WARNING - RANT BELOW
Are we insane? I know I'm currently temporarily depressed about my situation and that that is warping my outlook, but are any of us not taking out a good $100,000 in loans? This is money that will be a dominent factor in my life and choice of employment for at least 10 years. Why am I pursuing this profession if I can't truly pursue it until my mid-40's?
I want to be a lawyer. I like the work, I like the ever-evolving intellectual aspect, I even quite like the idea of law school. But this incredibly massive pile of debt that seems inextricably linked to the process is just... insane. I can't find another word for it.
My case - I'm currently staring at a 50% scholarship to Northwestern. $75,000 that this incredible school is offering me to attend, and I'm going to have to turn it down, because I just can't even conceptualize, let alone rationalize, the $150,000 in loans that will be required alongside it. NU could offer me a full ride tomorrow, and I don't know how much of a difference it would make, because I'd still need very large amounts of loans just to keep my family fed, housed and clothed. We've got food, mortgage, utilities, taxes, books, fees, clothes, transportation, loan fees. Health insurance, jesus christ, if I could get family coverage for only $6,000/year in premiums I'll be happy. More likely we'll get turned down for private insurance and instead have to go through the school or Illinois CHIP, which will be about $13,000/year. For premiums. God help us if anyone actually gets SICK.
We've got savings, we've scrimped and saved and not been stupid and I've got a year of salary banked. Kiss that completely goodbye, that's the only way I could take this scholarship. Burn through all our savings and max out the possible loans, and that would give us just enough to live on for the 2.5 years until graduation. Then I can either go to:
1) Biglaw. Not even close to a guaranteed job, absolutely hellacious hours, and even at $160k it'll take a good 5 years to pay back the loans, assuming we continue to live as frugally as we do now. OR
2) PI/Government. This is at least a decent option. I hear tell of government attorneys making decent ($80-100k) money while keeping decent hours, but how hard is it to get those jobs? Hell, I don't even know which jobs those would be and whether I'd be tempermentally suited for them. Even then, that's TEN YEARS before the loans disappear.
The way this NU thing played out felt like providence, like this was what I'm supposed to do. I know in my gut that if I don't take it I will regret it for years to come. But I still think that I'm going to have to turn it down and it's tearing me up inside. I just can't think of anything else to do, any other way of massaging the numbers that will let us avoid living like we're in poverty for the next few years. If this economy wasn't the shit that it is, if my wife could find full time employment again, things would be different. But they're not. So instead, I'll attend my T2 school part time, never see my kids during school, work my ass of to make top 10%, or at least to keep my scholarship with its GPA stipulation, graduate with only $40k in loans and hope that the Chicago market will again be hospitable to T2 students again in 2015. This just... isn't right.
Sorry for ranting.