Put Yourself In Crushing Debt, All The Cool Kids Are Doing It

Flickr / Kevin Dooley
Flickr / Kevin Dooley

I remember the month before high school graduation, there were these little cap-and-gown-shaped notecards on this wall down by the school entrance, with the names of all the seniors and where they were going. We had future Ivy Leaguers, a lot of kids going to the (very good) state school, and many smaller schools I hadn’t heard of before. And then there were those of us who weren’t “going” anywhere, except half an hour down the road to the local community college. I remember the teachers insisting, with a vague look of pity on their faces, that I put my little notecard up there, too. And I did, but it was almost more embarrassing than doing nothing at all — than implying you weren’t going to even attempt higher education. After all, there were a lot of cool kids who were going to travel the world, get apprenticeships, or move somewhere far away and start a new life. I could have been one of them, if I was vague about my answers. But no, I was going to community college.

And why? Aside from the fact that I was a mediocre student in high school who didn’t really bother applying, I knew that I couldn’t afford it. My family isn’t poor by any stretch, but I wasn’t going to get any scholarships, and considering I vaguely knew I wanted to “write” things, my parents weren’t going to cut a check for a decent chunk of their income so I could mess around. Every school, it seemed, was out of my reach — even the ones that were “only” about 15k per year, all things considered. If I wanted to go to them, I would have to take out a loan, and the ones that really enticed me would have required about 35k or more in debt per year. It was simply not an option, so I didn’t apply.

The stigma, of course, was more than I expected it to be. Sure, there was the acute disappointment of missing out on all of the awesome, interesting, fun, sexy things my friends were doing away in their dorm rooms in these strange new lands like Vermont and Indiana. There was the letdown of not being able to move anywhere right out of school, something that everyone that age awaits with painful impatience. But there were also the snide comments from friends, the palpable feeling of being pitied, and the knowledge that there is this incredibly cool club that you are not a part of. Even some of my friends’ parents weren’t immune to the loaded questions, and the implications that they “expected better from me,” or that I was “too smart to be doing this.” It was a depressing time, that summer before college, because I knew it was simply a countdown to an even more pointed sense of distinction between myself and my friends that “made it.”

But, much to my surprise, I loved my time at CC. Mine was a school that, for what it’s worth, is often ranked as the best of its kind in the country (a statistic that, as you can imagine, is often mocked), but I quickly realized that there were many there who took that ranking quite seriously. The staff was hard-working and helpful, the faculty, some of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I took in everything I could — I joined honor societies, did school plays, took winter classes, I even started a club with a friend that ended up having about 60 people in it and became one of the best experiences of my life. I realized that what some people had told me was very true, your education is what you make of it. And all of my friends there — the involved, intelligent, motivated people I worked with in class and in extra-curricular activities, were just as determined to make their time worth it. They simply couldn’t afford to put themselves in debt — for a variety of reasons — and were determined to get those crucial scholarships for their last two years. I’m proud to say that each and every one of them got some money to go to a great school, and most are now finished with absolutely no debt. Two, in fact, transfered to Ivy League schools, one on a full ride.

I ended up taking a different path than I imagined, turning down some of the great offers that were made to me and moving to France to continue school here. But I naturally kept in touch with all of my friends from high school, from CC, and who went to all different colleges. And now that graduation has come and gone for many of them, the picture is quite different. So many of them — the very people whose parents were dripping with condescension over their children going to a “real” school, despite the debt they were accruing — are unable to find jobs. They are working in restaurants, as secretaries, in unpaid internships, in any place that will hire them. They’re struggling to continue to justify the immense amount of debt they now live with — from $25,000 to over $100,000 — and are crossing their fingers that something will come along. They of course do not regret having the “college experience” all four years. Nor, I’m sure, do they regret the great friends they made and things they learned while at school, but it clearly came at a price. They have hundreds of dollars of repayment per month, and many are living at home because it’s simply not financially viable to have their own place right now. And of course, some of my friends from CC are having similar trouble with finding employment, but all of them are debt-free or close, able to live their lives relatively untethered and support themselves easily on the jobs they get in the meantime.

