Yesterday I wrote my last test for my last course for my Honours Bachelor of Arts in International Development and Cultural Anthropology.
I started this degree in 1998. I studied for two years full-time, and then two years part-time and graduated with a General B.A. in 2002. I was hired at the university six days after my graduation and have been completing the course requirements for an Honours with a tuition waiver that is available to members of the union to which I belong.
So you can imagine how relieved I am to have this degree finished, and I look forward to receiving the parchment so that I can frame it and put it up in my office next to the one I received in 2002.
I borrowed a lot of money to start and continue this degree. My first student loan was a shared-risk loan through a Big Bank, prior to the creation of the National Student Loan Centre, for a year of college in 1996 that qualified my entrance to university. The Big Bank gave me two more years of loans for full-time university studies before the Student Loan Centre took over. Then I found a loophole in the system that gave me almost full-time funding for part-time studies, and received two more years of loans before graduating in 2002.
Typical of a person accruing huge debt, I didn't think ahead to the repercussions of my actions. I wanted to go to university and I wanted the maximum amount of money to do so. I decided to worry about payments later, when they became a reality. I also made the mistake of ignoring the six-month "grace period," even though I was working full-time six days after graduation and making pretty good money. When the grace period was over, I consolidated my loans and made the minimum payments as suggested by the National Student Loan Centre. I didn't even question the re-payment system. I just allowed them to take the amounts they had pre-determined from my bank account each month.
Then in 2005 I took a leave of absence from my job at the university and applied for another student loan, so that I could attend university full-time for eight months in Thailand, and earn the remaining credits for my Honours degree (I didn't end up getting the credits I needed).
Six years of student loans = about $34 000.
Plus I accumulated a massive credit card debt during the years of 2003 to 2007, because I had the poor mentality of "I already owe so much, what's another 1-2-3-4000 dollars!"
But I have worked hard to change that mentality. I am grateful for my education, and my job at the university. I tell myself that I did what I had to do to get to this point. This debt reduction is just another challenge for me to overcome, and I'm excited about it.