As American students now cumulatively owe about $1 trillion in student loan debt, Yahoo is publishing first-person accounts from those who are still paying and those who have lessons to share. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | I wanted to go to law school since the early 1980s when "LA Law" was popular. I worked my way back to the law in 1994, one year after I graduated from undergraduate college when I attended a local paralegal school. After working as a paralegal, I applied to law schools in 1997 and 1998. I was declined by South Carolina, the only law school in the state at the time, but I was accepted to Cumberland Law School, at Samford University, in Birmingham, Ala., a private, out-of-state school.
Tuition at Cumberland at the time was about $18,000 per year. (It is a lot more now.) I also had to get private loans for living expenses for the three years I was there. When I graduated in 2001 and the loans starting coming due in 2002, I owed about $100,000 in public and private loans. Fortunately, I landed a job as an attorney right out of law school with a former employer. However, I was only making $35,000 per year, a salary normal for a first-year associate in Charleston, S.C., but I could not pay all my bills and the student loan payments. Therefore, I consolidated all my student loans into one loan and an affordable payment. The problem was the loan is like a mortgage, and I will be paying on it until 2032, when I will be 61 years old.
I have paid off all the private loans, but I still owe $46,000 in federal tuition loans. I took out another consolidation loan in 2005 to reduce my interest rate again and my payment down to $363 per month. In 2006, I quit my job to run my own practice in Summerville, 20 miles from Charleston. I enjoy being my own boss, even though it has been hard, especially during the downturn of 2008. I made extra payments from 2006 to 2008, and I have been happy to have the lower payment since then.
Student loans are a great mental burden. But I had to do it to become a lawyer, and I do not regret going to law school. I know I have made and will make more net income over my life because I went to law school in spite of the heavy student loan burden. I wish I had studied harder in undergrad so I could have been accepted to South Carolina with in-state tuition.
I believe student loans are the responsibility of the student who borrowed for them. The student loan debt is certainly problem in today's society, and I am not sure how we deal with it. I would tell students taking out loans to think carefully first. Make sure you are studying something that will lead to a good income.
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