A Message of Joy and Hope
I laughed. With joy. Recently, I received a letter from the Higher Education Assistance Authority, which I will call HEAA. The letter contained a communication congratulating me on paying off my student loans. I never resented making payments on my student loans. Student loans enabled me, and my children, who were on their financial own after high school, to obtain educations and establish careers.
At age 50 I had found myself alone and my 24-year investment as a homemaker and mother did not translate into my financial security. I had nothing; no home, no career and no money. So I went off to college with my children. We slept on each other’s student apartment floors at Christmas and ate a lot of ramen noodles. We spent years studying, working student jobs and sharing our student loans with one another. It would be 7 years before I had finished a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. As soon as my teaching credentials were on paper I got on the phone and landed a job in an underserved area. Eventually we had all earned our respective degrees and higher degrees, and launched careers in the fields of medicine, education and research.
So the day this spring when I was ready to make my last payment on my student loans, I wanted to do the transaction with a real person. It had taken me 12 rewarding years of teaching to pay off the loans. It was a triumphant day for me as I placed the call to the finance office of the HEAA. The person who answered my call took my information politely and efficiently, and when we were finished she said, “Is there anything else, Ma’am?” “Well” I said, “I just wanted to say that this is a momentous day for me.” “Ma’am” she said, “You can pat yourself on the back!”
My message is one of hope and joy. I believe that it is possible for most people in this country, even those with no money or support, to get financing for an education thereby enabling them to chart a course for their future. I believe that an education is one of the best investments one can make. And I know there is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when one pays off the student loans.
Then, as the kind woman at HEAA said, “You can pat yourself on the back!