I read that lovely little piece on xoJane/Time about the girl who was so awesome because she didn’t have student loans. She talked about her parents and grandparents helping her pay for her education. She talked about going to a local school and living at home. She talked about all of this with the attitude that she is somehow smarter or more resourceful than those of us stuck with crushing debt. My feelings can be summed up in two words: Fuck her.
That’s not very eloquent, is it?
So let’s travel back to August 2001, when I started at a community college. I had to fill out FAFSA paperwork like other students. That semester (and the next) I qualified for a Pell grant. Those go to students from lower incomes to enable them to go to college. It didn’t cover enough and my parents couldn’t contribute more. I didn’t have a job. I tried multiple times to get one. On campus and off.
I was 17 and I had started to college a year before I was supposed to because my mental health had made going back to high school impossible. I’d been out of a psych unit for almost four months when I signed my first signatory note. I understood what that meant: I’d need to pay it off one day.
In 2001, I thought my health would improve or I’d learn to cope. In 2001, before 9/11, the economy was good. I expected to be able to pay it off. In 2001, my dad had a job.
The next year was the first time I qualified for a SEOG in addition to a Pell and a subsidized loan. Each year, I got in more debt. Each year, my personal finances were getting worse. I was living at home, but I needed all the help to get the education I deserved. My dad ended up losing his job around the time that I was planning to go to a college around two hours from home. (An out of state public university.)
I was going to live in an apartment on campus, which was pretty much the only campus housing they had. I had picked out my room for the apartment and started talking to my prospective roommates. But I couldn’t afford it. I didn’t go to that school.
I went to A&M, an in-state public university. I qualified for a diversity scholarship. It was supposed to cover everything, including room, board, books, etc. It didn’t. And funnily, A&M would send my grants back, so I could only pay for things with the help of loans. When I had the issue with the professors and had to take time out, I had to accrue more debt because A&M rebated my loans (including the one for the previous semester). This put a lock on my transcript.
I had five years of debt and couldn’t even go to another school until I came up with thousands of dollars to pay this debt back.
I needed the loans, but they made my life more difficult. They still do. I know this girl would say that that I didn’t have to get a loan or that I wouldn’t have had the rebating issue if I had managed my money better. When you’re trying to figure out how to pay fees for parking (when you don’t drive) or a nonexistent athletic complex, or you need a book that’s not at the campus bookstore so your stipend doesn’t cover it, or you’re trying to cover gas to get to school or buy food, you do what you have to do.1 My loan money had gone toward buying our groceries, along with the EBT benefits my mom qualified for at that point and my disability money. That loan money had covered hundreds of hours for classes and for food so we didn’t starve. Loans were necessary.
Seeing this girl act like they’re not needed is just annoying. It stinks of a privilege level that I’ve never known personally. I applaud her ability to pay for her education, but she’s just being shortsighted in her apathy toward those who couldn’t do that. So, like I said earlier, fuck her.
I considered things like selling essays, which would have been grounds for me to lose my scholarship. I also considered sex work. I was desperate. ↩