Monday, March 30, 2009

College Life

Looking For A Way Around Debt?
Why not just take on more
By Holly Dougherty

There are the lucky few that get to go through four years of college debt free and when they get out the world is their oyster.

Then there are the rest of us. Those of us who are leaving college four or more years later with an almost useless Bachelor of Arts degree have what could easily be over $100,000 in debt in an economy in which professionals are getting laid off.

So what is a 22-year-old unemployed educated person to do? Stay in school. When there are no jobs, some people feel that the best thing to do is continue their education and rack up more debt.

Evan Schapiro, a 2007 University of Pennsylvania graduate, says, “I worked in advertising for a while but I wasn’t happy with my job so I decided to quit, and when the economy went south I was not able to find a new one.”

Schapiro says after a slew of odd jobs he decided that the only way to strengthen his resume was with more education. “In the fall I am going to NYU for a Masters in Spanish Secondary Education,” he said.

New York University isn’t known for its financial aid so Schapiro will likely pay for his degree in student loans. “I know that I am taking a financial risk going back to school, but I also don’t think that more education is bad thing,” he says. “If anything, I will be able to get a good job that I like with a master’s degree from a school like NYU. I am not too worried.”

Schapiro isn’t alone. Jared Bardugone, a 2008 Marymount Manhattan College graduation is in a similar situation. “I graduated MMC with a BA in Theater Arts. Not the most lucrative degree,” says Bardugone. “It also didn’t help that I fell out of love with acting around the end of my sophomore year. I took a year off to record with my band and figure out what I really wanted to do. I realized that I always had a passion for writing, but since I did not have much experience I decided to go back to school for a second BA in Journalism.”

Bardugone was actually one of the lucky, the debt free graduates. So why ruin a good thing? “I was still living at home and not making money,” he says. “I was going absolutely no where with my degree because I didn’t want to use it. I can actually transfer most of my credits to the colleges I applied to so I am actually only about a year and half away from a BA in Journalism, and am looking into state schools that would also save me money.”

Their tales are not uncommon. I’m also one of them. I am graduating MMC with over $100,000 in loans. Come August, I begin Seton Hall University Law School, which will cost me $28,000 a year plus living expensive (close to $15,000 a year). All of this is after you subtract my $10,000 scholarship. So why the mounting debt? If I am to try and get a job in May the most I will probably make is $32,000 (if I can even get a job). After I receive my law degree, a starting salary for a law firm in New York is about $160,000. It’s a gamble but it’s a much better option than my other option.

We all know that we are not guaranteeing a better salary in two to three years. But we are buying time -- time for the economy to bounce back and for the job market to pick up. When we get out in a better place than we are now, we will be more educated than many of our classmates who took odd jobs, were on unemployment for extended periods, or took administrative jobs to get by. We are improving our resumes, but maybe not our bank accounts.

But then again, who is, but AIG executives?

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