Two weeks ago, I wrote the first article in what I'm calling my “college without debt” series. In tracking my own journey toward a debt-free college degree, I am hoping to show students in my own generation that college doesn't have to leave us with the dreadful student loan payment that oh-so-many adults have told us are the "way of life." I want to show the older generation that we aren't a “give me” generation, but rather that we are a “let me help with that” generation, looking to be the very best that we can be. And I want to do all this in a way that explains how other students, with aspirations such as my own, can get through college the same way.
I'm not going to try to make it sound like this is an easy journey by any means. I'm also not writing any of these articles for the sake of bragging about what I'm doing. I simply want to prove that it's possible to get through college without debt. This week, I want to answer one very important question I've been asked about my journey: Why? Why do I have the goal to graduate debt free?
One of the most common follow ups to the question “Why?” that I hear is, “That's what student loans are there for.” It's expected that if you decide to seek out secondary education straight out of high school, you'll be signing loan papers. That's the accepted way to do college. According to a CNN report, in 2014, 40 million Americans have at least one outstanding student loan, and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 20.2 million students were expected to attend college in the fall of 2015. Most of those 40 million are likely still paying those loans today, as well as many of those 20.2 million that took out student loans. And, most importantly, US News reports that, although the standard plan for repayment of federal student loans is 10 years, “research has shown the average bachelor's degree holder takes 21 years to pay off his or her loans.” I hope you're already seeing a reason for my rhetoric.
Not only does taking out student loans put you in debt for years (even decades), it's also a stressful process. There are many different kinds of loans, such as subsidized or unsubsidized, federal or private, Stafford or Perkin, and the list goes on and on. Personally, I have two options: Cash or check. And, since apparently you aren’t supposed to walk around with 50 $100 bills in your backpack, the latter is really my only option. Yes, I have a college fund, which has a process for taking money out of, as well as process for putting money into in the first place, but I didn't have to worry about legal trouble. Another plus was that the money I paid involved interest, and it was interest which worked for my benefit, rather than against me, in the long run.
My final, and personally, the most important reason for graduating without debt is that it's teaching me fiscal responsibility in order to live right in the future. I grew up listening to money expert Dave Ramsey in the car with my parents. I have always loved his slogan: “If you live like no one else, later you can live like no one else.” Not only does graduating without debt save me from having to pay that back later (along with the interest on the loans), but it's also teaching me how to make money, save money, and eventually I will be able to give money in love for others. A drowning man cannot save another drowning man. I want to save as many others as I can in my time on this earth, and in order to do so, I must be safe myself.