When I was in high school, I listened to the same doctrine spoken by academic “counselors”.
“You must have a college degree in order to succeed in America.”
This statement was ingrained into my psyche. It wasn’t enough to just get to college. I had to walk the stage. It wasn’t enough for me to walk the stage. I had to do so with great success from my education. In May 1993, I achieved all of those goals.
It took me 3 1/2 years, two grueling summer sessions and a winter term for me to graduate. In my senior year, I skyrocketed to a 3.5 GPA (grade point average). I got my high “B+” to A- average. In all, I enrolled and left two, private schools with a cummulative 3.0 honor roll score. I figured my professional life was set for success.
But, reality hit later that fall. My liberal arts degree with a heavy emphasis on technical writing earned me no entry-level, writing job. Des Moines Register decided to hire graduates out of Penn State and other more recognized institutions. They didn’t care for my education at Graceland University (Lamoni) or Grand View College (Des Moines). My degree amounted to bird dung on a sidewalk with Human Resources. I applied for a column writer position at $7.75 an hour which was a “fortune” back then! My $30,000 in private education debt got me $30,000 in actual debt and no way out of it.
I was underemployed for six months. I did a brief stint as a telemarket for a home insurance company. I listened to old ladies curse me out for calling them at dinner time for $5.50 an hour. I lived in a $59 a week hotel which should’ve been condemned for drugs and prostitution. However, “making it” in Des Moines was my Hollywood dream. So, I stayed and learned to hustle.
I worked at under the table, cash only jobs. I bought discounted perfumes and clothing from street vendors. I did what I could to keep the costs down from living virtually hand to mouth. I struggled like this until I started my first restaurant job at Marriott Hotel.
I worked as a barback and dishwasher for two years. After that, I rose to server attendant in a family dining establishment. All I did was work for $4.00 or $5.00 an hour and tips. I refilled drinks and picked up dirty dishes for servers/waiters who made hundreds more a week than me. And then, I wanted to be a server.
Marriott never gave me the opportunity. I went to Embassy Suites and from then on, I became one of the best servers this city has ever produced. But, it took me until 2007 to start earning what my liberal degree got me.
The Federal Government gave banks a bailout to assist our economy. They gave auto companies bailouts to keep them from going to bankrupt. However, the everyday citizen has received nothing but layoffs and pink slips.
Without a miracle (such as winning a lottery), I will die with this $30,000 or so college debt. I can’t pay off something when my earnings are small. Would you invest in a $30,000 car if you only made $7.50 an hour at 40 hours a week?
I have a cheap clunker that dies and breaks down. But, i own it. I have full coverage insurance on my clunker. But, i own that also. I own this debt. But, unless I can share a six-figure job that guarantees me six years employment, I can’t pay it.
I need our federal government to work with me (for a change).