Recently I have read many articles written by people who incurred significant student loan debt. In almost all cases, the stories were framed as though the borrower was a victim and Sallie Mae was responsible. Many storytellers chose to blame their poor decision making skills on the source of their good fortune. The old English proverb, “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”, comes to mind.
A college education is more than just preparation for a career. How does one put a value on the life skills learned in college? In sociology courses, we learn how to cooperate with others and how group dynamics, leadership and trends affect societies. Psychology courses help us learn more about our own tendencies, traits, attitudes and personal preferences. Furthermore, we are introduced to the rigor of scientific research and how hypotheses are just tentative statements, which are based upon theories.
Humanities courses help us to communicate better and enrich our appreciation for literature, past and present. Quantitative skills learned in the math discipline provide us with the means to interpret data analyses and handle our own financial affairs. Moreover, stepwise thinking processes improve our critical thinking ability. Finally, science courses help to foster a greater sense of creativity and imagination, in addition to learning more about bio- and ecological processes of the universe.
I was 30 years old when the opportunity to return to college came my way. The term “re-entry student” was my classification. Over an eight-year period, while earning a BS, MS and Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology, I borrowed about $75,000. I also worked part-time and participated in myriad extra-curricular activities. I am comfortable stating that those were the best eight years of my life thus far.
I just turned 63 and still have 11 payments left on my student loan. I consolidated my loan when I was 50 to take advantage of a reduced interest rate. I chose to make smaller payments (essentially just the interest) for a seven-year period and then higher payments for the remaining four years. That decision was made on the premise that I would be in a higher earning capacity at a later stage of my life.
For me, a college education was a luxury…better than any vacation, piece of jewelry or extravagant home that money can buy. Unlike many of the other storytellers, I will be forever thankful to Sallie Mae and the overall student loan programs. Without those sources, I may have never learned to appreciate others, be patient when aggravated, think carefully and/or learn the value of camaraderie. The quality of my life would not be the same if it was not for Sallie Mae. My old Toyota truck is still running fine.