By Marwa Benahmed-Ali
Special to The Communitarian
Brandon Formanes, 20, of Millbourne Pa., said he felt accomplished when he received his acceptance letter from Lees-McRae College in North Carolina. Formanes’ acceptance to Lees-McRae College was his golden ticket to freedom, he thought.
Growing up in what he called a strict household, Formanes said he rarely went out due to a curfew of eight-o’clock and limited places to go to. By living on a college campus far away from home, Formanes had the opportunity to stay out late, attend the best parties, and date the most beautiful girls on campus.
“My consistent late night partying caused me to be on probation for my failing grades,” Formanes said. “I realized that I was wasting thousands of dollars on having fun, not my education.”
With $45,000 in debt accumulated from three semesters, Formanes decided to leave Lees-McRae College and transfer to DCCC where he majored in communication studies. By making this move, Formanes believed he would be able to have better control of his future.
Student loans have now surpassed the nation’s credit card debt. According to the Pew Research Center, 69 percent of college graduates took out student loans in 2012. The average amount of debt was nearly $30,000, which is difficult to pay back if college graduates are unemployed.
Formanes did not want to be another victim, he said.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Formanes at a local Starbucks to talk about his decision to transfer from Lees-McRae College to DCCC and why he believed this was the best choice for his future.
Q: How is college going for you now that you have transferred to Delaware County Community College?
A: Pretty good. Classes are classes, so who really likes them? But it’s nice to be in a less stressful situation.
Q: Why are you in a less stressful situation now?
A: Well, I’m living at home, and I don’t have to commute 12 hours to live on campus in North Carolina. Let’s not forget the hefty price tag of Lees-McRae College; it was a killer.
Q: How much was tuition annually at Lees-McRae College?
A: The tuition was $33,000, including the room and board. I also had to pay around $1,000 for books every semester, and around the same for basic living expenses.
Q: How were you able to pay the cost of attending Lees-McRae College?
A: Student Loan Surpluses from Sallie Mae, my parents helped, and I had a work study job to help supplement the need. It wasn’t enough, so I ended up dropping out.
Q: Was your accumulated debt the initial reason you dropped out of Lees- McRae College?
A: The debt was the main reason why I dropped out, but I also had personal reasons. I didn’t want to continue traveling
12 hours to attend school. That was more money I had to flush down the toilet for transportation. Pretty insane, you know? And, to tell the truth, I wasn’t taking college very seriously. I was partying a lot and enjoying the freedom, but I wasn’t thinking about the thousands of dollars that I was flushing down the toilet. I told myself that I had to pack my bags and go back home to Millbourne.
Q: What did you do when you returned to Millbourne?
A: Well, I took a bit of time to reassess my situation. After that, I got offered a job, and transferred to Delaware County Community College that following semester. It was definitely the best option for me.
Q: Please explain why this was the best option for you.
A:NowthatIhadajobandIhadabit more help from my parents, I could pay for books out of pocket versus relying on credit cards. I also didn’t have to rely on a loan surplus, which is only going to benefit me later. And, of course, since I’m home, the option to go crazy and party all the time isn’t as available, so I had the opportunity to focus more. Overall, I feel like this option would have the least negative effect on my immediate and distant futures.
Q: Please elaborate.
A: The system is currently victimizing students and I don’t want to be another victim. I wanted to come out the other side of the educational system and be in control of my own future, and eventually become independent. By transferring to Delaware County Community College, I
realized that the education was on par, and sometimes superior than my old school. [I also saved myself] the eventual $140,000 in loans that I would have accumulated if I had stayed [at my previous school].
Q: How does it make you feel knowing that you saved yourself from paying $140,000?
A: Relieved. It’s nice to know that regardless of my decision to drop out of that school, the connections here at Delaware County Community College keep the doors open for me to transfer to a four year college, and knowing that my future is in my hands keeps things in perspective.
Q: Would you recommend DCCC or other community colleges to prospective students?
A: Of course. Knowing what I know now, I’ve realized that going to a four-year college or university straight out of high school can be detrimental to your future. Once you’ve accumulated beyond $20,000 in debt, you have very few options left. You stay in school, or find a crappy job. Beyond a lot of luck, you’ll need your degree to be able to deal with all the debt. Community colleges at least give you the option to walk away if school isn’t for you, and let’s not forget that it costs around $4,000 a year compared to $33,000.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: My advice to all students who are pursuing college is: Don’t screw up in college because your mistakes will follow you for the rest of your life. Make good decisions, not bad ones that can potentially derail your future.