It is hard to watch my friends struggle, to hear them lament their choice to put themselves in debt for what now seems to them like a worthless piece of paper. I love these people and know that they worked hard for what they have. Even a friend of mine with a top-tier mechanical engineering degree had almost a year of frustrating rejection before landing the job he has (and, luckily, loves) now. Times are hard, and I don’t think that their uncomfortable position is something they deserve. I think it’s just a symptom of the time we live in, but it’s also a symptom we need to acknowledge and accept. My sister is graduating high school this year, and I’ve watched many of her close friends make the justification for putting themselves enormously in debt with a flippant “college only comes once!” They have eschewed scholarships to less-perfect schools, or even a stint at nearly-free CC, to go to New York, or have that time at the tiny liberal arts school, or get that 50-person-per-year film degree. And my sister, who is making the same choice I did at the time and keeping herself out of debt, is seeing the same kind of stigma. She knows she wants to work in the arts (special effects makeup, to be precise), and she knows that the last thing one needs when pursuing a career in the art world is a massive amount of debt on one’s shoulders. The way she’s doing it, she can probably finish her degree and do an apprenticeship for maybe 5k in debt maximum. And yes, that means she’s worked every summer since 14 and saved nearly everything, and it means she’s going to scrimp as much as she can during college, but it means that she’s going to start her life a free woman and be able to make her way without crushing debt. She is far smarter about money than I am, I can only imagine the opportunities that await her.

It breaks my heart to see her peers making these same mistakes, and mocking her in a similar fashion, when we clearly know that they are just that — errors in our collective judgement. We know how the system works, we know what debt does to people, and we know what bachelor’s degrees — especially BAs — mean these days. We know that none of these things are guarantees, and yet we still let ourselves get carried away by a campus tour and a brochure filled with empty promises about getting hired. You have top-tier law schools getting sued by former students because they lie about their employment rates, how can we keep convincing ourselves that a fine arts degree is worth 50k of debt? There are clear ways to go about college — if college is even the right choice for us — without having it hinder our futures in such a way. We can put our noses to the grindstone and make unglamorous choices, and we owe it to ourselves, and to our generation, to not look down on such a pathway. The difference in lifestyle between those who’ve already bought a house’s worth of debt before they’re 22 and those who finish their educations free and clear is astounding, and it’s the kind of freedom we all deserve. Colleges are selling something, and we’re certainly buying, but let’s stop pretending that it’s still the promise of a future. TC mark

Chelsea Fagan

Chelsea Fagan founded the blog The Financial Diet. She is on Twitter.


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  • guestomundo

    i’m graduating in 2 weeks (at 22) after 5 years of college/college loans. this made me feel awful because it reminded me of everything i’ve been denying

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeffreyjamesskatzka Je Sk

    GOOD :)

  • Anonymous

    I really think our generation is going to have a totally different view on sending our kids to college. I don’t want children, but I know if I did, I’d definitely encourage them to take a different path — like the one you did over the snobbery I faced with friends and friends’ parents over college choices. 

    • Nick Orsini

      agreed- if I could do it again things would be so different. I was a “tiny liberal arts school” kid and I’m still paying for it.

      • Anonymous


        Though the most useful part of Emerson (tiny liberal arts school) was the alumni network and the extra curriculars (newspaper, sketch comedy). Those helped me land jobs more than anything else.

  • Sarah

    I’ll be graduating high school one month from this Thursday and will be attending the University of Kentucky, which is right down the road. I received my FAFSA awards and offers today, and will be in about $3,000 in debt per semester for my first year. Unfortunately, my family has struggled since the economic downturn, but I was lucky enough to secure plenty of grants and smaller scholarships. 
    I’m scared about the future, considering I want to major in communication but have no real plan for a career as of yet. I have this picture perfect scenario in my head, but I honestly have no clue what I’m doing. Sometimes I wonder if going to college is even worth it after seeing so many grads come out with a job they’re way overqualified for, or with no job at all. 
    Thanks for this article. It puts things into perspective for everyone who has been through the system, or is about to start their journey. There’s no telling how things are going to shape up during the next decade, but all we can do is hope for the best.  

