Corey (University of Miami): My education has seen both financial extremes. I received my undergraduate degree from a public university on an academic scholarship provided by the state of Florida. At the time, that scholarship was easier to qualify for than admission to the University, so everyone I knew was going to school for free. That included only tuition, and that scholarship no longer exists to the extent that it once did, due primarily to a new Governor and the economic recession.
My medical school is private and I am doing it without a scholarship. By the end of it I will be 250,000 dollars in debt, give or take a few tens of thousands (I will plan to pay back $500,000 due to interest), but I will be assured of a job that I have been working toward for years, so I can’t complain too much. What I can complain about now is that universal access to student debt does not equal universal access to medical education. I would guess that nearly half of the students with whom I will graduate were raised by physicians—and nearly all of the students in my class come from the wealthiest parts of society. Of course, many factors determine the socioeconomic makeup of medical schools in America, but they all come together to discourage a true meritocracy and reduce the diversity of the profession as a whole. They also come together to seriously diminish my spending money now. Because wealth is nearly a prerequisite for admission, and as such most students at my school are still assisted by their parents into their mid 20s, the school assumes that students do not need as much money as they often do.
They reduce the amount of money that can be borrowed through government programs in the hope of seeming like a better deal than other medical schools. Therefore, every student like me, who must take out the maximum amount of loans to get by, only just gets by, with very little disposable income and credit card debt that increases at the end of each semester, only to be paid off at the beginning of the next. That money shortage influences both my social and personal life, but also my education. Nearly every textbook that I own has been stolen from the Internet and printed in a library or read on the computer. Resources that could not be found on the Internet were generally not used.
That said, I’m glad to have the opportunity to do what I am doing. I would love to be able to do it for free, and I am very grateful that my tuition was paid for by the state for the first four years of my higher education. I just wish that I wouldn’t have to start my career $250,000 in debt!
Mariah Bernard (Amherst-Massachusetts): “Being a nursing major, I always wanted to go to school near Boston so I could be in Boston hospitals during my clinical placements. Unfortunately, even with the $60,000 dollars scholarship between the four years, the price was still too steep. When determining financial aid, they looked at my dad’s income, even though it was my mother who I was living with and who was supporting me. Had they looked at solely my mother’s income, they would have seen that she was an unemployed mother of three who was going back to school herself. That is the main reason I’m at UMass. The first year was only $600 out of pocket, though it was still around $8000 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans. With each year, my financial aid has been less and less, even though my brother is now going to college next year. With three family members going to the same school, we figured we would receive more aid. Instead, they messed up our financial aid. It’s been a process to fix it, and even when it’s all settled out they told us that they can’t guarantee that aid will still be available. I’m glad I only have one more year left. As a nurse, I know I’ll be able to get a job, though it might mean moving to a different part of the country. The loans will follow me wherever I go. I lost track of how much I owe at this point but I know I’ll be reminded once I graduate. However, during my junior year, my dad started to help by paying the daily life out of pocket so I would only have to worry about loans.
Lauren Marie (Amherst-Massachusetts): “I picked Umass Amherst based purely on cost. Having a twin sister in college at the same time, owing tuition times two wasn’t easy on my parents. I have forfeited every cent I have ever made since the time I was 13 to a college fund. Yet I still took out $5,000 in loans almost every semester and I am slightly more than $30,000 in debt. Post graduation I am unable to get a credit card and live in fear of the day my loan payments start. This “10 year loan payment plan” means that I will be in my mid 30’s before I can save for my future. I do value my college education but when I think about my father who worked a part-time job while attending Berklee College of Music and how he could pay for his whole college career himself, I can’t help but think something is wrong here.”
Adriana Berusch Gerardino (Amherst-Massachusetts) : “For the majority of the college career, I thought private school was out of the question for me. Come to find out, it isn’t. Public universities are underfunded. We get more scholarships and grants and private uni’s. Hence why I’m leaving Amherst now for Boulder. 10k in loans vs. 3k a year in loans (just for tuition) – we definitely need a change. Thanks for posting this… definitely looking forward to seeing what we can do about this problem.”
Khadijah Pac : “My story is not as horrific as some others, but I will tell you my experiences with struggling to stay in college. I am 18 years old, and I am in my sophomore year of college. Upon entering college for the first time, I was told that the costs of my education would probably be covered for the 2 years that I would be attending. This means that all of the government loans that I had to take out and 2 grants that I received should cover my education for the next 2 years. A couple of weeks before becoming a sophomore, I was sent a letter in the mail saying that I owed my school a little over $6,000. I immediately contacted my financial aid advisor so that she could explain to me what was going on. She said that tuition had went up this year, and I had no prior knowledge of this. She claimed that the tuition change for my sophomore year was listed in the enrollment agreement that I signed when enrolling for college.
If this is the case, why did the lady who enrolled me tell me that my education costs would be covered? It seems as though college advisors lie when they are helping you enroll just to get you to attend their school. I had to resort to getting a loan through the school to cover the rest of my costs to stay in school. This loan has very high interest rates and I have to start paying it back 60 days after I graduate! With government loans, they at least give you 6 months after you graduate to start paying back the loans. But don’t get confused, all loans are evil. The government will do anything to get their money back.
There are much more stories out there, and they are much worse than mine. As you have read, there are people who cannot get jobs even after graduating with a diploma. There are people who have to sell their homes just to pay the government back their money.”