• Rob Friedl

Up Yours, Sallie Mae

You'd never guess I went to school to become an airline pilot

Parents don't like to hear it, but this is the honest truth:

College was the worst mistake of my life.

$80,000.00 and 4.5 years after enrolling at Purdue, I carried a fresh commercial pilot license and 250 hours of flight time into the beleaguered market of 2009. As I walked across the stage to receive that very expensive piece of toilet paper, the US economy was suffering its worst unemployment rate on record, at 18.5% for people between 16-24 years old. Beaming with pride, I accepted my degree, finally ending a near half-decade of flushing my financial future down the toilet.

It was a quick and harsh lesson learned, that what mattered to the working world was not a degree, but certifications and experience. I'll never forget my interview with a crop-dusting outfit, where I was applying for a ground crew position.

When the operator heard how many hours I had, he laughed in my face.

You can imagine my reaction, when throughout the following three years of jumping through minimum-wage job after job, I would receive a request for funding support from the Purdue Alumni Association. It took everything I had not to drive to their office and drop a steaming pile of my opinions on their front desk. So many times I literally could not afford to feed myself, much less make the $900.00/month minimum payments on my student loans. Forbearance carried my debt well above six figures. When my flip-style phone broke one day doing landscaping, I had no option but to splint it with pencils and duct tape.

Finally, after having the blessed opportunity to work my can off through hellacious weather atop towers and wind turbines while living out of a tent, I began to afford more than ramen noodles. In 2013, I declared war on my debt, and within two years, had paid off $30,000.00 above and beyond my monthly payments. For the first time since graduation, I was able to breath.

Impressed by this feat, the lender decided to ask me how I accomplished all this, and offered to share my story, in the hopes that it might inspire other borrowers. With a maniacal laugh, I cracked my knuckles and tore into the keyboard. My one eye glowing red, and spittle flying from the corners of my mouth, I let the world know ALL ABOUT my story.

Knowing they'd never publish it, I saved the screen-shots and posted it to facebook. To this day, this is the most-shared thing I've ever posted.


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