A University of Michigan senior looks back — and ahead — while pondering debt and job search uncertainty.
In 2007, my dad lost his job.
At the time, my family was among the first in our neighborhood to feel the sting of the economic recession, and my sister and I kept mum about our mounting financial challenges. We made excuses for skipping shopping trips or moving to a smaller house in a different neighborhood, claiming we had homework or that our parents wanted to downsize in preparation for our pending college departures.
It wasn’t so much that we were fibbing — more like avoiding the stigma that comes with unemployment in a generally affluent community and the challenges it presents. We didn’t want our peers to pity us as we strived to get back on our feet.
Five years later, my family is in a much better place, and though the tides of the economic recession are just now starting to turn, there are still a long way to go.
A report released by the Labor Department on Friday shows that the employment rate is up to 7.9 percent, up from 7.8 percent, and while businesses added 184,000 jobs, government-level jobs around the nation were slashed by 13,000 positions.
When I began applying for college in 2008, money loomed incessantly at the back of my mind, tuition rates practically emblazoned into my brain. Though excited for the next step, I was skeptical that a college degree would produce a job, as layoffs and budget cuts started to run rampant in my community.
I tried to remain optimistic and told my parents that despite the hefty price tags, I wouldn’t let high tuition rates inhibit me from pursuing my dreams, even if it meant having to borrow a debilitating amount of loans.
So when I turned down a free ride from a small university in Ohio to instead attend one of the most expensive public schools in the nation, my parents tried their best to be understanding… after the initial anger and frustration wore off.
In pleading my case to my parents, I told them that despite the immense debt I would carry for a substantial portion of my life, ultimately a degree at Michigan would pay off, with its strong alumni base and high profile former students.
Nearly three-and-a-half years later, I can’t honestly tell you if I made the right choice, or if my logic was sound.
As a senior, each day I’m get questions about what I want to do with my life. And as I scramble to finish an internship and job applications between classes and extracurricular activities, the pressure is nearly unbearable, with thousands of dollars of debt riding on my success.
Entering such a tumultuous and uncertain job market is terrifying. Though I try to remain confident that the skills I’ve accrued during my time at Michigan will translate to success, it feels as if my peers and I are playing a game of Russian roulette, spewing applications into the great abyss.
I want to prove to myself and my parents that I didn’t amass this debt for nothing — that the degree I’ll receive in May will make a difference.
However, the truth is, I have no idea. None of us really do. The only thing we can do is keep our heads up and keep on sending out applications.
However, what I can attest to is the truly wonderful time I’ve spent in Ann Arbor and the experiences and memories I’ve developed.
I can’t say that if I had gone somewhere else I would have met President Barack Obama or taken on a leadership role at the campus paper that has inspired me and filled me with a sense of purpose and drive.
Those are things no amount of money can capture and no debt can erase.
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