    • Sarah Fusaro

      I’m a comm major too! :) I’d look into community college. Most states have agreements between CCs and state universities that will allow you to get all your undergrad credits out of the way for a fraction of the price. Plus, you might have some incredible experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise have. :) Also, CLEP exams are awesome. I wish I had taken more when I was starting out…

      • Sarah

        I’ll definitely have to look into that! If I can pay less for the same gen eds at CC, there would be no point in paying more to do so at a university. Thanks for the advice! 

      • Sarah Fusaro

        NO problem! I’ve been there. Had dreams in high school of attending out local private four-years (I LOVE education and they had a very attractive library! haha). But my parents made just too much for scholarships and just too little to send me anywhere. The local CC had all the same courses and, honestly, the professors were almost better. You get a better student to teacher ratio and they usually *want* to be there. Plus, you can usually have a job as well because CCs tend to offer more flexible class schedules. It’s pretty nice, actually. :) 

      • Audrey

        Both my parents started at Ashland Community College before moving on to UK. They’ve now got an MD and a JD between them, and had their (very small) amount of student debt paid off within five years of graduating. It’s not a bad way to begin. :)

  • Sarah Fusaro

    YES! I totally agree. I did the CC route as well, and now am doing online school. I have had so many people give me looks and say, “Oh, well, I mean, if that’s what you want,” as if my choice in education is less. But guess what? I’ve got tons of work experience now after taking a year off and working as well as working through CC. Plus, I am a totally debt-free woman. I may be broke, but I’m free. Now, I’m paying my way through online college. It’s still hard but education is absolutely what you make of it. Thank you for writing such a truthful article! I think this needs to be said more in our culture. Sure wish people would stop looking down on those of us who choose a non-traditional route.

  • J Juyit

    This made me feel much better about giving up my dream of going to NYU for a Masters in Filmmaking. 

    – Written from the reception desk at a national film centre

  • https://twitter.com/#!/ZachAmes macgyver51

    How dare you. We all know that going to NYU/Sarah Lawrence/Oberlin, racking up 75 grand in debt, and getting a Creative Writing degree is the only way to become a good writer. All the good writers do it that way. Also, have the audacity to ask the government to forgive those 75K loans you took out. Why? No reason, just because one deserves it.

    • Oliver Miller

      Even though this comment is not about me, it’s so-ooort of totally about me.  Sarah Lawrence whoooo!

      • Mila Jaroniec

         On my way into a creative writing MFA program as we speak. O_o

  • http://twitter.com/johntaylortweet John Taylor

    In many ways I regret not attending Graduate School, as I declined for these reasons. I finished my undergrad debt free after waiting and patience and taking the low road. I’m frowned upon on a daily basis by friends and my own family as a graduate who went into writing. My family disowned me upon graduation a year and a half ago. I haven’t spoken to them since. But even though life is hard, it’s reassuring knowing that I’ll be debt free and am, more importantly, free to pursue my dreams.

  • student

    Some jobs you do need university for though, and if you’re aiming for one of those jobs then the debt and interning can pay off. I also know some people who just can’t progress beyond a certain level in the company they work for because they don’t have  degree- not great!

  • Brennan

    I’m graduating in a week and thought I had some serious student loan debt. As it turns out, relatively speaking, I don’t. 

    So that’s encouraging. 

    • https://twitter.com/#!/ZachAmes macgyver51

      For real. I spent 7 and a half years going through college while working and taking out loans for tuition. For all of my stupidity, I came out with much less than appears to be average.

  • E.

    Ugh shut up Chelsea Fagan

    • Anonymous

      Can’t. Too busy being perfect and spinning straw into literary gold. ~*~Bye Hater~*~

      • Anonymous

        I have to say, when I first started reading Thought Catalog (and I’ve been reading since the number of pages was single-digits), I would have said the same thing. But lately I’ve really appreciated what you’ve had to say. Keep it up.

