I hate talking about it. I’m not going to lie. That’s why I didn’t
even want to do this. Because I hate talking about it. I did not really think about
the finances, you know. Looking back now, seeing
state school was so much less. That never crossed my mind. I knew that college
was expensive and I just thought everybody
took out student loans and that’s just how you did it. You know, unless you
had millionaire parents or something. I think my mom believed, like
me, that it was just a process. If you do the right things,
if you go to college and you get the good grades,
then it should all just kind of work out. So I don’t think
she really worried about the finances as much. She did make it clear
from the beginning that she wouldn’t be
able to pay for it. And that it would be all on me. I, myself, didn’t go to college. So I didn’t have a whole
lot of experience with it. And Jessie was the
first one out my kids that was going to college. So I didn’t ever really
plan on it, I guess. I went to La Salle
University and I majored in criminal justice. I chose La Salle
because, in my mind, it was what college
should look like. And this is another reason
why I feel like 18-year-olds shouldn’t be allowed to
make these huge decisions on their own totally. Because I just thought it
looked like a nice school. It was a small campus setting. I had the ability to be a big
fish in a little pond there, which I liked. I just viewed it
as, well, I’m going to take out these loans anyway. And at that time, I
was working at Wendy’s. So if you were telling me
$18,000 vs. $35,000 a year, it all seemed like a
million dollars to me. Growing up, it was just
my mom and my two sisters and I. I didn’t know my dad. I met him when I
was 18, actually. So it was just us four
girls sticking together. I had my aunts and uncles
and my grandma in my life. They were heavily
involved in everything. So it was like it takes
a village, you know. Well, when they were
young I pretty much was in the restaurant business. Because I didn’t want to
put them in daycare and I didn’t want to not be there
with them during the day time. My sister raised her
family in our hometown for the first part
of Jessie’s life. And we did everything together. We spent regular evenings
together, birthdays, vacations. My mom really didn’t let us
in on how much things cost or bills. And I think that
was a part of her not trying to put
that burden of being a single parent and any
kind of struggles on us. We shopped at Kmart. She always went to yard sales. So I knew that saving and
being frugal was important. But beyond that, not so much. Well, the reason I
decided first of all to not co-sign or take out
any loans for her first year was because I wasn’t
in a comfortable spot with her behaviors at that time. When she was in senior year,
she started coming home with different friends. And I was not loving these
relationships at all. I just didn’t trust her. So that’s why she
had to call my sister and asked her for the loan. Which did make me
feel pretty bad. But I said if you make it
through the first year, I have no problem. She was about to go down
one path or the other. And I figured that first year
was going to make or break her. Jessie called me and asked me
if I would co-sign a student loan for her. And I loved her very dearly. If you don’t help someone that
you love, who do you help? I did understand that
there was risk in that. Because I knew that
that was going to be tied to my financial history. There was an understanding
that it was her responsibility to pay it back. It was always that
it was going to be a loan that was in my name. But Jessie was solely
responsible for paying. I said, if you want
to go to school, then you’re going to pay for it. I believe my first student loan
payment was about $140 or so. Which I thought,
oh, this isn’t bad. And that’s because I put
them all on the lowest payments possible and put them
on deferments and forbearances. So they weren’t all
quite in repayment. So by the following year, it
was already up to, like, $600. When I was signing
for my student loans, I had absolutely no clue
what that would mean for me in my current life now. I never even bothered
adding up how much it was. I thought, you
know, surely I would be able to pay for these loans. They wouldn’t set me
up for failure, right? The community that my
mom lives in now is definitely more
of an urban area. It’s not really the
safest, cleanest. We’re on our way to
American Education Services, where I ironically used to
work as a loan collector there. It just really
opened my eyes as far as what I was going to
probably be dealing with myself in the very near future. So it scared me a little bit. At that time, I was just really
looking for any kind of income knowing that I was going to
soon have to start paying back my student loans. I think their starting wage
at AES was about $12.50 or so. I had only ever really
made minimum wage. I had only made maybe,
at the most, $8 an hour. I talked to a lot of
moms that were, you know, they’re telling me I’m
not going to pay this. I have kids to feed. And if I have to choose between
