Learning is EXPENSIVE!
May 9, 2007 6:32 PM   Subscribe

StudentLoanHellFilter: No more sub or unsub fed loans. No help from FAFSA. Are we doomed to pay back student loans for the rest of our lives?

My gf and I live together. She is still in college and has a couple years left. The financial office of the school has told her she is 'maxed out' on federal help (sub and unsub loans). Her parents make too much for her to get a Pell Grant. (and they are contributing nothing to us anyway)

For her to be able to declare herself independent for the FAFSA she has to be age 24 and up and/or married. (According to a FAFSA help desk person.) Well that's great and all but she's 22 and we're both female and our wonderful government doesn't allow us to marry.

SO: Question 1 - Any way around this FAFSA fine print so she doesn't have to show her parents income? Ideally I would like to 'claim' her because she goes to school and I work and frankly, I could use the help financially to help us fed and the lights on.

Question 2 - How in the hell does a single person make it through school without coming out a hundred grand in debt?!

TIA folks.
posted by CwgrlUp to Education (38 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
There is no way around the FAFSA. I have looked. She also has the option of having been emancipated before 18, but that plane has sailed.

Wait till she's 24. Why not wait? I got hit by the same problem, which saw me dropping out for a while because the grants and loans and their assumption of my parents' contributions didn't meet my living requon a part-time basis while working.

Think of those years as a sneaky, slacky gift. Built for adventure. Older people make better students too, in my personal experience.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:37 PM on May 9, 2007


omg this trackpad. it has me deleting whole portions all the time.

requ ^irements (the bay area's a bitch that way) and returning^ on
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:41 PM on May 9, 2007


Question 2 - How in the hell does a single person make it through school without coming out a hundred grand in debt?!

Not to be to snark, but by not choosing an expensive school? When choosing between colleges, I had a choice between >$28k/year and $6k/year in tuition and I choose my school based primarily on not getting out with insane debt.
posted by jmd82 at 6:41 PM on May 9, 2007


No option, getting into huge debt has just been my reality....and I'm 34. So, what about other sources of help, like a scholarship or working someplace that has tuition help? Maybe the student aid office can give you guys some more ideas. As to the tax part I have no idea but damn it you SHOULD be able to claim her!
posted by yodelingisfun at 6:46 PM on May 9, 2007


If she does take the time off till 24, she could sock away savings in a 529 for herself - a 529 savings plan is sort of like an IRA, only for education expenses. Typically you hear about parents using these to save up for their kids expenses, but you can make yourself the beneficiary on a plan you open. The nice thing is that the money she makes on the investment (and ours is making 10% or so) is not taxed.

This really is heartbreaking - she's pretty much the victim of a system that assumes her parents are contributing, and that her partner is male, and if those things don't happen to be true, she is basically stuck. Very much not fair.
posted by selfmedicating at 6:48 PM on May 9, 2007


jmd82 has the right answer to Question 2.

Expensive schools are for rich kids or people with full-ride scholarships. To make it through school without coming out a hundred grand in debt, a single person goes to a well-regarded school that doesn't charge such ridiculous tuition and is in an area with a low cost of living. There are cheap schools with great reputations and programs. I went to one for undergrad, and came out with zero student loan debt (I wish I could say the same for grad school).

And even if you could be married in the eyes of the law, is getting money from the government to pay for an overpriced education a good reason to get married?
posted by The World Famous at 6:49 PM on May 9, 2007


My father refused to contribute to my education (divorced parents), so we just left his income info off the FAFSA form, and checked "info not available" or some such thing. My financial aid package was always based on my mother's income only, and no one ever questioned it. This plan is not for the resolutely law abiding, though, since it is technically false. I personally felt morally justified with it, since, as you can tell, the system is fucked... Plus, the government aid is not a finite pool of money, so it wasn't like I was taking $$ away from other students in need.

