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August 05, 2009


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At least she's not suing her alma mater .... yet.

Has anyone noticed the irony that her finances are such a mess even though she has a business administration degree?

Its time for people like this to stop playing the victim. Take some responsibility for what happens to you in your life. Stop saying "I don't know" and start saying "I should know" when it comes to making good decisions.

Ignorance is not an excuse, and certainly not a reason to bail someone out.

Right, but isn't the real problem here not the ROI of her college degree, but instead that she didn't pursue readily available low cost loans and that she performed truly terribly in her academic work?!?!? The cost of college seems to have very little to do with it. This woman unfortunately seemed very ill-prepared to for the responsibility, organization, and work of college (and presumably any higher paying job that she could subsequently get). No matter how cheap her school was, she just doesn't seem very employable. What she did was the equivalent of taking out a high interest mortgage with no down payment and then trashing the house. Her parents should have sat her down to tell her that she may not be ready for college--especially since there were all sorts of red flags sent by her college that she wasn't ready (failing two-thirds of her courses?). But that's her family's business--and NOT the fault of higher education. This is analogous to performing abysmally at your job for years and then being surprised that you don't get a huge promotion.

I'm not trying to glory in this woman's misery. I really do find this to be a sad story. But this woman's life seems to be a mess in many, many ways. The fact that she messed up with college, as she did with other things, should not be used as anecdotal evidence that college is too expensive.

And, ironically, she got a business degree--a degree that parents often tout as incredibly "practical."

I have a bachelors and a MBA paid from a combination of mostly student loans, grants, scholarships, and work tuition reimbursement. I have about 40K in student loans and I'll admit that when I was going to college I didn't think much about repaying my loans or really have an idea of what the loans would mean for my future. I pretty much expected to have a job to cover the payments as she did. however I have been able to make all payments, consolidate to 4% fixed or lower, and still manage to cover my expenses, and have my wife stay at home (I don't have a high paying 6 figure job)

That being said I think more emphasis needs to be made on counseling and letting students know what they are getting into (it says she received it but who knows how good it was). I never received any guidance on financing my education and was told Fin Aid will cover it all. Also it says that she took out loans in excess of tuition/fees of 40K which doesn't seem unreasonable if you're trying to cover living expenses. That works out to 10K per year assume $500/mo for rent (6K/yr) and you have 4K left for utilities, transportation and food it's not that far fetched.

Now that she's out though and sees what her choices have done to her life she needs to make the right decisions to pay back the money she borrowed and not blame anyone else for her decisions

I read this story last week. This woman is just an idiot. Case closed.

Obviously she didn't learn anything in college.

Another thing, maybe the school should pass on a person like this and not accept them/kick them out if they are taking out full tuition and expense loans for a basic degree.

I think she might be slightly retarded, seriously.

What did she expect?

This is proof positive that not everyone should go to college, it just raises the costs for everyone else.

She got her degree but with a low GPA and from what it seems like to be a chaotic lifestyle/personality, nobody would hire her

Sounds like she didn't do her homework, and on so many levels.

David C --

Very witty comment... :-)

At least she was adult enough to realize it was a good time to have a baby!

She's a 1st generation college student. Why exactly would we expect her to understand the costs and benefits of going to college? Someone at her school screwed up badly if she didn't fill out a FAFSA once while in school (or more likely just didn't care as long as they were getting their money from her). There is no way a 26 year old should finish school as a non-resident student unless their financial aid office completely drops the ball. Do they say what school she went to?

Her finances are a bit out of whack, but the only two things that could easily be cut from that list are the cell phone and cable/internet (though losing the internet portion of the bill loses one of the best job search tools she'd have available). The suggestion that she completely get rid of the car and use only public transportation is 1) not going to save the full $300 and 2) mostly impractical for the vast majority of people. She was apparently living on 10k a year while in school, so a 30k full-time job with benefits probably seems like more money than she could imagine.

Joshua - I couldn't have said it better myself!

