University of Southern Maine senior Caley Presby has had her eye on dental school for years. But after calculating how much it will cost her, she’s having some doubts.

“It’s always been the plan, but it’s so expensive,” said Presby, 21. “Who the hell has sixty grand to go to college? It’s completely unreasonable. I just don’t get it.”

She already had to make a tough call about where to go for her undergraduate degree. She wanted to go to Boston University, but it was financially out of reach.

“I remember bawling my eyes out when I realized I couldn’t go to BU,” she said. “My mom felt so bad. But at the end of the day it’s about accepting what you can afford. It’s a hard pill to swallow.”

Today, on the verge of graduating from USM with only $20,000 in student-loan debt, she’s glad she didn’t wind up taking out the $160,000 in student loans she would have needed for four years at Boston University.

She passes that hard-won wisdom on to her high school co-workers at Beals Ice Cream in Portland.

“I tell them to apply everywhere, their dream university and everywhere, but don’t set your heart on any one place until you see the financial aid package,” Presby said.

Presby, who is majoring in human biology, said she’s kept her costs low by working two jobs, living with her parents, and being helped by her parents, who paid her USM tuition and bought her a car.

“I’m really, really lucky. I know that,” she said. She took out the $20,000 in private student loans to pay for a semester overseas in Scotland last year. To pay for car insurance and daily expenses, she works two jobs. During the summer, she’s working half-time at Beals while taking summer school classes, and during the school year, she works part time at L.L. Bean.

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