I suppose from the government's point of view he was a deadbeat dad, for whom we had NO information so this plan might not work for someone with 2 parents who are unwilling to help.

Question 2:
It's pretty tough. I came out with 40k in debt after college (even after the above plan!), and I'm fixing to go back in for another degree because there is no income potential with my current job skills. Just keep reminding yourself that the income potential with the BA is eons above of what it is with a HS diploma only, so overall you come out ahead, plus the interest is low, you can set the monthly payment to whatever you can afford, and there's that interest tax deduction! Am I rationalizing here?
posted by paddingtonb at 6:54 PM on May 9, 2007


Private loans. There seem to be a bunch of reputable and sketchy sites when you search Google. Sallie Mae, Bank of America, and Citi are probably a good place to start.

Also, can she qualify for federal work-study?

Unless you meet one of the criteria below, it's pretty hard to get around the FAFSA regulations. This page (also source for criteria) says the reason for declaring independence outside of this criteria has to be pretty extreme, such as abandonment or physical abuse. Luckily for your girlfriend, it doesn't sound like either is an issue.

Being considered an independent student is not merely a matter of being responsible for your own educational expenses. You must meet at least one of the following seven criteria to be declared an independent student for the purposes of the FAFSA:

1. Be 24 years of age or older by December 31 of the award year;
2. Be an orphan (both parents deceased), ward of the court, or was a ward of the court until the age of 18;
3. Be a veteran of the Armed Forces of the United States;
4. Be a graduate or professional student;
5. Be a married individual;
6. Have legal dependents other than a spouse;
7. Be a student for whom a financial aid administrator makes a documented determination of independence by reason of other unusual circumstances.


Otherwise, she needs to think about a less expensive school. Without parental assistance and at the "regular rate", you really can't graduate from a private university (which I'm assuming is where she is given the 100K question) without at least $100,000 worth of debt. Heck, maybe even public school as well, once you factor in living expenses.
posted by ml98tu at 6:56 PM on May 9, 2007


You can try for "special and unusual circumstances". Note that "parents don't want to pay" is not considered such a circumstance. Be creative and persistent.

I'm having trouble understanding how you can "max out". There are annual loan limits, but they reset each annum. The total limit is high, at $23,000 - enough for five years of study. I suppose at age 22, you might indeed have gone five years and maxed out the program, though your "has a couple years left" gives me pause.

If this is the case - you've gone five years, haven't graduated, and have taken the maximum in federal student loans - I think you have a few choices:

a) get a loan from somewhere else. Sometimes the school itself will act as a direct lender to students, at similar rates to Stafford loans. Banks may be willing to simply loan you money, but the interest rate won't be pretty. Credit card companies will certainly loan you money, but the interest rate will be awful.

b) Cease college for a few years. At age 24, you'll be able to return with higher borrowing limits as an independent student.

c) choose a cheaper school, such that loans are not necessary.

Please take the time and THINK about debt right now. She apparently has at least $23,000 in debt currently. Given her expected salary after graduation, how long will it take to pay that off? Are you getting a good return on your investment? A lot of people waltz into college without really thinking about the pile of debt they are accumulating, and that pile then gives them great hardship for several (or even many) years after graduation. THINK NOW.
posted by jellicle at 6:56 PM on May 9, 2007


The those that are talking about leaving the father's info off the FAFSA, that's fine if they're divorced. Federal aid calculations dont take the non-custodial parent into account.

However, most elite private schools (read: expensive) ask for completition of the PROFILE, which is much more indepth and takes into account both parents, whether divorced, seperated, etc.

A lot of schools, even if you ARE 24, wont let you count yourself as independent if you've been in school before (at that school). So that might not work.

Look, I would just go to a cheaper school. I went to a great private university, but I would never have gone there if they hadnt put together a great financial aid package for me. Please, go to a public school or one with a scholarship. A school that expensive isnt worth it.
posted by jare2003 at 7:06 PM on May 9, 2007


Echoing everyone who is suggesting that she must strongly consider that the school she's at is, regrettably, simply too expensive, given the circumstances of her life.

