Maureen O’Brien took on student loans totaling $54,000 to help pay for her daughter’s first two years of attendance at an out-of-state university costing more than $49,000 each year. She had told her daughter to “dream big” and to look beyond lower-cost state schools.
After realizing that in-state tuition is much more affordable, O’Brien’s daughter later transferred to Arizona State University where her brother will start as a freshman this fall. The family expects to take on loans totaling $70,000 to pay for the children’s college.
In addition to the liability for her children’s student debt, O’Brien is paying on her own $60,000 student loan she took out in 2004 for retraining as a physician assistant. She also has a small balance from her first college loan from 1996. More than one-third of her take-home pay is going toward paying student loans.
She has no savings, no money put away for retirement and is thinking of taking on a second job to pay off her kids’ loans.
O’Brien believes college taught her critical thinking.
Despite her family’s growing student loan debt, O’Brien still believes in the value of a college education. She says it was her first degree — in French and international studies — that taught her how to think critically. And she wants the same for her kids.
On the subject of her kids, here is O’Brien’s daughter.
She says she’s determined to finish her degree in environmental studies.
“I can’t afford to go to college, but I’m taking out loans, I’m putting my foot forward and making sure I get an education so that I can get a really good job in the long run,” Emily says.
Environmental studies - I’m highly suspicious of the value of these types of interdisciplinary majors since I’m not sure they lead to good jobs. A degree in environmental science would probably be better. But that would be a harder course of study, with more rigorous requirements in math and science courses.