I spent part of Thursday sitting in Starbucks on the GW (George Washington University) campus after a meeting, loving being around all these students buzzing and working and laughing. I loved college; could feel my head growing. It's an amazing time in a young person's life and one that forms much of who we are later. Now, though, the carefree collegian is a thing of the past. Everyone has jobs and student loans. Instead of leaving school with a "sky's the limit" ambition, many must look first for the job that will help them pay off their loans, and only then for the one they'll really love.
Here are some stories:
- When my husband graduated from medical school we had under $4,000 in loans to pay off.
- One of my son's friends left undergraduate school with over $100,000 in debt
- A wonderful friend who is a born teacher went to law school and then to a firm. I asked her why. She told me she would only be able to consider teaching once her loans were paid off - and they were enormous.
- As I've written before, both of my parents were formed by the Depression. Each hoped for a career they were never able to pursue; instead they took the subject-related scholarships they were offered and were grateful to have them. A would-be artist became a teacher; an architect a lawyer. Neither complained overtly about this; I learned these facts in passing and both were quick to add how glad they were to have been able to go to college at all.
- My sisters and I were blessed to have college paid for; we were told that our education was our inheritance and not to look for much more, which was fine with us. But most families just can't do that anymore. It's too expensive.
- Many political observers posit that there would have been no anti-war movement in the 60's if college students had had to work while in school. Most of us had our tuitions taken care of; that meant that we had time to organize and raise hell.
- I remember a good friend, at dinner, saying to me bitterly, "Jim and I never had time for that stuff. We were both working to get through school. You guys were so righteous but you had no idea what we were doing just to be able to stay through the semester."
- I told a recent college graduate how impressed I was with what he'd accomplished. His response: " didn't do anything. Colin slept in his van for a semester because he couldn't pay both tuition and rent. Be impressed with him!"
So. This is kind of a random list but when we're arguing over stimulus packages, we need to remember the people behind them. Like these.