By: Angela Caban, Founder of the Homefront United Network

I can’t believe I made it. I never doubted that I would, I guess I am just surprised at how fast the time has passed. Just yesterday I was writing about the “Bumps in the Road” while in school and now that road has ended. On June 28, 2013, I graduated with my Master’s degree in Human Resources. Going back to school was a very difficult choice that affected not only myself, but also my family.

My college journey originally started back in 2008 when my husband, who at the time was deploying with his Army National Guard unit, gave me his blessing to return to school. My son was 2 at the time, and he needed structure since his daddy was going to be away for 12 months.  Once I received my family’s support, I took that step forward and jumped right in. It took me 2 ½ years to complete my Bachelors in Business Administration and when completed, I was in debt $48,000. That should have scared me, but I was hungry for more and I didn’t want to end it there.

When I finished my Bachelor’s program in October of 2011, I was 5 months pregnant and living further away from my family. My husband who was still in the Army National Guard, and although not deployed, was away for weeks at a time and even months at one point. I started graduate school just 3 days after graduating, I didn’t take a break, why mess with the momentum I had? I was determined and on a roll.

In March of 2012, I gave birth to my daughter and I remember logging into courses postpartum.  From my hospital room I was writing discussions – I was not going to give up even though I felt like I didn’t have the time, strength, or mental capacity to continue. My husband begged me not to overdo it and to take a small maternity break. Looking back I probably could have done so, but I was making a point – and that was that no matter what life threw at me I was going to keep on plugging away, nothing would distract me.  This was a goal for me and it was going to be a priority front and center.

While finishing my Master’s and with only 2 semesters to go, the Department of Education decided to do away with subsidized loans for graduate students. This news hit me like a ton of bricks, and I had to find out what other options were available to me. Would I need additional funding? How much would I have to pay for school out of pocket? I didn’t qualify for anything. I was so far into my degree that I didn’t even qualify for the school’s scholarship program; I was stuck. How can this happen to a 3.8 GPA student? I had busted my hump for 10 months to complete this, and I was not going to allow finances get in my way.

I had friends tell me “Oh just drop out and continue again once you can afford it.  It isn’t worth putting your family into debt.” I knew that if I stopped, it would have taken me far too long to restart my path. Once you are in the groove of school, you need to stick with it and finish! My family wasn’t going to starve, we would just have to make certain sacrifices and as a family we made the choice to ride it out and pay what I needed to finish. It worked out for us in the end, my husband’s military discount ended up covering what we would have had to pay out of pocket per semester, and I finished at the top of my class with a 3.89 GPA.

Today, I have now been out of school for a few months now and I never thought I would miss it as much as I do. I am starting to get the learning itch. And despite the fact that I am $111,681 in debt, that P.H.D is looking very tempting…

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