This is sad. I agree with you that she should have realized what she was getting into and gotten a clue. I do think she's responsible herself for her situation, but you can't deny that there are strong cultural pressures pushing her to do what she did.

There is an idea that a young person's college years should be a self-indulgent extended adolescence. In addition, many students (and parents their parents) believe that a college student shouldn't "have" to work while studying (it's a distraction! They need to focus on studying and/or experience the social environment of college!). However, working while attending college significantly cuts down on loans needed and provides valuable employment experience and life-balancing skills. Finally, many parents & students are actually uncomfortable with a college student getting good grades. They favor sports participation, social interactions, experiences like semesters abroad, and the mere fact of graduation (while ignoring the GPA at graduation).

These ideas seem to be fed by widespread American anti-intellectualism and also by racism (asians and east indians who are often high achievers are seen popularly by many college students and their parents as boring nerds with low status.) The media also plays a role, showing college students on TV and in movies who are apparently wealthy, focused on partying, and who never study.

This article will probably hurt her job search. If you ran a business, would you hire her? No me. Just look at her traits:

Lack of initiative - Did take time to fill out papers that would have provided financial aid.

Lack of responsibility - Unable to manage any of her personal finances to any degree.

Low performance - Low grades.

Its a sad story.

People need to realize a college degree isn't a magic ticket to success.

The article mentions Robert Morris in Moon, Pa which is a private school with costs of around $30k / year. The bit about being a resident I believe that actually means she didn't reside in campus housing. Since its in that context and being a state resident doesn't impact costs at private schools.

It seems Robert Morris' financial aid is OK. Average debt at graduation for them is about $30k. Their average need based gift aid is over $8000. So filling out the financial aid form would have helped her considerably.

Student loans are protected from bankruptcy. That takes away the risk of defaults on student loans. So lenders can be reckless in loaning money to people and not see real consequences from it. Private student loans should NOT be protected from bankruptcy.

Its too bad her grandma co-signed the loans since she's now going to be held responsible for the debt too. :(

She probably wasn't a great student in the first place. She really should have gone to community college or the local public state school. I wonder if her high school guidance counselor gave her any advice? I wonder if her high school even had a guidance counselor. But she probably went to the 'best college' she could get into, which is typical advice people get right?

It seems practically everyone associated with this article is clueless! Even the author titled the article wrong.

So, Ms. Dillon borrows $120K to get a degree in business administration. She graduates college no smarter than when she entered. Ms. Dillon leaves college with a baby, a car, credit cards, cell phone, cable TV, internet service and an apartment. But no electricity. A clueless good start for someone schooled in business administration.

Clueless Grandma cosigned Ms. Dillon's student loans and is going to lose her house; which means her disabled father will be homeless as well. The author of the story casually mentions that tidbit, but totally ignored by the clueless financial planner who recommends Ms. Dillon (and baby and younger sister) move in with Grandma.

The school failed on all levels. Financial aid, guidance and education - all were clueless. Ms. Dillon never should have been allowed to continue her masquerade as a student.

Even Sallie Mae becomes a loser in this situation, they will never get their money back from Ms. Dillon. She's not bright enough to find her way out of a wet paper bag. But clueless folks are running that outfit as well.

And although this is piling on, now the poor woman, or at least her child, is a partial ward of the state through WIC payments. The cycle continues....

She may be stupid, lazy, lack initative and a host of other things.

However, she is a 1st generation college student, which means she may not have understood exactly what she was doing on a cost value side much less the rest of it.

Separately, I don't think our current schooling (Though High School) at least when I was in it teaches students anything about money managment!

If you are taken care of through High School, then "taken care of" again with loans, you may simply not stop to think about it. The connection with the high risk borrowers getting the silly ARM mortgages they could not afford is probably a good analogy. I bet most people reading this blog would never take those stupid products because you have enough skills to realize they are a bad deal.

This woman drifted through life, not taking control of her life led to some bad concequenes.

