Loans become more than numbers

Student loan debt must be one of those things that doesn’t hit you until senior year. I’ve been at Oswego State for three entire years and before my fourth and final year began this August, I was mostly concerned with doing well in classes, building a resume and making professional connections. But now, like a train too fast to stop, it’s hit me: I’m $80,000 in the hole and in just a few months, that debt is going to feel a lot more real.

I almost can’t believe it’s happened. “80 grand… that was quick,” I’ve thought more than once. While I do not regret spending my four years here, and getting myself into severe debt, I can’t help but feel depressed about it. I’m starting to realize now, four years too late, that college is a serious financial decision I decided to take on. I wish someone had shaken me by the shoulders back in senior year of high school and put it all into perspective for me then.

But I also know I wouldn’t have listened. In high school, college didn’t seem like an option, it just seemed like the next step and I didn’t work hard all throughout high school to not take that step, that $80,000 step.

I’m glad I came to Oswego State. I can’t imagine my life without it. The choice to come to college isn’t what depresses me; although I do wish it is made clearer to high school students that college is a choice. What depresses me is that, despite all my efforts to get an education affordably, I still find myself leaving here $80,000 in debt.

I have worked hard in school all my life and for that, I was rewarded. Oswego State offered me the Presidential (“full”) Scholarship, which was a large part of why I ended up here. I considered big, fancy, expensive, four-year private schools with all the prominence and sophistication I always dreamed of in high school, when all I wanted was to tout a cool college hoodie with a respected name on the front of it. But when those acceptance     letters came rolling in and Oswego State offered me the best financial package (by a long shot), I was proud to call myself a Laker.

I was also proud of my decision to attend a state school. I felt practical, financially responsible and for maybe the first time ever, like an adult. I chose the most affordable school and the one that gave me a full scholarship (which turns out not to be full, since tuition has increased and the scholarship has not). I also worked hard during my years here and earned additional scholarships every year through Oswego’s generous foundation scholarships. Yet here I am, graduating in May and this $80,000 debt is looming over me.

I always thought I made all the right decisions, like going to the most affordable school and working hard to earn scholarships. Now, I just feel exasperated and frustrated. My outlook is more dismal than ever. I feel like a pawn in the student loan system. I’ve done everything a person in my situation could do. I guess what depresses me is that if your parents can’t pay for your education and you don’t qualify for need-based aid, it’s nearly impossible to go to a four-year school, even a state school, without ending up in a mountain of debt. Now that is disheartening.