I graduated from a top-ranked private university over 15 years ago, at about $20k in debt (which I'd taken on in addtion to scholarships, grants, parents' contribution, and work-study, plus extra jobs over the summer). I will finally pay off my debt this year (and only because I took on a massive freelance project for the past year that basically amounted at times to a second full-time job, on top of my regular full-time job, in order to accelerate my payment plan).

It is true that I had a great education that I value very much. But it is also true that, as a direct result of all that debt, I did not have any savings or contribute to a retirement plan until a couple of years ago (meaning I lost more than 10 years worth of compound interest when it comes to retirement funds). I was never able to get into the housing market when it still might have been remotely affordable -- in part because of the lack of savings, but also in part because I was so overwhelmed by my debt that I ruined my credit. I went without health insurance for several years and was seriously ill at the time (luckily, I finally got insurance shortly before I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer). So that debt came with a much, much bigger price tag than "just" the 20 grand plus interest. It altered my life in ways I could have never, ever comprehended in my 20s.

Assuming you're not exaggerating about the 100 grand figure, taking on 5 times the level of debt I did is positively staggering. She should stop and think very carefully if a diploma from an exclusive school is really, truly going to be worth it. Otherwise she may literally be paying for it for the rest of her life.
posted by scody at 7:14 PM on May 9, 2007 [1 favorite]


I got "special and unusual circumstances" classification and was able to get all kinds of financial aid, federal and non-federal, back in college. It can be done. In my case, I left home a bit early and had a police officer attest that financing from my parents was not going to happen (single mom who didn't work, wouldn't provide financial information, had a history of emotional abuse, yadda yadda). So do try with your financial aid office before switching schools. From what I understand, their decision is discretionary, and depending on what school you're at who knows, maybe they'll do you a favor and give you independent status due to a civil union or being domestic partners or something. Word to the wise: call in anonymously to ask about their procedures for independent status first if possible, to get a lay of the land.
posted by lorrer at 8:14 PM on May 9, 2007


So much good advice. I would only add that it's possible to have a SAR that says that your parents are capable of providing generously for your education, AND get an aid package based on the reality that they're not paying a red cent. Stop fighting the FAFSA. That's a losing battle. The rules are too rigid there. Under federal definition, she's not an independent student. The end.

HOWEVER do make an appointment with the college's financial aid officer and have a detailed discussion about the financial realities. Colleges use the SAR as a primary guide, but few are hopelessly wedded to it. Most are prepared to make adjustments to help students with a genuine need that the SAR hasn't accounted for. The college will probably want a note from your parents confirming their non-support. Then they'll crunch some figures and come up with a new number. Expect any additional aid to be in the form of loans or small grants, however.

If the school and/or state have a sexual orientation non-discrimination policy, it may be worthwhile to emphasize the inequity barrier. You'd get nowhere trying to make that case to the feds (FAFSA), but at the state/county/city/school level there may be leverage to demand that she be re-classified.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 8:40 PM on May 9, 2007


Are you supporting her financially? I know an unmarried couple, he worked, she was in grad school and he was able to claim her as a dependent on his taxes since he was paying for all of her living expenses. (You will want to double check this with an accountant or IRS since you don't want to rely my version of her interpretation of what his accountant told them.)

Anyway, if you can, it might be helpful to amend your 2006 return and then go into the financial aid office with this as additional support for being treated as married. I supposed then they will want to count your income ?? so I don't know if that will really help as much as leaving you out of it.
posted by metahawk at 9:37 PM on May 9, 2007


First of all, ignore the people who are saying go for a cheaper school. I graduated a year ago from a prestigious private school (~$28K/year) and although I have had a hard time finding employment (liberal arts major), I would NEVER trade my degree from that school for a degree from a cheaper school. The education I received was well worth the thousands of dollars that I am in debt. I am not a legacy, a trust fund baby, or any of the above, but rather a first generation college student in my family. The weight of the degree from a private school in most professional arenas is worth it, you will find.