Myself, I never filled out FAFSA! However, I did fill out a lot of other applications for scholarships and worked before, after and durring college while going to an in-state (lower cost) school and graduated with no student debt.

If I had to do it again, I could certainly do it better. Do the 1st 3 years at community college to save costs, fill out the FAFSA, and if I had chosen a different school, live in state a year to get lower cost tuition. I rejected going to a variety of colleges off the bat simply because of the cost. This, not even knowing what my major was going to be as a High School Senior.

Everyone can make poor decisions. It is easy to look back at stories like this as someone with life experience and skills in how to manage basic finances and to say "She was an idiot" or "What was she thinking!".

Sometimes even getting/being educated doen't erase the fact that you STILL can be a grown adult, that "passes" SATs and gets into college can't figure the cost/effect relationship? Yes, I saw it OFTEN as a financial planner of 16~ years so advice: plan first! Think about working part-time, go to community colleege at least for AA degree first before University, plan on "in state" school if you can get the 4 year degree, apply, apply then beg some more at fin aid office for grants/workstudy! Consider military/public service fIRST to get the $$ for college and then enroll at age 21~, you'll be more mature and a better student as well!

$120,000 for a bachelor's degree? you have to be kidding me. This is the kind of debt I can only imagine seeing for a medical or law student, or can plan on making an excellent salary to justify the high loans. While I understand the value of private schools, if she wasn't planning on properly utilizing her education (by studying), perhaps a public school would have been better, especially if entirely funded on student loans.
Being a first generation college student means she should have valued her opportunity to get an education, rather than failing classes. When she says "We don't work", who exactly is she referring to? Her peers I assume... just because they don't work doesn't mean she can't. This woman's attitude is appalling. I get the impression she's waiting for a fairy godmother to wave her magic wand and make it go away... clearly she's never shown any initiative to take care of herself. Her monthly bills are outrageous! Never mind her poor choices in the past, she's still making bad decisions. Does she think people will read this article and offer to pay her debt? She needs to move in with grandma, get a second job or pick up more hours, cut the cable, cut the cell phone bill in a third and get rid of the vehicle. Her Dad and grandma can help with childcare. She's behaving as if she came from some wealthy family, and I don't know where the sense of entitlement comes from.

I don't see why she doesn't go out and get another part-time job if she's only working 25-30 hours per week. Especially seeing that granny could lose her house!

120k is NOT unusual for student loans at a private college these days. It can be normal at a private college for the students whose parents don't pay their tuition (Even WITH decent financial aid). I know several people who have the same (including me!). You need to remember that the average student loan debt for a school is exactly that, an average. It includes the people that get out free (parents paid) and those that didn't. Depending on the school you can double or even triple the "average" to get the worse case scenario which could still involve a decent percentage (10-20%) of the university.

What I'm confused about is how she even graduated? How do you graduate if you fail 2/3rds of your classes? It doesn't say how long she was a student for, but failing 2/3rds should make her there at least 6 years! Thats could add in some unnecessary costs.

I'll echo Jeff above. Get those prerequisite courses everyone has to take anyway out of the way at a community college where the tuition is cheaper. Besides, my public university used those courses as weed-out classes. Better to take them someplace that actually wants you to pass. If I could do one thing differently, this would be it.

Go to a state school where the tuition is less. Work part-time to keep college from being a total money sieve, and this has the double benefit of teaching some responsibility too. If your high school allows you to take college classes during your junior and senior years, do that too.

I went to school during most summers too, which allowed me to take one less class per semester during the regular school year. That freed more time to work and study, while still allowing me to graduate in four years with a GPA over 3.

I was able to get out of college with no debt, doing all of the above except going to community college for a year or two. Even without any scholarships at all, I probably would have graduated owing less than $10,000.

Well... on the plus side, she wasn't wasting taxpayer money.

