Why My College Debt is Worth It

My college education cost a lot of money. Not as much as many people’s, certainly, but much more than others. I’ve been out for four years, and while I’ve whittled away at my loans significantly, I still have a ways to go.

Yet for the stress and hassle my loans cause me, I’m coming to a point where I don’t really regret them. I recently attended a fundraising dinner for my alma mater, and listening to the president of the college recount the happenings there filled me such a deep sense of gratefulness. It was not the cheapest college I could have chosen, but it was absolutely the right one for me–I don’t think I’ve ever truly doubted that.

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Photo Credit: Flickr User khrawlings, Creative Commons

For four years I was taught by intelligent professors who cared about me as a student and a person, and I can clearly point to specific, lasting, important ways they shaped who I was, and am still, becoming. The friendships I formed in those dorms and classrooms and hallways taught me so much about who I am as a person, helped me to see more broadly, made me both laugh and cry. Both in the classroom and out, my faith was reshaped, challenged, and forced to take deeper root.

The whole experience, so much more than can be encompassed by classes or friendships or student activities, was deeply, incredibly formational. There is no other word I can think of that sums up my experience quite so well.

It’s not too much to say that the me I am today would be so much less if I hadn’t gone there. Any college I did or didn’t go to would have changed me, certainly, but none in the same way this one did–and it was the way I needed.

I sit in the fortunate, and somewhat unusual, place of having been consistently employed since I graduated from college, and to a level that has always allowed me to pay my bills–so I realize I write from a different space than many. But my side of the story, the one of having debt but learning to not regret it, is still a valid one. If I could have gone to college without accumulating debt, of course I would have chosen that option. Since it wasn’t one for me, I’m okay with the choices I made, even as I continue to pay for them (literally) in the coming years. Paying off  loans has also forced me to be a better steward of my finances than I would have to otherwise, and there’s value in that responsibility.

It’s tempting to think of all the things I could have spent that money on: a nicer car, books, somewhere to live, travel, non-Aldi food, and on and on. Those things are lovely in their own ways, but I don’t think lacking them has significantly lowered the quality of my life in any way. All of them are nice, but they’re things I’d be privileged to have or do–they were never guaranteed for me, nor are they absolute necessities. My education falls into the same space, really. It’s a privilege, not a guaranteed right, and it’s okay that it took sacrifices to get there. While it was not a necessity in a broad sense, it was undeniable beneficial in getting me to where I am today–not just in terms of a job (though having a degree did help there), but in terms of me as a person.

 

On clear, crisp spring nights, I still miss being at my college so much it nearly hurts. Those were the nights we stayed up far too late laughing on the lawn, laying in the grass even as the dew settled in. The memories will continue to fade over time, I’m sure, but I don’t think those will ever completely disappear. Were they worth the actual dollars I spent for my college experience? I’ve given up trying to determine that. Personal formation can’t be translated into cold hard cash.

 
Would I tell every graduating high schooler to sign on for a mound of college debt? No. But loans were my necessary means, and I’ve made peace with them.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

p.s.

Grace and Price Tags

Grace ended today.

Not grace as in God’s, because thankfully, that never ends.

The grace from my student loans, however…that ended today.

Having to take out loans was something I struggled a lot with; I once joked I was going to run away and join the circus instead of starting another semester of school, because I wasn’t sure I should take out the money. (None of my skills lend themselves particularly well to circus life, however, so I did end up finishing)

Perhaps one of my biggest complaints is that the systems feels broken. I paid all this money for a degree that will theoretically help me get a better job, then will spend bunches of years working the job to pay off the loans I took out to get the education I needed to get the job.

When I am tempted to begin a cycle of griping and “How will I ever pay this back?” and moaning, it is good for me to stop.

 

Look at the pictures that adorn my walls, pictures of friends I wouldn’t have met otherwise, pictures of love and fun and laughter

Flip through my journals, reminding me of the good times and bad I experienced in college that shaped me.

Scan the books that now adorn my shelves, rereading words on God and communicating and grace and words.

Skim the notes I took in class, picking up starred bits that hit me anew today and remembering professors’ quotes.

Remember the professors and staff who taught and encouraged me and invested in my life.

 

Oh.

My diploma is not made of 24 karat gold and studded with diamonds, as seems fitting considering the price tag of my education.

But when I am in despair over my loans, it is good for me to remember the things no price tag can be affixed to.

Relationships.

Life lessons.

Laughter.

Knowledge.

Community.

Love.

Faith.

 

Two weeks before graduating, I wrote an “I’ll miss you” to my college, and I’m thankful I did. It is a good reminder of the valid reasons my heart broke a little as I received my diploma, and now again as I square off with my pile of debt.

About a week ago I wrote, “I took out loans to help get me through college; I never thought they’d teach me about Jesus.” Though I would never recommend taking out loans to better understand Jesus and the concept of grace, I am reminded of the intangible takeaways from my college experience.

There are some things no price tag fits on.

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

My Student Loans Are Teaching Me About Jesus

In a few weeks, I will begin paying off my student loans. When I check my account and see the numbers lined up, reminding me how much I took out to pay for my education and how much I have to pay off, it dismays me. I’ve written before of my fear that perhaps my years and money spent on college were in vain, and it is a fear I continue to face. Most days I can conclude that, yes, it was worth it, but there are always moments of doubt. Very, very slowly, I will whittle away at those numbers reminding me of the price behind my education and memories.

So what would it feel like if suddenly, all my debt was gone?

Each individual loan, reduced to nothing.

Remaining Balance: $0.00

$0.00

$0.00

In an instant.

 

I’d likely cry. Perhaps be inconsolable with relief and elation, imagining what life could now look like without the burdensome load of debt I have been carrying. There would be so much more I could do, free of these financial bonds. I could move out of my parents’ house, visit friends spread around the globe, save for unforeseen expenditures, and, I hope, begin to cultivate a more generous lifestyle.

What a gift it would be.

 

About a month ago, we sang the song “Jesus Paid It All” in church. The refrain goes like this:

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

I’ve grown up singing the song once in a while, and have always found the words to be nice and the melody enjoyable.

 

But it takes on a new meaning when I am facing student loan payments, now only weeks away from being due.

 

 

Jesus will not be paying off my loans, but he has paid off something much greater than money.

The terminology we use to talk about finances shares terms with Christianity. Until now, and for a few more weeks, I have been in a “grace period.” When grace ends, my debts must be paid.

If my sins were turned into actual, monetary debt, I’d never begin to cover it. No matter how many hours a week I worked for the rest of my life, the pile would only continue to grow.

Fortunately, the grace of Christianity is vastly unlike the grace of financial institutions. It is grace that does not end, grace that knows no bounds, grace that overwhelms.

Grace that pays all my debts, even though I do not deserve it.

 

I took out loans to help get me through college; I never thought they’d teach me about Jesus.

 

Til next time…

~Brianna!~

 

p.s. Thoughts? Leave a comment.

Listen to the song: