I was blessed to have all of my tuition covered by grants and scholarships while I attended community college, and also an expensive private college. Here's the kicker --- I was encouraged/coerced into taking student loans and graduated with about $30,000 in student loan debt, which now has a balance of $50,000 because of interest.
I began community college at the age of 28, just prior to my daughter's 2nd birthday. (I was in a serious relationship with her dad ... we talked about marriage.) I was a member and officer of the honor society, and graduated from the community college with honors. I was also pregnant with my second child (same dad). I was accepted, and transferred, to an expensive private college, which I started attending when my son (2nd child) was 3 months old. I attended this school because I had applied for, and was given a full scholarship.
A few months prior to the birth of my second child, my partner purchased a larger home, in a nice neighborhood, within a fabulous school district. It was a great place to raise our children. Marriage was still being discussed (all the while he was cheating on me). The household bills were a lot, but he had a good job as a postal worker, and also owned nightclub with his brother, and a small janitorial business. I worked for him cleaning offices at night, without pay, so I could help with the household finances.
When I started at the private college, I found out, and made the mistake of telling my partner, about the ability to take student loans for personal reasons. He convinced me that we needed that money ... after all I was living there for free with the 2 kids, and needed to help financially with the household. I succumbed to his 'suggestion'. He said he'd pay the loans off, after all. So for the next three years I took out student loans and handed them over to my partner, who made every attempt to sabotage my college success, by the way.
I graduated in 1997, Cum Laude, with a double major in Elementary Education and Women's Studies. We broke up just after graduation - surprise, surprise. Among other things, he used 'my' money to purchase and rebuild a Mercedes. The tires alone were $5,000. Smart girl ... really dumb choices!!! But it is what it is.
Since graduation, I have worked in education. I am in my 12th year as a teacher in the Title I program. I work part time - 5.5 hours per day, 140 days a year, and make $25,000 per year. Having this job enabled me to raise my children - seeing them off to school each day and being with them at the end of their school day. I didn't have to pay for child care. Now my children are grown - my daughter just graduated college, and my son obtained his GED and is working on culinary training.
Because of my low income (with no benefits), I have been able to obtain low cost medical insurance through my state. (If I'd had to purchase medical insurance through my school district for my family, it would have cost me more than $500 per month.) Also, my daughter was able to receive Pell and other grants, and my son has been able to attend Job Corps, for free, to obtain his GED and trade training. He just started there this past August. My daughter, however, has had to take out some student loans to cover tuition that her grants would not.
Because of my low income, I have been unable to pay back a single cent of my student loans. They are currently around $50,000. I have been looking into graduate school for myself, so that I am more marketable in the teaching profession and could work full time. I have pondered this for 2 years, and can't even bring myself to apply. I can't bear the thought of taking on more loans to cover what my financial aid might not.
So, here I am, beginning The Total Money Makeover, so I can DO something with my life. My take home pay is around $2,200 per month (September-June ... I AM NOT PAID OVER THE SUMMER), with rent being $970. There are other credit debts I'm paying, as well, including a small ($115) car payment. I have to scrimp and save in order to survive in the summer. I have taught summer school, which has helped, but have have mostly saved and used my tax returns as summer income. I am looking at downsizing to a one bedroom apartment when my lease is up. I've only kept the 2 bedroom I'm in so that my son could finish high school (last June). By the way ... in the last 5 years of being in this apartment, I have not had my own bedroom! When both kids are home, I sleep on the daybed in my living room. I don't even own a couch :)
I know what it is to sacrifice. Wish me strength :)