Think critically about college loans

“Dream big,” Maureen O’Brien told her daughter, urging her not to settle for a low-cost state college. O’Brien borrowed $54,000 to help pay for the first two years at the University of Vermont, which costs more than $49,000 a year for out-of-state students, reports NPR. But the mother, still paying for her undergraduate degree in 1996 and $60,000 for professional training, couldn’t afford it.

Daughter Emily has transferred to Northern Arizona, where in-state tuition is low. Her brother will start at Arizona State.  The family expects to borrow another $70,000 to pay for the daughter’s last two years and the son’s four years of higher education. O’Brien now earns $93,000 as a physician’s assistant, but spends more than a third of her take-home pay on student loan payments. She has no savings and may take a second job to pay off the debts.

For a woman who says she learned critical thinking as a French and international studies major, O’Brien didn’t think critically about paying for college, writes Grace at Cost of College. and she sees troubles ahead for Emily, who’s majoring 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.

Grace suspects environmental studies won’t lead to a “really good job.” Environmental science would  be a better bet, but it would  require more math and science courses.

Even affluent parents are becoming more pragmatic about college choices, reports the Chicago Tribune. The  story features a young woman who wanted to major in equestrian therapy because she loves horses. Ally Lincoln’s mother told her to choose nursing.

“My mother told me not to confuse a hobby with an occupation,” she said. “I was upset.”

During a college trip to Bradley University in Peoria, her mom “made” her look at the nursing school, where a tour guide rattled off a barrage of statistics, including that the median salary for a nurse is $60,000 and unemployment rate is 2 percent.

A nurse at 24, Lincoln has “a robust paycheck, benefits and a well-marked path for career advancement.” And jealous friends. She is house hunting with her fiance. Going into nursing “was one of the smartest things I ever did,” she told the Trib.

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