Many Americans fill their lives with significant expenses and fulfilling experiences. People see college as both. According to U.S. News, it creates an experience for those students who attend but comes with a price tag that, on average, is around 30 thousand dollars. Students leave this fulfilling experience with a debt that they pay for over a span of ten or more years. But, what if you could leave this experience debt-free or on a short road to being debt-free? An alumna of the University of Wisconsin – Green Bay (UWGB) did just that.
Jenna Laqua, an alumna of UWGB who majored in Business and minored in Communication, is debt-free within six months of graduating college. While she was a student, debt didn’t concern her as most students encounter it. “I barely heard stories of students paying it off right away,” Laqua said.
“I was planning to go into further debt…buying a car, a house, and so on”. Going into further debt and working around those school loan payments was seen, as usual, Laqua said. Laqua is not alone; the student debt crisis topped 1.6 trillion dollars in 2019, according to the Federal Reserve. Seven in ten college graduates leave school with loan debt. Professor Froelich, a Communication professor at UWGB and has her law degree, graduated with over one-hundred thousand dollars in household student debt, as her husband also had a law degree. “The monthly payment of 750 dollars for about thirty years was daunting,” said Froelich. But, both Froelich and Laqua paid off their debt. “There are no shortcuts when it comes to getting out of debt,” says financial guru Dave Ramsey. So, where does a college student or recent college graduate start?
“One morning, I started listening to a podcast by Dave Ramsey, and I was convinced to start paying off my debt as soon as possible,” said Laqua. First, she looked at her savings and decided to place around 45% toward student debt. It is crucial to have an emergency fund, but anything extra should be put toward paying off your debt, Laqua said. Second, a budget is essential, and sticking to it can sometimes be challenging. “I just moved into a new apartment and wanted to buy all these decorations, but I only budgeted a certain amount for that,” Laqua said. Third, she used a recent life insurance account that was opened for family members years before her younger sister’s passing. “I wanted to make my sister proud, and one way to do that was to be financially free to be able to live my life without fear overpayments,” Laqua said.
Before attending college or looking to go for another degree, it is important to plan. Once in college, “it might change to budget, budget, budget,” said Sue Steeno, Assistant Director of Financial Aid and Student Employment at UWGB. It is best to live with as little debt as possible. “[But] just remember that with every scary story you hear [about student debt], there are more stories of students who have successfully used student loans to obtain an education and improve their lives,” said Steeno.
Jenna was able to achieve a degree to improve her life and pay off her debt shortly after. “Just take it day by day and always pay above the amount that you owe; it is possible, I promise you to get out of debt, and once you are debt-free, the opportunities are endless,” said Laqua.
By: Matthew Knoke
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