I managed to do something that's unthinkable, and maybe nearly impossible, in this day in age: graduate college without a dime of student debt. On top of that, I graduated from Saint Louis University, which cost about $35,000 a year. If I remember correctly, during my four years at SLU, tuition increase by about 10%. I do believe it actually increased at least three out of those four years.
We Can Actually Thank SLU Financial Aid for This One
On more than one occasion, my father asked me to go to financial services and to ask about a student loan. "Tell them you need a loan," he said. I did that during my freshman year, and I never went back again, despite repeated requests.
When I visited my freshman year, all the counselor did was tell me that I needed to talk to a bank instead. He (at least I think it was a he. It's been six or seven years now.) printed a list of banks out and said that one of the six or seven banks on the list would be a good option. He didn't tell me how to approach these banks, or where branches were located, or even ask how much money I really needed. I expected this to be a 20 or 30-minute meeting, having a discussion and going through how this process works. I actually thought I would be getting some paperwork on an actual loan. Silly me, as all this means work for financial services. I don't think the meeting even lasted five minutes.
I'm from Hawai'i, and I'm attending school in St. Louis. I don't recognize any of these banks. There's no American Savings Bank or Bank of Hawaii on the list. Wells Fargo only sounds familiar, but it's not a brand I really know anything about. Did they really expect to forge such a huge financial relationship with a company I barely heard of? I suppose this isn't much of a dilemma for most people since they probably get the loan before starting college or the next semester.
So, I never got a student loan. I was always able to avoid it because the financial services department was so unhelpful. It wasn't that I didn't want a loan, but it's hard for my parents to help me when they are 4000 miles away and they're not even on the same land mass.
How College Did Get Paid For
About a quarter of my total college tuition (for all four years) came from the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, which is awarded to SLU freshmen who show a commitment to diversity and who demonstrate leadership. I am grateful for this scholarship and when I can, I interview incoming freshmen for scholarship selection when that weekend rolls around in February or March.
For the first two or three years, my great aunt helped a lot. She had a lot of money, but didn't do much with it in her ripe old age. When she passed on, I believe the money she left for me was used for college as well. I think after she passed, my parents covered the rest of the tuition.
Without Student Loans, I Can Have a Business
More than 38 million Americans have student loan debt, totaling nearly $1 trillion. Student loan debt now surpasses credit card and auto loan debt in this country. Those numbers are staggering, and even though I do have credit card debt (most of which I've accrued after I started the business), there's no way I could have a business if I had student debt. That would have been an additional cost that I would have had to account for in the beginning, making it harder to generate enough income and to be able to put something back into the business. With a ton of debt right after graduation, there would have also been a lot of pressure to find a steady career, instead of taking the chance to venture on my own. I am very grateful that I do not have the debt to weigh me down and to narrow my options for wealth and career.