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Paying off college debt

  1. Nov 6, 2011 #1

    I'm applying to college for (hopeful!) entry next year. I know of a particular school that I could get into with relative ease *but* it doesn't offer any financial aid. However, out-of-state students pay the same price as those who are in-state if they do some community work, which means that the total cost of tuition would end up being in the order of ~$50k, which is a darn good deal, considering that quite a few schools charge that amount for *one* year.

    My question is, is it realistic that one could pay this debt as he progresses through graduate school? I know that the average stipend for a grad student in science is ~$20k/year. What I don't know is, if one does not even attempt to live extravagantly, how much of that money can be saved? Would it be possible to pay off a $50k debt with that kind of money?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 7, 2011 #2
    It depends on the cost of living, and if you have a family. If you are single, then you can have a few thousand left over. If you aren't then you'll be living paycheck to paycheck.

    No it won't, however, many student loans have deferments that freeze interest payments while you are in graduate school.
  4. Nov 7, 2011 #3


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    Mepris what kind of course are you thinking of doing?

    In some courses, you might as well not bother. My guess is you want to study something in the sciences or technology, so that doesn't apply as much.

    I realize that being an international student, you're options are a lot more limited due to cost, but yeah choose wisely because there are a lot of good schools out there to choose from, so don't get sucked into this idea of Harvard/Princeton/Yale or fail.
  5. Nov 7, 2011 #4
    You should talk to your school adviser about loans to see what the present situation is. Way back when I was young (e.g. draft card days), my federally guaranteed student loan didn't start compounding interest nor payments due until 6 months after I graduated. I could have financed it over 30 years, if I wanted.

    A school you can get into easily isn't always the best choice. Make sure they can give you a good education in your field of interest. Since you are planning on graduate school (smart choice), I'd shoot for a place you can do both, since it will make getting in easier. Also, you will know the professors, know your way around campus, know the equipment you'll use in labs, etc.

    As for keeping costs down, live in campus housing and get the package that includes food. It will always be cheaper. I lived on campus for undergrad and 1st quarter of grad school. Plus side - someone is always around to hang with, study with, easy walk from your dorm to classes on all but the biggest campus, etc. If you're lucky like me, the cafeteria will be on the first floor of your dorm, and you can go down to eat in your shorts on the coldest winter day, lol. Negative side - not peaceful, lots of interruptions, the library will be your second home to study, and you could get a roommate that sucks. If you plan ahead you can pick your roommate. Food may not be great (although some are pretty good), but it's cheap and you'll never wash the dishes.

    Grad stipend $20k/yr, wow. I think we got $300-600 a quarter.

    Explore job markets in areas you think you may like, do internships, volunteer (if necessary) in areas of interest, etc. Get to know your professors well, and discuss where other students have gone after graduation, and probe them for their thoughts. TALK TO ALUMNI in your general field. Find out all you can about their life after school, e.g. major applicability, things they should have done/studied in school, ask about professors you will have, etc. People underestimate the value of alumni contacts for school and the years that follow. To summarize, study for a good job you will like and the money will take care of itself.

    You're starting out on some of the best times you will have in your life. Manage your time with school in mind, but don't forget to have fun along the way.
  6. Nov 7, 2011 #5
    Oh my, 50k in loans is a good deal? The goal is to have no student loans when you graduate. I think it's ridiculous that you're thinking of going into that much debt for school. I exploited every money source I could to guarantee I didn't have a dime in loans when I graduated. I would look for a different school because that amount of loans is outrageous.

    20k/yr is next to poverty. That's around 1600/month if it's net. After rent, car and medical insurance, food, gas, and other things like credit card bills. You won't have much left.
  7. Nov 7, 2011 #6
    That's a horrible idea. I disagree with living on campus and buying their food. At my current school, food works out to be $7/meal on their food plan. That's waaayyy too expensive if you're living as a student. What I did as an undergrad was bought groceries cooked up enough food for 2 or 3, then ate one as a meal and pack the others as a lunch. My meals worked out to be around $2-3 each. You can easily make a "Chipotle" burrito for this much but if you actually go to Chipotle it's around $7 a burrito.

    Same arguments with rent. Do the math and you'll see it's much cheaper going out on your own.
  8. Nov 7, 2011 #7
    I find your (SL and TT) contrasting replies funny...in some way. SophusLies, that's why I asked. Where I'm from, 1600/month is more than enough for one person to live very comfortably. One could have a very nice apartment in the city and still have enough to go horse riding every weekend, if he'd feel so inclined.
    Yes, $50k is a *lot* of money but it's the cheapest (as far as I know) that a liberal arts education can get for a foreign student. The universities I had in mind were Minnesota State University, Moorhead and URegina but if I recall correctly, URegina is under a system which resembles the British one more than the American one. While I will probably end up majoring in math (or a related field), I would very much enjoy studying history, economics and literature and, as far as I know, that kind of flexibility is available only in Australian and American universities. There's also the possibility, albeit the thin one, that I end up not liking higher math. I have changed my mind a few times in the past and I wouldn't be surprised if it happened again. I can't help but doubt my apparent choice.

