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Ok.  Whew.  This blog post is probably going to generate some strong reactions, but it has been on my heart for years.  Years!  And I think it’s time for me to share it.  I’ll try to keep it as short and sweet as possible.

When considering my college options as a high school senior, I wanted the Full Four Year College Experience.  At a nice place, out of state, please.  I was ready to get outta dodge.  Community College?  No way.  I was even opposed to CLEPing out of classes, or taking AP classes in High School…because (yet again) I wanted the full four years.  I ended up settling on a college that was out of state, but it was fortunately close enough that it offered in-state tuition because of my proximity.  I worked the summer after my senior year, saved money, and got away without having any loans for my first semester.  *Whew*.  Then I moved that December, met my love a few months later, and was married before the year was out.  (Long story short, right?)

Again, adjusting this story for the length of this post, Erick and I ended up moving shortly after our wedding; I was offered a job as a secretary at a fairly prestigious Expensive University, and Erick (because of my job) was able to receive free tuition.  We, at the time, probably had no idea what a blessing that was.  We were thankful, but the full impact of that gift really didn’t hit us until the last few years, as we have watched our amazing friends and family struggle under the tremendous burden that is the Student Loan.

Dearest High Schoolers, please hear my heart on this.  Are you like I was?  Completely opposed to Community College?  Wanting the so-called “college experience“?  Wanting to break free and live somewhere else?  Do you have the mindset that school loans are just a part of life, and that you’ll pay them off eventually, no big deal?

That Is Who I Was.  That is oh, SO VERY MUCH who I was…but I have grown up a bit; I’ve experienced debt a bit, and I have become a different, wiser person because of the years…because of the debt experience.

Are you a parent who is kind of nervous about your senior going off to a far-flung University, taking on student loans?  OH, how I hurt for you.  OH how I understand how much you want your kids to have the experience they long for; OH how I know that it seems that debt is just going to have to BE, because what other choice do you have?  You want to give your kids the world!

Debt is not the world.  Debt is such intense bondage; not only student loans…we’re talking car debt, house debt, credit card debt.  But Student Loans top a lot of that, right?  Because they are immense.  And by allowing your kids to take on student debt to go to the “college of their dreams”, you are essentially allowing them to be trapped for many, many years in the vicious debt cycle…and you are very likely taking that on yourself as well.  Normally, student loans need co-signers.  If your kiddo doesn’t end up with a job that can pay the bills, you are stuck with them.

I’m here to tell you exactly what I am already telling my kids. And please know that I am just giving you my opinion.  I’m not trying to shove anything down your throat; this is a personal decision, involving MY children…but maybe…just maybe…it might be of benefit to you.

There are options to save you from a life of College Debt.

In State Universities

Community College; even if only for the first two years, to get all of your basics done.  You can save LOADS of money that way.  If you want to transfer to a more “prestigious” place later, by all means, do.  (This is especially for those who want to go into something specialized).

CLEPing as many classes as possible.

Getting married right out of high school and going the route that Erick and I did.  (TOTALLY KIDDING!!)  

Actually, one pretty great benefit at Erick’s Alma Mater?  I had friends who were secretaries, and because of their jobs, they also received free tuition. So they were chipping away at their degree, 2 or 3 classes at a time.  Did it take them longer to reach their Higher Education Goal?  Absolutely.  Did it pay off in the long run?  You can bet your $80,000 loan it did.  I can remember Erick, at one point, being a little disappointed because he wasn’t graduating from college at the same time many of his friends did.  He graduated with his bachelors at the grand old age of 25…about 3 years later than quite a few of his friends.  Did it make a bit of difference in the long run?  That’s a silly question.  Anyway, it could be that you can look into the college you are interested in to see if there is an similar option; working full time, plugging away at your free degree.

Here is the funny thing.  If I had read this blog post when I was still in high school, I STILL wouldn’t have listened.  I was kind of head strong that way.  But God, for some crazy, crazy reason, worked things out for me anyway.  I don’t know why, but I’m certainly thankful.

And you know what?  I don’t know all the answers.  This post doesn’t even begin to touch all of the factors involved. I don’t know what to tell you if you want to go on and become a doctor…or a lawyer…or something of the equivalent.  I can tell you that Erick received his Master’s free and clear as well, because his school district payed for it.  Getting that far debt free can happen; we are the proof.

I would love to have some feedback here (instead of Facebook, so we can all benefit).  I would like to hear from people on all aspects of this; from those who ended up with the major loans and were able to overcome them.  From people who went on to become Professionals and have crazy debt but it’s all working out anyway.  Whatever your mindset is on the issue, I’d really love to hear it; maybe your advice or opinion could be a huge help to someone reading the blog.

All I know, for sure, is that we as a generation have messed up big time with “credit” because we didn’t listen to God in the first place.  He says it’s a bad idea.  Actually, I just read an excellent article right here on the debt situation.  It’s a quick read.

Again, I’m not here to blow away any dreams.  I’m here to try to save you from a lifetime of yuck, all in the name of a few years of what you think you might want.  College *anywhere* is what you make of it, whether it’s down the street, online, or 10 states away.  Just don’t go rashly into any situation involving money.  Being wise financially, especially starting out at 18 years old, will save you decades of debt-worry.

That’s a fact you can take to the bank.