JOHNSON: How I’m Going to College Debt-Free

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Thursday, June 17, 2021


Americans currently owe $1.56 trillion in student loan debt. With the price of tuition going up and a society that normalizes high school graduates going into debt to pursue a career, I have no reason to believe that this problem is going to end anytime soon. As a college student, I have seen firsthand the insane costs of tuition and understand the challenge of funding my education.

The last semester of my senior year was cut short due to COVID-19. I still had classes, but the amount of time I spent on classwork went down exponentially, so I was able to work about 30 hours per week.

While I was able to work and save more, I found myself in a predicament—I had very little scholarship money, and I still wanted to go to the University of Arkansas. I had also promised myself and a few of my mentors that I would not go into debt for an undergraduate degree, especially in political science or journalism.

Being in this challenging situation, I looked to join the Army National Guard to eventually receive funding for college. With this idea in mind, I reached out to a recruiter while I continued to work full-time at a small business.

After months of talking to the recruiter, I realized that my medical history would likely disqualify me. This threw another wrench in my plan. I had deferred, or outright turned down, the few scholarships I did have, thinking that I would be going to boot camp. However, during this time, I still refused to take out a penny in student loans and continued to work full-time for the rest of the semester.

In early December, I looked at the cost of the University of Arkansas and finally conceded that I could not pay for my education if I started there. So I swallowed my pride and enrolled in my local community college, where I paid for my first semester entirely in cash from the job I had been working.

While taking classes, I continued to work 30-to-35 hours a week, and occasionally going down 25 if I had a significant assignment due. Working has made it possible for me to pay for at least the following three semesters of my college career, and that is before I add scholarships I have now earned or may earn in the future.

While college may be expensive, it is still possible to go without taking out loans. I didn’t choose the most efficient route or the route that gave me the best social life. I decided to work hard so that I can invest the money I earn in my education. The last year of my life has been one of the busiest, most stressful, and most rewarding. I have had to manage my time more than most of my peers, but I know that the hard work now will save me tens of thousands of dollars and a lot of pain in the future.

Jeffery is a working on a double major in political science and journalism and hopes to go on to law school after he receives his undergraduate degree. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and movies.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.


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About Jeffery Johnson

Northwest Arkansas Community College

Jeffery is a working on a double major in political science and journalism and hopes to go on to law school after he receives his undergraduate degree. In his free time, he enjoys watching football and movies.

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