    And as I said, the cheapest I could find was something around that amount. But is this really worth that sum of money? Would it be better if I tried to enroll in the best math program I can find and then study the topics I'm interested in independently? The University of London offers online degrees (much, much cheaper...) in various fields, including history, international development, economics and english, all of which are fields I have a certain interest in. Would studying for something like that, parallel to a straight-up math degree be a better idea?

    Chiro, ironically enough, the schools you mentioned are the ones I'm shooting for. I don't care much about prestige, what I do care about is quality education, flexibility and meeting new people. Those universities, along with a few others, can get me all of that *and* financial aid. Lots of it. I think we had this conversation before but I might be wrong.

    Fish, that's the kind of loan I had in mind. I, however, have had bad experiences because of "loans" and it's a knee-jerk reaction for me to want to get rid of them asap. It would be ideal if I could pay them off while in grad school but as you and SL have pointed out, this does *not* seem achievable...
  9. Nov 7, 2011 #8
    Rentals in my area run about $1/ft^2 (about $10.8/m^2 for you metric folks), plus utilities. No way in hell I could have eaten on $2-3/meal, even in the 70s. Chipolte, yuk, not my thing. Steak, subs, pizza, seafood, emmm. Heck, I drink 3-5L of Coke/day. In college, add in beer costs and I could drink away your daily food allowance without creating any solid biomass, lol.

    $50k for a private college isn't bad, and those aren't bad colleges. I don't know many people these days that come out of college debt free, unless the parents were funding it. The key is getting an education for a career that has a future. As for paying off loans while you are in college/grad school... you are paying all that money to go to school to get the best education, so why risk compromising the education with work, unless you keep the work pretty limited. i.e. remember why you are getting in debt and don't do something counterproductive to the main goal.
  10. Nov 7, 2011 #9
    $2-3/meal isn't hard at all. Buy a package of chicken breast, rice, beans, salsa, cheese and you're set. You could even do stir-frys for about that much per meal.

    Drinking that amount of Coke disgusts me; I would recommend not telling others that, I'm surprised you're that proud of your diet. I have about 3 sodas a year because I know how bad soda is for your health and body figure. I could never eat how you eat and keep my body because I still gotta go to the club and talk to girls.
  11. Nov 7, 2011 #10


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    There are a lot of factors to consider when answering a question about paying off student loans in graduate school, so it's tough to give you a straight answer on this one. I was fortunate enough to come out of undergrad without any loans and I was generally able to save money as I went through graduate school. A close friend who was paid the exact same about of money as I went into debt during graduate school. The differences between us were that (a) I spent 5 years living in apartment-style residence with 3 room mates (and all the horror that went along with that), whereas he had his own apartment, and (b) I held a part-time job through the majority of my PhD in addition to my TA work, whereas he did not.
  12. Nov 7, 2011 #11
    Thank you everyone. I'll come back to this thread once I hear back from some colleges, next year.
  13. Nov 7, 2011 #12
    The other thing to consider is that your finances will change radically if you get married/have kids in graduate school.

    If you have a baby that needs to see a doctor and you need to spend a few hundred dollars to fix your car so that you can get your baby to the doctor, that comes first. Campus housing is cheap, but usually there is a wait list.
  14. Nov 8, 2011 #13


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    When I said what I said I was talking about say picking courses like some arts courses. It wasn't about the prestige of the school, it was more about the kind of degree you would want to get.

    To me, some things are just worthless learning (like management for example). You might as well do an entry level job and pay very attention to your environment and the issues that pop up to become a better manager.

    Same kind of thing with languages: get some basic grammar, a dictionary, and some poor people to put up with you, and then learn to speak-a-the-language. With the internet, the reading part is a lot easier because you can access anything in another language pretty easily. But yeah going to the country where the language and immersing yourself is going to teach you the crap they don't teach you in a dictionary.

    I don't want to discourage you from doing so, in fact I would rather encourage you to find a uni that is good value, has a diverse range of students (and staff), and that allows you to have a new experience.

    To me I don't get courses like say management and to some extent languages, history and things like that. I'm not saying they are not important: they are (especially history if you want to learn about human nature), but I don't see how its beneficial to pay someone to learn that kind of thing. That is just me though.

    Also you should realize that the new experience does tend to wear off after a while. After you've been in a new environment, it loses that facade that it had when you were first exposed to it.

