Kelli Space, You’re an Idiot

In 2011 I have resolved to give more to charity, but there is one “charity” (and I use that term loosely) that I will most definitely not be giving to this year.

Her name is Kelli Space and she started a website called “Two Hundred Thou” where strangers send her cash to help pay off her $200,000 in student loans for her undergraduate sociology degree from Northeastern University in Boston.

Really? This whole situation makes me queasy—who goes that far into debt for a sociology degree and then decides to panhandle on the Internet because they made a poor life choice?

Kelli Space made a very dumb decision: to go to Northeastern without scholarships or financial aid. Presumably she graduated from high school with basic math skills and could have fathomed how huge and scary $200,000 of debt is. She also should have read up on her lender. If she did, she would have learned that her chosen loan provider, Sallie Mae, is known for keeping college kids in debt longer.

I am empathetic to Space’s situation. I, too, am in college loan debt—when I’m done with my Master’s it’ll be some $50,000. But I’m not at all sympathetic. Because instead of going to an expensive, elite, undergrad school, I chose to save money and go to a state school—something Space should have looked into.

Space said on her website that she “had” to go to Northeastern because she was the first person in her family and extended family to go to college. Yes, well I was the first person in my family and extended family to graduate from high school, Kelli, and I didn’t “have” to go to my first choice, Boston University.

Like Space I was smart (good GPA), but not smart enough (my SAT scores were average at best). And I was poor, but not poor enough (because my Dad worked lots of overtime so we could afford car and mortgage payments). Like Space, BU didn’t offer me any scholarship money and only minimal financial aid. But I made a smart choice: to go to a cheaper, yet just as reputable, school for my major — English.

Space should have known that a sociology degree at Northeastern is basically the same as a sociology degree at UMass. It’s called reading up on a situation before you sign your life away to Sallie Mae.

I know the allure of paying for a name. I understand the rush of excitement when you’re in a school’s Facebook network and everyone can see how “smart” you are, especially when you come from a working class family. But when you come from a working class family, you can’t always afford that name.

I’m at Columbia now because I worked hard. While double-majoring in English and history at the University at Buffalo (a state school), I worked a part-time job at Borders. I spent every summer working over 40 hours a week to save money and this past summer, before I moved to New York City, I worked three jobs for 80 hours a week, because I knew affording this next year was entirely on me.

Space also said she’s in debt because she studied abroad. I wanted to study abroad but I couldn’t afford it, so I didn’t go. Sometimes life calls for sacrifices, Miss Space, and you have to deny yourself. You can’t always get what you want.

What annoys me the most about Space’s website, though, is that she said she has a full-time job, works 40 hours a week and still can’t afford loan payments. Well, Kelli, how about getting another job? Millions of Americans have multiple jobs just so they can get by—you should get one, too. I am fully expecting to go back to Borders after I get my Master’s in order to fund student-loan payments. A degree from a “fancy” school does not make you immune to working at a bookstore or even a fast food chain. You do what you have to do to get by, especially in this economy.

So far, people all over the Internet have donated over $7,000 to Space. Why? Why are you wasting money on a girl who made a poor life choice when there are starving people without homes that your money could better serve? Space has a job. Space has the skills to get another job. Space lives with her parents. Give your money to someone who lost their job because of the recession. Give your money to someone who lost their home in the foreclosure crisis. Give your money to someone who truly needs it because they fell, unexpectedly, on hard times.

Don’t give your money to Kelli Space. She doesn’t need it.

What she needs is a reality check, more work ethic, and less whining.

Caitlin Tremblay I work at Thomson Reuters in NYC and I'm a 2011 graduate of Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. I could live off of Ring Pops and cucumbers and I still pay for music. I think tattoos, Chuck Klosterman, Rolling Stone, red pens, day planners and Shakespeare are rad. You can find me on Twitter (@CTrembz).

