By Sam Findlen-Golden

I grew up in a family that expected me to go to college as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to have a good public education, parents who had gone to college themselves, and an older sibling to go through the process before me and teach me the ins and outs of the Common Application, the FAFSA, and every other scary-sounding form. With all of these resources, I was able to get into and attend a renowned liberal arts college with a seemingly impressive financial aid package. I knew I would accumulate some loans before going in, but I was also able to safely assume that either me or my parents would be able to pay them off as I went.

In the three years since I first got to college, my perspective on student loans has expanded dramatically, both as I learned more about the depth of the loan crisis and talked with my peers at Bates about their financial aid situations. Namely, I learned my personal financial situation was uniquely middle ground among the students at Bates; most of my friends either handled their finances completely independently and were very nervous about paying off their loans in the short and long term, or had their parents deal with tuition and loans entirely and had never seen their financial aid packages, if they even received any. The discrepancy was shocking, and honestly infuriating. It was hard for me to imagine how people could be completely unaware of the cost of their education, and therefore apathetic to the breadth of the issue on the whole.

Working with the Hildreth Institute has made these issues all the more pressing for me. I’ve started tracking my own finances even more closely; I’ve researched the differences between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, learned about refinancing strategies, and had more conversations with my parents about money that both my family and I have saved up for college over the years, such as bonds and various savings accounts. I’ve also tried to start more conversations with my friends who have the same financial situations as me, but may not have thought about their implications as much up to this point.

When it comes to my interactions with the cost of college, I consider myself extremely lucky; I have a supportive family and a generous college when it comes to financial aid. However, my ignorance to the inner workings of college financing prior to my attendance left me complacent to a deeply flawed system for years. For the students who did not and do not have the same resources as me, the need for serious reform of both the student financing system and the general ideals of higher education couldn’t be more clear.