  • http://parisiennelauren.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    I loved this – it’s absolutely true. I was accepted to several Ivy League schools and chose a state university with top notch research instead. That, paired with several scholarships, meant my bachelor degree cost next to nothing. That meant I was able to study abroad (also through a state school) and get a masters degree that’s required for me to practice in my field. Seven years after making that tough choice (and at times feeling like I made a mistake), I’m gainfully employed in my dream field and not one penny is going towards paying back student loans. It paid off more than my 18 year old self ever could have imagined. I have such a great lifestyle now and I don’t have to worried about going broke because my salary is all mine.

  • http://christophermluna.com Christopher Michael Luna

    I also went to community college first, and it’s true that college isn’t the end all and be all of figuring out what to do with your life.

    I also have a lot of debt, though. The thing is, though, that student loan debt isn’t like other kinds of debt. There’s a robust infrastructure in place to make sure that you should never have to pay more than you can afford, and as long you understand how to navigate the bureaucracies involved, you really don’t have to make payments unless you can afford them. I’m in repayment myself, but my payments are based on my income, which is low enough right now in comparison to my family size that my payments are zero.With other kinds of debt, making payments of zero (or anything less than the interest you’re accruing) wouldn’t make much sense, but student loan debt is forgiven after 25 years of repayment no matter how much you’ve paid off. With repayments plans based on your income, it’s relatively easy to just commit to 25 years of paying a bill based on your income. That’s how I think of this debt. It’s not something I will pay back unless I’m so wealthy that it wouldn’t be onerous to do so anyway.

    • HP

      Um, I don’t think that’s accurate. No matter what, you HAVE to pay off that debt! Unless you’re a teacher and in public service and then you can apply for loan forgiveness. The ONLY way to get out of student loan debt is literally if you die or pay it off; bankruptcy will do nothing. 

      If it was forgiven after a certain number of years than EVERYONE would do income based, have zero owed a month and then not pay a dime for a quarter of a century.

      • http://christophermluna.com Christopher Michael Luna

        My last comment got removed because I tried to link to the source at the direct loan website. Suffice it to say that while you’re right that bankruptcy doesn’t remove a student loan, you’re wrong about income contingent. Quoted from the direct loan website (and it has been confirmed by each of the loan servicing centers I have had to deal with):

        “The maximum repayment period is 25 years. If you haven’t fully repaid your loans after 25 years (time spent in deferment or forbearance does not count) under this plan, the unpaid portion will be discharged. You may, however, have to pay taxes on the amount that is discharged.”

  • alia

    as someone who is going to community college next year, this is so unbelievably encouraging and really what i needed to here. thank you so much

  • http://parisiennelauren.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    I know it’s hard to rationalize college being worth it when you’re watching so many college grads be either unemployed or underemployed, but if you’re pursuing the communications field, or many other fields, you really need that college degree or you’ll be less competitive in the job market. It doesn’t make sense, but unfortunately that’s what employers will look for when they’re weeding out job candidates. You’ll do great regardless of how expensive the school is, so I second the state/CC route for your field. It’s a good choice.

  • Guest

    Maybe it’s different in the hard sciences than liberal arts, but going to a CC is DEFINITELY not the same for us. 

  • Anonymous

    Went to an affordable state college for undergrad. They let me split tuition into three payments over the course of each semester. I paid half of each payment (by waiting tables) and my old man paid the other half. No debt from undergrad.

    This kind of article seems important because I think kids often don’t really comprehend debt or they understand it abstractly but not in terms of the concrete effect on their lives.

    • Anonymous

      They definitely don’t understand debt. I didn’t when I was looking at schools and I wish someone had explained it better.

      • Oliver Miller

        I remember the day I graduated and my parents were like, “So, you’ll need to start paying your loans back,” and I was like:  “The what the who now?  *I* pay them?  I must be remembering an alternate universe conversation that we never had about this where you guys pay them.”

