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Subject:  Re: Don't do this.... Date:  2/25/2014  1:53 PM
Author:  woodymw Number:  880433 of 902460

That's about as dumb a statement as any I've ever seen.

Holy crap, yes.

Background: I’m the first one from my family to go to college. I did my undergraduate degree at a public institution and on scholarship – no student loans. I did my business degree at a public institution, as well – that was also on some scholarship, but I borrowed to pay for my living expenses so I could focus on my studies. I wound up, grand total, with nearly $60k in student loans.
And doing that was the best choice I ever made in my life. Except, just in case she reads this, choosing to marry my wife. There are many reasons why:

1. Straight up ROI. I used low-interest leverage to invest in human capital, and after two years of graduate school tripled my annual income. Tripled. And that was 7 years ago – I’m at much more than that now. My loans paid for themselves in the first year. Now I know I made some financially sound choices in terms of my course of education, but there are plenty (many many) courses of study that would provide at least positive, if not spectacular, returns. Some degrees may never pay off, but the idea that you should never take student loans just doesn’t hang from a straight up financial investment perspective – never mind anything else that comes after this in this post.

2. Class movement (alternately, livin’ the American Dream). Look – when you grow up poor in areas that have low rates of higher education, income, and job opportunities, it can be very difficult to improve on your parent’s standard of living. This goes beyond financial support, but the financial support certainly isn’t there. In my senior year of high school, my parents were raising four kids on a combined salary that is going to be roughly a third of what I’m making right now. There was no money. And though they valued the education, they didn’t (still don’t) understand some of the non-financial rewards that have value. So there wasn’t that emotional or otherwise non-financial support. Hell, I couldn’t even get administrative support – my high school counselor’s office had no ability to support me because I was the first student they’d ever had looking at schools outside of our immediate area and scholarships from multiple sources. They just couldn’t help. And I would have wound up doing none of it – and making the doughnuts in what was a horrible career path – without student loans. With student loans, I’ve been able to dramatically improve the standard of living for myself and my wife and child. If the American Dream is still a thing, it is student loans that grease the skids for a huge number of people.

3. Opportunity. So … I can hear the chorus now: “but you don’t NEED expensive college for those things! Work hard and but your head down and you, too, can be successful!” And I agree with that, I do. Except that how many people spend their whole life working hard, doing all they can, and the opportunities that they want just don’t ever materialize in front of them? I think it is insulting to hard working people everywhere to say that by hard work alone you, too, can improve your lot dramatically. My grandfather worked his ass off every day of his life of poverty. And even if you work yourself out of the poverty, there are just opportunities that you have to be out there and available to before they come to you. And I’m not just talking about jobs – I’m talking about life. My choice to take the loans and go to business school has led me to have experiences that I firmly believe that I never would have otherwise had. I moved across the country. I’ve met and talked with Supreme Court justices, governors, and queens. I lived in New York City (get a rope!). I met my wife, who is from New Jersey and who I never would have known existed. Three months ago I went to the wedding of an actor friend (you’d know him – think Lost) at a resort on the beach in Los Angeles. I spent last week at a huge ranch in Winter Park, Colorado, for another wedding. My parents think I’m this crazy world traveler – and though my education gives me the perspective to know better (I mean seriously – Colorado is great but ... Colorado? Oooooo – fancy! </sarcasm>), I also know I’ve seen more than I ever would have. And choosing the school I did has opened doors that never would have been opened by my local community or commuter college. Not that those colleges aren’t valuable, just that they are different. And all of this – all of it – is possible because I took student loans.

And I’m not even going to talk about the value of a broad education, or how it opens the mind and allows the true freedom, paraphrasing David Foster Wallace, of living a conscious life free from that “constant gnawing feeling of having had, and lost, some infinite thing”. Don’t accuse me of being an elitist or a snob, either. If I had it to do over again, I seriously think I might be a chef, or a carpenter, or something else that doesn’t require the choices I have made. I come from generations and generations of blue collar working class America and I’m no snob.

But to tell people that they should never consider student loans is, as quoted above, “about as dumb a statement as I’ve ever seen.” For some people they are a horrible idea. But for some people they enable life changing transformation and experience. And anybody reading this thread and thinking about investing in themselves needs to hear that.
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