Give up eight years of your life to the military, spend a year teaching in a struggling urban school, or date a rich dude — these three college students have unconventional methods of paying down student loan debt, to say the least.
The average student loan debt has ballooned to almost $30,000, according to the Project on Student Debt. That’s a crippling number for an age group traditionally buying cars and saving up for homes at this point in their lives.
But these three students found a way around that. Debt.com asked about the weird ways they are paying off student loan debt. Here are their stories…
1. Get a sugar daddy to pay off your debt
Meet Brooke*, a 21-year old senior at NYU’s Stern Business School, where tuition and fees total $69,526 per year.
She’s a senior finance and economy major with over $100,000 in debt — and she’s currently deciding between three Ivy League law schools or getting her MBA at Stanford after graduation. In December of 2014, she joined Seeking Arrangement, a website designed to bring together “Sugar Babies” with “Sugar Daddies” — usually older, rich men who provide money to the Sugar Baby in exchange for, well … that depends.
The women who are on this site (who are my friends and college students) are doing this in effort to come out alive from the tumultuous grip that NYU’s skyrocketing tuition costs and in an effort to seek higher level education without carrying crippling debt around.
That doesn’t always mean exchanging money for sex. Sometimes the “arrangements” are as innocent as going to shows, plays, or concerts together, or just enjoying dinner and drinks.
Brooke’s current arrangement is with a hedge fund manager in his early 30s, who pays between $1,000 and $3,000 per meet up. The money covers Brooke’s tuition, car notes, rent, and other bills that may come up.
She admits her Sugar Daddy is probably atypical, and says she’s had the most luck on the site out of all her friends.
“I’m fairly attractive, but I’d have to say my ability to hold an intellectual conversation is what allows me to keep my relationship,” she says. The two of them love to ski, enjoy reading British classic literature, and attend Broadway shows together. She says he’s “highly attractive” and she considers him more of a boyfriend, rather than a Sugar Daddy.
But does she actually enjoy being his Sugar Baby?
“I like having my bills paid, future clear, and more time to study and maintain my 4.0 … so yes I do enjoy being a Sugar Baby,” she says. “I am strictly doing this to further my career goals.”
2. Volunteer away your debt
Kelsey Burritt didn’t know what she wanted to do after graduating from the University of Rochester with an English and creative writing degree. But she did know she wanted to make a difference somehow.
“My initial impetus to join AmeriCorps was rooted in a sort of idealized search for social justice — the kind, I’m sure, that most college students feel post-graduation,” she said.
But after doing more research, she discovered that those who sign up for AmeriCorp qualify for loan forbearance. That essentially meant she could postpone payments on both the interest and principal of her student loans, and at the end of one year of service, receive the $5,645 Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to put toward her loans. So she signed up.
Kelsey’s year in AmeriCorp, which she spent working at an elementary school in Rochester, helped break down the “haughty, false perceptions of idealistic heroism that I had envisioned for my post-graduation life.”
“Service was hard work, hard work that often went unnoticed; I couldn’t always discern real, measurable improvements,” she said. “Most of the time you have to work in the hope of future progress and improvement; the fruits of your labor might not be seen until a year or two after you’ve left the program.”
3. Join the Army to pay off your debt
Second Lieutenant Trevor Patton, a 2014 graduate of Ohio University, first decided to join the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps after a few recruiting calls convinced him to come and visit Athens, Ohio.
“After I toured campus, I was hooked,” Trevor said. “I joined because I felt an obligation to serve in some regard, and free college was a major factor in that decision.”
But signing up for the military doesn’t automatically grant you free college. You have to take, and pass, the Army Physical Fitness Test, or PT test, twice a semester.
At OU, cadets also had to maintain a 2.5 GPA and stay in good standing with the Bobcat Battalion, meaning regular attendance and not breaking the law. If you can do all this, then the military will pay your tuition, and at OU, your room is also covered along with receiving a stipend for books, a monthly stipend, and the top cadets in each class get their meals paid for. There are also other incentives for excelling in grades and PT, Trevor said.
But after graduation, you have to stay in the Army for a total of eight years to pay off your debt. You can choose four years active duty and four years on reserve, or eight years in reserve. Trevor is currently serving in the Ohio National Guard as a platoon leader of the 2nd 107th Cavalry Regiment. He said joining ROTC was an excellent opportunity for him.
“Without ROTC, I would not have been able to afford college at all, let alone go to the finest school this side of the Alleghenies. It provided travel opportunities while in college, and guaranteed me a good paying job when I graduated,” he said. “The friends you gain through this extensive program are second to none and the training is the finest of its kind in the entire world.”
*Name has been changed.