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My crushing student debt

It all began in August 2001, when I decided to participate in one of the great annual migrations known to man: alongside millions of fellow eighteen-year-old Americans, I had graduated from high school and was going to college.

My high school class and I moved like a school of fish: we graduates were capable of going off on our own, in whatever direction we chose, but something demanded we all swim as one, curving, cutting, sashaying together, wiggling our way to college. Except for a few miscreants, we all ended up in college.

In high school, if someone asked me what my “plans” were, I’d click into brainwashed robot mode: my body would become rigid, my pupils would dilate, and in a monotone, I’d recite, “I-will-go-to-the-best-college-I-can-get-into. No-matter-the-cost.” At some point, I’d convinced myself that going to college was what I really wanted to do. So I went to Alfred University, a pricey private college in southern New York. My first year at Alfred would cost me $18,450. Later, I would transfer to a cheaper state school, and my total price tag for higher education: $32,000.

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