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Living in a Van to Pay Off Student Debt

Don’t let Your College Degree Leave you in Debt

Growing up we were all coached and mentored by someone who constantly drilled us on the importance of a college education. In today’s world, with the ever increasing technology and advancements in the science and medical fields it is becoming even more important for people to earn degrees in their fields.

Courtesy of Ken Ilungas

While we all know how important and beneficial college can be there is one important detail that people usually fail to mention: college is expensive! Reality seems to suddenly sink in when you notice the tuition prices of the college or university that you are applying for. So of course, the majority of people take the only option they have and get student loans.

It is too easy, and growing too common, for students to rack up $25,000 or more in student loans while trying to obtain their college education. Even after they earn their degree they typically have to spend the next several years paying off the loans.

The Street recently wrote an article about a man that dedicated two years of his post-college life to paying off the student loans he had accumulated. He actually ended up working various jobs that were completely unrelated to the degree he had just received in order to get rid of his debt.

He was not satisfied with one degree though and when he decided to go back for more schooling he wanted to be wiser when it came to funding his education. He ended up deciding to attend Duke University because the degree he was seeking was only $2,500 a semester. Ken Ilgunas also knew that he would have to find somewhere near the campus to live. Recalling the time that he had spent in Alaska and the people that he had met that lived out of vehicles Ilgunas decided to save the money on rent and went and purchased an old van where he would live throughout the remainder of his college career.

“I don’t think there was a specific turning point,” he said. “The decision was the result of a very gradual change in character. It was all very novel and new to me, and being exposed to these new ways of living was enlightening.” (The Street)

Most students are woefully unaware of the ballooning effect of student loans or credit card debt, how interested is calculated or why they should keep their borrowing to a minimum, Ilgunas said.

“Going into college, I knew almost nothing about these things,” he said. “I didn’t even know what ‘interest’ was. I’d had minimum wage jobs, so I wasn’t completely unfamiliar with the value of a dollar. But that didn’t at all prepare me to think through taking out a five-digit loan. My priority at the time was to get into the best school I could, no matter the cost, which is not advice I’d give to young folks now.”

With funding to state college and universities being reduced and the cost of tuition being increased since many institutions are building “lavish new facilities,” students need to learn the basics of finance, Ilgunas said. (The Street)

The best advice out there when it comes to seeking an education is to be financially aware of what you are getting yourself into. There are ways to pursue a college education without breaking the bank, accruing student loans, and forcing yourself into debt before you even have a degree. Use scholarships and grants to your advantage. Also, if taking out a student loan is an absolute must then limit the loan amount to the lowest possible figure. It is far too easy to convince yourself that you need the extra money right now and that you will pay it back in no time at all. This is the fastest way to find yourself in debt.

Ilgunas also says that if you are already one of many who has found themselves deep in student loan debt it is not too late to remedy the situation.

Even students who have amassed a large amount of student loans can become debt free, Ilgunas said. Changing the outlook on how you view debt is the most critical element.

“Think of your debt as a sworn enemy and indebtedness as a life and death situation,” he said. “You need to reframe the way you think about debt. You need to hate your debt. You need to get obsessed with it. Despise it. Anthropomorphize it.” (The Street)

Living debt free should be a personal challenge for everyone, Ilgunas said.

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