Archive for the ‘Debt’ Category

Amazing grace (period)

…is ending.

Just got my first bill from good ‘ol alma mater… the due date for the first payment is January 1, 2008. Happy New Year’s! Time to pay the piper!

From now until 2017, I’ll have to commit $160 every month to pay back my college loan. NOT complaining, though, I basically lucked out with an interest-free loan. And let’s face it, <$200 a month is a very feasible repayment when I think about the many, many college grads out there who are saddled with bigger loans.


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You heard that right.

I just spoke to the student loan department. It turns out that because my loan was from a private foundation, they have subsized the interest for the duration of my college education (this I knew), and for the rest of the life of the loan (this I didn’t know and was VERY happy to find out).

So, I have an interest-free loan. Not just for six months or one year or two years, but for 10 years. As long as I stay current on payments, I will never pay interest. ๐Ÿ™‚ Can you tell I’m excited? And here I was worrying about my interest rate. Ha!

Oh, and I also get a grace period of six months. My first payment is due in 2008. This is going to do wonders for my cash flow for the rest of 2007.

I wish I didn’t have a loan, but if I HAD to be in debt, this is probably the best deal I’ll ever get.

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Liberal arts to law school?

For a LONG time, I planned on going to a top law school, specializing in corporate law, and becoming a Big Law partner by the time I’m 35. Yes, I had that life mapped out when I was 13. I like to read, I like to write, I like to nit-pick. I’d be the perfect lawyer!

I talked about becoming a lawyer all the time when I was younger. So Mom tolerated my liberal arts degree because she always assumed that I’d go to law school. This is how I escaped the dreaded, “so, WHAT are you going to do with that degree?” question for the first couple years of college. But my focus changed. After seeing older friends struggle with the Beast (also known as LSAT), and really wanting a break from 3 MORE years of schooling, I decided that I wasn’t sure about law school. Mom freaked out. In retrospect, I couldn’t really blame her. I mean, she spent $100,000 for me to read great books and think and delve into the questions of life, which is all fine and good, but doesn’t even BEGIN to pay the bills.

But despite the tension and pressure from Mom (and myself), I am really glad that I didn’t let what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life-let’s-go-to-law-school! push me into applying. Because once I’m on that treadmill I would’ve ran with everything I’ve got. So I knew, if I’m serious about law school, that would require a huge investment in terms of time, money, and energy. Then AFTER I get into a school, comes writing the tuition checks for $50,000 a year. After thinking it over, I concluded that I should NOT go $150,000 into debt to be tortured by the Socratic method.

I think this is something that many liberal arts students don’t think about. If they’re smart and don’t really know what to do after graduation, law school is often the default option. A J.D. is a valuable degree, but law school is such a huge investment when you’re not sure if you want to do law. Unless you go into Big Law for several years, it’d be pretty difficult to pay back the mountain of debt that you owe to Mr. Socratic. Fortunately, things worked out for me. I got a good job. I’m happy. Mom’s happy. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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For all this time I thought I had $20,000 in student loans. According to my financial aid summary that I just received, however, I owe $19,000. P It’s like getting a gift I haven’t been expecting. I guess my loan obligation puts me directly in line with the average college graduate. The American Council on Education has more in-depth information on amount of debt from different types of institutions and degree programs.

Also check out this 2004 report (pdf) from ACE about debt burden. It might be a bit dated as the data is from the 1990s. The report concludes that in general debt burden for students receiving their baccalaureate degree in the 1990s was manageable and unchanged at 7 percent. However, if borrowing levels continue to increase, interest rates rise, or recent graduate salaries decline, debt burden will increase.

According to an interesting article from the New York Times, apparently families equate the price of tuition with the quality of education – so that some colleges have increased their tuition (and aid) to attract more applicants.

Lucie Lapovsky, a consultant who was once president of Mercy College in New York, conducted a study asking students to choose between a college charging $20,000 and offering no aid, and one charging $30,000 and offering a $10,000 scholarship. Students chose the pricier option. โ€œAmericans seem to like college on sale,โ€ Dr. Lapovsky said.

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Have credit, will travel

USA Today’s Young and In Debt serie presents Tolu Adeleye, a MIT Sloan graduate who charged $35,000 in credit card debt due to travels during business school (he also has $25,000 in business school loans). Out of all the stories, his is probably the one I can most relate to. I LOVE to travel, and I can understand how it’d be easy to swipe the card for plane tickets, hotels, and dinners when you’re at a top business school with prospects for a high-paying job. Now I know it’s not smart to rack up credit card debt, but I can see Tolu’s side of the story. He’s been to 22 countries! I guess you can say the experience was priceless. ๐Ÿ˜‰

His $25,000 student loans was a good investment – Tolu has a $100,000+ post-MBA salary, with more opportunities for advancement. He lives in Minneapolis, so those six figures will go much farther than in New York or San Francisco. If he buckles down, I think he can pay off his debt relatively quickly.

I’ve heard that many MBA students take out more school loans than they need for tuition and room/board (which has a lower interest rate than credit cards), and just use the rest to travel. I know it’s not prudent, but when the travel bug bites, it bites hard! Most MBA students have worked for 4 to 6 years before school, and will be jumping back into the working pool after two years. B-school would probably be their only chance to be a globe-trotter for a long while, unless they become consultants or something.

Let’s see: I’ve been to Argentina, Bulgaria, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Japan, Korea, Mexico, and Uruguay. But some of these countries were only day trips, so they didn’t quite count. I’ve also had the pleasure of visiting England and Switzerland, but only if you count time spent in airport. Every time I get a new stamp in my passport I can’t help but smile. I want to visit Spain, Italy, and Morrocco within the next five years. Hopefully I’ll have saved something for a travel fund by the time I go to B-school.

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