I Could Graduate Debt-Free, But I Want To Take Out Loans

student

I am a 19-year-old student in my second year of school at a local college. Currently, I’m preparing to transfer to a school to finish the last two years of my degree. I come from an upper-middle-class family, and I am fortunate that they currently pay my entire tuition. As my semester comes to a close, I am trying to figure out what my plan is and disagree with my parents on what my next move should be. Having two years of school under my belt at a very inexpensive school really helps, but I want to be making the right educational and financial choice for my future. 

My dream school is a private university close to home. It has a nationally-acclaimed program for my field of study. However, my parents are, understandably, not willing to foot the bill completely. They are willing to fund, at most, a total of $25K per academic year. The tuition at this school is roughly $40K for the fall and spring semester, not including room and board.

I talked to a transfer admissions counselor and was told that I’m likely to receive some money in academic scholarships, and possibly more depending on my FAFSA. However, whenever I have asked my parents to fill out a FAFSA, they refuse because they don’t think I’ll qualify for financial aid. While this may be true, I still think it’s important to fill out the form. 

My parents are very against me taking out loans because they think it will postpone my financial freedom after college. As of now, it looks like going to my dream school would require me to take out about $10K for the next two years of school. Compared to some of my friends’ debt, I understand this is a nominal sum. But regardless, it is still a big decision, especially considering I could attend a public university that my parents would be happy to pay for.

I have talked openly to my mom as to why they are not willing to cover the full costs of a private university. I haven’t talked to my dad (we are not close), but my mom believes a public university is just as good as a private university and will only cover the costs of a public university. If I choose to attend a private school, they believe I should take ownership and decide independently whether I want to go into debt to fund my education. I know how lucky I am to be in a family that is willing and able to help me pay for school at all. However, choosing to go into debt for a private education frustrates me because my parents have blatantly admitted they have the money to cover the full cost, but will not. It frustrates me, but then I feel selfish for wanting those costs covered.

As I’ve mentioned, my parents are refusing to even fill out the FAFSA form. I have even offered to fill out the form if given their information, but they still won’t budge. I was told by my admissions counselor that in order to qualify for merit-based aid, I need to fill out a CSS form, which can only be completed after a FAFSA. I understand my parents’ rationale, but at this point I am trying to find other ways to fund my education, and am embarrassed to tell admission counselors that my parents refuse to fill out the form.

With a successful brother and sister out of school and in great careers, I am scared to not live up to such expectations. They both had college paid for fully, and I’m not sure if taking loans for this highly-ranked school is a good idea or not. It’s my top choice, and I have the grades and rankings to get in, but I’m constantly scared that taking on debt when I could graduate debt-free is the wrong decision. To me, this is a pivotal moment in my transition from a young adult into an adult. The more I talk about it with my mom and with others, the more I realize how strongly I feel about taking out loans if it means I can go to my dream school. However, I still constantly make contingency plans in my head in case I can’t make the finances work for my dream school.  

The flip side is that a less expensive public school would cost about $20K. I would receive in-state tuition, my parents would cover the full costs, and I could qualify for merit-based scholarships. My mom attended private university, and always tells me about her small classes, and how much personal attention she received. I want that experience. I care about making connections with professors and am drawn to the program. The public universities in my state are not as well-ranked and are much larger. The personal touch to academia is not something I’ve experienced in the last two years, and I’m fine with that. Now that I’m preparing to transfer, however, I want to go to a small, private school, even if it means taking out loans. My parents have every right to express their concern, but in the end, the loans would be in my name. They wanted me to be the one to make the decision — and I know which one I want — but I’m scared to follow through. 

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