My name is Ashley. I’m a small-town Nebraskan girl trying to make it on my own in the big (well, big to me) city. I attended a small, private liberal arts college in my current city. Four years-three majors (yes, three). Political science, mass communications, and business administration.
When I enrolled at my college-I went through all the typical financial aid package paperwork. My parents filled out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). I applied for every scholarship and grant I could find that I was eligible for. I did receive nearly half of my tuition from said funding. The rest-I paid for with loans. Some federal. Mostly private.
I had plans in college to ‘make it big’ as a journalist. I dreamed of being a reporter on the White House lawn during presidential elections. I even interned at the local news station-and in the United States House of Representatives in D.C. But, upon graduation (and the beginning of the ‘recession’) I was unable to secure employment that would be adequate to pay even basic living expenses. So I continued to work at my current position (as a sales associate at a major home improvement store). I eventually worked my way up to an assistant manager. While I am no longer with the company-I now do the same job, with a major grocery store chain.
By the time my loans came due (after several deferments and forbearances) the total had ballooned to over $100,000. Which is far more than I originally borrowed. I took out this money strictly for tuition, housing, books, etc. during college. Never did I have any of that money in my own hands for any spring break trips, shopping, etc. The monthly payments are well over $500. Thankfully I still have the federal loans in forbearance, which brings the monthly payment to around $315. In order to make ends meet-I work one full-time job, one part-time (on-call/as needed basis) as a server in a popular breakfast restaurant, and I religiously give plasma when I am well enough to do so.
I don’t regret my college choice or degree in the least. College was the best four years of my life, filled with wonderful experiences, great friends, and fantastic memories. I received more than a degree from college-I learned life skills such as critical thinking, how to present myself as a professional-and how to get involved in the community. But in return for that experience-I work nearly 7 days/week, with few days off each month. I am always tired, and I never seem to get caught up on even basic things such as laundry and dishes. Had I known what the state of the economy would be upon graduation and in the years immediately following-I would have chosen to get a less expensive ‘piece of paper’ that is now sitting on a bookshelf, collecting dust.