I wish I could say the same thing for myself. I just earned a pail of related BS degrees in engineering. I borrowed over $30k which seemed perfectly reasonable given my schools placement rates and the average starting salary for its graduates. Now, without a "real" job I feel like I wasted that money along with a $50k academic scholarship from the school, and another $50k in state and federal grants. I'm left trying to decide if grad school will compound my problems, or ameliorate them.

It's nice to know there are bigger losers than me out there.

Clearly, the only solution to this problem is: Grad school!

I never comment but I am going to now. Ironically this girl was me when I first started school and I filled out the FASFA because I had been told to do so by the financial aid dept at my college.
Now I am not making excuses for her but the entrance counseling is a joke people, I skipped through it and never thought twice because a degree is supposed to take you to better places especially being a first generation college student (which I am)!
My parents had NO CLUE (if there was a way to bold, italics, highlight it in red I totally would) but you want to talk about a lack of money role models there. My mom did the best she could but so help me the things she did to get bills paid sometimes when I think back BOGGLE the mind. I was the oldest of 4 kids so I was an adult from a very young age.
I failed out of my first 3 years of school and yes the college knew and yes I was on academic probation for those full 3 years, and had the student loans to prove it, no one told me no. Was I an idiot, yes, was I young, absolutely, did I not care as an 18-20 year old, nope not one bit. The best thing, which was actually a stroke of luck, is that the student loan people I had/have. I communicated with this organization and they helped me every step of the way with deferring payments and doing forbearance for 2 years until I had reached that $8 per hr ceiling and got sick of it and got my degree but then yes I took out more student loans. They are now consolidated and I am now pursuing my MBA and am with an employer that helps with 75% of it so that is a blessing. I am 36k in student loan debt and feel confident I can repay it however the fact that this young woman was allowed to get these types of loans is atrocious.
As an aside I was only able to get loans, because they take into consideration your parents taxes for the first several years you are in school so grants/workstudy programs and the like were completely out so I could only get loans. They don't look at how many dependents your parents have just how much they make. After I was able to prove that I was taking care of myself (long arduous process of battling my financial aid office) they still said I had enough to fund my school on my own and could only have loans. That money was my car payment. We have no public transportation systems where I live.


Just wait, as long as you did well in school the engineering jobs will come eventually. You can easily start at 55k+ salary if not more. With that amount you will be able to tackle the debt in time. A master's degree will not necessarily help. Some employer's don't count them at all (mine doesn't so I wasted an extra year in school at 17,000 loan to pay for it). I would not recommend going to graduate school until you have a corporate job who will subsidize the tuition or pay for it completely.

I blame the system/school, primarily her high school guidance counselors. They should have told her about FAFSA forms and helped her realize all of this. I vote for having mandatory personal finance class in high school and, increasingly, in colleges also. America is the most advanced and most industrialized country in the world. Yet, we have quite a lot of idiots to no fault of their own. Rather the societies which doesn’t invest in meaningful things.

Here are some ideas: Cut the cheerleading programs and use the money for personal finance classes. Cheerleading adds nothing in high school life. Get rid of wresting classes, also. End world geography classes. What's the point of knowing where is Australia or Spain or Belize.

So what do we to help this person? Personal bail-out. I'm not being sarcastic. If a person deserves it, then it is her. She's the first to go to college. This should be a joy for her and her family, not a nighmare as it has turned out. Government can help. And it's only 120K. Pocket change. We should write letters to our senators.

Hmm...student loans are unsecured so I don't *think* they can force the grandmother to sell the house to pay off the loan. If she doesn't have the mortgage paid off already, I *believe* there are limits to how much of the income they will garnish after a student loan is defaulted on. God, I hope so. Bad enough to feel that you'd wrecked your own financial future, but to think you'd taken your grandmother down with you? Who could live with themselves?

"Who could live with themselves?"

Well, she'll at least have to live with her grandma and parents!

