When I was 17, and applying to university, my parents told me we’d be splitting the cost. For me, and for them, this meant taking out US federal loans that would be repaid over the next decade or more.

I was relatively lucky. As a lower-income student, I was eligible for a federal Pell Grant, and was accepted into an excellent state university which, at the time, cost just a little more than $10,000 per year in tuition fees. I kept my debt down by working part-time to cover expenses, and was grateful for any help my parents could offer. After graduating from university, I participated in a year-long national service program, earning a $5,000 award that went toward repaying my loans.

In the end, it took me eleven years to repay my student loans. I made my final payment on July 3 of this year.

Today, US students leave university with an average of $29,000 in debt. That figure goes up for students who attend universities in larger cities—the average graduate in Washington, D.C. carries a whopping $41,000 of student loan debt.

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