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The Hard Lesson of Student Loans


            My name is A J Bialo and I live in my hometown of Syracuse NY. When I was twenty six I was working full time as an American Sign Language Interpreter and wanted to teach American Sign Language at the college level, which required a college degree. Since very few universities in the United States offered degrees in American Sign Language at that time I decided to work part time while working towards a liberal arts degree.

            When I told my parents about going to school my mother was thrilled and offered to pay my tuition. I knew that if I let her pay for my education that she would lord it over me as one more thing that she did for me that I couldn’t have accomplished without her, so I opted to take out student loans and pay for it myself.

            I attended Lemoyne College in Syracuse part time from 1989 until I graduated in 1993 with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.  I was able to get a partial scholarship to pay for part of my tuition and borrowed the rest using guaranteed student loans. When I graduated in 1993 my student loans totaled approximately $12,000.

            After graduating I worked part time, about thirty hours a week, interpreting and teaching part time, three to nine credit hours per semester, at the local community college.  While I really enjoyed both of my jobs, the pay was not steady since neither job was full time year round.

            Because of gaps in my earnings I struggled from the beginning with repaying my student loans. It seemed that it was always a game of one step forward and three steps back as I would make a few payments when I was working and then falling behind when I wasn’t resulting in the need to agree to a forbearance, which stopped the regular payment schedule for six months but continued the accrual of interest and penalties for not paying. 

            To make matters worse about seven years after I received my Bachelor’s degree I was being required by my community college employer to further my education by receiving a Master’s degree in either American Sign Language or Sign Language Linguistics. Despite the fact no local university offered such a degree program I would not have been able to afford such a program if one did exist since I could not incur new student loans until my undergraduate loans had been paid off. Needless to say I lost the one job that I loved and wanted to make a full time career out of.

            When I finally was able to pay off all of my student loans in 2007 my pay off was about $8,400.  It is with a true sense of irony that I can say my mother finally got the last laugh because I paid off the balance of my loans from the inheritance I received from her estate after she died in 2007.