this article from the New York Times today really put things in perspective for me a little. Apparently students are entering culinary school and are unable to pay off their debts after graduation. Many of them are defaulting. The article mentions how one student was urged by their school to take out private loans in addition to the federal ones and now is working as a cook earning $20k a year.
I hate to think of anyone having an experience like that, especially if it discourages others from pursuing their dreams. I think that private loans are really dangerous (as you can tell from my expeience). Luckily I only took out two of them during my 7 years of school. The rest of the money owed after federal loans were exhausted was paid by my parents and a generous fellowship I received in graduate school. Most of my friends in graduate school took out private loans for all three years.
I also think that while my degree (and the professional licensing that came with it) was neccessary to pursue my dream, perhaps culinary school isn't as much. Now I don't know much about the industry, but I do know that there is a very good community college with a culinary program near where I live. It seems to me too many schools are urging students to pay amounts that exceed the federal student loans as part of a racket. There has been investigations going on in New York about schools receiving kick backs from lenders.
I guess I should consider myself lucky to have a marketable degree with earning power (even though it's not earning me quite enough right now) and a job in my preferred field. Me lucky, how about that!