We’ve all heard that D-word thrown around a great deal more than we would have preferred, especially after starting college and entering early adulthood. It has been said that once you get the D-word it looms over you for years, trickling into every decision you make: “Should I really go to the movies or should I just stay home?” “Is dinner really worth the work I will have to do later to make up for it?” Now, the big D is obviously debt, specifically student debt. Millions of Americans suffer from a self-induced state of student debt brought upon by attending college, according to CNBC. Students rack up thousands of dollars in debt in the hopes that they might obtain a solid educational foundation, and by extension, a secure job for their future. The unfortunate truth is that they still won’t be guaranteed a job once they graduate. There is only one true way to guarantee one’s employment after graduation, and that is by joining the military. This may sound intimidating, I know. I was intimidated too at first. However, after learning more about the military, I found that joining is actually a great way of staying debt-free. Joining the military includes many perks such as scholarships, paid tuition, student loan forgiveness and, as previously mentioned, guaranteed employment upon graduation.
Scholarships seem to be increasingly more difficult to obtain. When I was applying to college after high school it felt like I was eligible for a few dollars, a sum hardly scratching the surface of my in-state tuition costs. I knew that the Army could offer students who are soldiers in the National Guard a tuition waiver for their university. After a stressful and money-crunched freshman year I looked into the National Guard, but decided it was not for me. That is when I discovered the ROTC program at the University of Nevada. What it offered me seemed too good to be true: a monthly living stipend, a $5,000 scholarship every semester, all my books paid for every semester AND my tuition waived. I was ecstatic! Finally, I would not have to worry about money anymore. I could actually be free of the D. I had found my new career.
When a student graduates from a university they can receive up to $65,000 in relief, according to forgetstudentloandebt.com. To put that in perspective, according to CNBC, the average student accumulates approximately $29,000 in unpaid student loans upon graduation. So the average student would be perfectly accommodated under this amount of relievable debt.
A guaranteed job after graduation is the dream that many struggling college graduates strive toward. When I signed my contract to receive all my scholarship money, I was also signing an employment contract. I had just been hired by the U.S. Army to serve eight years in the National Guard after graduation. This ends with an almost perfect situation — a graduate of ROTC becomes a second lieutenant in the Army when they begin their career. If they join the National Guard they have one paid drill weekend a month. The money received by a second lieutenant is enough to cover a great variety of bills, be it a car payment, groceries for the month or even rent. This type of income, part-time or not, is a huge asset to a college graduate.
There are many other reasons why joining the military is a great decision, but for a college student the money is almost too good to pass up.
Andrew Montes studies mechanical engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.