Like most Americans, when I was 17 I was faced with a difficult decision. Which school would I attend? I applied to a handful of schools – only those that had both a nursing and a journalism degree since I was undecided about my future aspirations. Of those schools, I was declined from one and got into all the rest. And then the real decision began.
Although, to be honest, it wasn’t much of a decision on my part. I wanted Marquette – a private Jesuit-run university. From the first moment I visited I fell in love with the small urban campus and the gothic interior of the church. I felt attuned to the students there and wanted to be part of a small but active College of Communications. (pic from 8000Credit.org)
The real decision was convincing my dad it was a worthwhile financial obligation. He offered me an alternative, the same that he has offered to every one of my siblings, stay home and attend community college for two years and in exchange he would buy me a car. Against his better judgment I picked Marquette and he agreed to pay what equated to half of the tuition. I needed to take care of the other half.
Fast-forward 6 years and I’m still paying that other half. Every month I write a check to pay for an education that is now very much out-dated. (Journalism has changed so rapidly in the last 10 years.)
Do I regret my decision to go to Marquette? No. The school and my degree helped me move beyond the shy awkward high schooler I was, who feared the phone and had trouble looking adults in the eye. I loved the people I met there and the experiences I gained while working on the student newspaper and starting the school’s Society of Professional Journalists’ Club. In fact the first job I got after graduation was thanks to the alumni contact the Dean of the school gave me.
Would I pick Marquette again? Maybe not. I certainly wouldn’t pick the debt again. Looking back, maybe it would have been smart for me to take the car and two years at a community college, while I worked and saved to pay for the last two years at Marquette. Plus, then I would have a car, which I still don’t have thanks to these loans. Or maybe I should have worked harder in high school to get better grades and more scholarships to pad my education.
I think student loans are something so many of us take for granted. With the cost of education, we expect to graduate with debt. But is that really the best way to go about our studies? If I wasn’t still paying off student loans a lot would be different for me. I wouldn’t have gone three years without health insurance. I would have purchased a car by now. I would have given more to charities. And I certainly would have been less burdened these past 6 years.
Maybe I should have taken the car and two years of community college.