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 | It wasn't until I failed a critical accounting class that I began to understand the value of student loans. I needed that class to continue my education and due to the cycle of classes, it meant I had to wait two more quarters to retake it. That meant more time in school and unfortunately more student loan debt.
It finally dawned on me that I wasn't taking my education and my student loans seriously. Sure, I was an accounting major, which I thought was fairly serious, but I had only half the puzzle figured out. It's easy to say, "I'll take out X amount of dollars and pay it all back later."
But the reality is, debt can add up quickly in a very subtle way.
At that point, I began to see student loans as an investment for my future. I didn't want to end up in a "dead-end job," as my parents used to say. I wanted to be successful with having the opportunity to expand my career. My education and my student loans were my responsibility and I needed to start owning it.
I attended Eastern Washington University from 2007 to 2011. I am now 24 and live in Spokane. At the beginning of January 2012, I owed almost $33,000 in student loans. The first minimum payment was around $350. I remember thinking: "This is going to take awhile to pay back." Then I thought: "But does it have to be that way?"
A couple months after I graduated, I was offered a job as an IT auditor for an IT firm based in Seattle. The entry-level salary was generous, in my opinion, but I soon began to realize I needed a strict budget to tackle my student loan debt. Paying the minimum amount every month seemed painful because I knew it would take years to get rid of. I didn't want to sit around and wait for that to happen.
Today, almost a year and a half later, I owe about $12,000 on those student loans. Although I consider myself blessed with a great job and no unfortunate situations, I was, and still am, aggressive in those payments, contributing as much as I can per paycheck. I know the faster I get rid of those loans, the better off I'll be.
When I look back, I'm glad I took on the student loan debt. Had it not been for those student loans and getting a solid education, I'm not exactly sure where I would be at today.
So what's my advice for would-be college students? If you need to take out student loans, pick a degree that has substance. I always thought majoring in history would be fun, but I also knew that it was a limited field for career opportunities. Instead, I chose accounting. Think of student loans as an investment for your future and take ownership of that debt. It's no one's responsibility but yours.
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