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Post-Grad Reality: Paying back a $240,000 education

Andi S.
by Andi S. , Dimespring 30 (@SnowballinHi)

I was the 18-year-old who knew EVERYTHING!

And now I'm the 28-year-old with $118,000 of student debt ... and that's down from $127,000.

While completing my undergrad degree I made countless mistakes. I basically like to describe my college experience as that of an unguided missile.

Being the first person in my family to go to college, there really wasn’t anyone close to me who could advise me or oversee the process. Also, being a headstrong teenager I just assumed I had nothing to worry about as long as I had loan money. I estimated that my four-year degree would cost about $60,000, and that when I factored in interest over time it would cost approximately $180,000. I remember telling myself “no big deal, it will be like having an extra house payment.” No big deal?!? Oh, how I was wrong … so very wrong.

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Due to medical bills, changing schools, housing expenses, dropping out, repeating classes and so on, my degree cost me something around $80,000. However, by choosing private loans instead of the federal loans offered (BIG MISTAKE!) I was also adding on an additional 11-16 percent to each loan as an origination fee. And on top of that there was the interest. There is nothing worse than being a broke college student, watching your student loan balance go up by more than $1,000 each month and not being able to do anything about it. 

So far I have accumulated $45,000 in interest, which is more than half of my original principal. To add insult to injury, I still accrue over $500 of interest every month. Thankfully my variable interest is low right now or this would be significantly worse. I’m really worried about how I will afford my payments once the economy begins to recover and my interest rates return to their former levels. The general rule is that student loans are paid back in three-fold.  That means that my $80,000 education will end up costing me a grand total of $240,000, if I only make the minimum payments. Was my education worth a quarter of a million dollars? Absolutely not.      

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There were so many times I just wanted to quit or change majors, but I couldn’t. I knew without a high-paying job there would be no way to pay back this money. I felt that I was being forced deeper and deeper into a bad situation.

In the end, I am glad I stuck with my degree program, but college should really be a time about self-discovery, finding your passions and making the transition into adulthood. It should not be the beginnings of 20 years of stress, depression and unnecessary financial burden. 

I know that not everyone has the financial means to make it through college debt free, but there are many options available for getting through at a significantly lower cost. I hope that by sharing the lessons I’ve learned I can help others to avoid these same mistakes. I look forward to chronicling my financial journey through the Dimespring 30 as I continue to conquer my debt and build my savings


Andi S. is an electrical engineer, patent professional and blogger extraordinaire. She can be found blogging at Snowball in Hawaii, where she writes about finding balance between life, work and paying off $118k of student loans. Andi is a member of the Dimespring 30, a community of bloggers sharing their thoughts, experiences and perspectives on personal finance.