Something I’ve noticed since graduating is that people are kind of hush hush about how much student loan debt they have. We make jokes about how crippling it is or how universities squeezed all of the cash out of us that they possibly could.
But I’m curious about figures. I want to know exactly how much. And the reason why is pretty simple for me….I want to feel normal. I want to feel like there are other people in the same boat as me because that makes all the debt more manageable.
According to FinAid, the average 4-year undergrad. student comes out with $23,186 in debt. Obviously, graduate and professional students borrow a lot more with the additional debt typically ranging from $30,000 to $120,000. Twenty five percent of those pursuing a Master’s borrow more than $42,898 in addition to their undergraduate debt.
These figures are pretty familiar for me.
I went to a public university for my BA and had in-state tuition. My parents paid for room and board and I paid tuition. I came out with roughly $20,000 in debt from that. I had a few scholarships but I borrowed extra money in my last two years to help cover my expenses. I gave piano lessons to help bolster my savings but I didn’t have a real job; I also didn’t have the time.
Then, I went straight into a Master’s program in D.C. which is a REALLY expensive city. During the first semester I lived by myself (my partner still lived in California at the time) so I took out more money to help cover living expenses. I was lucky too because I had a friend who was willing to give me discounted rent on their basement apartment. I lived far away from school and work and I paid a lot to take the metro. I remember telling my sister, “I think I’m going to die all alone and in a basement”. It was a rough couple of months.
Graduate school cost me roughly $53,000. It would have cost closer to $78,000 had my partner and I not moved in together. I worked the whole time I was in graduate school at internships that either paid OK or just gave a small stipend. This is not enough to live on in D.C., let me tell you. I’m not really sure how a lot of my friends did it.
On top of the giant expense…I did not love graduate school, not even close.
So now I feel like I have bought into the course of life that you’re “supposed” to do to achieve your ideal career. But what I have is a lot of debt and no job to help support it.