Yikes - what a mess! I think that even at a young age (like when she started school), she should have taken a bit more responsibility for her finances. How the heck did she get $120,000 worth of loans, though? That is INSANE. I live in Canada and I had a hard enough time getting my bank to loan me 7K for my last year of tuition. By then I had a good credit history built up, too! Wow.

Just goes to show that school smarts don't = real world smarts. Then again, if she failed everything in sight, maybe she is just someone who should not have been in college, period. The story is pretty sad.

I'm still amazed that somebody working part-time for minimum wage doesn't uset free over the air tv vice cable and use a public/computer/work/library/relatives telephone! As well as using public trans/bicycle as much as possible, a second job for another 20-30 hrs a week and literally counts change and spends nothing. No work ethic exists that did two-threee generations ago, that is for sure!

Erin, re: "They don't look at how many dependents your parents have just how much they make."

The financial aid eligibility definitely DOES look at the size of the family.

But a large parent income or net worth could disqualify children from financial aid. Furthermore the amount of aid you might qualify is a function of how much the school costs so a cheaper school is harder to qualify for aid since its expected the parents can foot he whole bill.

I think she needs to find a sugar daddy who will pay her loans off. Thats the only way I can see this ending well, that or she can just kill herself (the only way to really get out of her debt).

Lending this woman any money after her first year at college was the most irresponsible act of all.

Really no different than the scores of "homeowners" who lied about their assets & income to fraudulently "buy" houses they could not afford, believing they could flip them to the next greater fool. Difference is, those deadbeats can walk away from their obligations, especially in non-recourse states like Cal. Perhaps there will be a bailout for "victims" of student loan deception. After all, we're now a society of deadbeats and victims.

I was also the first in my family or extended family to go to college. I knew NO-ONE with a degree. And my high school also taught me NOTHING about any financial matters. This is NOT an excuse to be clueless.

Fortunately, my parents were hard-working average wage-earners who understood, and taught me to understand, the value of work, money and education.

All I can say is: Know what you don't know and go read a library book until you do know.

Simply put (and FMF will probably love me for this) - Her recovery plan needs to be: Spend less than you earn. I say get broadband (a CHEAP ONE - mine is $40 per month!!), get phone service via Skype (less than $10 per month unlimited), use a pre-paid cellphone only for emergencies ($10 per month), watch on-air TV (free), buy a $5000 secondhand car for CASH - yes, CASH which you saved by giving up all the other over-priced stuff.

Back to the topic of this article: I doubt that this young woman received much guidance from her family and I wonder about the quality of her high-school guidance. And when she showed up at this private college, she probably had no clue about her classmates who didn't have to work, had all the latest toys from their parents, etc., etc.

Wow! I just checked back in and people are quite heartless. I just looked up in-state tuition costs and estimated living expenses for my college. This totaled $75,000 for a 4-year B.A. in business...and that's in-state. How is someone expected to pay for college w/out taking on loans? Even my wife who had a presidential scholarship had living expenses (granted her parents were able to cover them) but if a presidential scholarship doesn't cover all the expenses what will?

Granted she has made some poor choices with her grades, and spending since then but the fact is she was young, with un-educated parents trying to do what she can to better her life. In the long-run the degree will benefit her but in the short-run she'll need to make some drastic changes.

Mark --

Yes, I love you! :-)


Heartless???? This is reality. I think people would have responded differently if she made SOME attempt to make the situation better. The vast majority of us that went to college at least did something to keep costs in line.

Travis --

I don't think it's the issue that she had SOME debt/loans -- just that her loans were so high.

Re: Jim
I apologize if they do then they do not take into account the parents debt ratio or something because I never got a dime handed to me with any programs. I filled out everything they told me to and then some!

