"I went to college with no career objective in mind, taking classes that interested me. This is what I was encouraged to do by high school guidance counselors, my well-intended parents and the academic advisers/admissions at USM. A couple years into taking expensive classes with no direction, I became an English major because I enjoyed reading books and writing. When the upper level English classes got to be too homework intensive to succeed while working full-time to pay rent, I cut back my hours and started taking out more student loans above the cost of tuition and used the money to pay my rent. These were private loans. I did not have the foresight to realize that these loans would end up killing me financially in the long run. Four full years of college and I was still many semesters away from attaining a BA in English because my credits were not in the right areas.
At the end of 4 years, unexpected life events happened and I had to take a semester off. One semester led to two. I tried taking 1 or 2 classes while working full-time at my local bakery job, but a couple of classes weren’t enough to qualify for the financial aid to cover them. It was at this point that I realized the enormity of what I had done- I was screwed. I felt trapped. I became seriously depressed and couldn’t concentrate on my reading assignments- I spent a couple years taking out private loans to take one or two classes at a time but always had to drop them due to my nervous breakdown level anxiety over balancing full-time (often over-time) work hours, classes and the staggering realization that I already owed the government more money than I could ever pay. I felt like my life was over at 24. It was… sublimely disturbing.
Then I got lucky: I fell into a CNA course (certified nursing assistant) and started working at a nursing home where I fell in love with working with the elderly dementia population. I knew that I had found my calling and I desperately wanted to be a nurse. I re-approached the school situation, thinking there must be SOME way that I could get at least an Associate’s Degree in nursing. There was a serious RN shortage, so surely… no. I explored every avenue, but there was no way. I resigned myself to the fact that I would be paying this debt off forever and that I would never be an RN.
The reason I say I got “lucky” is this: I found my passion. I continued my CNA work at nursing homes and ended up taking an Activities Coordinator certification course at Portland Adult Ed. I found a good company to work for and I am able to do something I love that helps others.
It’s also something that in theory could have been achieved with a GED and one course at vocational school…. but it took $50,000 to figure that out.
Typing that ungodly figure above was difficult- my poor husband actually has to manage the debt payments for me because I can’t even think about the debt without going to a dark place. It will prevent us from owning a home. It has prevented us from having kids. The End.”