That being said, DON'T BE AFRAID OF STUDENT LOANS. I repeat, DON'T BE AFRAID OF STUDENT LOANS. Yes they can seem daunting, but they are some of the lowest interest loans you can get, have very small payments compared to many other sources of debt, and if you go through a reputable source (i.e. Sallie Mae, Citibank) they are more than helpful when you can't pay back right away. I am currently free and clear until October, and my grace period has long since expired.

Don't let your gf drop out. People who are giving this advice aren't thinking about higher education correctly. If your gf is going to a private institution, clearly she values her education, and it's very VERY hard to gain momentum and go back to school once you stop. College isn't easy. It isn't meant to be, or everyone would have a degree. Stick through it, take out the loans, and pray that her hard work will pay off someday, because really, isn't that the point of it all?
posted by messylissa at 9:45 PM on May 9, 2007


I disagree w messylissa. Postponing an education is NOT the same as dropping out. I have several friends who were in similar situations. What they did was move to California for a few years and then go to school for almost free. (Residents of California can go to state schools for almost nothing). There are plenty of highly prestigious schools there, and you both will probably get more out of your education if you've taken a couple of years to just live. Everyone I know who did this graduated while still in their 20's and is now very happily employed. They all say that the wait allowed them to pursue career-focused interests that they wouldn't have thought of when they first started undergrad. If you're still together after that, go get married in Canada or maybe it will be legal here by then. I know a straight couple who got married for school stuff, and now have to pay for their divorce and it's a big pain.
posted by LizardOfDoom at 11:18 PM on May 9, 2007


Don't let your gf drop out. People who are giving this advice aren't thinking about higher education correctly. If your gf is going to a private institution, clearly she values her education, and it's very VERY hard to gain momentum and go back to school once you stop.

BS on that. I got the best of my education from going on on leave and taking my time. That doesn't make me less of a person, messylissa. It makes me two years older getting my BA. People that matters to are in undergrad. Case closed.

really, isn't that the point of it all?

Suffering and debt? Achievement for the sake of bragging rights? A degree with no immediate payoff? No...Life: whole, well-rounded life is the point. People like this give me a conniption. Yes be afraid of $100K in debt, no matter what form. The money you'll save by avoiding that debt is your entire retirement nest egg.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 12:40 AM on May 10, 2007


Don't let your gf drop out. People who are giving this advice aren't thinking about higher education correctly.

Not going to college would be a direct answer to the first question asked (that is, no, the original poster is not doomed by pay back loans indefinitely)--and a very rational economic decision that the cost of tuition is simply too high. And if more people made that decision, there would be pressure on institutions to stop raising tuition so much.
posted by gimonca at 6:08 AM on May 10, 2007


My two cents is that my friends who got private loans regret it. Their private loans are at a much higher interest rate. But I'd look into whether you'd be able to consolidate them (federal + private) together before you leave school, in which case they'd all be at the same rate. Good luck with the overall situation.
posted by salvia at 7:20 AM on May 10, 2007


It's pretty tough. I came out with 40k in debt after college (even after the above plan!), and I'm fixing to go back in for another degree because there is no income potential with my current job skills. -Paddingtonb

I graduated a year ago from a prestigious private school (~$28K/year) and although I have had a hard time finding employment (liberal arts major), I would NEVER trade my degree from that school for a degree from a cheaper school. -Messylissa

Here's a suggestion: go to nursing school. Not only are there a billion loans and grants specially available to nurses (see discover nursing) but you will also most likely get loan forgiveness at your first job.

In all seriousness, (not just promoting my personal favorite career) make sure that you are getting a degree that will actually be worth being in debt. Ensure that there is a chance of getting out of debt after leaving college.
posted by nursegracer at 7:22 AM on May 10, 2007


I totally disagree with messylissa.

