of either helping you avoid the trap altogether or if you are caught in it, to break free of it. I will talk to you soon!