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creative strategies for managing loan debt

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My apologies if this has already been addressed in another thread here. I'm interested in creative ways to help reduce student loan debt. I ended up taking about $20K to $25K more in loans than I expected due to several factors, a) the university dramatically increased student housing costs from the time of my admission to the time of my defense (up 48% in four years); b.) my family's health needs during my studies prevented me from taking a substantial part time job; and c.) there was no real economy where I attended anyway (e.g., only entry-level minimum wage jobs). Now, I'm looking at my own student debt and my wife's from her education and trying to figure out how to raise a family and pay off my loans on a single "humanities" income.

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Honestly, most of the people I know (PhD students in my cohort and current faculty), we're all banking on using IBR and/or that universities count as non-profits and discharging our loans after working X-years.

I made use of a communal living arrangement during my M* that helped a lot. For the majority of students, you just have to work a part-time job and make it work. On top of this that usually means roommates and/or having a working spouse.

I also had some classmates that enlisted into the military after their M* degree. Took advantage of that sweet loan repayment option and then used/intend to use their Post-9/11 GI Bill to do a second M* or buy their way into a PhD.

I think all of the PhD students at VDS worked some kind of side hustle to bring in extra money. It ranged from teaching intro courses at the CC, waiting tables, or working at a coffee shop. In Nashville, working at the Genius Bar at Apple was popular b/c the manager was a VDS alum and would hire M* or PhD students, generally on the spot and was willing to accommodate whatever your schedule was.

The reality is that the cost of M* degrees for the vast majority of students, even with scholarships, is untenable. VDS was putting out 50-60+ students a year with 80k+ in graduate loans, on top of what they had in their undergrad. I've worked at a lot of seminary and divinity schools and networked with many more - it's even worse at a lot of them. Given the amount of grads being pumped out for the few jobs that open up, barring a shift in culture again, future students need that person who is willing to sit down and say "Picking up and moving across the US to attend Harvard isn't in your cards," especially when there are far cheaper options closer to home. I won't rant about it here, however much I'm tempted. I love what graduate programs in Religious Studies, seminaries, and divinity schools offer their students and communities but the current system no longer works. It's stuck in a 1950s mindset of how the US works.

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