No offense messy, but if you just graduated from school, then that much debt isn't real yet. And it's going to be an enormous monthly payment, even if you consolidate (which is a lot harder with private student loans), especially with 100K in debt. That monthly payment is going to be like 600/month at least. That's not doable unless she's making serious money after graduating. And that's just from undergrad!

Btw, one way to cut costs might be to take a leave of absence, do a semester or two at a local school or during the summer, and transfer those classes in. I did that with the private school (Cornell) that I went to.
posted by jare2003 at 7:32 AM on May 10, 2007


I'm going to have to disagree with messylissa also, and I received both my undergraduate and graduate degrees from private institutions. I knew very few people that paid sticker price for their education, and the ones that did had significant help from their families. Most people were on some combination of scholarship or financial aid and I don't know anyone that went that far in debt. It honestly is not worth the burden that will come from being $100,000 in debt. Think about that for a minute. I'm a nerd with a financial calculator on my desk - 100K over 30 years at 4.75% is $561.25/month. According to Sallie Mae, "the fixed interest rate for consolidation loans varies from borrower to borrower but is generally expected to range from 4.75% to 6.125%." So that is a lowball estimate. At the top end of that, she's looking at a payment of $607.61, and the rates are likely to get even higher by the time she graduates. If you go over 100K, you're looking at even more.

If she were in grad school to be a doctor or lawyer and you knew you'd be making enough to recoup the costs, it would be a different story. But that's not the situation here.

Let's say she makes 40K at graduation (probably too generous for Arkansas, but I don't know). She'll be bringing home 31,063 according to this calculator post tax without deductions. That's 2,588/month, not counting any other deductions such as health insurance. That means she'd be putting anywhere from 20-25% of her takehome towards loans. That is a SIGNIFICANT burden and even though it may qualify you for hardship repayment, you should both really consider if that's how you want the next 30 years of your life to be.

A few years out of school, the name doesn't really matter, unless she's at a big name ivy. Like messylissa, I would not trade the experience if given the chance to do it again, but if I were faced with this decision, I would opt for a school that would allow me to get a good education at a price that would not put me in financial straits for the rest of my life.
posted by ml98tu at 8:23 AM on May 10, 2007


and it's very VERY hard to gain momentum and go back to school once you stop.

I disagree very strongly with this statement. I went to college at a school where the average age of undergrads was 27, most were either people who stopped school and came back or started school later. Almost always the older students were far more motivated.

Personally, when I went back for a semester for a second degree, I did far better than I had the first time around because I was focused on school.
posted by drezdn at 10:22 AM on May 10, 2007


Messylissa: as I said, 15 years ago I was in the exact same boat you're presently in -- 5-figure debt (which I'd blithely taken on with that same "DON'T BE AFRAID OF STUDENT LOANS!!!!" attitude) for a great education -- and I had absolutely no idea at the time all the ways that debt would affect my life for decades beyond the monthly payment. I would suggest that you have absolutely no idea how it's going to affect your life, either, and for that reason, your advice to the OP and her gf is seriously off base.

Look, I was convinced, at 22, that my liberal arts degree from a superior institution would eventually get me a great, steady career at a great salary where I could pay off those debts without hassle (even though I, like you, couldn't find a decent job for love or money immediately after graduation). Well, I did eventually get a great job at a good salary....after more than a decade working shit jobs for shit money, destroying my credit, saving nothing, going without health insurance at times, and not being able to buy a house -- all of that stemming, in one way or another, from my student loan burden. Those are all very real risks that are part and parcel of that level of debt at such an early age for those of us who aren't trust fund babies. You can deny it all you want, but I'd be willing to bet that you're going to think about it a lot more soberly in 10 or 15 years.