Even when I was able to fill out the paperwork/FASFA on my own and was awarded loan money they said I had enough money to pay for school on my own so still I didn't qualify even making only $8~8.50 an hr 40 hrs a week.
What was frustrating to me is that I didn't/don't have children, and am not a minority and that seemed to be who was getting the bulk of their education paid for with grants/work study programs. I am not disparaging these people, I know many deserving people who received this type of aid just saying in my area of the country that is what I saw on a nightly basis while I went to school.
I do not judge this but I think the systems is screwed up as far as many awards go. It was hard to work 40-60 hrs a week for 8-8.50 an hr then go to school at night to come in and see a friend who had children and that be the only difference between us get her entire education paid for or another friend who was my same age but was a different nationality with no children get grants & workstudy options that paid for the majority of her education.

If only there was a way to put birth control in the water. Sugar daddy? How about the father of her kid? No, she doesn't seem to have much of a grasp of basic math, and her knowledge about birth control isn't much better.

If the grammar in these comments is any indication, several of you should go back to school. Perhaps you could take out some student loans to help with the cost.

Well, we can either allow adults (barely) to borrow to go to whatever school for whatever degree they want to and allow this sort of thing to happen, or we can prevent a lot of this by allowing student loans to be dischargeable in bankruptcy and end the gov backed ones (I couldn't get a $120K credit card limit at 18 with no job and no house, so I assume that's what would fix that). At that point banks would start making decisions and denying ridiculous requests. Got into MIT in chemical engineering with a 4.0? here's $150K. Barely made it into Robert Morris, here's $10K. Not enough, sorry (I'd guess you'd see this whole 3rd/4th tier college tuition inflation thing finally end).

That said, I for one am glad I had the option to borrow. It all comes down to getting something of value from the school in relation to the money spent. A lot of my peers with similar loan amounts (~$100K) complain about it being an overwhelming burden, but if you spread the payment over 30 years (which I am not suggesting, just makes the point b/c my career will last at least that long), it comes out to about $6K/year in payments. Given that I'm (and my complaining peers) are making quite a bit more than an extra $6K/year after tax then we'd be making without going to school, I can't see taking those loans out as a bad decision (though I prob. could have kept it down to $70K if I tried a little harder, pure laziness on my part that I of course am paying for now). But this was not for a BA from Robert Morris.

I guarantee you she got into some serious partying while in college - regular binge drinking, skipping most classes, and quite probably drug use. Unless she is quite literally mentally handicapped, I can't see any other explanation for failing 2/3 of your college courses.

First of all, even at private schools at your first year is full of essentially high school remedial level material. Second, if you just show up and listen to lectures you can pass most exams without even studying. Third if you try at all most professors will help you until you pass. Fourth if all of the above fails and you care at all it's way too easy to cheat your way through.

College is more and more of a joke these days; even Ivy League schools are rampant with cheating and grade inflation. I know many people who got high every day and barely attended class and aced most of their college courses and graduated from my top tier private college. If you don't even care enough to find a way to pass your classes (much less make As or Bs) then you deserve whatever you get - and the lenders deserve what they get for backing you year after year.

SS: ending gov't backed loans wouldn't change this woman's situation. If I understand, she didn't file her FAFSA (ever!), so she didn't get federal loans. She got the much higher interest rate private loans from private banks. I don't see banks stopping those because they generally do get repaid. And, as your own example points out, most people who take on student loan debt can easily pay it off--even if they aren't a future chemical engineer from MIT. For people who want no debt, it is of course more difficult to afford college on one's own--but that is also true of owning a home. At least a college education of any sort puts you in a better earnings bracket than just a diploma, so--as you said--you can pay it off without going into bankruptcy.

I'm also a little surprised at the people blaming "the system" or the school for this mess. She failed 2/3 of her courses. What does she (and her family) think the word "fail" means? I'm a professor, and I can assure you, no one wants to fail a student if it can at all be avoided. This particular case just seems like a disaster.

@ JimL

Posts like this ((by Emily) is what I'm referring to:

"I think she needs to find a sugar daddy who will pay her loans off. Thats the only way I can see this ending well, that or she can just kill herself (the only way to really get out of her debt)."

There are lots of people calling her stupid, idiotic

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