O'Hara: Leave me a loan, please

September 12, 2018

I remember getting in trouble when I was younger and having my mom ask the classic rhetorical question, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”

Joke’s on you, Mom; my friends are also thousands of dollars in debt.


Growing up, I was always told that I would be able to attend whatever school I wanted and become whatever I wanted to do. I bounced between wanting to be a veterinarian, a firefighter, a photographer and even a mortician before I chose to pursue nursing. My mom always encouraged that the sky was my limit and said that the only thing I should worry about was the impact that my career would have on humanity.


During my hunt to find the perfect school, I realized that my upper-level education was a lot costlier than I had anticipated. Suddenly, I felt the panic that every college student has: I didn’t have enough money for college. At least, not by myself.


In my final days of my high school senior year, I prayed that some long-lost relative had me in their trust to help afford school. That wasn’t the case, but, through scholarships, grants and extremely generous friends and family, I was able to afford my first year of school here at UT.


Oh—and loans, of course.


Being 18-years-old (and having not taken AP Economics) I gladly accepted the government's offer to shave a few grand off my bill. I mean everyone else was doing it, right?


According to USA Today, the typical bachelor’s degree holder will graduate $30,100 in debt. To put that in college student perspectives, that’s 614 years of Amazon Prime Student, 1,505 bottles of Hennessy and 23,700 Hass avocados.


And that figure makes sense. The UT Office of Financial Aid says that 80 percent of new students receive some sort of financial aid. That means there's a whole bunch of us in the same boat, adding to the $1.62 billion of national student debt.


And there’s a real problem to that.


I understand our government needs money. I understand that the university makes money. But frankly, it sucks.


The typical student is offered a few different forms of aid, including the Direct Subsidized Loan, Direct Unsubsidized Loan and the Parent PLUS Loan. While the first two loans can only drive the student into debt, the Parent PLUS Loan is unique to helping parents of students fast-track going into debt.


It just doesn’t make sense. Why would the government offer my mom a loan with a high interest rate for something I am choosing to do? Why can’t they offer that money in Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized loans?


I’m not saying that all federal student loans are a scam. They can definitely help new graduates establish a good line of credit if they can get a good enough job within the six-month grace period—which is another story.


But with such a high rate of borrowing and such an extreme amount being borrowed by each individual, shouldn’t there be a better way for students to attend college? Shouldn’t we let people seeking a higher education not be in absolute panic when they see their monthly bill?


For the time being, I have to stay with taking out loans. It’s my only option.


Scholarships can only be awarded so many times, and they’re almost never a given for every year. It’s nearly impossible to work even half time when taking a maximum course load.


It’s not that I’m mad.


I'm just disappointed.


Meagan O'Hara is a second-year nursing major.

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