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It Can be Done: Graduating College Debt Free

Dec 20, 2016

Student loan debt is skyrocketing--Is it possible to graduate college debt free?

We all know how life is supposed to go—Finish high school, get a college degree, land your dream job, get married, have kids, and live happily ever after. However, life generally doesn’t go over that well and many of us end up with only a piece of that elusive dream, and often times in serious debt.

In 2016, the average student loan debt totaled $37,172 and if combined with the average credit card debt of $5,700, you’re looking at $42,872 in debt for the average American adult. Let’s not forget that, in addition, the average adult probably has a car payment, mortgage or rent, and a family to support.

According to most financial experts, the best way to get out of debt is to decrease your expenses and increase your income. Easier said than done, right? One of the best ways to increase your income is to get a better job or a pay raise and the best catalyst to make that happen is to finish your degree. But that takes time and money, which we already know the average adult doesn’t have. It’s a vicious cycle.

“The recession had left my family financially ravaged”

Ashley Mobley had a couple of years of community college under her belt, some work experience and some pretty valuable IT certifications. She managed to land a pretty great job but wasn’t able to finish school due to time constraints with her new position. She went back to school but a year later in 2008, she lost her job and the financial ability to pay for school. “The recession had left my family financially ravaged,” said Ashley.

Finally, she and her husband were able to begin getting out of debt in 2010 using a well known program taught by radio personality Dave Ramsey. “We were $41,000 in debt, making a combined income of $60,000,” Ashley continued. “We followed Dave’s plan of living on beans and rice and throwing every extra dollar at the debt and we finally became debt free in 2015.” Ashley never looked into going back to school because she and her husband had worked so hard to get out of debt. Although her husband had the opportunity to go back to school using the GI Bill, she assumed school was not going to be possible for her. “Paying tuition was simply too far out of reach,” she said.

"I thought school was out of my foreseeable future, until I found WGU.”

Ashley discovered WGU through the online discussion website, Reddit and admits she was intrigued by the competency-based model and the low-cost tuition, but was convinced that it was “too good to be true.” She spent a lot of time talking it over with her enrollment counselor and became convinced to give it a try. Between tuition assistance through her job and a small Pell grant, Ashley says “It made going to school at WGU nearly free.”  She was less than $1,500 per year away from paying for her degree. “Dave Ramsey frequently mentions on his radio show that school choice is the most important factor when it comes to going to school debt free, and WGU fit perfectly within that.”

By the time Ashley finished her degree at WGU in 2016, she graduated with a bachelor’s in Information Technology and because of what she learned from Dave Ramsey, she selected a school that was the right fit, the right price, and graduated with no student debt. Ashley is slated to earn a promotion next quarter, primarily due to her degree, and she plans to return to WGU in January to earn a master’s in IT Management.

“I am so grateful for what WGU has done for me!”

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