      • https://twitter.com/#!/ZachAmes macgyver51

         Ha! I give my folks credit for that at least. They made me fully aware of the fact that no money was coming from them, especially when I lost the “State” scholarship.

      • Lalal

        “They”? Don’t speak for me. I knew exactly what I was doing when I signed my promissory note. Lots of high schoolers are well informed about their future and implication of debt and a getting a 4 year degree.

    • Guest

      Okay, yeah, but a lot of people DO understand and make an educated decision to go to an expensive school anyway. It’s probably not true for BA degrees, but for a BS often going into debt is worth it. A bachelor’s may not mean as much as it did in the past, but it certainly means more than a high school diploma, and if you plan on getting a graduate degree (the “new” BS), going to a good school is very important. Don’t insinuate that the only people who go into debt don’t comprehend what it means for their future. 

      • Anonymous

        I think there is a difference between understanding debt in an abstract sense (e.g. I will owe this much at this rate, etc.) and understanding it in a concrete sense (e.g. I have personally experienced the effects of making substantial debt payments). Seems like most kids wouldn’t really understand the latter, even if they are making an objectively “reasonable” decision to incur debt.

        That was my point, anyway.

      • Guest

        I go to a (really) expensive school, and definitely am surrounded by the people you’re describing and those whose daddy pays the entire tuition. But there’s also a group of us who really did understand, made an educated decision, are paying interest throughout school, and are working our asses off at multiple part time jobs. It just sucks to read stuff like this because that’s what most people think of people like me who really are working hard and being responsible. It’s a stereotype, and it affects how people treat me and those like me. 

      • Anonymous

        I hear ya. I went into debt for my grad degree and I definitely don’t regret it. Taking out student loans is often a good investment in yourself. 

        Still, I think without the life experience of personally dealing with debt, it’s very difficult to decide if taking on debt is a good idea. It’s unfortunate that people are forced to make this momentous decision about their financial future at a time when they have (almost) zero experience with finances.

      • Nishant

        Relax. You shouldn’t be too worried about what people think of you. There are hundreds of movie characters playing you, from 21 to American Pie to Good Will Hunting and what not. So your image is quite safe.

        Chelsea’s story is good to hear because it’s something no one pays much attention to!

      • Violetbleediotie

        I hope my comment didn’t come off as offended haha
        I was just a little off-put by all of the Ivy League-bashing going on here. Yeah, CC saves money. But that doesn’t mean people should belittle Ivy League students – I would never scoff at a CC student. I’m smart enough to realize that most of the time it’s an economic decision.

      • Violetbleediotie

        Wait, sorry. I just realized you were replying to a different comment haha

      • sneakypizza

        While I agree that some students do fully comprehend the real-life, post-college implications of their student debt, there are far too many that don’t. And I think this conversation is one that should be had more often, because the normative state for almost all high school students is increasingly turning toward immediate entry into college. Yes, a stereotype exists for “foolish” 20-somethings crushed by college debt, but from the standpoint of a high school student, the pressure 

        Of course, mmediate entry into college is still a great option for some (especially those who have demonstrated aptitude and desire to higher learning in their HS career), but it leaves many less academically minded students scrambling for whatever college or university will take them for fear of being left after last call without a hookup. Worse–there’s a rash of accept-all, private-priced colleges that essentially prey on these students’ anxieties, and cash in on the notion that this, like all other college educations, will “pay for itself.” This is, obviously, often untrue. 

        There are also the talented drifters–students who demonstrate great intellectual aptitude, but are simply too immature to receive the full benefit of higher education at the age of 18–who are often pressured into “growing up” on a 40K-per-year liberal arts tab, when a year of paying rent on a cramped apartment with barista tips would be cheaper and just as effective. I also doubt this conversation will keep star students from attending their preferred colleges (nor should it), but it will perhaps convince some middling students to take a breath and consider whether “right now” is the best time to make such an enormous investment, and to understand that waiting a year, two years, or four years to enter college (when you’re ready to actually benefit from it) won’t leave you poor, stupid, and alone for the rest of your life.

