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My $40K in Student Loans Are Worth It

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Alexis Moore couldn’t be happier about having student loans. To her, $40,000 isn’t debt; it’s a reasonable price to pay for pursuing her dreams.

“I looked at it as being an investment in myself,” Moore said. “For me, it was very empowering.”

Moore, 39, hasn’t entered repayment yet — she’s finishing law school at Northwestern California University, where she anticipates she’ll graduate in 2016. But she’s working hard to make sure her loan payments are affordable, because she knows how painful it is to drown in student loan debt.

In a previous career, she worked in student loan debt collection. She listened to borrowers talk about their regrets, wishing they hadn’t taken out so many loans or thinking they should have gotten a different degree. The biggest issue she heard when making collections calls was that when people took out loans, they didn’t think about what they were going to do with their education.

Career choice has a huge bearing on the affordability of student loans. A good rule of thumb is to graduate with a debt load less than your starting salary, which varies greatly between fields like social work and engineering. When Moore considered going back to school, she knew her choice needed to be worth the cost. (The salary range for a lawyer is $45,637 – $169,892, according to Payscale.com.)

Committing to the Law

Since she was 8 years old, Moore wanted to be an attorney. Her parents divorced and battled about custody arrangements when she was a kid, and she’d ask herself, “What would I do if I was a lawyer or judge?”

As a young woman, Moore ended up in an abusive relationship, and even after leaving it, she struggled to escape her predatory ex-boyfriend. Her experience with abuse and stalking motivated her to pursue a career advocating for abuse victims.

She eventually escaped the situation and moved from Washington state to California. Working full time (as a risk management consultant on privacy and with victims of stalking), a $12,000 personal loan, a scholarship for victims of domestic abuse and a $40,000 student loan allowed her to enroll in law school in 2009.

The way she looked at it, she was pre-paying for education, so if she failed to study and get everything she could out of school, it would be a waste of money. Even though the legal field is crowded, she’s grateful that student loans even gave her the chance to pursue a lifelong dream.

“I may not have the fanciest car or wear the most expensive clothes for a very long time, because student loan payments are fierce,” she said. “But the joy of accomplishing a dream and overcoming so many obstacles to be able attend school makes it well worth it.”

Taking out student loans can be beneficial to your credit standing, if you’re able to afford the payments, and you make the payments as agreed and on time every month. You can check your credit reports to make sure your student loans are being reported accurately, and to check for any errors that could be having a negative effect on your credit scores.  You can check your credit reports for free once a year, and you can check your credit scores for free Credit.com, where you’ll also get an explanation of how your credit scores are affected by your credit history.

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  • James Rathz

    You literally picked one of the worst examples you possibly could.

    This person is going to a school where 40% of their graduates are unemployed 9 months after graduation, and where she will only be allowed to practice law in the state of California. I hope things work out for her, but even the people who find jobs will have trouble making payments on their salaries. I would give that information, but curiously this school doesn’t report salaries the way ABA accredited schools do…

    By writing this article, you’re contributing to one of the biggest social problems of our generation by celebrating this woman’s poor financial planning. I know you’re no longer a journalist, but you really should be embarrassed by picking the future poster child of the student debt crisis as your Pollyanna anecdote for why going 40k into debt to enter an over-saturated field is a good idea.

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