Here’s the final math on my middle class $100k college education

I have now fully paid the $100,000 that my college experience from Temple University cost. Here I share the breakdown of some more specifics on what those costs include and how I paid them.

This month, six years after graduating from Temple, I will put $1,800 to close out the last of my student loans. As many of my peers, who attended ‘out-of-state’ universities and are from, relatively speaking, privileged, middle class families will tell you, I accelerated this process considerably. I don’t like debt, so each year since 2010 when I was able to do so, I paid more than I was required to in order to speed the process of getting debt free.

Now I will be — though all those alumni donation requests I’ve turned down promising myself I needed to pay down my student loans first won’t be immediately turn into commitments from me. Let me save a little more, will ya?

The big numbers:

  • $100k — what my college education cost
  • $86k — what my tuition cost, excluding things like room and board
  • $9k — what I paid in student loan interest

During my time in college, my father was an accountant and my mother was a teacher. I have always been very fortunate: those are good, stable, relatively well-paying jobs — our two-parent, two-salary household was roughly double the $70k average household New Jersey income. What’s more, my parents helped in other ways too, with emotional support and life lessons. I am lucky beyond words but when it comes down to finances, among middle-class families, my college experience is probably pretty typical.

My parents helped me navigate the waters of student loans — my father led this, and I barely grasped it as a teenager — and co-signed the effort. The deal I struck with my parents was that I wanted to pay off these loans when I graduated, in exchange for them helping me fill the cracks between financial aid, student loans and some grants and awards I got.

They helped me pay for school while in school, and I’ve mostly paid down the debt on my own since. That’s why I’m happy to say I have finished paying off all of my student debt, the combination of going to a relatively affordable state school, a lot of financial literacy help from my father and a lot of determination from me wanting to stop paying interest.

As is my nature, I wanted to record as much as I could figure about my experience paying for college from 2004 until now.

Estimated Costs: $100k~ ($86k of which was direct tuition payment)

  • 2004-2005 (freshman) — $25k ($18k in tuition and books and $7k in room and board)
  • Summer 2005 (summer abroad) — $5k in tuition, books travel and room and board
  • 2005-2006 (sophomore) — $27k ($20k in tuition and books and $7k in room and board)
  • 2006-2007 (junior) — $23k (this includes a semester in Japan and a spring semester off-campus apartment, which I paid separately on my own through work)
  • 2007-2008 (senior) — $20k ($19,320 tuition and books only, as I lived in my own apartment which I paid for via work)

Revenue: $100k~

  • $42k in direct parental payments over four years
  • $42k in government and private student loans ($7k of which my parents paid)
  • $13k in scholarships including an annual merit-based payment
  • $3k in miscellaneous school related salary, including writing for the Temple News, participating in university research, working in a residence hall computer lab, etc.

Who paid what?: $110k for both university and student loan costs

  • Parents: $49k in direct payment and $7k student loan repayment help in 2009
  • Me: $47k for $35k in student loans (less what my parents contributed), $3k in direct payment and $9k in student loan interest payment
  • Scholarship: $13k

Let’s give some context by using current numbers from a recent Sallie Mae report [PDF]. To compare my breakdown, note that the national average of direct parental contributions has fallen considerably since 2008 (my senior year), seen below, when they accounted for 36 percent, plus nine percent in parental borrowing. My use of scholarship money was below average — 13 percent compared to 25 percent — and as a result personally I paid considerably more than average and my parents also contributed more.

Source: How America Pays for College in 2013: Sallie Mae
Source: How America Pays for College in 2013: Sallie Mae

What these figures don’t include:

  • For the first two years at Temple I held various on-campus jobs (computer lab, college newspaper, tutoring, etc.) for which I earned more than is reflected in what I paid toward tuition. That money covered social costs, city transit and the like.
  • The costs of my studying abroad in Tokyo beyond tuition, including flight, domestic travel and food, were largely covered by my taking part in a NBC Digital Studio pilot web series called ‘Junior Year Abroad’
  • The last 18 months of my time at Temple (after returning from Tokyo) I lived in an off-campus apartment and covered rent, utilities, food, etc. by working

More specifics on my loans: $42,000 in principal-only loans

  1. $17,000 overall for AESuccess (split between two semesters: $5500 senior +$5500 junior +$3500 junior+2625 freshman) (Senior year $5,500 federal unsubsidized Stafford loan 6.8% disbursement date 08/23/2007 Paid it off 10/17/2011 w/ a $4,525.76 payment ($4,502.28 to principal, $23.48 to interest)
  2. $15,000 Sallie Mae – $7,500 in August 2005, $7,500 January 2006
  3. $10,000 NJ Class July 2006 ($5k in aug 2006 and $5k in jan 2007)

I used a spreadsheet to get some of the basics for my loans, though, as you’d expect out of a college kid, I left many details behind.

3 thoughts on “Here’s the final math on my middle class $100k college education”

  1. Way to go with being honest and transparent about your background. It also makes me want to build the same reports on my student loans and post them. Great article.

  2. “I feel lucky beyond words”. In Europe, higher education is almost free, as it should be in any civilized country. Otherwise, it is very difficult for poor or less fortunate people to escape their background. Everyone has the right to get educated, it’s a pillar of progress. I am a MD and my education cost about 500 euros per year at a very good university.

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