The cost of a college education is on the rise, and so is the number of people with student loan debt. In 2016 there were 43.3 million Americans with student loan debt. I’m proud to say that I wasn’t one of them. In this third installment of my series about college, money, and student loans, I’ll be sharing how I paid off $36,500 in student loan debt. If you missed the first 2 installments, you can check out
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I graduated from Mercer University in May 2009 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. During that time I accrued almost $40k in student loan debt. This debt was strictly related to the cost of tuition and any fees associated with the nursing program. Mercer wasn’t the cheapest university I could have chosen to attend, especially since it’s a private school. However, it’s one of the only two nursing schools that I was accepted into; the other was Emory University.
It would’ve been great to go to a state school and not have to pay so much more for a private school. Yet, it worked out since Mercer was the school of my dreams. The nice thing about Mercer’s nursing program was that I only had to pay tuition for the School of Nursing, which was much cheaper than paying for Mercer University. That would’ve been almost $30,000 per year at the time, which would’ve equaled way more student loan debt.
My parents didn’t save any money for my college education. I think it was mostly from a lack of knowledge on their part. I did have the HOPE scholarship and PELL grant to help pay for college. However, the biggest chunk of my financial aid package consisted of service cancelable loans, federal loans, and parent plus loans. I paid back all my student loans myself, including the parent plus loans. Once Omar and I were married, and with how we do our budget, his income did help to pay off my student loans.
So how did I pay off all this student loan debt?
There was no quick way or gimmick. It was just a simple plan that I followed. As I’ve mentioned before, I was introduced to Dave Ramsey and his book, The Total Money Makeover, via Omar. It happened just in time since I was ready to get out of debt. After I paid off my credit card debt I knew my student loans were next.
While reading The Total Money Makeover, I learned about the debt snowball method to pay off debt. With the debt snowball method, you pay off your debt in order from smallest amount to largest amount, while paying the minimum amounts on your larger debts. Some people recommend paying off debt starting with your highest interest rate; this is known as the debt avalanche method. I came to realize that the debt snowball method would be the best method for me to use to tackle my student loan debt. I preferred this method because I wanted to have a sense of gratification once I paid off my first small loan, which was going to be faster than going by interest rates. This would be my motivation to keep going.
First Up —> CitiBank
The total amount of my student loan debt was $36,500. I had to ask my dad to take out 3 parent plus loans through CitiBank to help me pay for college. Although I had good credit, I was required to have a parent co-signor for the student loans. These were the first loans to be paid off because they were smaller amounts. I was glad that they were the smallest amounts because I promised my dad that I would pay them off. He wouldn’t have to worry about it even though they were in his name. Each time I paid one off I was beyond proud to call and tell him.
- $2,000 paid off 10/01/10
- $3,000 paid off 12/10/10
- $5,000 paid off 10/04/12
** side note: The two-year gap in time was because I stopped paying extra towards my student loans so we could pay for our wedding debt free.
Next —> Service Cancelable Loans
I liked my service cancelable loans simply because I didn’t have to pay them back in the traditional sense. All I had to do was work as an RN (for a specified amount of time) in a required setting that provided full-time health care services directly to patients, and they would be paid in full. For me, this meant that I needed to work full-time in a hospital. This was fine because I wanted to do that anyways. I also had to provide yearly documentation from my employer that I was actually working.
I had 2 service cancelable loans.
One of them was through Georgia Student Finance Commission. Although it was more expensive than the other service cancelable loan, I only had to work for 3 years in order for them to cancel this loan.
- $7,000 paid off 04/03/12
The other service cancelable loan was a Perkins Loan through Mercer, which took 5 years of employment as an RN for it to be canceled.
- $5,006.74 paid off 08/07/14
** side note: This last service cancelable loan was paid off just in time for me to be able to consider going part-time after having our son.
Last, but not least —> Federal Student Loan
My biggest student loan was my federal student loan. Omar and I always referred to this one as “The Big One.” I remember after I graduated and saw my student loan bill I thought, “How will I ever pay this big ass loan off?”
- It was $14,497.85
If I only made the minimum payment of $164.30, then I would still be paying on this loan until 10/28/19. I can’t even fathom that at this day and time! Not only that but with the interest accruing I would have ended up paying $19,550.36 instead.
I could have paid this loan off sooner, but since Omar and I decided to buy our house in June 2013 we had to save for our down payment. Just as we were planning to start paying The Big One off and estimating how long it would take, my dad passed away. The balance at the time was $8,155.43. I used some of the money I received from my dad to pay it off. Even without the money from my dad, we would have paid the loan off in 2015 but later in the year.
- $8,155.43 paid off 03/13/15
So again, there were no tricks or gimmicks to paying off my student loans. I didn’t win the lottery either… Although that would’ve been great! All I did was make up my mind that I was going to pay them off, and that’s exactly what I did using the debt snowball method. It took almost 4 years to make it happen since we had a wedding and bought a house during the same time, but I/we did it! It’s definitely a great feeling to have paid my student loans off early.
Next week Omar will wrap this series up with Why You Should Save For Your Child’s College Education.