My wife and I have a lot of student loans. We both spent a number of years at a private college, at times living on campus. My wife and I were both able to work full time in the summer, and part time during a portion of our schooling. Even with that hard work, however, student loans were inevitable. So here we are, almost 4 years after we left our college, and we still have a lot of student loans. I don't regret mine for a minute, mostly because without them I never would have met my wife. It was also an incredible time in my life, where I learned and grew a lot as a person. Sadly, I am not currently “using” the degree that I purchased through 4 years of schooling, but learning how to think critically, making connections and great friendships still seem worth it to me. For a lot of people, however, they regret a lot of their schooling, and especially the debt that they racked up while going to school. So if you're considering going to college for the first time, or going back to school, or even just a few online classes on the side, should you get student loans? Here's a couple of things to think through before you ask the government for a loan.
Why Are You Going to School?
If you can't answer decisively the purpose for your schooling, don't get loans. I'm not saying don't go to school, but if you don't have a specific end destination in mind, then don't get loans. I've met too many people who have gone through year after year of school, taking classes and paying a lot of tuition because they feel like they should be in school, not because they want to be. They have no end career in mind, and no plan for after they graduate. It's just the next phase in life for them, and going into debt just seems part of the “thing to do”. Don't be that person who ends up regretting their college years. If you're wondering about a program, or want to go to college to be with some friends, or just want that college experience – great! Just pay for it with cash and not with some form of credit. Go to school part time if you have to, and work the rest. Or, just delay your schooling for a year and save up the cash for the tuition ahead of time. Not only will you be in a better financial position at the end of the school year, but because you worked so hard to earn the opportunity, you'll be far more likely to actually learn what they're teaching.
What Will Your Post-Schooling Income Be?
Becoming a doctor is a famous example of this. You go through about a decade of schooling before you become a doctor, so chances are really good that you'll be racking up the student loans along the way. However, once you're done that schooling, you'll be starting at a fairly decent salary that will help you pay off those student loans. So do some research on the job you'll be applying for once you have your certifications. For example, if you're currently working at Starbucks, and after your schooling you'll be an intermediate accountant, well, then you can consider getting some loans during the transition as it will eventually help your financial situation. If, however, after you completed your bachelor of arts in English, you're still going to be working at Starbucks, then perhaps make sure you have the cash to pay for your classes as otherwise you'll end up in an even worse financial position.
All of this is to say – consider long and hard before you sign any papers saying that you're willing to go into debt. Be so sure about that decision that you'll be willing to take on a huge burden in the future. There should be no shame in not knowing your finally goal or you final destination. Just don't sabotage your future because you are hoping that things will just fall into place. Instead, create for yourself a history of hard work and paying in cash for the things that you want – and that includes any schooling or training you may need or want.