Skyler Henry is paying about $1000 per month in student loan repayment. “It’s more than my rent. I’ll be done paying it off when I’m like 45.”
  • Skyler Henry is paying about $1000 per month in student loan repayment. “It’s more than my rent. I’ll be done paying it off when I’m like 45.”
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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.

Beck Seashols,

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 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.”

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Strelnikov April 15, 2018 @ 10:38 a.m.

Student loans are a scam, the only loans in America you can't void through bankruptcy (since 1998). If you wish to know how bad the default rate is and how we got to a trillion dollars in student debt, stick the term "StudentLoanJustice dot org" into your search engine; the founder of that website, Alan Collinge, writes about one op-ed column to a national publication every couple of months.


Wabbitsd April 16, 2018 @ 4:48 p.m.

I have a few questions for all these students...did their parents not chip in to pay their tuition? Did their parents do any counseling as far as major choice, etc? Is the concept of going to community college and working through an education not even a thought for kids heading to college these days?


Visduh April 18, 2018 @ 7:33 p.m.

The author chose these three grads just because they were carrying big student loan debt. One got a scholarship far away and incurred debt for living expenses, the next one studied locally and still ended up owing a lot, and the third went to a church school that charged plenty. All now have a massive burden.

Did they consider less-costly ways to get an education? Who knows. Whatever they may have thought about, they made their choices, "girls and boices." And now they have to pay, pay, pay.

When this present notion of borrowing, and borrowing massively, to finance a college degree came along, it seemed to simple. Students would borrow the money they needed (which wasn't going to be all that much), and upon graduation would get good-paying situations that would allow a payoff with little sweat. Those were the assumptions, neither of which applies today. To borrow your way to a BA/BS degree now, you need to plan to borrow plenty. And there is no reason to assume you can get a job that pays so much that you can easily pay off the loan(s). One thing that all that student debt did was to enable the colleges and universities to raise their tuition and fees at a rate that far exceeded general consumer price hikes. That is, the more students could borrow, the more the schools could and did charge.

The real deal here is that the long-held expectation of a college education paying for itself, and paying fairly quickly, is no longer valid. (It never really was true for many grads, but society bought into it nonetheless.) And now these grads with few or no career skills and a mountain of debt are faced with a life of deprivation, little hope for family formation, little hope of home ownership, and constant struggle. It's a scandal, and still there's no real awareness of how big a mess student debt is. A sad, sad story.


Bramero Oct. 23, 2018 @ 8:07 a.m.

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