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Nonprofit program director: Paying for college without debt

Video transcript

When I was in high school, I really wanted to go to a small liberal arts school. There was actually this one that did the entire curriculum through reading books and having small seminars and this was just my dream. I wanted to be holed up with a bunch of other nerds just talking about books all day. But my mother really wanted me to graduate from college without student debt. And there were lots of great universities in Florida. I mean, they weren't what I wanted. They were big schools, big research universities, there were a couple of smaller ones, but part of it too was that I wanted to go to a big name school as well. But my parents were very insistent: Florida has a great scholarship program, low in-state tuition, and also great investment, college savings investment plan. And so if I went to a public university in Florida, I would be good to go, I would have tuition covered, also living expenses. It was just a deal that was too good to turn down in my parents' minds at least. Me, being an 18-year-old, who just wanted to go read books all day, I was not so jazzed about it, but I was actually so sort of like upset that I was like, "Fine, I'm only going to apply to one school in Florida, and that's it." And so I just applied to the University of Florida because in my mind, I'm like, well, that's the best school in Florida so I'm only going to apply to that one. I wasn't super excited to be going off to college to a big school, a football school, I didn't even like football at the time, and when I got on campus, I wasn't the typical freshman excited to be there, but what people don't realize about a big school with 50,000 people is that, amongst those 50,000 people, you can find people who you connect with. I found my nerds. I also found things I wasn't expecting. I got involved with a service organization that really made me change course in life. We did service trips during spring break. So instead of going to Cancun or Miami, I went to North Carolina and helped build fences at a tiger preservation. Or I went to South Carolina to help do legal work for migrant farm workers. Great experiences. The best part, and the part that I didn't realize going into it that my parents were so insistent about, is that I graduated without student debt. And the reason that my mom always gave over and over again, abut why she was so insistent I go to a state school was because it gave me more freedom. When I graduated from college, I could take a job I wanted. Not a job that I needed in order to pay off these student loans that were gonna be coming due right after I graduated and when I was younger, I didn't appreciate what that freedom meant because I had always been financially free, dependent on my parents. But it meant that I could take a position like Teach for America, where I was making a teacher's salary and I didn't have student loans to pay off.
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