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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Commentator Christine Hill works in public relations, not the law. But she knows all about college debt.

CHRISTINE HILL: I'm 43 years old and I owe tens of thousands of dollars in student loans. Oh sure, I knew the loans were piling up as I went through school. But with one loan coming from here, another from there, I had no idea of the rockslide that was building. Fifteen years later, I still experience moments of sheer horror regarding my family's financial situation. My monthly student loan payment is more than triple my car payment.

Okay, so without my college degree I would not have been able to get my current job. For that I'm grateful, but at what cost? My loans have been accruing at a rate of 10 percent and now they have burgeoned to - well, I'm an English major; you do the math. I don't think they'll ever get paid off. We're in debt way past our eyeballs. And there's no hope in sight. I'm being kept in class, a financial class of graduates whose only hope for attending college meant borrowing money from the government.

Because of our mounting credit card debt and monthly payments that far exceed our family's income, my kids will also join the class of citizens who can't rely on their parents for college support. Do I wish I'd chosen another educational route? You bet. Perhaps trade school. I've thought that being a plumber might not be such a bad gig. But if your job aspirations require a four-year degree, take my advice and choose a college you can afford both during and after graduation.

Take a realistic look at your anticipated income and factor in priorities that don't carry a price, like the spouse and children you might want to have someday. I was overconfident that my student loan debt would pale in comparison to the lucrative writing career I'd enjoy after graduation. Now I'm paying for that decision in more ways than I'd ever imagined.

MONTAGNE: Commentator Christine Hill is a media relations representative and freelance writer in Minneapolis.

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