Friday, December 15, 2006

Bon Voyage, Student Loan, Bon Voyage!

I sat down this morning to pay a few bills, an exercise in frustration of late with the shortage of funds. Not this time though… today was a momentous occasion. I wrote the check for the very last payment on my student loan. I feel like celebrating. This day has been a long time coming. I didn’t have to borrow any money for the master’s degree, being able to meet my expenses with assistantships and tuition scholarships. The student loan in question dates back even further, to my undergraduate days.

A number of years ago I realized I had saved up enough so that I could have paid the whole thing off lump sum, but when I looked into it, there was very little benefit. I’d already paid all the interest, and my out-of-pocket expense would have been virtually the same if I wrote one big check, or umpteen little ones. I decided having some personal savings was more important than getting rid of the debt. Student loan is "good" debt, after all. However, none of that dampens my enthusiasm for being free of one more obligation.

Now I have to consider giving back. Well, not now in the literal sense, obviously. First I have to get a job and get my finances back in order. But as an undergraduate, as the part of the same financial aid package that included the maximum allowable Stafford loans, I also received scholarships every year funded by the Alumni Association. The monetary denominations were small, but it was a state school, and every little bit really did help. I promised myself that down the road, I would give back to help other needy students. [Of course, I was assuming I would be employed by the time I paid of my loans: the innocence of youth.]

I need to be careful how I go about this, however. The Alumni Association is pretty aggressive about fundraising, and solicit often, by mail and phone, too, which I find particularly repugnant. I will never give money to anyone who calls on the phone, never ever ever. I have no interest in being a member for the sake of membership. I am not very social, and do not wish to support the vast array of get-togethers, golf outings, and homecoming tail-gating parties they are constantly organizing.

On their website, there is no option to give exclusively to the scholarship fund. In fact, I can find no mention of the Alumni Scholarship whatsoever. Could they have discontinued the scholarship? Why? Why would they do that? What is my obligation here? And how the hell do I honor it?


met said...

I personally think giving back is something that you do to the Universe and not to the college itself necessarily. You can send money earmarked for the scholarship fun once you're employed. Just write a check marked "scholarship fund" and send it to them. You could send some to another good college or to Second Home Nature Center. You could do some of each. You don't have to pay back the one you got, just pass on the love. If they have a fund, give it to them. If not, there are small grants administered to students on the basis of need or grades, give to those. You have a little time to do soem leisurely research. There are lots of good causes.

met said...

Oh, and, by the way, CONGRATULATIONS!!!! YAY!

Sara said...

met, I think you are right, that I shouldn't worry about giving to the exact same fund that helped me out, as long as I find some way. I would like to help students at that school though.

There is a list of scholarships (not associated with the Alumni Association) that are earmarked for very specific cases: for students of specific majors, for students from particular areas, that kind of thing. They all accept donations. It will be fun to pick and choose that way.