" null "
A typical evening: I'd been home from work for half an hour, and in the midst of preparing dinner, the phone rang.  

"Don't answer it," my husband Ahmed warned.  We do have caller ID display on our phone, and  I could have taken a cue from the phone number, or from the locations that come up as Helena, Mont., or Marietta, Ga., or just plain old TN where, as Ahmed often reminds me, I know absolutely NO ONE.   

"It might be important," I said.  He rolled his eyes. 

The number of telemarketing calls we receive has recently increased.  Often, the caller is randomly asking us to answer a survey based on our household's television watching habits, or to convince us that we've been missing out in a big way by not planning a family vacation to Branson, Mo. 

But more and more, the calls we're currently receiving are not as random.  They are offering me a solution that, I am told, may change my life by saving me thousands of dollars in student loan debt interest. 

The very possibility has me hooked.   

"Let me ask you, Ms. Brown," the caller will ask affably.  "Do you have student loans?" 

"Do I have student loans?"  I'll repeat back, laughing my best laugh of disbelief.   "Yes," I reply, soberly.  "I do."  

One night Ahmed and I sat down and re-figured what I already knew.  That when all was said and done, if minimal payments were made on time (taking the interest rate down a full percentage point), and if I took advantage of the extra half-percent reduction my lender offered to set up with a monthly auto-transfer from my bank account, I would have all my student debt paid off just prior to retirement age.   

"But that's just with making the minimum payments," I reminded Ahmed.  

"And I did hear that if you haven't paid off your student loans by the time you hit 60, they're forgiven," I lied.   

"Really?" he said, looking hopeful for the first time in the conversation.  

"No," I admitted, sheepishly.  "But it would be a good idea, wouldn't it?" 

There is small comfort in knowing my situation is not an anomaly.  According to Project on Student Debt, a group that tracks student loans, two-thirds of college students take out student loans to accommodate the rising cost of a college education, graduating with an average of $20,000 in debt.  My own undergraduate college degree was funded, almost fully, by student loans. In the time it took me to actually graduate, I stopped and started classes more times than I can count on one hand, guiltily vacillating between whether or not the payoff of obtaining a university degree from a liberal arts college was, literally, worth the cost.   

Mostly, I think, it was.  I'll stand by that somewhat worn phrase that says you can't put a price tag on education.  But the reality is that obtaining a college education comes with just that.  And that's why the following discussion in the news just a short while ago made my day.   

Recently, in an initiative to make education affordable for all students, the Board of Trustees at Davidson College, a small, private liberal arts school in North Carolina, approved and announced a new policy that will eliminate loans from financial aid packages. Beginning in August, Davidson students will have their demonstrated financial need funded entirely through grants and student employment, and can graduate debt-free. While Davidson is not the first college to pursue such a policy change, from what I have read and heard, it is the first private liberal arts college (and still just one of a couple of institutions of higher education nationwide) to launch an initiative like this, which is exciting.  

Whether or not its action will encourage other colleges to follow suit is another matter.  With some nay-sayers labeling the decision "a marketing ploy," or wondering if the proposal "really helps those who need help most," I'm going to look at this idea from where I sit, much more simply:  This is the kind of example that provides hope.  If we want to continue to view education at any level as "the great equalizer" this is a huge step in providing the kind of educational opportunity that could truly change a life. I know the possibility has me hooked. 

Tami Mohamed Brown writes from the suburb of Bloomington, where she lives with her family.