I saw a disturbing trend on Twitter yesterday. Apparently people have gotten so excited about the Ice Bucket challenge going around to help support research to find a cure for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, that they decided to take a more selfish approach to it. They like to call it the #PayMyTuitionChallenge. One twit (that’s what they call people on Twitter, right? :)) wrote, “Help raise awareness for millions of young adults struggling for their future & lives.” Another said, “We need debt forgiveness if your skills is no longer marketable.”
And here, a direct quote from USA Today:
“After the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge, enterprising students are taking to Twitter with this new challenge. So far, Oprah and Bill Gates have gotten a lot of nominations — no word yet on whether they’ve got their checkbooks or their ice buckets at the ready.”
#PayMyTuitionChallenge Rant Time…Ready, Set, Go!
First of all, let’s talk about raising awareness for worthy causes. ALS is an incurable disease. And it’s a horrible way to go. My uncle passed away years ago from it and the stories alone of what he went through made me cringe. “Millions of young adults struggling for their future and lives,” on the other hand? Huh. I seem to remember going through that stage of life (I graduated less than two years ago) and…well…no. I don’t feel sorry for any of you.
Secondly, student loan forgiveness if your degree doesn’t work out for you? Really? You see, I get it. I get the pain of realizing that your degree is worthless. I’ve gone through those throes over and over again in the last couple of years. But it’s never even once crossed my mind to try to get anyone to give me my money back. After all, I was the one who chose to go to college and study what I did. I was the one who chose to enter a field that’s saturated with talent (not to mention relentless brown-nosers). Should the government or a bank forgive my loans because I can’t find a job? How did that become their problem?
Third, I just love the irony of USA Today’s use of the word enterprising. There is absolutely nothing enterprising about asking for a handout. If you want to see enterprising, check out this guy who graduated from college with $100k in savings.
And granted, I’m sure a lot of the tweets that are getting thrown around are in jest, but after reading through tweet after tweet of this stuff, the majority are dead serious. #justkiddingguys #butseriously
How to Avoid Being Crushed By Student Loans
But I can’t leave this as just a rant. I really think that a lot of people struggle because they don’t really think about the alternatives. They come to accept that college is going to be expensive, so they stand back, take a long, hard look at it, and shrug. Well, I guess I can’t do anything about it. On the contrary, you can do something about it. You can do lots of things, actually.
Avoid colleges with high tuition costs – You may think that you need to get your degree from a top university, but that isn’t always the case. Sure, it could land you a better job right out of the gate, but the only thing that guarantees you a successful career is your individual skill, passion and work ethic. So stop turning your nose up at the local community college or the state college down the road. The name may not look as purdy on your resume, but those tens of thousands of dollars you’re saving sure will.
Get a job – During my single days in college, I took classes full-time and worked full-time. And guess what? It was fine. I made a lot of money, paid my tuition in full every semester, and even paid for an awesome 6-week trip to Fiji. My social life wasn’t as active as most of my friends. In fact, the first time I ever hung out with my wife, she was walking past my apartment on a Friday night, saw me doing homework and asked if I wanted to come watch a movie with her. In the end, I still had time to hang out with friends most weekends, and I had enough time to date and get to know my wife.
Sure, you might want to enjoy your college time to party and live it up. After all, when you’re an adult with responsibilities, the opportunities to do that shrink considerably. But with private nonprofit college costs averaging $30,094 last year, that’s an expensive lifestyle you are choosing–don’t blame anyone but yourself for it. And then, of course, there really are people whose studies consume every waking moments of their lives. For those people, that really is a disadvantage, but again, it’s the cost of choosing the major.
Apply for scholarships – There are literally billions of dollars in scholarships up for grabs every year. Maybe your college won’t give you any, but that does mean you’re SOL. There are hundreds of websites out there where you can search for something that fits something you can do. All you have to do is google “scholarships.” There are opportunities out there that require next to nothing as far as effort on your part. Just do it.
Stop going – When I tell people about how I never really found a solid job coming out of college, most of them tell me I should go back and get an MBA. In real life, I say something like, “That doesn’t really sound like something I want to do,” but in my head, I’m thinking, “So, you’re telling me that because I have all this debt from my undergrad that I’m just making minimum payments on, I should go back to school and quadruple that amount in the hopes that it will somehow magically land me the job of my dreams?” It doesn’t work that way, people. I know people who have been caught in this trap, and it’s sad. They feel even more lied to than I do.
Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against getting a college education. While my degree itself hasn’t gotten me a great job, the experiences I had taught me to think critically and to create something of value for myself and others. And there are a lot of analytical skills I’ve learned that have helped me in my freelance writing. I also don’t want this to marginalize the fact that the cost of college tuition is obscene. YES the cost of most colleges is becoming outrageous. YES student loans are getting out of control because of it. But that doesn’t give anyone the excuse to play the victim. There are people who truly struggle, and that is sad. But it’s time for the rest of us to put on our big boy and big girl pants and learn responsibility. It’s possible, but no one else is going to do it for you, no matter how many times you tweet them.
Hopefully we’ll see the end of the #PayMyTuitionChallenge soon, but unfortunately, I doubt it.