I graduated from the Ohio State University with a fine arts degree in 2004. This is what I settled on after changing my major four times in my first three years at school. Clearly college wasn't for me, but I finished it because I wanted to make my parents proud and thought it would improve my life. Neither of my parents went to college, but they managed a pretty good life for themselves. Like all loving parents they wanted me to have a better life than them and were duped into believing that college was the answer. From the first day in elementary school to my last day in high school, we believed the myth that college was the only real path to success.
I thought it would be an honor to be the first person in my immediate family to graduate from the institution idolized by so many people in Ohio. Unfortunately, it was the exact opposite of honorable. My parents weren't wealthy enough to pay for my higher education, but made just enough money that disqualified me for financial assistance.
When I turned to OSU's financial aid office for help they directed me to Sallie Mae. It was like they sold my soul while pretending to help me out. Not once in all my years of existence was I taught about the student loan industry's shady practices or the possible difficulties I might have with paying back the loans. Like most naïve 18-year-olds, I believed that it would be as easy to pay back the loans as it was to get them. I was told that it was a great investment so I never questioned going into debt.
I realized I had made a horrible investment a few months after graduating. All college gave me was a worthless, lackluster "education" and a huge mountain of student loan debt. College definitely didn't prepare me for the real world. Looking back at my higher education experience I was just a cog in the machine, treated more like a customer than a student.
My efforts to do anything meaningful with my life have been severely hampered by this debt. Since graduating I have been forced to live off the grid because getting a soulless, dead-end, low-paying job is the only other option and a horrible, hopeless option at that. This has been very arduous, but thanks to odd jobs and help from my family and friends I have somehow survived.
When I fell off the grid I believed that my filmmaking dream was my only savior so I've been teaching myself the last seven years to be the best filmmaker I can be. Luckily, it has given me hope. Now I somehow find myself working on an ambitious feature-length documentary, The Elephant on Campus. It's about the need for higher education reform in America. My goal is to raise awareness, inspire change and hopefully prevent others from falling into the same trap that I fell into.
Follow Mike Newman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ekimnamwen