College Tuition: My Immaturity And The Burden Of Debt

It is scheduled to cost $15,000 per semester for an out-of-state engineering undergraduate to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder. I attended that school for that major from 2005 to 2009. Let’s assume that the price of tuition for each of these years was $15,000 (not true, but to make math easier.) That’s about $3,000 dollars a month, and a little over $100 dollars every day for four months.

Today, $15,000 in my pocket would mean 25 months of rent or 300 weeks of groceries. It would mean that I could live for seven months without getting paid a thing.

But wait! In addition to the $15,000 per semester for tuition, there is living. At CU Boulder, it was about $8,000 to live in the dorms and more for a meal plan. Then you have to add in the car I drove. Add in money for books and school supplied. Pile some more on there for gas, haircuts, clothes, movies, and eating out. Don’t forget about buying alcohol or birthday presents for people.

When you look at everything, all together, I believe that every semester in college I probably spent around $25,000 a semester, $50,000 a year. That means for every day I lived in Boulder, CO, I owed $136 to someone, somewhere.

Except, when I went to school, I wasn’t in charge of paying the bills. I chose a school based on how beautiful the setting was (and my god, it was gorgeous). I chose a school based on the excitement of experiencing winter. I went because I liked the program, because people seemed trustworthy and because, at 18, $15,000 for a semester of tuition was just an abstract number.

I had always been told, and therefore expected, that my parents would pay for college. So when they first expressed concern over the cost of the tuition, I did what any annoying, limited-minded teenager would do—I complained. I whined. I moaned.

And, I convinced them to let me go.

Now 11 months out of school, I’m forced to consider the costs of education, the choice I made to go to CU, and the implications it will have on my and my family’s future.

I am currently paying off less than a quarter of what is left in my school loans. If I pay every month the amount they ask, I will be paying for ten years. My father, who has agreed to still pay the rest, might not see the end of his side of the loan.

When I think about my parents allowing me to go to school at CU, I wonder why they allowed it. We were better off then, sure, but the money CU was (and still is) asking for is outrageous. So are the costs of out-of-state tuition in other states. I wonder how many other 18-years old kids are taking out loan after loan after loan, not really understanding the implications that ten years of debt has on their lives.

It’s a confusing feeling for me. Stressed and stretched with money already, paying off a loan is something I’d rather not have to do. Had I gone in-state, had I chosen a cheaper school, had I done better in high school so I could’ve gotten scholarships, could I have saved myself and my family from the strife of tuition?

At the same time, I loved living in Colorado. It transformed my life. It changed my interests, it allowed me to grow, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

But still. With my maturity level at the time, my begging to go to CU Boulder was dismal. I knew nothing of money, or taxes, or interest or loans or bankruptcy. I didn’t know about how hard finding a job would be, or that if I changed majors (which I didn’t) that it would have added more money on the docket. I didn’t realize that SCALE of what I was doing.

I hope that other students, now looking at colleges and making there choices, will take these things into account when making the choices for their future.

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