View all posts by Caitlin Tremblay

27 Responses to “Kelli Space, You’re an Idiot”

  1. Erica

    Great article – it’s a subject I haven’t given much thought to before! I’ve seen stuff like this before though. In fact, I think my friend might start one so he can go on vacation (although I *think* that was a joke). Isn’t there a freelancing program where you can donate money to have someone get a project up and running? I know musicians have been using that as a way to fund their albums, but the name is escaping me. I actually really like THAT idea, like being a part of a project/knowing you gave to the cause, but I agree with you on the college front. I decided to stay in state, instead of an expensive California school. I appreciated the inexpensive education so much, and I couldn’t turn down an amazing degree and so little debt. I’m glad I did, because I don’t even know what I would do struggling in my mid-twenties with so much debt! I think more people should think about their financial ramifications before jumping into situations. On the counterpoint…you only live once! I’m sure this girl would regret it forever if she didn’t study abroad. Me? I regret not dropping $1000 to spend a few nights in Vegas with my friends a few months ago. Damn you, financial responsibility!

    Reply
  2. nita

    wow i’ve never heard about this. it reminds of the parents that started a website for people to donate 2 million by a certain date or they were going to abort their baby.

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  3. Mark

    This woman sickens me.

    I see that her website VERY wisely has no comments enabled.

    Reply
  4. Eugene Kim

    Give her a break. Having a full-time job is hard. It takes away from my Facebook and TV time. Not to mention having to wake up early… I can barely get 8 hours anymore!

    I think I’m going to follow Kelli’s model. My rent is pretty high because I have indoor garage parking and a newly renovated 2 bedroom in the Back Bay in a managed property with 24/7 concierge and gym. But I had to live there, because I’m the first in my family to live in Boston.

    I hope people will be just as generous in helping me pay my monthly rent as they have been helping Kelli with her college debt – something I don’t think many can empathize with.

    Thank you, Kelli, for being an inspiration to all of us!

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  5. Nicole Berard

    As a gen-xer, I can say that this is the kind of brat who gives Millennials the self-indulgent rep they often don’t deserve. Plenty of this woman’s peers have managed to deal with the crippling cost of college by making smart decisions and coming up with creative solutions. This woman is more than an idiot; she’s a freeloading waste of oxygen.

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  6. Ashley

    Damn, girl – you tell ‘em!

    On a serious note, you are 100% correct. I always wanted to go to Boston College, but knew I could have all of the same elements (nationally accredited programs, great student activities, school tradition, etc.) by going to a less expensive state school where I could potentially receive a scholarship. I’m from Fort Lauderdale, and I went to school in Tallahassee, FL – a place known for its Southern hospitality and hills (yes, there are some “hills” in Florida). I tell people I went to FSU to get an out-of-state experience with an in-state tuition, and I am incredibly happy I did.

    I hope more people read your post and think twice about donating money to Ms. Space and people like her.

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  7. Mark

    The other articles about her say that she has to make loan payments now of $800 a month which will rise to $1600 a month.

    I guess that those numbers didn’t seem big to her when she was living in NU’s on-campus housing. Non-freshman housing there costs $800 a month for the cheapest and $1600 for the most expensive.

    There are so many steps you can take to reduce your college costs, even if she HAD to go to NU, she could always have lived off campus with friends to get a cheaper rent. She could have become an RA and had housing for free.

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  8. Kaitlin

    I’m glad you wrote this, Caitlin, not least because I don’t have to hear you complain about it anymore ;) juuuust kiddiiiiiing :D

    In all seriousness, though, I agree with you. I chose to go to an expensive private school for undergrad and I studied abroad and I came to grad school at Columbia, all without much in the way of scholarships or personal worth. I’ve done it mostly on loans and while I know that was not the brightest idea, I’m well aware of every cent I have borrowed and how long it will take to pay off. I’ve been working since I was 16 and at times have worked several jobs, and it has gotten me through, but I know I’ll be in debt for a long time. The way I look at it, it’s been worth it. Maybe I’m what’s wrong with America and with our generation, but to me getting two degrees and spending four months living in Europe was worth it, and I have every intention of paying every cent back in full, even if it takes a while. So I think that’s the difference between me and Space-head. I know what I’m getting myself into and I’m holding only myself accountable.

