Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Paso a paso

I received a notice in the mail that one of my student loans is about to be paid off. $3000 down, $80,000 to go!

While a daunting payback road lay ahead, this smaller sum is actually quite significant. The loan was made during graduate school, shortly after my father passed away. I had worked my way through undergrad and grad, but when my father died (sort of unexpectedly, sort of not - a story for another day) I decided I needed to make some changes to allow for more trips to see my mom, mentally recover from the loss, etc. Plus, I was enrolled in a dual degree program, and this was the year I was slated to shuttle from one campus to another. That left even less time for the non-academic pursuits.

So, a couple weeks after his passing, I went to the Dean of my school to see if there was some help they could provide. I wasn't sure what I needed, but it seemed like this what what you did in such circumstances. I also knew that when my best childhood friend's parents were both very ill, her school stepped in and did everything they could to support her and make sure that she was able to stay in school. After explaining my circumstance, the Dean thought for a few moments, and then indicated the school could offer "Emergency Assistance" - a short term grant aimed at things like paying your heating bill if you come up short.

Um, not exactly what I was hoping for.

I responded that I would likely need more assistance than that, given my expected decrease in income and increase in expenses, but that was the end of the offer. Additional pleas got me the offer of a $3,000 loan, which I have been slowly paying down the past seven years. That year, I also ended up taking out loans above and beyond the federally allowed $18,500 to cover my lack of income, which I will continue to pay for the next 30 years or so.

We're our largest and best investment, right?

I switched the monthly payment over to an autopayment so I wouldn't cringe every time I wrote the check (and because, let's face it, who wants to write a check if you don't have to?), but even the school name appearing next to the deduction in my online banking account bugged me.

Now that loan is about to disappear, leaving me with an extra $50 each month, and perhaps a little less bitterness towards the whole situation. Perhaps.

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