How We Ended Up Over $300,000 In Debt

Source

Source: Noahpinion

I should start from the beginning. When we were both in first year university we, like many students, were offered a credit card. A really pretty one with a picture of our campus on it. It was great, personalized just for us, sign us up! And so it began…

Her Story:

I wanted to go to university, actually it wasn’t an option, I was going to university, I just didn’t have any money to pay for it. Or maybe I should say there was money at one point that was left in an estate that didn’t get executed properly, leaving us to scramble to pay for said education very last minute. When the time came for post secondary every single penny went on some form of credit, be it line of credit, student loan or credit cards. I had a part time job but not enough to pay for anything more than my books. By the end of my undergraduate degree I managed to rack up $32,000 in student debt and probably $2,000 in consumer/credit card debt. By the age of 21, I had $34,000 debt.

What’s even worse is that, although no education is wasted, my degree wasn’t going to get me much beyond a minimum wage job, the only option I had n my mind was to further my education. Back to school I went and although I have  a great career now, and zero regret, by the end of my second degree I managed to add another $20,000 in student loans, another $10,000 in lines of credit and about $13,000 on…credit cards…Yup. I put over $10,000 on credit cards to pay off tuition and books that my loans and LOC’s wouldn’t cover. My program was over $13,000 per year, not including books and other incidentals and maintaining a part time job while in this program was not optional. I couldn’t do both and focusing on my (overpriced) education was priority. By the end of my second degree, before my life had started, I now had $77,000 in debt.

His Story:

His story is a lot less scary. Hubby went to university, then college, racking up a total of about $12,500 total in line of credit and student loan debt. He had a credit card maxed at $2,000, not a huge deal. Then he went and married me and my $77,000 deficit bank account, he must really love me!

Our Story:

To top off my $13,000 in ‘school credit card’ debt, his $2,000 credit card, together we also owe another approximate $5,000 in various credit that we can’t really account for, overspending if you will. We have a vehicle loan together, outstanding at approximately $29,000 and a mortgage currently outstanding at about $233,000. We both have good careers and are now working on getting this debt paid off.

Join us on this long journey to freedom and no longer worrying about money!

Are Undergraduate Degrees A Way Of The Past?

I recently read a great post over at The Outlier Model about wanting a job in the science field. I started to reply and quickly realized I was writing a book for a reply so decided to do a post about it instead.

First, head on over and read the above blog post, it’s a fantastic post about the realism behind getting a job in the scientific community (biology mainly but applies to chemistry and physics as well).

I have two university degrees, my first being a BSc in Biology. I really can’t say any education is wasted, because it’s not, but unfortunately good education isn’t free. If I could turn back time I would never, ever, ever, ever go into a ‘basic’ undergraduate program with a declared major. Nor would I ever recommend a high school student pursue such a route. I did very well in high school, graduating with scholarships and on the principal’s lists (top ranked graduates of the high school in Canada) but at the ripe age of 18 I didn’t know what I wanted in life, I thought I knew but I didn’t. I knew I liked, and was good at, science and of course sciences have more job prospects than arts, or so I was told (I don’t really believe this).

I really don’t think most 17-18 year old high school students really know what they want upon graduation. There is such a pressure to graduate high school and immediately pursue post-secondary education but I don’t think this is the smartest thing to do anymore, especially in today’s economy and the rising cost of tuition. I know a lot of parents fear that if their child takes time off between high school and post-secondary that they might not return to academia, or that nothing will become of their child. Some of the most successful people I know were the ones who took a year or two off, traveled, worked and really discovered the person they were, outside of the high school walls. Most people don’t come into themselves until after graduation. Are you the person you were in your senior year? Most likely not.

Choosing your lifelong career path in the hype of hormones and emotional turmoil is probably not the smartest idea.

Taking time off never even had the chance to enter my mind, I was going to university to study biology and be a science rock star. I knew I wouldn’t pursue biology as a full on career (ie doing a PhD of sorts) but I also didn’t really think I would end up in year 3 of 4 in my undergrad and realize I had essentially wasted 3 years of my academic life pursuing a degree with little to no job prospects. High schools do such a good job at sugar-coating university for the ‘smart kids’ that they tend to neglect the important information like, there are NO JOBS. Are high school teachers paid commission from the universities or something?