      • guest

        Most 18 year olds don’t realize what debt will mean for their future. I think this is a fair statement to make. Most 18 year olds also go to college thinking they will get a great job until the economy smacks them in face. It’s a little ridiculous and irresponsible as a country to allow 18 year olds who just moved out to take out  massive debt.

  • msadvn

    quite possibly one of the best things I’ve ever read on TC – honest, sincere, snark-free, and supportive.  things I didn’t expect from the post’s title, but a good surprise.

  • sneakypizza

    Despite being an honor-roll student for all of high school and totally wiping the gymnasium floor with the SATs (glory dayz, yo), I was equally confused and uncertain about my college path. Still, I gave into that so-nebulous-yet-totally-undeniable pressure from my peers, my guidance counselor,  and  my teachers, and applied to numerous schools that would have launched me into crushing debt by the time my 20s rolled around (all the while ignoring the obvious omen in my urge to switch declared majors twice before day one of classes even arrived). 

    I settled on a mega-branch of NY’s State University system in a dreary, post-industrial upstate town. As further evidence of pressure-based decision-making, I selected this school based solely on its comparative academic competitiveness within the state system, considering not for a moment whether leaving the nest to live in NY’s share of the rust belt might be just a tad depressing. Early in my first semester, I began suffering increasingly severe and frequent panic attacks, which ultimately prompted me to drop out and move home. I couldn’t have asked for better fortune. 

    The (albeit, brief) time away pulled me out of the cycle of academic pressure long enough to objectively look at the role of higher education in my life at that point. I, like most 18-year-olds, had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, and likewise, not much more than a vague idea how higher education would (logical paradoxes be damned!) help me achieve these nonexistent goals.

    So I started working instead. I took an sub-entry-level job at a small company, learned an ass-load of practical office skills and industry-specific expertise, moved through the ranks into management, and eventually put myself through college in my mid-20s, which I completed with honors and exited with a small-but-manageable financial burden. The working experience not only allowed me to do a good share of awesome stuff on my own dime (tour with a band! move to the city!), but it put the benefits of higher education into better perspective. In the end, I spent less and engaged more with my education because I worked a crappy job and aged a few years before taking the plunge. More HS students need to know that college doesn’t come but once!

    • SUNY

      I’m assuming you went to Binghamton? I’m there now, but thankfully the lifestyle seems much better than your experience.

      • sneakypizza

        Right on, S. Didn’t mean to sound like a knock. I attended over ten years ago, and (as you probably read) didn’t last very long. Also, I was going a bit cuckoo at the time, which didn’t do much for my outlook. I’ve more recently visited a few times on tour and have met some truly excellent people whom I wish I had the good fortune of meeting while a student there. Seems like there’s a larger subculture present nowadays, too. 

      • SUNY

        The recession has attracted many very qualified students who would’ve gone elsewhere a few years ago, and Binghamton has impressed all of us with how well it’s met and exceeded our expectations. New dorms, challenging classes, great faculty, a real and successful effort to bring culture to the campus, and unbeatable value. Whatever you want to accomplish, the resources are here if you make the effort to look for them.

        Apparently we’re the cheapest school for international students and a bargain for out-of-state kids too. New York is already so diverse, and the added diversity is just icing on the cake.

        I earned a ridiculous amount of college credit in high school, all of which Binghamton accepted, so I’m technically a year ahead of most other freshmen, allowing me to graduate early, double major easily, or study abroad twice. None of the private schools I considered would’ve accepted my credit.

        If only it were less rainy and the townies less addicted to meth.


    • HP

      You’re lucky you were able to get that job. Now nearly every entry level job requires a degree or at the very least if given the option will go with the person who has one. It’s a vicious cycle that employers are perpetuating, you need a degree to get the job. There’s a reason only a few years ago that a BA really did almost always guarantee a decent job. Now it’s an MA, funny that other countries don’t seem to have this problem.

