I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life. I mean, a lot. I have a lot of past decisions I can choose from when thinking about the biggest mistake in my life. So, what’s the number one thing that comes to mind every time I consider the answer to the question, “What is the biggest mistake I’ve ever made?”
No joke. There is no other bad decision I have made that has stuck with me for so long, and made such a big impact on my life. I have done a lot of stupid things, but this one won’t go away for a very long time.
Why am I telling you this? I want you to reconsider student loans for your child. We take it as a necessary piece of college graduation, and it doesn’t have to be that way! Why don’t we second guess leaving our young generation with tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt before they are even 25?
For every $10,000 in student loans someone takes out, they will pay $100 per month for 10 years. So in my case, my $60,000 Bachelor’s degree sets me back $600 for 10 years. That’s what my first apartment cost me! You know what I kept thinking in college? People buy cars for $30 grand and pay that off in 5 years. $60 grand won’t be a big deal. I was a single mom. It was absolutely a big deal.
You know who pays $30 grand for a car? 30-somethings. Not fresh-out-of-college people because even if they didn’t have student loans, they’re at the bottom of the totem pole. You might make enough to live on your own, but make sure to stock up on the Ramen.
There are a number of ways to get through college without debt. The first step is changing your mindset. If you think student loans aren’t a big deal, you won’t work that hard to avoid them. Here’s what I’ve told my own daughter:
- Interest bearing debt or income is forbidden in Islam. We avoid it whenever possible.
- Use AP, DSST, and CLEP tests to get as many credits done at home. They are a fraction of the cost, so we can pay for them out of pocket.
- Pay as you go! We have a college fund setup, albeit it isn’t more than a year’s worth, at most. The plan is that she can work part time to pay for some classes, we can pay for some with the college fund, and we might be able to cover a little bit out of pocket also.
- It’s not a race to finish. It’s better to come out of a Bachelor’s program in 6 years with no debt than in 4 years with a pile of debt. The extra two years in school is not going to set you back in a major way.
Why worry them with money?
Many people treasure the college experience and want their child to soak it in rather than worrying about money. I can understand and respect that, but think about this. They can either worry about money for a few years in college, or worry about it for a decade or more after college. After college, most people want to get married, start a family, start a career, and just start their own life! Getting started in life with a major debt over your head makes it that much harder.
So, I’ll come off my soapbox in a second, but just please, please don’t underestimate how much a student loan becomes a burden for a young person.
I think my answer would have to be: it depends. We also have some funds set aside for our kids, but if they can make up the difference with part-time jobs and *some* loans and be done in 4 years, maybe they can increase their earning potential by being in the job market that much sooner. I certainly don’t want them to have huge loans. They are also taking reduced-price dual credit courses as high school homeschoolers and a couple of AP tests. So hopefully that will further reduce their out-of-pocket when the go away to school.
Shannen Espelien says
It sounds like you have a plan! It’s hard to say whether coming out with no loans a bit later, or finishing earlier with a couple loans is more advantageous. Maybe it’s six of one, half dozen of the other. 🙂 Whatever it is, it’s always best to do so intentionally. Sounds like you’re definitely there!
R. Akhras says
I like your article but you did no talk about scholarships, grants, or taking classes at a junior college before transferring into a 4 year college/university. There are a lot of companies, government agencies, and universities that offer scholarships. If our kids have the grades they can go to Harvard University with a full scholarship from alumnus donations. Also, look into America Corp they offer $4,750 per year of service and the kids are also helping in the community development and/or services.
Shannen Espelien says
You’re absolutely right! There are many options out there, and I forgot about AmeriCorp, thank you! It’s good to be aware of all the options out there so a college degree doesn’t have to turn into a burden later in life.
As salaamu alaikum. I think it is really hurtful and it is one of my biggest regrets also. I have kids and i will never let them go through that stress. Inshaallah. Thank you for the alternate. salaams
Shannen Espelien says
So glad to hear you are being proactive in your kids’ lives, alhamdulilah! Thanks for stopping by!