feeding my kids and the loans, you’re not going to get
any payments from me. I discovered through
consolidating and researching a lot about the student
loans that there’s this public service
loan forgiveness. So that’s for
government employees. And my mom happens to work
for the federal government. After 10 years, if you
make on time payments, then you’re eligible
for forgiveness. Whatever is left
over at that time. I can retire in a year from now. But knowing that there’s
this forgiveness plan makes me question every day
that, what am I going to do? Time to make some sales. After AES, I went to work
for Sundance Vacations, which is my current employer. They pay commission only. So I help the folks that
come in there try and find a vacation package that
would work for them. When I first started
there, I still had the intentions of going
forward with law enforcement. I know myself a lot
better now to know I don’t think I want to risk my life. Right now I live in
Northeast Philadelphia. And I just rent
a little bedroom. It’s $400 a month. And it’s the most affordable
thing I can do right now. I barely have
savings in general. The money I make is the money
I use for bills and for living. And I want to start saving. They have an option
for a 401(k) at my job. But I just can’t see them
taking out anything more. Especially since I don’t
get a steady paycheck. And I don’t know what to
expect to make every time. I had always thought this far
out of college, in 6 years, I would have pictured my life
a lot more progressed by now. I would have pictured me with
a family, maybe buying a house. You know, definitely at
least living on my own and being independent
in that way. How does the debt make you feel? It makes me feel very sad. And I feel like
I’m going to cry, so we’re going to have to stop. There was a time when she
called me on the phone. And at that point,
she wasn’t making it. And she was just crying. And I was crying. And I’m outside my office. And I’m hysterical,
just like this, because this is what it
does to me all the time. When we really start
talking about it. My head races a
million different ways of how can we do– How
can we get rid of this? Like how? I feel a ton of pressure
that the loans are not just in my name. If they were just
in my name, I don’t think I would be caring quite
as much that they were always on time. So I would never
do that to them. I just couldn’t do that. I would pay those ones
that have their names on it before I pay my own. This is my vision board. This is kind of the main
thing that I have on here. You can see it’s
right in the center. Because to me it’s
the most important. If you can see, they say
all the balances are zero. So I just really believe
that one day I will have all these loans paid off. When I was backpacking
in Central America, I actually took a tour– it
was called a “booze cruise,” catchy title– and it was just
one of the most fun experiences that we had down there. And when I went to
Panama, they didn’t really have anything like that there. So we have the idea of trying
to start a tour company down there. And hopefully it’s that idea. And if it’s not that,
then something else. Other than my friendships
and my experience at La Salle you know, my degree is
not helping me in any way. So for that reason,
I don’t regret it. But I do regret how I
went about paying for it. Do I think that Jessie’s college
education has been worth it? $90,000 in debt is a large debt. And she’s not
working in the field that her college degree
prepared her for. It’s a very high price to pay. I feel like I’m being
responsible with the loans. I’ve never been
delinquent or defaulted. At this point, I feel like
they’re never going down. So until I have
$90,000, that’s when I feel like I’m going
to be able to pay it. Because the little payments
aren’t doing anything. So whether I put it on
forbearance for a month or two, it’s not really affecting,
in my mind, that much. I don’t feel like I’m a victim
because I did do everything by choice. Nobody forced me to do anything. But I do feel like I was
led into the situation kind of blinded. I don’t think that I
have a terrible life. I’m not complaining. I’m very blessed. And I know there’s a lot of
people out there with way worse situations. It’s not that everybody
should care because I’m not able to progress in life. It’s that it’s affecting
a whole generation. If I could do it
all over again, I would have definitely
went to community college first and tried to
pay my way through. Or maybe even travel first. There’s a limited
time in life where you’re able to just take
off with no strings attached and not too many
responsibilities. If you do that and come
back and you know yourself better than maybe before you
invest $90,000 into something you’ll actually use
your degree at the end. I think what I would tell
other parents at this point, they really have
to do the research. And looking back at it now, I
wish that I educated myself. Because nobody’s going to put
more of their heart and soul in it then you when it’s
something that you’re trying to do for your child.