When my husband and I moved to San Diego from Lawrence, Kansas, upon him receiving his first “real job” out of college, we assumed what normal Midwesterners would — that we would live in an apartment facing the ocean with wall to wall windows. He had a good job. We genuinely believed that we would have it easy. To our dismay the only apartment we could afford was in Spring Valley off of Campo Road across the street from the Deering Banjo Factory. Even all the way out there, we could not believe how much our rent was. We could not believe how much our grocery bills were, and our gas.
I often wonder what it’s like for college graduates who were born and raised here in San Diego. Are they prepared for the disappointment of life after college in our overpriced city?
The average price of an apartment in downtown San Diego is $2149 a month, followed by North County coastal whose average is $2126 a month. The most affordable prices in San Diego are found in in East County where average rentals run $1418 a month. But even that is out of reach for many young 20-somethings. Our city is the ninth most expensive metropolitan rental market in the United States. But we are ranked 27th in the nation when it comes to income. A recent Realtor.com study, found San Diego to be the nation’s least affordable city in terms of real estate in relation to income in the nation.
The question is, how are recent college grads managing to survive in this city? Is the sunshine really worth the stress?
The out-of-state liberal arts graduate
Skyler Henry is an East County San Diego kid, born and raised. Before going away to New York for college, the furthest she ventured from home was Northern California. Henry is tall, 5’11”. She wears her long wavy brown hair pulled back into a ponytail. She is 24 but could pass for 30, not because she looks older, but because of her no-frills, no-bullshit demeanor.
Henry attended La Mesa Middle School as a kid. Her parents worried she had fallen into an unsavory crowd. Instead of sending her on to Helix High School, they opted to send her to Grossmont High School in El Cajon to get a fresh start and make some new friends.
“They told me I had to play sports,” Henry says with a nostalgic smile, “They wanted me to play a fall, winter, and spring sport so that there would be no time during the year for me to just come home after school. They wanted to keep me busy.”
Her freshmen year, Henry began playing water polo. She could barely swim, so the coaches placed her in the goalie box. To everyone’s surprise, she took it to it immediately. During her high school career, Henry exceled in the sport.
She went on to attend the Junior Olympics and was sought after by college recruiters. By her senior year coaches from Division 1 water polo programs where courting her. A handful of schools offered to pay Henry’s way to visit their universities.
“I went on a recruiting trip to Marist College. The campus was one of the prettiest places I have ever been. It’s right on the Hudson river. They paid for everything! They handed the girl who was hosting me an envelope of cash for whatever I wanted for the weekend. I worked out all my paper work and my scholarship with them and I signed [that weekend]. I thought they would give me more money than anyone else would, so I signed. They told me ‘That money is yours as soon as you sign,’ and as long as I kept my grades up. If I had waited to sign and they got a couple of more [athletes] out there, they may not have had the same budget for me,” Henry explains.
Henry says this decision was based largely on wanting to get out of San Diego and to escape her parents.
“I wanted different experiences. I wanted to travel. I hadn’t been anywhere except for Baja or Nor Cal for water polo. I wanted to go somewhere new. I was in high school, so at that time everything my parents did was so annoying and horrible. I was so tired of living with them. Of course, now looking back, they weren’t doing anything unreasonable,” Henry recalls with a laugh.
Tuition, room, and board at Marist College is $55,150.00 per year.
“They gave me a $15,000 a year athletic scholarship. I also got an academic scholarship that varied year to year depending on my GPA. That was around $5-6000 a semester. Because I was out-of-state, I got like an out-of-state bonus, it’s like getting a Cal Grant but for being out of state. That was a little less than $10,000. So, really, I was paying for my housing only.”
Upon graduation, Henry left Marist with a 3.4 grade point average, a degree in international political science and environmental science with a minor in studio art, and $60,000 in student debt.
“Housing was expensive. When I was applying for student loans, they don’t ask about any scholarships. So, I just took out whatever I would need for housing. I took out $15,000 for four years in a row. Unfortunately, they are all individual loans. No one co-signed with me so I had to go privately. I am just now figuring out what I got myself into. If you get government loans [co-signed] with your parents, they will consolidate it when you graduate. If you go through Sallie Mae, which is who I went through for my student loans, each time you take out a loan, they do not consolidate unless you find an independent loan consolidator. I took out three loans. I am making three payments a month on that, and a fourth payment on a government loan. I am spending about a $1000 a month on them.”