      • sneakypizza

        Good point–though this was a part-time evening job working the phones for this company’s call center; not even a true “entry-level” job, since it held no official promise of promotion. Though unpleasant, these jobs are still fairly common for HS grads (I was in a hiring position with this company during/following the economic crash). I also worked at a grocery store/video store during the day to make ends meet. 

        These are low-paying, unglamorous jobs, but they do hold value in being an alternative to taking on a lifetime of debt for an education in which you’re only half-invested. This certainly isn’t true of all college students, but it seems to be true of many.

      • A.J.

        Exactly. My industry requires a masters degree for even entry level work and internships are mostly unpaid and very hard to come by. 

  • Chloed555

    Some of us had majors that can’t be half completed at a community college. You enter straight into the program as a freshmen and because of that, yeah the debt is worth it because few people are educated/trained/licensed to do what I do. Everyone takes a different path, Chelsea. Don’t be such a hypocrite.

  • Andrew Rowland

    Social stigmas are the worst.

    Also, the next time someone actually tries to cite school rankings at me like they actually mean something, i’m gonna punch them in the face. Ever notice how every school is top ranked in the same thing? There’s a big handful of public colleges and universities in Virginia and somehow one publication or another is ranking each one at the top of their respective categories.

    I had a worthless coworker who can’t do shit complain that we’re hiring too many people from school x and the business school isnt ranked high enough. I stopped what I was doing and turned to him and just said “what the fuck are you talking about?”

  • Mamajamerson

    I will be physically forcing my teenagers to read this. Thank you for writing/sharing it.

  • guest

    I went to a small liberal arts school, have a BA in English came out with some debt. I cant speak for the CC experience and it sounds like you had a great time. Perhaps my inability to have had more than one college experience will prevent me from agreeing with you completely. But it is difficult to imagine that the rigor of my course work could be replicated at a CC. I think its important that you presented a very worth while alternative though. NO one should be looked down on for perusing education no matter the school.  Its a personal choice and although the price tag was high, I firmly believe that I got what I paid for. Not sure that can be said about everything. But my connections have been priceless (networking opportunities included), and fortunately I have never been unemployed. I think working while you are in school especially if you are attending liberal arts school is a good way to make sure that you have some skills in addition to your degree.

  • Renee

    Thanks for writing this, what a great article! I worked my butt off to get scholarships. I was not a top student, but I was determined not to have much debt in college. I went to a Ohio State and managed to make it out with less than 5k of debt. My friends are struggling with all of their debt, of course. I was like you though in the sense that I was going to do anything I could to avoid huge amounts of debt. It isn’t worth it especially in this economy.

    I went to CC for post secondary in high school and I must say that I loved the teachers, the classes and the students. I had a great time there and learned a great deal. I think for many people, especially for those that aren’t sure what they want to do or if they are wanting art degrees, CC is a fantastic option.

    I know for a fact that there are tons of scholarships out there, but people have to hunt them down and take the time to fill them out and apply. Sometimes I think that is a task too daunting for high school seniors. It’s up to them though if they want to commit themselves to it or not. A lot of people just make excuses and never even research the options! “I am not smart enough” “I’m not poor enough”. There are so many scholarships that you can get without needing to be those things, but people just assume that there is no money out there for them.

    Ok, sorry about my rant. Anyway, nice article!

    • http://www.about.me/tanyasalyers Tanya Salyers

      fellow Buckeye, here! :)

      • Mila Jaroniec


  • Refresh

    While I commend you for writing something so positive, I don’t want you to paint some fantastical image for students preparing for college.  I agree that students shouldn’t spend 50k+ on their education but I don’t think I agree that a CC is as great an option for the underdog as it’s depicted in your article.  Speaking from experience, community college is hardly ever an amazing place for leadership growth, career opportunities, or a lot of the things you stated you were able to do.  In fact, the reason why community colleges are small are because they lack the resources and funding to do a much more than just house classes, let alone those great elaborate things (“honor societies”, “starting a club”).  

    And let’s be real for a minute, all my friends who graduated from Cornell and Yale have jobs lined up in the Biomedical engineering field.  While, I, the social science major who went to a CC, am working part-time for an IT department.

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