Getting a degree minus the debt

Here is an extreme case of studying while you work, from the First World War:

The subject of student debt is a very touchy one, especially with people who are still struggling to pay theirs down long after leaving school.

I don't believe in student debt. I don't think it's a good idea at all. And I think there are other ways. Obviously if you qualify for a scholarship woo-hoo to you! But many people don't. I certainly didn't. So what to do?

Me, I worked through my degree (law, 1996). I went to school during the day, and I worked at a pub nights and weekends. I also did apply for and receive student loans. Mostly as a security blanket. The money I earned at the pub allowed me to pay for tuition and books and such, as well as rent for a small apartment and a small car. I put the money from the student loans in a special bank account and did my best not to touch it.

Now of course being me I overdid everything. I worked pretty much full-time while being on an accelerated program for the degree (which I completed in 2.5 years instead of the usual 3.5-4 years most people took to get it). And the obvious happened: after about two years of this regimen I went through a bit of a burnout and had to quite the job in order to finish the degree. I did that. I sold my small car and drastically reduced non-essential spending, and lived about 6 months as a complete miser, only dipping into my saved student loans when necessary. I finished my degree with about $4,000 in student debt, which I repaid pretty quickly.

It can be done. And obviously what I did isn't perfect. It would probably have been a better idea to take on a normal or light course load and take longer to finish the degree and skip the burnout. So soon old, so late smart. But the point remains: Why get yourself in a big financial hole for a measly degree? Especially if, like me, you wind up never working in your field?

Save for school while you can, and work through your studies. You're not so fragile and overwhelmed that you can't do both, unless of course partying is more important to you than not being in debt. In which case I strongly suggest you quit school, since there are cheaper ways to get drunk.

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