Viewpoint: Mounting debt scared me into investigating worth of my degree

By Caroline Brewton

I recently read an article in the Onion called “Company Immediately Calls Job Applicant Upon Seeing ‘B.A. In Communications’ On Resumé.”

It was satire, of course, but for a moment, I indulged in the fantasy that it could happen to me: My potential employer would hire me based on my sparkling GPA, the line on my resumé that mentions I was a student in the Honors College, or just the plain and simple fact that I had a degree at all, proving I can suffer utter sleeplessness for four years straight.

But the reality is that my bachelor’s degree won’t be enough on its own to get me a job. I’ll need an internship, experience and references to go along with it. However, my degree is the thing that cost me the most, both in effort and in cold, hard cash.

By the time I graduate in December, I will have amassed roughly $45,000 in debt. I have no equity. I don’t even own a car. And thanks to my debt, my credit won’t exactly be sterling, either.

I hope to get a good job with benefits, one that will allow me to pay off my student loans quickly. The catch is that I want to be a journalist. I’ve researched my field, and the starting salary of the average newspaper reporter is only about $30,000, according to a study by the University of Georgia in 2010. That’s about $15,000 less than my debt.

How will I pay it off? I’m not sure yet. After graduation, I’ll go out into the big, bad world and figure it out.

Don’t make my mistakes. I knew I needed college, but didn’t investigate its cost. And when I received my financial aid package each semester, I signed on the dotted line — just as I was told, no questions asked. It’s only recently that I realized my own folly. The potential for disaster exists somewhere close in my future. It looks like poverty.

When you realize student loan debt is nigh impossible to shed, even in bankruptcy, you realize it’s too late to wait until graduation to start examining the cost and value of your degree.