Jackie Crouch, 29, was fresh out of college when the recession hit, so she decided to ride out the economic insecurity by going to grad school. Now, seven years after the crash, she’s decided that it’s where she’ll stay for the rest of her life.
“I have a master’s degree in Therapeutic Anticipatory Movement,” says Crouch. “It’s about achieving therapeutic benefits not just from moving your body, but also from thinking about what kinds of movements you’d be making if you were in fact moving. It’s really quite amazing. Now I’m ready for my next degree.”
Crouch, whose boyfriend of 18 months recently informed her that they had never been dating, owes $84,000 in student loans. She also has problem bangs, a refrigerator with nothing but a bag of celery and a bottle of white vinegar in it, and isn’t sure which batteries in her junk drawer have juice and which are dead.
“There’s so much more to learn. The workforce expects a certain breadth of experience these days. And life is short. Which is why I plan to spend the rest of my life in graduate school, just riding out—well, everything.”
The dean of students at Southern New Hampshire University, Elizabeth Gersh, PhD, , says she sees cases like Crouch more often than you might imagine. “We’ve got six or seven lifers from the most recent graduating class alone,” says Gersh. “Some of our older lifers owe up to $375,000 in student loans.”
Gersh adds her job isn’t to tell students what to do, but to help guide them on an authentic path. “If someone’s path to authenticity involves getting six or seven PhDs, with a law or medical degree thrown in for good measure, then who am I to say that’s wrong?”
“I have a lot of friends who graduated and went on to take jobs in order to pay the bills,” said Crouch. “And every single one of them is miserable. And I’m just like—what’s the point of paying bills if you’re just going to be unhappy?” said Crouch. “I deserve to be happy and fulfilled, which means steadily incurring more and more bills until I die.”
Crouch’s parents, both of them public school teachers, declined to comment for this article.
Bernard Goettel, PhD, who has been Crouch’s advisor for the past four years, says he looks forward to working with her for the next ten. “That is, if I still have a job here,” he tells us. “I’m an adjunct professor and I don’t have tenure. So they could fire me at any moment. But Julie is a bright and motivated adult learner, and I have no doubt that she’ll succeed in whatever area she decides to concentrate in. Or all of them. Who knows.” Goettel had to cut the interview short to go work at his second job making pretzels at the mall.
Crouch grew animated thinking about the academic future that would take her through her thirties and beyond. “I think I’m going to major in classical guitar performance next,” said Crouch, excitedly scrolling through the academics tab on the website for WNHU. “Ooo though, I could do classics. No wait, marine biology. I love dolphins!”
Whatever Jackie decides to do, she remains confident in her decision to stay in grad school until death.
“I can’t worry about student loans,” said Crouch. “I believe that the universe will provide whatever I need at the right time, course-wise.”