In my 3rd year I knew something had to change. I was about to graduate with 40k debt and the only job prospects paid slightly better than minimum wage. I went through university with my two best friends. We all graduated with our BSc’s and I was the only one to pursue more education. They both work full-time for slightly better than minimum wage, one girl working full-time and two part-time jobs to stay afloat.

The ironic part is that I ended up in substantially more debt to get my career, but at the end of the day I know I made the right choice. I went back to university and became a Dental Hygienist. I graduated with my choice of job and making 3x what I would had I stopped with my BSc. I love my job and so glad I made the choices I did.

When talking to high school students, who I know want to go directly to university, I tell them to apply into a program that lands you a job even if it’s not something you think you may want to do, because like I said before, you really don’t know what you want at 18.

It is wise to let students know they have plenty of options regarding how they learn. Online schools offer some immensely useful degrees such as a Master of Business Administration. A degree like this has a high job demand, meaning that the investment will very likely pay off. This is just one of many online programs known to lead to a rewarding career. Credits earned via online school are transferable to brick and mortar institutions and vice versa, so there is no harm in taking at least a few classes, especially when it might be the first step to landing that dream job.

Most programs have similar first year foundation classes regardless of the program so if you don’t like the program after your first year you can choose to then apply into something else but you have the security of knowing you can graduate with a degree that will get you a job should you choose to stay. The undergraduate programs I’m mainly talking about would be engineering, nursing or finance, all of which you can apply into from high school (vs. programs that require at least first year prerequisites to get into).

My sister-in-law was going to apply to do her basic BSc because she was thinking about pharmacy or nutrition as a career choice but wasn’t totally sure. I encouraged her to apply into nursing (something she didn’t think she’d like) and if she didn’t like it, apply to the other two programs after her first year because they both require first year pre-requisites which can be satisfied through nursing (1st year bio, chem, math etc.). That conversation took place seven years ago, she’s now a successful OR nurse and loves it. She has job security with amazing benefits, I’m so glad for her.

I don’t want to sound like I’m hating on all undergrad programs, on the flip side I know many successful people who have stayed in their fields and done very well, but they are few and far between. It sickens me to see such well-educated people not be able to use their skills and education. What use to be an honor and necessity for jobs, basic undergraduate degrees are now a way of the past.

There are still many great university and college programs out there, but try to get into something with more definition and job prospects. Or take time off, figure yourself out and then pursue your career so you don’t end up with a degree for the sake of having a degree, and a bunch of debt because, even if your education is paid for, it’s wasted money if you can’t get a job.

Beef With My Alma Mater

220px-Dalhousie_university_seal

Source: Wikipedia

I’m a proud university graduate. Yes, it cost me more than an arm and a leg, but it was worth it. I ‘get’ that university is expensive. I understand that it costs real money to employ good professors and offer quality education. What I have an issue with, is that after paying them over $100,000 in my six years there, they continue to call me asking for more money.

Don’t get me wrong, I also understand that they need to make money, but for the love of all that is holy, do they really need to prey on former students so actively? I’m not opposed to universities gaining funds through donations, big and small, but I do however have an issue with them mailing me beautifully printed postcards (which, in all likelihood cost thousands of dollars to print) asking for a monthly contribution to them. I have a problem with, each Christmas them calling me as asking me if I’d like to make a charitable donation to them. A charitable donation?!

Charity:
1 : benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity
2:a: generosity and helpfulness especially toward the needy or suffering; also: aid given to those in need
b: an institution engaged in relief of the poor
c: public provision for the relief of the needy
source: m-w.com

No where does multi-million dollar grossing university fall into those categories. To call and list yourselves as a charity is an insult to the education your provided me. Not that I’m in any financial spot to be giving you more money, since it will take me probably another 10 years to repay what I’ve already given you; but when I am financially secure, I will not be donating if you call and ask for a charitable donation.

The fact remains that universities need financial endowment to thrive but please, don’t insult your alumni but calling as asking for money in such a way.

Rant Over.