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  9. Jen Kalaidis

    Caitlin, I completely agree with you that Kelli should have had more foresight and gone to a more affordable school. I don’t know who would EVER take out that much money for an undergraduate degree, especially one in the Liberal Arts. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Liberal Arts (I was a History major myself), but the payoff is just not there to justify it, ESPECIALLY when you can go to a state school and get a comparable education.

    Yeah, having $200,000 in loans sucks. The average loan debt is $20,000 I believe, so she is in WAY over her head. Yet that $200,000 does not have to be paid back now. I’m sure she could set up a reasonable payment plan, work her 40 hours a week, live at home for a few years to really offset expenses, and pay monthly installments like the rest of the Proletariat, she would be fine. It’s a shame how much sympathy people give her in a climate where many a hardworking working family are losing their homes to foreclosures (Not to mention are going hungry!) yet we still have people bitching about funding social programs or regulating banks.

    I wonder if Kelli will enroll in grad/law school in the near future. There’s a way to not deal with your loans for awhile! Hell, maybe by then she’ll have hustled her way to $200,000 by the time of her next graduation!

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  10. Julia Drewniak

    Great article as usual Caitlin and I agree with you on all points. While I was lucky enough to have my parents pay for undergrad (with the stipulation that I had to go in-state, luckily got somewhere good) I have to figure out how to pay for grad school. Since I don’t want to go into debt I’ll have to find a job. Same with the study abroad stuff. I value my education over travel. Except for road trips! ;D

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  11. Pamela King

    I love this article and wasn’t aware of this girl’s website. As a Northeastern graduate I’m a little ashamed. I was fortunate to go to school with substantial scholarships that made it a more affordable choice than even my state school (UNH). However, there are plenty of opportunities for Northeastern students to earn money and learn about financial management through the co-op program. Too bad Kelli didn’t take any of those lessons home after graduating.

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  12. jmc

    Wait a second. When I first skimmed this I thought that she went to NorthWESTERN. You know, an actual decent school. What the hell is NorthEASTERN University? I’ve NEVER heard of it until now. Looked it up, it is a TOTAL CRAP school! I feel bad for this girl, she was sold a bill of goods, but what she needs to realize is that she has to pay for her mistakes

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  13. S

    Why should someone have to “deny” themselves an opportunity to enrich their lives? Why should she have to get 1 hour of sleep a night just because she isn’t as privileged as other?? Kelli Space is resourceful, creative, and is advocating for AFFORDABLE education for EVERYONE. Education is supposed to be the great equalizer…and it doesn’t matter what you study it is NEVER a mistake!

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  14. David

    This was an AWESOME post. You had me at “Space also said she’s in debt because she studied abroad. I wanted to study abroad but I couldn’t afford it, so I didn’t go. Sometimes life calls for sacrifices.”

    I wanted to go on a international practicum (study abroad) BADDDDDDDDD this coming Spring semester. I talked to a dozen people trying to find one to say it wasn’t worth it so I could more easily say no. EVERYONE said it was worth it. Ultimately I had to be a man and look in the mirror and say to myself that I could not afford it and to simply not go no matter what the temptation.

    I hope she enjoys staring in her mirror provided by her parents in the same room she grew up in. 200k for a sociology degree hahaha. Someone donate her Financial Peace University or a wikipedia article on IRR or NPV. God help the man who marries that debt.

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  15. Deborah

    I went to a great school, and graduated with hardly any debt! That is because I went to a financially well-supported school, and applied for financial aid. The choice isn’t “fancy elite private school” or “state school” — there are tons of schools who are willing to work with you on the right financial aid package. It’s posts like yours AND Kelli’s that make everyone look like idiots. You are never “too poor” but not “poor enough”- colleges can see what you can pay (hello, EFC) and what you cannot (aka, the rest). I applied to 20 different colleges and all the ones I got into gave me a reasonable amount of money for me to go there. Do you people just not fill out your FAFSAs?

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    • Mary

      Deborah,

      Colleges can see what your parents can pay, but not what they are willing to pay. My parents wouldn’t hand me a dime even if FAFSA said they could afford $2 million.

