ALTERNATIVE HIGHER EDUCATION why you should try to live without student loans

Millennials attended college during the height of the 2007 recession, leaving many of them, especially liberal arts students, with crippling student debt and few career prospects.

A career-less job market is a fear shared by many students.

Sarah Cliff, who graduated from Drexel University at the height of the recession, knows this feeling.

“If I had the choice to do it over again, I would've never have gone to college. I couldn't get a job in my field, I worked 3 jobs or more for many years. I worked nearly 2 years straight with almost zero days off at one point to keep up with the payments. I will not be able to buy a house or start a family until I'm around 35, maybe even longer. I can't get any large loans, and my credit is shot because I defaulted on a few loans at a time in my life when I simply couldn't afford payments. My career has definitely suffered.”

The 2009 graduate’s issues stem from her student loans, of which she’s amassed over one-hundred-thousand dollars of student debt.

“I took out one private loan per year to cover tuition. The rest were all state grants/loans.”

Drexel University is no doubt an expensive school. According to, “Tuition and fees at Drexel University are $48,791 without financial aid. With room, board, and other fees combined, total cost of attendance is $69,912.”

To put that in perspective, the average cost of tuition and fees for the 2016–2017 school year was $33,480 at private colleges, $9,650 for state residents at public colleges, and $24,930 for out-of-state residents attending public universities according to

Drexel University is nearly double that.

Without grants or scholarships, most students attending a school in that price range have little to no options other than to take out loans. But the process can be deceptively simple, especially to first time borrowers who go through the process alone.

Cliff was contacted by Drexel’s lender and applied for her loans through the internet and in person. She later found out that this was illegal, as Drexel was getting “kickbacks” from the loans.

“To be honest, they didn't give us much information about the loans before I got them. They told us about dispersing the loans and in what order, and that was about it. I think the information about how much you are paying should be more transparent. I had little to no understanding of how the loans worked or what I would be paying back in the long term. I had zero idea of how much my monthly payments would be either, which from my understanding could've easily been given to me from day 1.”

Cliff’s monthly payments? $1100.

“I was forced to take any job I could in order to pay back the loans. None of the jobs offered to me would've paid me enough to actually pay them. I took a waitressing job because an entry level job in my field wasn't a high enough salary to pay back the $1100 a month in loans I had due.”

Nearly a decade later, Cliff still doesn’t have a job in her field, but her life has gotten easier.

“I work for a family friend, so my income has finally gotten to a point that the end seems realistic for my loans. I do hope that one day I can get back to doing what I love and maybe one day opening my own business. If I can pay the loans off, I would see myself in ten years as having my own business with a family and a house, and a car that works every day. Which wouldn't be too bad for a 40 year old woman, haha.”

Her advice to first-time borrowers?

“I would tell them to re-evaluate where they are at in life, and to see if the ends would really justify the means.”

It’s only logical for the next generation, starting college now, to be wary of this fate and take a critical look at the financial aspect of their college educations.

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