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Jennifer has received the financial aid award letters from five out of the seven schools she has been accepted to. She’s a practical thinker, so to figure out how much she would need to borrow in student loans, she made an index card for each school. On each card, she put the cost of tuition, subtracted the amount she was awarded in scholarships or grants, and then multiplied the difference (the amount she would need to borrow) by 4 to come up with a grand total for her college education debt.

She made a title card which she called “Financial Aid Summaries o’ Sadness” for this exercise in comparing the cost of colleges.  It was indeed sad for her because all but one of the schools had a six figure total for the amount of money that she would owe upon graduation. The thought of my daughter graduating when she’s 21 and owing more than $100,000 in student loan debt gives me instant heart burn. That’s just not something that we could let her do.

She is coming around to the idea that by going to the JC for two years, her dreams of going to college far, far away from Cotati haven’t been dashed…just delayed. Only having to borrow $50,000 to finance the cost of two years of school instead of four, starts looking like a real bargain.

Whatever amount that she ends up borrowing, she’s going to have a lot of company. An article in last week’s Press Democrat said that there are 37 million others in the US saddled with $1 trillion in student debt. It’s not unusual for law school and medical graduates to owe $200,000 and more; the average undergraduate student owes an average of $29,000.

We have to remind her that it’s not where she starts that matters but where she finishes that really counts. The chapter of her life having to do with her college education is just beginning; the end of the story has not been written  – that’s a hard perspective to have when your 17 and you feel like you’re doomed to a condo in Cotati. We’re doing our best to counteract that.

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