Private College. Is it worth it?

I have been really really open about the fact that I went to Elon University.  It was a wonderful, beautiful experience, and I loved it.  But was it worth it?  Is private college worth it, and for whom?28833_603402085403_7000782_n

I was inspired to write this by a few things.  Number one, as a graduate of a prestigious private uni, I am saddled with a pretty good hunk of student loans.  It keeps me up at night.  It motivates my thinking.  It affects my purchases.  And I feel an unimaginable sense of sorrow and guilt that when I signed on for the loans, I wasn’t 1000% sure what I was signing up for.  At the time, when my parents could no longer afford Elon, I was under the absolutely incorrect assumption that by now, I would have a job that paid me a reasonable, living wage, and that with some budgeting, I would quickly be able to pay off the debt that I’d incurred.

The second thing that inspired me to write this was the fact that Emily Yoffe from Slate addressed this recently, when a mother, who’d had nothing saved for her children’s education, was questioning if she should send her son to his dream school (that they could not afford), or have him live at home, attend a state school, and allow him to transfer a few years later.  Yoffe gave some decent advice, and on someone who kinda lived through the whole recession thing, here are my two cents.

Student Loans

I didn’t have a crystal ball.  I had no way to know that my parents would go from being able to afford school to having to build back up, but if I had had that crystal ball, maybe I would have chosen somewhere different to go.  But here is my assessment, especially for those of you wondering if you or your kids should go to your dream school, or to the best school you can afford.

Okay, here goes.

I do not regret my decision to go to Elon, and the subsequent debt however, please keep in mind the following before you sign away your life for student loans.

  • Your decision will affect your future purchases.  So four years later, when you’re trying to buy a car?  The fact that you have debt will impact what you can buy.
  • Were you thinking about buying a house soon?  Not so fast with those loans holding you hostage.
  • If you’re prone to anxiety, stay far away from those loans.  Seriously, the things that keep me up at night all involve money.
  • Marriage may be the furthest thing from your mind, (I know I was not in that headspace at all) but 5 years later, I brought my debt into my marriage. Or I’m about to at least.  And I feel really guilty.  Austin gets it, he understands, but this was not the ideal way for me to start a family.

So the verdict?

If you can afford it, go to the best school you can.  If you cannot afford it, think long and hard, long and hard about loans.  And after you’ve thought about it, go to the best school you can afford, not the reach that will affect your life for years to come.

What are your thoughts on student loans?  

3 thoughts on “Private College. Is it worth it?

  1. Ah yes, the money dilemma is big one. I transferred into my dream school, changed majors 3 times, and managed to graduate in 3.5 years. Was it tough? Oh yeah, but it changed me for the better and, even though I am still paying off loans, I will be student loan (federal) free within the next year. It makes me more determined than ever to eventually fund a scholarship again (Yes, I did this for a year and have no regrets!) for transfer students, who get financial aid after everyone else has gotten it. No, I do not let it keep me up at night, but I am frugal. For undergraduate school, I say follow your heart, but make them pay you for graduate school or at least be semi-reasonable when comparing the offerings (i.e. If I pay 20k more, will this really make me that much better qualified in x years?).

  2. My husband feels the same way about his private college education. He wouldn’t change his experience for anything, but he frequently says that he was too young and naive to have been given the power to take on that kind of debt.

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