A College Education or His and Her Lexus ES350 Cars?

The bills come each month, and every month I give it the old college try.  Which is ironic, because it is my student loans which have made my financial life almost unbearable.
University of Oregon Lillis Hall Occupy Wallstreet protesters
One of the great things I learned at the UO is how make
protest signs out of cardboard.  
Perhaps this is why, when the alumni foundation gives me a call, or mails me a letter asking for "a little help," I get a little inflamed.  haven't even payed for the first fifty thousand I owe you guys!  It's like the U.S. asking North Korea for a little rice right now, because we're still kinda hungry.

Don't cry for me Argentina.  I knew what I was getting myself into.  When I started going to school in 1997, I was paying $37 a credit hour at Lane Community College.  I didn't take out a single loan because I could work 20 hours a week and easily pay off each semester.  That's the way I was taught.  Don't buy things you can't afford.  I thought I could do this all the way through my senior year.

Kentucky Fried Chicken KFC historic picture of Chicken Littles 1986 sandwich fries
Dad: You can get two.  Kids: Two? Did we win the lottery?
By the time I had my masters degree in 2006, I was paying $475 a credit hour (and taking out huge loans).  Some of you at home are saying, "Why did it take you nine years to get a five year degree?"  Well, that's a great question.  Life got in the way.  Like being youthfully engaged to a bipolar girl who tried to eat my soul. Other things like changing majors, waiting for the right classes to be offered, changing jobs, being broke, falling in love with the right girl, getting married, having a daughter born premature at 2.6 lbs., etc.) All of these circumstances pulled me off the "right track," and made my education dreams a financial liability.

The cost of education has inflated almost 500% over the last twenty five years (the national inflation rate is 115% over the same time). If everything inflated at the same rate the KFC Chicken Little that used to cost $.39 in 1986 would now cost $2.21 today. Okay bad example. A gallon of milk would be  $13.25.  A Teddy Ruxpin with a fancy tape deck would cost $589 today.

It's my own stupid fault. An extra four years increased tuition exponentially.  My wife graduated in five years with two BA degrees and an MA in Education.  Her monthly student loan payment is $126 and she consolidated at 1.5% interest.  Not too crippling.  When you add in my undergrad loans of $168 a month, it starts to get a little sad.  That's a new car payment.  But we have decent jobs, so I can't complain.

It's when you add my graduate loan (from a private university which cannot be consolidated) of $36,000 and its $440 per month payment, where it all gets quite intimidating.  That's a combined $774 a month, coincidentally, the same monthly figure as my refinanced home mortgage.  Only my home mortgage interest rate is a full three percentage points lower than my graduate student loan!

Something's wrong here. At least I chose a profession with great financial rewards, steady employment and societal esteem, like teaching, right? #sarcasm.

Samurai Warrior sword accidentally in head cheesy action movie
One of the reasons I no longer play with my samurai sword
I'm not asking for my loans to be exonerated.  I started college, and I finished it.  It's a bad habit I have of finishing what I started. I could've easily quit school and settled, becoming a Sears department manager. I could've joined one of my old roommate's garage bands. I could've perfected my samurai sword skills and become a gaijin shogunate impersonator.  But I wanted that gold embossed sheet of paper that said, "Hoop Jumper Extraordinaire Graduate."

Nationwide, almost 15% of students have defaulted on their loans. Many former students, now unemployed in a stagnant job market, have payments over a thousand dollars a month that the university collection agencies will not lower.  And nobody can bankrupt out of this situation.  And we are the "smart ones" who went to school.  Hopefully mom's basement doesn't have mildew problems.

Meanwhile, I know people with no higher education who have claimed bankruptcy three times, and sold their business possessions to friends and family, only to buy them back (not sure if any money ever changed hands), and reformed their businesses under different names completely debt free (but with all the old assets).  Shady? yes. Possibly fraudulent?  Most likely. Smart? Apparently smarter than me.

I went to school to get ahead. Only to fall victim to a bad con. Meanwhile people with little moral scruples are hoodwinking our government out of my tax dollars everyday.

Ugliest dress pantsuit silk of all time outfit disgusting gross tacky
Hopefully my children will learn how to dress with class
 and economically, like these timeless women.  
So you're welcome America.  I'll pay off this sucker in another seven years. My children will have to suffer through Old Navy and Target clothing, I'll never have a new car, and my home will be under-squarefooted...but I'm paying back my debt to society.

Weimar Republic massive overinflation German dollars in streets sweeping
I hate sweeping massively
devalued money out of the
road. Such a hassle.  
At least I know stuff about the Weimar Republic that you'll never know.  Oh damn, Wikipedia  contains everything I learned in a three hour read...for free.

Don't cry for me America, I kept my promissory note, so alumni keep your distance.


  1. I know its frustrating to see unscrupulous people getting ahead while you feel like you are slogging through the mud. Hang in there. You will get through...eventually...and with honor.

    1. I know. Honor isn't rewarded much in this lifetime, but it will feel nice in a few years when I've paid off all my debts the right way.

  2. Hang in on the student loans. I always tell people, I spent 22 years going to school and then will spend another 22 paying for it.

    1. Being 44 and mostly debt free isn't all that bad. That gives us, what, another twenty years of earnings to invest wisely and retire the good life? Hopefully, right?

  3. Yes. Just yes. While very proud of my graduate degree, I just look at it now as an expensive, useless piece of paper. I used to be such a proponent for higher education, but I found myself, somewhat guiltily, advising a cousin of my own age who is also an unemployed teacher, against going back to school for her Master's. I don't know. I really enjoyed everything I learned in my graduate classes. And maybe education careers will get better, but for now, the amount I owe for that degree versus how much it's actually doing for my life currently just doesn't seem worth it.

    1. I know. I've had to be honest with a few students. Basically, if you aren't sure what you want to do in college, maybe it's better to not go (at least for right now).

  4. I value my education more than almost anything - but then again, I only had to really pay for the last semester of my MA (I was very, very poor and I went to a state school). I don't know if I'd feel the same way with a more expensive degree. Personally, I think it is a crime that those seeking knowledge have to auction off their firstborn to afford it. It enrages me, in fact. When I started college back in '01, it was $195 a semester. By the time I was done in '11, it was $4,200.
    What kills me is that people like us with education can't find decent jobs in our fields. Don't even get me started on that topic, though...
    ...or medical debt accrued from being unable to afford health insurance...

    1. I've been lucky to have good health coverage through my wife. If not for her insurance, our first born Lily would've cost us over $500,000 for her five week stay in the NICU. And I'd most likely be dead.

      I don't know how people live without insurance, and I don't know why it's even a debatable topic to keep some from getting coverage.