Bottom line: do I regret my terrific private education? No. But I see now that it came at a much higher price than I ever comprehended when I started signing those promisary notes at age 18. (The amount of compound interest alone that I lost by not being able to start contrubuting to a retirement fund in my early 20s rather than my mid-30s easily cost me -- no lie -- in the six figures.) And the cold, hard fact is: I could have very well ended up with the exact same career I have now (I'm a book editor at a large art museum) had I gone to a well-regarded state school. How do I know for sure? Because that's exactly what several of my coworkers did.
posted by scody at 10:58 AM on May 10, 2007


Can she go to school part-time (1 course per semester) and take a part-time job somewhat relevant to what she's interested in until she's 24? It's hard to go back to school after a complete stop, but working/school is not impossible.

She may even be able to take some community college credits that are applicable to her degree at a lower cost. (Transferring could loss her credits she paid for, but she could ask at her school to see what she could transfer in.)

Note: If she's at all interested in graduate/professional school, debt will limit her choices.
posted by ejaned8 at 11:41 AM on May 10, 2007


For those still reading:

* She was at a private, very expensive school to begin with on a full ride softball scholarship. Tore up her knee, no more scholarship. Just finishing the yr there put her in debt pretty well. Yes, definitely over the $23K mark. She is now attending a cheaper state school. Can't attend comm. college anymore, no more helpful classes left to take.

*I don't want her to just quit. I'd rather her get done ASAP.

*Yes I supporting her financially.

*And BTW, screw you The World Famous. Way to jump to the conclusion that we'd marry just to get more government money.
posted by CwgrlUp at 3:58 PM on May 10, 2007


And BTW, screw you The World Famous. Way to jump to the conclusion that we'd marry just to get more government money.

Sorry. Your question made it sound like that's exactly what you wish you could do, and I probably am a bit biased by my belief that there are very few good reasons to get married that young. I apologize.

Since she's at a cheaper state school now anyway, one solution would be for her to work while in school, if she's not already. I and many people I know worked throughout college in order to pay tuition and other expenses. It was difficult and a lot of work, but worth it.
posted by The World Famous at 4:20 PM on May 10, 2007


I was about to ask about work, too. I took on grad school debt and am kicking myself because it turned out that by student teaching, I could've had every penny of my tuition paid, plus received a salary to go toward expenses. I'm sure in undergrad it is harder to find such a great deal, but maybe she could talk her way into student teaching some freshman class?

Also, don't they say that tons of scholarships go unclaimed? Like ones from the Rotary Club of Wasatch, Wyoming, and Quilting Women of Detroit? She could try applying for any she remotely qualifies for ("um, I only quilted once, but it taught me valuable lessons I've used my whole life.")
posted by salvia at 6:42 PM on May 10, 2007


Can she get an actual, full-time job at the university? Universities have great education benefits that will allow her to go to school for practically nothing. She may be able to get some sort of department assistant position without a degree and there's usually a waiting period before the benefit kicks in, but otherwise she can continue to go to school for practically nothing. Given the fact that she's a little more adult than her peers, she may be able to get a professional position and take advantage of the tuition benefit.
posted by ml98tu at 8:08 PM on May 10, 2007


You've marked the Messylissa answer as "best," but I've got to join the chorus and say that I strongly disagree. (And I say this as a product of, and a passionate advocate for, top-tier private schools.) The cost of what you are describing is just too high. I graduated with about $16000 in debt, and managed to pay it off by working two jobs, sometimes three. It took a couple of years, but paying off that debt was an amazingly freeing experience. I can't imagine how crippling $100,000 in student loan debt would feel, and no undergraduate education that doesn't lead to a job on Wall Street is worth that cost. (If nothing else, having that much undergrad debt will make going to grad school a much more complicated endeavor than it needs to be; taking low-paid but rewarding jobs will be impossible, etc.)

