I attended Rutgers University from the fall of 1985 through the spring of 1987. I paid for the majority of the first semester of my education with scholarships but they were not nearly enough to fund the next 3 ½ years that were ahead. This fact left me in a quandary looking for all sorts of supplemental income to my full-time employment as a bartender. I lived at home with my parents so even though I only needed to come up with the money for tuition and books (public transportation was available if I couldn’t maintain a car) my job wouldn’t cover the expenses associated with my education. I looked into joining Army ROTC as a means to fund the rest of my education but quickly realized that was not a viable alternative for me. Finally I was made aware of Guaranteed Student Loan program and figured I would just “borrow the money now and worry about repaying it later.” I did not complete my education but was left with the student loans nonetheless.
I don’t remember the exact amount of the student loans I was responsible for that funded the 2 years of education that I did complete. But I do remember that it took me 5 years to repay the student loans. If memory serves the specific student loans program was designed so that you didn’t have to begin repayment until at least one full year after the student loans had stopped and as long as you paid consistently, regardless of how small the amount the interest would not accrue.
So the tips for repayment of student loans used to fund your education are simple:
1. Whether you gain employment in your chosen field of education or not, set up a repayment plan as soon as your student loans are due. To defer such is a recipe for disaster.
2. When setting up the repayment schedule make sure it is a payment that you can easily fit into your budget. Even if that repayment schedule consists of $10.00 per week ($40.00 monthly), once you set it up stick with it. If you can afford larger payments some months, then do that.
3. If you must deviate from the original repayment schedule for your student loans, remain in close contact with the lending institution. Everyone is experiencing hard times right now. Communication is key. As long as you continue to make every effort to repay the student loans, the lenders will work with you.
Even though I did not complete my education (which I’d often wished I had) I do not regret the time and money I spent in the pursuit of my education. Having gone through many personal upheavals in my life over the past 25 years there is no question in my mind that finishing my education would have made my career opportunities much broader as I was often faced with the inability to procure work for lack of a formal education. Ultimately there is no substitute for on-the-job training but I had to work 10 times harder to get the opportunity to gain that experience. My advice to anyone who is faced with the question about whether or not to risk debt due to student loans to procure a degree/certification in the form of a formal education is to take into consideration:
1. The viability of your work prospects in today’s job market and in the market in the near future.
2. Your specific talents as well as your weaknesses.
The worst part of any student loans debt is the frustration of not being able to establish a career in a field you are passionate about. Not only will you be unable to repay the student loans but you will be the “proud owner” of an essentially useless education.