Posts Tagged ‘True Stories’

The Opportunity Costs of Higher Education

November 9, 2011 Leave a comment

NPR did an excellent story a few weeks ago inviting callers to share stories about what they have had to give up because of their student loans.  People spoke about taking jobs they hated, not pursuing lower-paying public service careers, and even not having children.  I’d love to hear more stories from my readers so please share in the comment section.  In the meantime, I’ll start:

1. A bedroom.  Since graduating with my MA, the only times I have ever had a bedroom have been when I lived with someone else.  I currently live alone in a studio in a shady part of town where my dog must be walked by sundown or not at all.

2. A bed.  In fact, I’m so concerned with finances at the moment that I opted to buy a half-broken futon instead of a bed when I moved into my new place because it was cheaper.  Nothing like sleeping on a lumpy “couch,” even while holding a professional position, to make one think, as per Gob from Arrested Development, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” Read more…


“I never slept, but at least I made the Dean’s List a few times.” – James’s Student Loan Story

November 20, 2008 1 comment

Guest Post by James Scott

This is a difficult story to tell – in part because I have to live it all over again, but also because it sounds like an exaggerated Lifetime movie, and I wonder at times if people think I made it up. I never put college on a pedestal or had the dreams that are so cliché of children. I grew up quick and spent most of my time trying to survive. I didn’t have time to dream, and it would have been too painful to try. Read more…

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“If I had to do it all over again…” – John’s Student Loan Story

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

John* was supposed to be a success story.  He grew up in a middle class home in Elk Grove, CA where his father was a captain of a dredging ship and his mother worked as a chemist for the state.  John was a precocious child, earning straight As throughout much of his early education.  When he decided to major in history at the University of California-Berkeley, his parents were happy to help to the extent they could.  He graduated in 2003 with about $5500 in student loan debt, substantial, but much lower than the national average.  He felt lucky. Read more…

Jobs You Can’t Afford – Chef

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

One of my chief reasons for starting this blog was to highlight how much our career choices are affected by student loan debt.  As The Nation once suggested, student loans have everything to do with social control, but it doesn’t always work out for the betterment of society:

How many young people turn away from low-paying but vital professions because they can’t earn enough to pay back their loans? How many potential social workers, pro bono lawyers, journalists, environmentalists, teachers, artists, secondary medical professionals and community workers are we losing?

Thus, I have decided to begin a new series – Jobs You Can’t Afford.  Here I will tell the stories, culled both from my own interviews and other sources, of the many career options that are closed to people with large amounts of student loans.  I will tell both the stories of people who have had to give up dreams and the stories of people who wouldn’t – and suffered as a result. Read more…

“We have served our sentence…” – Louise and Paul’s Student Loan Story

November 7, 2008 Leave a comment

When Louise* decided to go to college, she knew she was on her own and she planned accordingly.  Her parents had a rocky marriage, ultimately ending in divorce, and though they would have liked to help her with her education, they didn’t have the money.   “As a college student, I took out minimal student loans for fear of debt,” she says.  “I went to a SUNY school so the cost would be low.  I sometimes worked three and four jobs to cover my expenses.”  Read more…

“I Started Living in My Car…” – Peter’s Student Loan Story

November 6, 2008 Leave a comment

Peter O’Lalor has had a difficult life by any standard. In 1960, when he was just three years old, his mother was forced to put he and his four siblings in an orphanage. A series of foster homes followed, though he was returned once, at age ten, to his mother and lived with her for a year until she passed away.

By the time he reached his third foster home, Peter says, “I was an elective mute.” Despite his difficulties, however, Peter was an intellectual child. He read adult-level books – “My first book, at age seven, was the biography of Deborah Sampson, the woman who impersonated a man to fight in the Revolutionary war,” he remembers – and he excelled at art. He was an altar boy for seven years and once dreamed of becoming a Franciscan Friar. Read more…

Harvard Law Grad Burns Diploma

November 1, 2008 6 comments

I came across this story today in the ABA Journal about “Jack,” a 30-something lawyer on a quest to lead a simpler life.  As part of his journey, he decided to torch his Harvard Law School diploma; he posted the video of the burning on YouTube.  Jack had gone to law school to become a public interest attorney, “And then the reality of incurring $120,000 of law school debt plus the allure of making a six-figure salary changed everything.”

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