In Debt For Life: One Former Foster Youth’s Cost Graduating College

By everyone’s quick assessment, I’m considered a success story. My biography makes for a nice catchy tagline: Former foster youth and sexual abuse survivor bred in poverty overcomes all odds by graduating from college and publishing a book. While this tagline rings true, it has come at a great cost that I fear I will be paying for a least another decade or so. 

Growing up, everyone and I do mean everyone, told me that if I was ever going to succeed in life, I needed to go to college. Even my immediate relatives, none of whom graduated from college – let alone high school for some – showed me by example that if I didn’t want to end up like them, I needed to go all the way with my education. So, I did and it was extremely difficult.

I need to stop here for a moment to relay the level of difficulty it was for me to graduate college: it was very, very challenging. I had to suppress all natural urges to just cut and run and quit to engage in self-destructive behaviors. Financially, emotionally and mentally, I had to support myself to get through and I struggled daily for many years to complete my education.

A large part of the reason why it was hard for me to graduate college was due to all the high schools, some non-public, I bounced around in foster care. Also, in addition to working jobs, it took years of extra remedial courses and tutoring to help assist me in graduating. I also had almost no emotional support. But eventually, somehow, through grit and determination, I did it. I graduated from California State University, Sacramento with honors in 2003 and got my Masters in English from Mills College in 2005. I not only graduated with a 3.93 GPA, but I was the graduate ceremony commencement speaker.

When I was in college, there were no Chaffee grants and hardly any funding for former “state of wards.” No one in my college circles could help because former foster youth rarely went to school for more than a couple semesters. Since the internet was in its infancy when I was a Freshmen, I spent many weeks in the various libraries reading through every “Cash for College” resource books I could get my hands on. I was able to net $1,000 from that search.

Signing promissory notes in those loan class orientations gave me anxiety and pause, but I saw no other alternative. I was determined to go to college. Also, naive as this will sound, I was young, idealistic, and hopeful that if I worked hard enough, got an education, I’d get a job that would pay down the loans in 7-10 years time and that would be that. Well, it’s almost been a decade since I graduated and I’ve only managed to pay a third of my debt down despite paying on a regular basis. I’m not going to lie.

Sometimes I regret going to college. I would have a debt free life right now if I didn’t go. And the degrees I have not netted the desired result. But it’s too late now. If I could go back, I would have approached it differently such as going to a community college before transferring or sticking with an associate degree. Still, we do the best we can with the information we have and I had no one to guide me then. But that was then, and this is now.

Now I’m in debt. My thesis led to a book that I’m presently working on turning into a screenplay (which will cost me nothing but time on evenings and weekends). Hopefully, the screenplay will be optioned so I can pay my loans off. Until then, every dollar I earn on my memoir will go toward my loans. My dream has always been to write a book on my life and I’ve achieved it at all costs. Now, I’m using my book to pay down the cost of achieving my dream.

To help support Georgette reach her goal of paying off her student loan debt, please buy a copy of her book, “Foster Girl, A Memoir” on Amazon or by submitting a donation. Every month, she will post a copy of her loan statements on the GoFundMe site to show the efforts of your generosity. Thank you.

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About Georgette Todd 26 Articles
Georgette Todd is the author of “Foster Girl, A Memoir,” which includes court documents and chronicles her childhood abuse and teenage years in California's foster care system. Her latest book, “Life after Foster Care, 100 Things to Know,” will be available on Amazon beginning March 15, 2017. If you'd like to have her speak or give a training, you can contact her at