After turning the tassel, area graduates are looking to the future and what’s next — joining the workforce, entering the military or going to college.

For many, it’s a tough decision due to rising tuition costs. After adding books, various fees and living expenses, going to college can be costly.

While help is available with scholarships, grants and work-study programs, many fear being saddled with huge student loan debt.

Growing up money was tight, which provided perspective about going off to college. I was on a journey to continue my education, not embarking on a four-year all-inclusive stay at a five-star resort.

Although I didn’t get my first vehicle until I was a senior, I didn’t have to trudge a mile in snow and ice to get to class. And, I didn’t have to eat copious amounts of Top Ramen because I couldn’t afford food.

I paid cash for a used Honda motorcycle, which was cheaper to maintain than a car. Also, my roommate’s parents farmed in Idaho, supplying us with ground beef and potatoes.

In addition to campus work-study, I did lots of odd jobs (some odder than others). Utilizing entrepreneurial skills, I hawked crabs on the street corner, sold others’ used textbooks on a commission basis and typed term papers for a fee. I also painted houses, weeded gardens and oversaw recreation league volleyball and basketball games. And, I received reduced rent at a farmhouse in exchange for feeding goats and chickens.

I received a few scholarships and grants, but also accrued student loans each year. Sometimes it was hard, but after writing a check for $80.11 each month for 10 years, I paid them off.

According to an inflation calculator, that’s now equal to about $214.11. The hourly wage I received back then would be equivalent to $8.29 in today’s dollars — substantially less than the current minimum wage. I stretched my earnings to meet basic needs while still chipping away at my student loans.

I urge those heading to college to budget your money, don’t assume extra loans just because a lending institution is willing to give you more and be diligent in re-paying the money. The availability of student loan programs for future generations will only continue if people are responsible.

You might not land a job making big bucks right after college. And the chances of a big windfall are even less likely — even with “Paid Off.” The TruTV game show features college grads answering trivia questions.

The show says it tests the value of the education contestants received (if trivial knowledge is truly valuable). Prize money comes in the form of paying off student loans. The show recently added a new twist. In addition to awarding more than $1 million in prize money to players, viewers can call in and answer questions for a chance to win up to $3,000 to apply toward student debt.

When heading to school, it’s helpful knowing what you want to study — changing majors can be costly. Also, students attending community college can meet basic requirements at lower tuition rates. If you’re still in high school, inquire about opportunities to earn college credits.

Joining the workforce and working a few years before going to college can help with future expenses. In addition, it might alleviate the need to haul dirty duffle bags of laundry home for your mom to do during the holidays. Best wishes to the class of 2019.

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Tammy Malgesini is the community editor. Her column, Inside my Shoes, includes general musings about life. Contact her at tmalgesini@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4539.

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