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My student loan repayment journey

In this interview, we talked with Isabella, a recent architecture graduate from North Dakota State University, about her experience financing her education. She discussed managing a $41,000 student debt burden and offered insights on navigating repayment and making lifestyle adjustments post-graduation. Join us as we explore the realities of student loan management and financial decisions after college.

Tell us about your college experience – and how you paid for it.

I received both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture from North Dakota State University. I got as many scholarships as possible, worked part-time in high school and throughout college, and every year I took out student loans.

When I graduated with my master’s degree, I had $41,000 in student loan debt. My payments were paused until October 2023 because of the federal student loan payment pause. From October to today I’ve paid $3,000 and have about 9.5 years to go before I’ll be done. My current monthly payment is $430.

Will you qualify for any student loan forgiveness programs?

I won’t, but I am familiar with the programs because my fiancé is a teacher. With consistent payments and 10 years of teaching, he will receive loan forgiveness.

Learn more about student loan forgiveness programs (for teachers, government employees, nonprofit professionals, medical professionals, those with disabilities, and more).

What lifestyle changes have you made to help pay your student loans?

I’ve been cautious of money as I’ve transitioned into my career. I moved to a new city and had to make a big decision about rent. There are certain luxuries I would have liked, like an in-unit washing machine, but saving a little more on the monthly housing payment was more important to me. Overall, I just try to be thoughtful to not spend more money than I have every month.

What advice do you have for current high school seniors & college students about student loans?

Only borrow what you really need. I took out all the student loans I was offered in undergrad – because I needed them. But when I went to graduate school, I was offered way more in student loans than I needed to borrow. It felt tempting to take out more money than I needed so I could enjoy a fun spring break trip or other “wants,” but I knew I would still have to pay for it – eventually.

Knowing what you know now about your student loan debt, would you do it again?

Yes – it was worth it for me! Having student loans has made me more appreciative of my degrees (and the time and money it took) and I’m now even more motivated to use my education!

By Kristin Ageton