So I think the answer is to find a way to stop for the moment (stop digging that hole any deeper) and put serious work into either finding financial aid, or into being able to pay for her schooling out of current income. Full-time tuition as a state resident at the University of Arkansas seems to be (according to the website) about $4500 - $5000, which should be mostly payable without using loans, if both people in the relationship are working. Alternatively, I am always struck by how few students bother to fill out the applications for grants and other financial support. Since they are convinced that they will never get the award, why bother? Or it is just easier to take out loans. But there is a fair bit of money floating around out there for the asking; without applying, your answer is guaranteed to be "no."

But to be totally and bluntly honest, the answer to your question about how anyone goes to school without getting $100K in debt is answered by looking at in-state tuition rates where you live. If they don't go to an expensive private school and get big financial aid, they go to a school like the U of Arkansas where they pay tuition that is pretty affordable. Not free, and not fun to pay, but not out of line with what can be covered by bartending and working like a dog in the summers. If you are needing to max out loans with tuition that low, there is something really wrong financially, and I think you need to reassess and reconsider your overall approach.
posted by Forktine at 5:04 AM on May 11, 2007


I have got to stop coming back here, but I just want to add one thing about your marking of Messylissa as the best answer. Messylissa has not even started paying her loans back according to her comment, so she really has absolutely no idea how this will affect her.

Debt is debt is debt. Yes, student loan debt does have the reputation of being "good debt" but is it debt nonetheless. You will be in debt by a significant amount and you will be saddled with that debt for 30 years. THIRTY YEARS. You should be afraid of debt and not listen to someone how hasn't even experienced how debt can affect their life tell you not to be afraid of it.

A cursory scan through some Askme archives will reveal how significant student loan debt, particularly when combined with other emergencies, can ruin your life (as a lesbian couple, this may be even more of an issue since you probably don't have some of the legal/financial protections of your straight counterparts). It is real, real debt. It's not some magical imaginary debt that is "different" from other debt.

I have student loan debt and am limited by it. I could be putting that monthly payment towards retirement, or vacations, or an emergency savings account, or owning a house. My SO and my best friend have no student loan debt. They own houses, contribute to their IRA and retirement accounts, and live comfortably. I suspect that Messylissa will change her opinion after her payments start kicking in.
posted by ml98tu at 7:29 AM on May 11, 2007


Pushing to graduate ASAP at the cost of thousands and thousands of dollars in interest is a vanity project. Get your feet on the ground.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 9:33 AM on May 11, 2007


Chiming back in to say for the third time: that level of debt will limit your personal, financial, and professional choices for decades. Messylissa has no idea what she's talking about, because she hasn't started paying back her debt yet. Many of us in this thread have. Please, please listen to those of us who have real-world experience in exactly the situation you're describing.

I will say it again, bluntly: assuming your SO does not find work as a doctor, lawyer, or broker, the two of you will be paying off $100,000 in that debt for the rest of your lives.

And I don't mean just in the form of massive debt payments and interest ($600/mo for 30 years was the estimate upthread, I think), though that should give you some serious pause right there. No, you will also be paying it back in the form of lost savings, lost retirement funds, lost interest, and lost home equity. You are also taking a significant risk of being unable to afford health insurance and subsequently facing crippling hosptal bills after an emergency; you are also setting up the risk that you will take on severe credit card debt (whether for day-to-day living expenses or for leisure spending) when you find just how difficult it will be to make those massive monthly loan payments. Both situations will further jeopardize your finiancial well-being (they are both leading causes of personal bankruptcy, btw). You are saying goodbye for years to a roomier/quieter/safer place to live, extensive travel, decent cars, nice wardrobes, and any other of the things the two of you envision enjoying in your future.

The kicker: if you have children, you will be unable to adequately save for or contribute to their own education.