    With that being said, I hope you find somewhere that allows you to grow and experience different things.
  15. Nov 8, 2011 #14
    LOL, Really? Drinking soda disgusts you, omfg. You must be one of those mineral water guys. What to do drink at "the club" that's any better for you than soda? I ate like a horse until my 40s and stayed 6'4" 171lbs, but working for a living and getting outdoors will burn weight. LOL, you're probably one of those guys that thinks the health club is part of the normal daily life. In the 60s and 70s, we got off our butts and did work for exercise. No membership required, it paid us, and we stayed healthy. Stir-frys, omg! What has happened to the world? That's not real food. Go to the club to talk to girls? Really? I never knew you had to go to a club to meet girls. I always thought saying hello and showing proper manners to folks (guys and girls) on the street worked well. I never went to a club, wow, is that better than a bar, hehe.

    You have a club to meet girls, I have everyday life (although wife has been my only girl for the last 26 years). You have stir-frys, I have steak, burgers, cheese steak subs, shrimp, lobster, crabs, pizza, soda, and occasional beer. Ya know, seriously, everyone has things that fit their own life style and I'm glad yours works for you. Mine works for me.
  16. Nov 8, 2011 #15
    Yes, really. That amount of soda disgusts me. A quick Google search yields for a 2000 calorie diet, one should be consuming ~50g of sugar per day. You, consume at least 6-10 times that amount (1L Coke = 108g of sugar). And we wonder where Type 2 Diabetes and overweight come from.......

    I don't see why going to the gym regularly makes you laugh so much but ain't no thing. Good for you that you're proud of your lifestyle.

    To the OP:

    I would take ThinkToday's diet advice with a grain of salt, or sugar. Just because you're going to be living as a college student doesn't mean you have to destroy your body for it. I know for me during my undergrad years, my diet kept me less lethargic than most of my classmates.
  17. Nov 9, 2011 #16
    In college I didn't worry about calories I could burn off in a flash. I didn't worry about going to gyms, when I could get all the exercise I needed working and playing. However, you are spot on to those that camp out on there PC playing WoW, Rift, Aion, etc., oh, wait.... that's me now, lol. Ok, I could use a little exercise now. Yea, and now it's only diet coke. On the serious side, SL is on the right track for some, but my generation of free spirits where never much on conventional behaviour. SL, you sound too young to ever be "lethargic". That's a word that would not have fit anyone I knew in school... ever. Take some advice from an old guy. Skip the club, get some friends and go hiking in the mountains, rafting, skiing, biking in the country or any fresh air activity where your entire day is outdoors. You will have more fun than any club, and you meet the best people along the way. Seriously, lethargic at your age isn't normal or good for you. And yes, I really do wish you well in life.
  18. Nov 10, 2011 #17
    Hmm, being lethargic at my undergrad school was very common among students. The main reasons are obviously stress, sleep deprivation, and diet. I would always see kids nodding off in class or sleeping in the library or computer labs. I take sleep and diet very seriously all the time because I will feel like absolute garbage if I don't.

    Coincidentally, since I started grad school in a more mountainous area I do regularly hike, bike, ski, and I even tried mountain climbing; for a black guy I would say I have vastly expanded my interests, lol. Growing up in the ghetto I never knew how beautiful the outdoors were because my "outdoors" was the local park where you either got stabbed, jumped, or mugged.

    Thanks for the support, I wish you the best in life too.
  19. Nov 10, 2011 #18

    Stephen Tashi

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    Yes, and perhaps you shouldn't completely trust the advisor. See the book https://www.amazon.com/Student-Loan...2315/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1320944887&sr=8-1 or read discussions about it on the web. The author has some good points, one of which is that companies that make loans may have an incentive for you to go into arrears.
  20. Nov 10, 2011 #19
    Out of the past three years I have yet to owe a single cent for tuition. I pay for everything (tuition, books, supplies, girlfried(lol)). I raise enough money during the summer, which is four months, to cover these fees. I make sure of it.
  21. Jan 14, 2012 #20
    As I said, I'd bring this thread up again if I come across something else.

    I've noticed that colleges in the Minnesota area are cheaper than elsewhere. I got a little carried away when I saw the prices for Bimedji State but as it turns out, I "saw wrong", in that the price per semester is about 7k USD, not year! Anyway, with your typical summer job, is it possible to raise about 15k USD? How many hours are people on a "student visa" allowed to work...or does this vary from state to state? I'm just curious to know and I probably won't attend if I find myself in a situation where I have to pay my own way without any "external funding" (scholarships and what have you), especially if it's that much money.

    If you don't mind me asking, about how much money are you talking about?
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