Dealing with college debt: Advice from a current student

March 7, 2016

The following article was written for an issue of our student newspaper, "The Crusader". We love the authentic voice the student perspective brings to important discussions like "How do I really pay for college?" If you'd like to read more, visit "The Crusader" Facebook page for links to this and other issues→

by Katie McKenzie, class of 2018

Guess what? Student loans are the worst. And since you’re at a private college, you are all too familiar with the burden of debt. You are well aware that NNU is an expensive (but certainly worthwhile) school to attend. According to a recent article in the Idaho Press Tribune, students accumulate an average of about $26,000 of debt, if not more, earning their degree at NNU. That much debt can take years, even decades, to pay off if you don’t use the right strategy. So, here are some conventional (and some not so conventional) ways you can be free of your student loans faster.

In my research, one of the most common pieces of advice was to figure out exactly how much your loans are and how much money you will be paying back overall, including interest. It’s sounds like such an obvious tip, but most students only know an estimate of what they owe. Knowing the actual amount of debt you owe can motivate you to find ways to pay it off as quickly as possible. If you want to find out your debt amount, there are debt calculators online that are easy to use.

You should definitely consider working a part-time job while still in school for several reasons. According to San Jose News columnist Purvi Mody, having a job makes you value your college education more than if you didn’t work. Paying off your loans as much as you can out of pocket will keep you motivated to study well and to get the most out of what you’re paying for. On top of that, you are learning early on how to handle your own money responsibly, you’re getting used to your monthly payments, and of course, you are earning money for yourself.

Did you know you can still apply for scholarships even though you’re already in college? Well, you can.
Did you know you can still apply for scholarships even though you’re already in college? Well, you can. An incredible amount of scholarship money goes unclaimed each year. It might sound unappealing to spend your time applying when more often than not, you won’t get any money, but think of it this way: if you spend 10 hours applying for 10 scholarships that are each worth $1000, and only win one of those ten, you basically just earned $100 an hour just for applying. It’s free money, people. It’s definitely worth the effort!

If you had to arrange for student loans from multiple lenders, or have multiple separate loans, you may want to consider consolidating your loans. This option is definitely not for everyone, since it can add years and possibly a higher interest to the repayment of your debt, but it’s a good way to be organized and might be a better option in certain cases. has a ton of resources and helpful information about this if you are curious.

Jobs that offer loan forgiveness are a direct way to lighten your load. Jobs in public service or education are usually the types of jobs that offer this opportunity. With the Peace Corps, you get to go somewhere for two years and they pay for you to live there while they pay off a majority of a specific loan. There isn’t a terribly wide range of skills and jobs that work with this option, but it’s worth looking into.

My last piece of advice is to get creative with your resources. Cut costs whenever and wherever you can. Sell that outfit you tell yourself you’ll wear someday but deep down you know will never make it out of your closet. And all those hats. Buy used textbooks; in fact, there’s a Facebook page called NNU Textbook Exchange where you can post which books you need to buy or sell. If you’re a crafty person, consider selling products on Etsy. I personally plan on self-publishing my first book on Kindle when I finish it. It’s free to make an account for yourself, and you can make 70% of each sale of your book.

Basically, use your imagination to save as much money as possible to put towards your student loans. Most loans don’t add interest while you’re in school, so now is the best time to really buckle down and get rid of as much debt as you can. And, of course, the Business Office here on campus is able and happy to help with any questions you may have about your student loans.