      Reply
  16. Mary

    You’re so right. I went to the University of Michigan for my undergraduate education because it was a very good in-state school. I went to Columbia for my masters on a near full scholarship. My parents are a mechanic and a school teacher. My mom got her bachelors while I was in high school. I am $100,000 in debt now because I studied abroad and did a special program in Washington, DC. I don’t regret those experiences and NOBODY should be paying for them but me.

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  17. Flavio

    Poor girl, bad choice, but give her a break, she didn’t mean doin’ wrong on someone else’s prejudice, I never understood the thing with universities in US, a university is a university, as long as it is credited by government, I am currently in college, a state college, at distance college, really cheap and accessible, in the other hand my gf graduated from one of the best technology universities of Central America, she is smart as hell! but in the end we always coincide in something: the name of the university might well set you wages but never your satisfaction, I mean, people in US working in IT, legal, design, management work around 60 hours a week, investing (euphemism for burn or flush down the drain) money in breakfast, lunch, dinner and unhealthy snacks in a daily basis, expensive cars and gimmick mortgages, do that with your petty knowledge from an associates degree and see the results, YALE, Harvard?…Princeton Oh please…don’t try buying talent, go to a cheap college, be good in your daily performance, set goals and focus on yourself instead on your family’s dreams. You see that there is more in life than a college degree and a paycheck.

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  18. Michael

    Her and the millions like her have NO BUSINESS getting student loans!

    The government will give anyone with a pulse a student loan! This is destroying our education system. It is also destroying the value of a college degree. What is a college degree worth when everyone else has one?

    Even Senior citizens are going back to college graduating with 150K + in debt. Many of these people have no experience in their chosen major. Common sense tells they will be dead by the time they can pay back even a small fraction of the loan. An example is documented here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ww4m8GUK69E 1:00 minutes into the program you will see a 64 year old women who is $300,000.00+ in student loan debt.

    The government will give anyone with a pulse a student loan including high school dropouts and criminals. Background checks are ultra rare. Anyone who can sign their name can get a student loan.

    Do you people see where all of this is headed

    Kelli Space had no business borrowing 200k for a sociology degree.

    I’m listening to her right now on you tube being interviewed by Peter Schiff. In my opinion she only good for one thing.

    And it’s not a high salary. If you get my hint. :)

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  19. Heather

    Although Kelly and my specific circumstances are very different I can relate. More importantly, I overcame many odds but at a price. I invite you to visit my blog http://www.defyingmyodds.wordpress.com and learn more about me and my crusade for change. I am a former foster care child, divorced my parents aka emancipation, single/teen mom, yet put myself through college and went onto to earn a Master’s degree. I am proud of the accomplishments I made BUT my choice to put myself through college while making 17K a year as a single mom and not live on the system has landed me 120K in debt with student loans. I am seeking change. Change in our foster care system, student loan system, etc. I hope that you will visit my site, read more about my journey, and join me. Maybe you can relate, maybe you know someone who can, maybe?
    Thanks.

    Reply
  20. Tierney Parker

    As someone who opted not to go to a pricey private school, live in an expensive city, or study abroad in an effort to minimize student loans, I want to thank you for writing this article. It enabled me to land a job after that was willing to pay for my graduate degree, and I now live in a pricey city that I can afford because I made deliberate choices when I was in college. And I, too, was the first in my family to go to a four-year college. That doesn’t entitle me to solicit donations from others, it motivates me to work hard and get it myself.

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  21. Susie

    This girl is a total idiot and I find it hard to believe she even graduated from college being so dumb as to take on $200K in loans. She is now begging others to help her pay it off?? Get real. I sincerely doubt that it cost her $200K for school and she took the maximum amount for loans as she could to fund a nice lifestyle while in college. Hey, she got to study abroad right? I work full time, have a family and am in my 40′s finally finishing my Bachelors degree. I could only afford an Associates degree at a Community College the first time around, now I’m part-time at a State School (because they would accept all my credits and it’s cheap!). No one cares where you went to college, it only matters that you have a degree. Live and learn baby and stop begging. Get a second or even a third job like the rest of us.

    Reply

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