Why Go to College

by Lela Harris about a year ago in college

I wish I hadn't.

Why Go to College

Growing up we're told we have to go to college. We must get a degree because that is the only way we can get a well paying job. But is that really true? I mean sure, some of the wealthiest people went to college and are making millions of dollars a year, but are they happy? I mean truly happy. They don't have the debilitating student loan debt because they have the resources to pay for it in full, or they were lucky enough to get a full ride scholarship. I had neither. Both my parents were poor and we never had money for anything extra and could barely pay the rent. Going to college for me was something my mother always wanted for me. When she died, I went back to school to honor her and what she wanted for me. Looking back, I wish I never went.

I put myself through college, I worked full time as a shift supervisor at Starbucks, and double majored in Psychology and Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, California. My dream was to become a third grade teacher or maybe special education. I love working with children. They are our nation's future and guiding them to that future is something I wanted to be a part of. I graduated in May of 2015 and was so excited to move on to the next stage of my career, but the day after I graduated I began to think. Spending four years at Sonoma State I had racked up over 50 thousand dollars in student loans, and I just couldn't take out any more. It broke my heart and I sat and cried for a long time. My dream had been shattered by the sheer cost of it. Why does getting a college degree cost so much in this country? I have a friend who lives in Germany, (he's German) and he is getting his PhD. His parents have barely paid anything for it. Why can't we have that here, in the United States?

I am now three years out of college, loving my job, but drowning in student loan debt. I am behind on payments, not defaulting, but close. I am so stressed out that sleeping is a difficult task. Headaches plague my everyday life and I always think, what is worth it? Both my degrees are sitting on top of my refrigerator collecting dust doing me no benefit. I love my job. I am an assistant manager for Peets Coffee and Tea, and the promotion to store manager is a strong possibility (fingers crossed). I make decent money for a person not suffocating in student loan debt, but I'm not that person. I am the person who cries herself to sleep because she can't pay her student loans and that's all I want to be able to do.

I've worked in the coffee industry for 11 years now and I love it. I wish I had never left it, and funny thing, I don't need a college degree to serve coffee and manage a store. I could have the life I wanted if I didn't have to spend all my money on student loans. No matter how hard I work, how much overtime I rack up, which is difficult because it is getting cracked down on, I still can't get ahead. If I work more than 80 hours in a pay period, the more money gets taken out in taxes. It's almost a vicious cycle. I could have still gotten there with my experience without a college degree.

They say hindsight is 20/20 and that is so true. If I could go back in time I would tell myself not to go to college but to stay with my current path. I left the coffee world for two years for a life in corporate America and I was absolutely miserable. I was depressed and I hated life, because all I was doing was working and sleeping. That wasn't a life I wanted. My boyfriend and I started feeling like roommates because we never saw each other. My commute was an hour each and I got stuck in the loop and I just couldn't do it anymore. So I left and came back to coffee, where I am truly happy.

College can lead to great things, don't get me wrong, just not for me. It left me with debilitating student loan debt and sleepless nights trying to figure out how I am going to pay them. Some will say "get a better job." While that could be a solution, most jobs in the psychology field require a masters degree, and teaching requires the credential. Both require more school, which means more loans, and more debt. I love where I work and I have no regrets leaving the corporate world. I just wish dreams in this country were more attainable. I truly wish I could turn back time and not go to college.

Lela Harris
Lela Harris
Read next: The Unconventional College Life
Lela Harris

I have been through a lot in life. More than most but not as much as some. I took up running as a way to combat my ever present depression. I have combined my two loves in life. Traveling and running, every state 

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