I owe $42,140.36 (& counting) in student loans


Money / Friday, June 2nd, 2017

After high school, I knew that I wanted to take my general classes at the local community college and that I didn’t want to take on any student loans. As a first generation student, I didn’t know how FAFSA worked, and applying to a big school was intimidating, and expensive. If community college worked out, then I’d finish my degree at a public state school. Then I found out about Agnes Scott, a private women’s liberal arts college. I fell in love and knew I wanted to attend. Imagine my dismay when I looked at the cost of attendance.

If I spent 4 years finishing my degree, it’d cost me $207,720-$231,860 out-of-pocket.

As a first generation student from a lower-income family, there is no way I could’ve afforded that. Luckily, I did finish my Associate’s at the local community college and transferred to Agnes Scott debt-free. I got financial aid, scholarships, grants, and was able to use that money to finish my Bachelor’s. Even though I did a lot of research through a fellowship I received, I lived at home for a majority of that time and commuted to class/lab. I took on extra jobs as a tutor (both in- and off-campus), worked as a research fellow, and even babysat. I wanted to live on-campus 1 year, so I took out a few loans to cover room & board. Worst mistake ever!

Living off-campus would have saved me tons of money as a student!

Why? I accumulated all of this debt from fees that weren’t covered by scholarships and by living on-campus. It wasn’t worth it for me because I didn’t bond with my class since I was a nontraditional transfer student, and because I worked so much. I ended up feeling uncomfortable in the dorms, so I would go home as much as possible anyway.

student loan spreadsheet
Tracking my loans through a spreadsheet

I started to track my loans through a spreadsheet on Google Sheets. Blue-highlighted cells are federal loans, while pink-highlighted cells are private loans. I’ve totaled everything up in bold red. I’m not going to lie-$42,140.36 (with interest) is very intimidating. My ultimate goal is to pay it back before I get my PhD, but that would mean that I’d have to make monthly payments of at least $1755. Considering my monthly stipend as a PhD student, this won’t work. I’m thinking of different ways to get rid of this debt ASAP, but it seems like it will take longer than 2 years.

How did you pay off your student loans?

3 Replies to “I owe $42,140.36 (& counting) in student loans”

  1. Please, please, please check into the NIH Loan Repayment Program! I was in the same boat as you (and had almost twice the loans you did, crazy right!) and in return for me performing my postdoctoral research, NIH paid back my student loans. I’ve participated in this program for 3 years now and after next year they will have decreased my student loans by 80%. Reach out to me to find out more info once you complete your PhD since I am an official LRP ambassador! In the meantime, definitely bookmark https://www.lrp.nih.gov!

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