Close Page

Dealing with student debt

Life
By Blake Bradford
Mar 28, 2017

Any bright, sunny day in the life of the average college student will quickly turn cloudy and gray upon hearing the words “student debt.” Both a tool and a necessary evil, it follows students for years after their final semester.

According to Cathy Colapietro, director of student financial aid services, 75.6 percent of MNU graduates leave the school with some form of debt, an average of $29,569 per student. This number is approximately $4,000 more than the state average of $25,521 per student, according to the Institute for College Access and Success.

A graph showing MNU’s financial trends from the past 10 years. Student payments and grants have both increased throughout the past 10 years at MNU. Graphic by Blake Bradford.A graph showing MNU’s financial trends from the past 10 years. Student payments and grants have both increased throughout the past 10 years at MNU. Graphic by Blake Bradford.

“I was very reliant [on student loans],” said Stephanie Dulin, a 1999 MNU alumnus who continues to make payments 18 years after graduating. “Most of my college [expenses were] from student loans. I thought my parents were going to be able to help, but my sophomore year they said there was no way they could. It was either quit college, or keep going and accrue debt.”

Savannah Hoit, a 2014 MNU alumnus, described a very different experience repaying debt.

“I always liked to work,” Hoit said. “I feel like I saved up a lot before I even went to school. I worked through school, so the debt that I left with wasn’t huge, probably not as bad as the average student, which was such a big blessing.”

Hoit managed to pay off her loan debt only 10 months after graduating. She said she recalls that much of her experience at MNU led to her opportunity to live debt-free. She said her accounting professor set her up with an accounting firm, so she did an internship there during her undergraduate years.

“That turned into a full-time job,” Hoit said. “It was such a great firm, and they had great benefits, and it was because of that job that I was able to pay off my student loans within 10 months of graduating. Had I not had those connections through my professor at MNU, I don’t think I would have had such a good job that allowed me to do that.”

Hoit recommends that, in order to pay off debt faster, graduates should live within their means until their debt is paid off. While it may be appealing to immediately start living off an income from a well-paying job, Hoit strongly discouraged it. She focused on the fact that interest continues to accumulate as a person puts off paying off loans, thereby increasing the overall debt.

“Put it in as part of your budget, that you want to pay x amount of dollars every month or every six months, instead of just believing ‘if I have it I’ll pay it,’” Hoit said. “The more you set aside money for that, the more efficient you’ll be with your money, and the sooner you can hit the goal of paying off student loans.”

Student loans are nothing new. The majority of students utilize federal student loans to pay for their tuition, which are regulated by the federal government and distributed through MNU’s financial aid department. The maximum amount that students can borrow from federal loans depends on their year of study, with freshman borrowing a maximum of $3,500, and then an additional $1,000 each year. Any other amount borrowed is through private loans, which are handled quite a bit differently. Financial aid officers at MNU are only allowed to certify eligibility for private loans, and parents and students are solely responsible for seeking them out and getting them approved. Colapietro said that it has been years since the department of education has raised those borrower levels.

“Those have been pretty steady at that level for a long time,” Colapietro said. “I’ve been in the business for about 35 years, and it’s only changed once from $4,000 to $5,500.”

MNU offers many tools for students to repay their debt. Before allowing students to accept loans, every student must undergo entrance counseling that explains the different types of loans, and how they uniquely affect students. Colapietro said that the main advice she gives to students is to be aware of their debt, and the difference between types of federal loans.

“There are two types of federal loans, subsidized and unsubsidized,” Colapietro said. “Subsidized loans do not accrue debt while the student is studying, however unsubsidized loans start to accrue interest 60 days after that loan is disbursed. A lot of the stories you hear about loan debt is from not being aware of that interest that builds while a student is still studying. Go to the National Student Loan Data System at any time to see what your student debt is and find your loan servicer, and if there’s any way to make early interest payments on the unsubsidized loans, make those early payments.”

Kevin Garber, director of alumni relations at MNU, shared similar recommendations for students.

“From a biblical perspective, debt makes it very difficult for the person in debt to thrive and be successful in life,” Garber said. “I encourage people as a general rule to do everything they can to be debt-free. When they have to use debt, use it for the purpose it’s for, then get rid of it as quickly as possible.”

Garber graduated from MNU in 1989 with a degree in business and $12,000 in debt, then managed to pay it off in less than three years. He said he had a simple strategy to pay off debt as quickly as he could.

“I made payments as big as possible. I paid as much over the minimum as I could until I could get it paid for and paid off,” Garber said. “While student debt, as I look at it, is almost impossible for some people to come to college without, like for some people it’s impossible to have a house without a mortgage, but it’s all the same principle. As soon as you are able to get it payed off, your life will be freed up to be joyful and successful.”

Blake Bradford

- More by this author

Blake Bradford is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.

comments powered by Disqus

Quick updates Nov. 2017

Men’s Soccer After an overtime win on penalty kicks on Nov. 3 at No.

JGMBB

Men's basketball team hits the ground running

This isn't true for the members of the MNU men’s basketball team.  Since August, the team has put in many hours on the court, in the weight room, in the film room and even on the track in preparation for the upcoming season.

Mark your calendars for 2066

For the 50th anniversary of MNU’s founding, Kevin Garber, Director of Alumni Relations, and his alumni council put together a time capsule to be opened in the year 2066 or 2067. The council consists of a group of alumni volunteers who support MNU.

These bees are collecting nectar from sunflowers on campus. MNU’s bees fly out about 15 feet high and spread out as far as five miles in order to retrieve nectar for the two hives located on campus. Photo by Dana Palmer.

Bees?

As of fall 2017, faculty from the science department at MNU have initiated a science club for the purpose of bringing science out of the classroom and into the MNU community.

Protesting to make America great

As opinions fly and the President calls protesters in the NFL “sons of bitches” who should be fired, I can’t help but wonder if people are more upset about a lack of respect for the flag than they are about a lack of respect towards black Americans. Now seems to be a time when people have to pick what they’re most upset about.

How to catch zzz’s without catching C’s

As members of the human race, we tend to agree that there are some “firsts” that will be remembered for the rest of our life. Whether it be our first kiss, our first night away from home or our first day at a “real” job.

Theatre Club Vice President, Brandon Baker is pictured leading the Theatre Club in a game of mafia. Students in the club have learned things such as acting, FSX makeup and improv. Photo by Heather Tinker.

Big things in Bell for fine arts Department

MNU’s department of Fine and Performing Arts has added a worship arts major, pep band and a theater club. The university heritage choir has also been accepted to perform for the Kansas Music Educators Association.

President David Spittal addresses staff and faculty during an all-campus meeting on April 26 in the Bell Cultural Events Center. During the meeting, Spittal gave updates on the New Horizons initiative and announced the closing of MNU’s Liberty, Missouri campus. Photo by Chace Owen.

MNU to close Liberty campus, address unexpected expenses

In an all-campus meeting with faculty and staff on April 26, university president Dr. David Spittal announced that MNU's Liberty, Missouri, campus would be closing in December 2018.

On April 7, Cook Center was transformed for President’s Honors. This event is largely powered by current MNU students, as they served as wait staff, gave personal testimonies to guests and performed in the band and choir. Photo courtesy of MNU public relations.

Student involvement powers President’s Honors

Students and supporters come together as MNU holds largest fundraiser in university history

Videos / See More