All of that may seem like an abstraction to you right now -- it sure did as hell did to me when I was your age (ouch) -- hence why you think messylissa's answer is the best. But I assure you, as someone who's really had the student loan albatross around my neck for many years and many, many friends/family in the same boat, I assure you (and pretty much everyone else concurs) her advice is both well-meaning and utterly uninformed, and therefore the worst in this thread. Again, assuming that your girlfriend is studying to become anything other than doctor, lawyer, or broker, you follow it at your peril.
posted by scody at 9:46 AM on May 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I will say it again, bluntly: assuming your SO does not find work as a doctor, lawyer, or broker, the two of you will be paying off $100,000 in that debt for the rest of your lives...assuming that your girlfriend is studying to become anything other than doctor, lawyer, or broker, you follow it at your peril.

I can't speak on the other two professions, but do personally know many doctors who are absolutely struggling with $100k+ student loan debts. It's crazy. You'd think they'd at least have the income to handle it, but no they really don't. So many doctors are coming out of med school with their choices severely constrained by their student loan obligations. It has become commonplace to spend the first 10 or more years practicing in towns they don't want to live in, at HMOs they abhor, giving up the specialty they trained for and loved, moonlighting with second jobs at ERs and urgent cares...Just. To. Keep. Afloat. If someone with that kind of earning power finds $100k a major obstacle to making satisfying life choices, you need to be realistic about what it means for a lesbian couple. The statistics are sobering. You two can only expect to earn only 80% of what a hetero or gay male couple does; even less if either of you is a minority. Since lesbians have the same cost of living as everyone else, the hurt comes on discretionary expenses. Other people may have some wiggle room in the budget for debt payments; don't count on having the same. If you two have aspirations for a house, kids, retiring before age 90, or even just being able to walk away from a soul-crushing job, then do yourselves the favor of getting that degree as cheaply as humanly possible.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 12:33 PM on May 11, 2007


a very rational economic decision that the cost of tuition is simply too high. And if more people made that decision, there would be pressure on institutions to stop raising tuition so much.

This is about as realistic as saying that if more people stopped tipping, then restaurants would start paying their employees more than $2.13 an hour.

Messylissa has no idea what she's talking about, because she hasn't started paying back her debt yet.

Yes, she most likely has; she graduated a year ago. The longest grace period on any one of my loans (which, combined, are way less than $100,000) is nine months.
posted by oaf at 10:34 PM on May 12, 2007


oaf: messylissa already specifically said she wasn't making payments -- to wit: "I am currently free and clear until October, and my grace period has long since expired."

The use of forbearances and deferrals can be used past the initial 9-month grace period to put off making payments, which is what I assume she's done (because by her own admission, she can't actually afford the payments.)

But beyond that, the question of messylissa's "take all the loans you need!!!!!" advice isn't whether or not it's actually possible to make massive student loan payments; it's whether it's actually desirable, given the siginificant limits such debt will put on other vital expenses for the next several decades. And messylissa, having graduated a year ago, most certainly has zero experience in that arena.
posted by scody at 1:34 PM on May 14, 2007


This is about as realistic as saying that if more people stopped tipping, then restaurants would start paying their employees more than $2.13 an hour.

The board of regents at the local college has decision-making power in their situation. Wait staff does not have the power to set their own wages, other than accepting or not accepting a job.
posted by gimonca at 4:57 AM on May 15, 2007


Colleges aren't raising tuition because it's fun for administrators to make more money. They'd do MUCH better in any other industry. It is very expensive to keep a college running and the old crappy dorms and gross cafeteria food don't cut it anymore. Students (and/or, erm, their parents) want brand name dining options, nice new dorms, financial services labs/trading floor simulators, film production and editing studios, performance spaces, top-notch faculty, sports teams, high-quality research facilities, insane IT infrastructure, opportunities such as study abroad, internships, or networking trips, and of course a beautifully manicured campus. This stuff is not cheap and sometimes they can get donors to foot the bill, but in order to stay competitive these things often have to be in place. The cost of doing business keeps going up and tuition is rising with it.

In the OP's case, going to a public school rather than a private one is a better financial decision because the state is covering the financial divide between cost of educating and cost of tuition, not OP and her girlfriend.
posted by ml98tu at 7:06 AM on May 15, 2007


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