Did My Education Cost Too Much?

Did My Education Cost Too Much?
by Jessica Feldman Sep 12, 2012 4:45 AM EDT

I went to college for a chance to move up in the world. But the debt I incurred in order to pay for it is holding me down.

This is the story of my education and my debt—a paradoxical combination. Ten years after college, I find myself wonderfully well educated and woefully burdened by payments that threaten many of the possibilities my schooling promised.

I grew up in a very small town in rural Massachusetts consisting mostly of lower-middle-class families, some of whom had been there for generations. We had cows, corn, and about 3,000 people. The public schools were not great. There was a lot of racism and sexism. There was also a great sense of community and a respect for the earth. People there are born, go to school, get married, grow old, and die within a 50-mile radius. The poor stay poor.
My parents were both from the area and had met at a nearby state college, which they both attended part time while working full time. Both financed their own educations with a combination of wages, loans, and credit cards. We had a small house, a big backyard, and good food from our garden. I always had music lessons, food in my stomach, and clothes on my back. I recognize in retrospect that providing this was no easy task.

My parents finished paying off their college debt just as I was finishing high school. They told me I could go anywhere—but I would have to pay for it. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I got into Columbia, and I wanted to go there. I was one of four students in the 30-year history of my high school ever to be admitted to an Ivy League school. After years of subpar schooling, I would really, finally, properly learn how to read closely, think critically, and write well. I was thrilled.

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