Where's my money?
I graduated from college almost completely debt-free. Here is how I did it.
In high school, the first thing I did when I got home from school was complete all homework that had been assigned that day. Even if it wasn't due for a couple of weeks, I finished it the day it was assigned. If the teacher wouldn't accept the work early, I kept it safe until it was time to turn it in. I managed my time wisely, prioritizing schoolwork, chores, sleep, the Lord, and personal hygiene. Sometimes, I had time for friends. This led to teasing by peers. I chose this to do well at school. These choices earned me scholarships to every college I applied to.
The scholarships did not cover everything. The summer after I graduated, I moved to live with family close to college. I worked two jobs that summer. I was a cashier at Family Dollar and the janitor at a gas station. I saved everything I made. After I paid housing, meal plan, tuition, books, and supplies, I was short $142. My father gladly offered to pay it. That was the last time I needed help from my family to pay for my education.
I lived in the cheapest dorm. I had no car. I had no money. I walked or biked everywhere. I made many friends in college. If they ever planned an activity and invited me, I refused to go because I couldn't pay. In college, I did my work the same as I did in high school. I did not drink or do drugs. The first half of college was very much like the first semester. I took semesters off to work and earn money to pay for the next semester while living with family. I continued this strategy until I got married.
The university would not let us live on campus. Since I was not living on campus, the university withheld over $6,000 of my scholarships. So I joined the U.S. Navy in their NUPOC (Nuclear Propulsion Officer Candidate) program. It was a very difficult and selective interview process, but my previous life choices helped me be accepted and exceed the requirements of the program. Once in, I never had to worry about paying for college again.
But I did get a student loan. After two babies, we needed a safer vehicle. We couldn't get financing for the vehicle. My wife thought that if we got a student loan, it would improve our credit, and we could get financing. She talked me into it. It didn't affect our credit. So we started paying it off before I graduated. I was unable to stay in the Navy due to health problems that didn't show up until I went to OCS. That life event is another essay entirely.
After I left the Navy, I was blessed to find an engineering job. It paid well enough that I could support my growing family, pay off the student loan, and pay back money the U.S. Navy demanded I pay back, all in under two years.
That was over 14 years ago. I made choices and sacrifices to avoid student loan debt. Throughout college, the university financial office and guidance counselors were pushing me to get student loan debt. I chose to remain debt-free and pay off the debt I had. It was a harder road at first, but much better in the long run.
Now that President Biden is forgiving student loan debt, can I get back what I paid off?