How students try to avoid college loans

Student debt can seem inevitable. Today, more than 44 million Americans must nearly $ 1.5 trillion in student loans. This debt has been blamed for many things: Americans lack of retirement savings, falling homeownership rates, same the death of marriage.

Some state governments and private universities are exploring ways to alleviate the burden. Schools like the University of Utah and Purdue University are considering revenue sharing agreements, where instead of taking out loans, students are expected to pay the school part of their income once they find a job. About 20 states are on the right track to offer free public college, and last year, New York University School of Medicine announced that all tuition fees would be free, effective immediately. After the announcement, applications to the school increased by 47%.

Marketplace spoke to three students about their approach to earning a debt-free degree: a NYU medical student, a computer programmer-in-training, and an aspiring welder.


Name: Travis John
Age: 18
Site: Orange County, California
The school: Universal Technical Institute
Cost: $ 21,000

Travis John didn’t go to community college this month like he once thought. Instead, as most freshmen moved into their dorms, he began a welding program at a local trade school.

“I was actually thinking about going to community college for two years and then going to college,” John said. His plans changed when a representative from the Universal Technical Institute, a for-profit national vocational school, stopped by his high school welding class. “He just went through all the details about it and I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s what I want to do.'”

The nine-month welding program at UTI in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Will cost John around $ 21,000, most of which will be covered by a college fund his grandmother opened for him. He feels grateful.

“I won’t have to worry about debt and it’s a lot cheaper than going to community college and then transferring to university. “

When John announced his decision to his parents, they were surprised. But to him, it all made sense. “I am not a schoolboy. So I will go to this trades school for nine months and then I will be finished, ”he explained.

He hopes to use his certificate to get a job as a field welder, and is optimistic about his job prospects.

“I have a huge advantage because all the baby boomers are going to retire soon,” he said. He’s probably on to something; according to the American Welding Society, there will be a shortage of more than 450,000 welders by 2022.


Asim Zaidi attends a computer school in San Francisco which allows students to finance their studies through a revenue sharing agreement. Photo courtesy of Asim Zaidi

Name: Asim Zaidi
Age: 22
Site: San Francisco, California
The school: Make school
Cost: 20% of future income for five years

Growing up, Asim Zaidi was always told that getting a college degree was the only way to be financially secure. When he graduated from high school, he enrolled in the College of Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

But he found college wasn’t everything he imagined. Not only did he not like the atmosphere, he was also getting more and more into debt. After high school, Zaidi continued to live at home. One of four children and the son of a single mother, he was entitled to financial assistance, but it was not enough to cover everything. He had to take out about $ 6,000 in loans in the first year.

With two years of college behind him, Zaidi decided to take a break to pull himself together. It was then that he heard about Make School, a computer science school in San Francisco that allows students to finance their studies through income sharing agreements.

Upon finishing his studies, according to the ISA, Zaidi would not have to pay any tuition fees. Provided he graduates and gets paid employment of at least $ 60,000, he will spend five years donating 20% ​​of his income to school.

“Twenty percent may sound like a lot,” he said. “At first I was skeptical, but then I met tons of program alumni in San Francisco.” He spent time with them in their apartments and saw that they were “living comfortably”.

The only thing Zaidi regrets is that he didn’t hear about Make School sooner.

“I wish I hadn’t wasted those few years in college. I would have liked to hear about it when I was 18, it would have been so much better, ”he said. “It’s a five-year thing; I will be 27 years old and debt free. It’s a good thing. I am a big supporter of the ISA. I think this is the way education payments should be. You should only pay if you get a good job.


Not having to worry about paying off thousands of dollars in student loans has given Margareta Ianosi-Irimie a new sense of freedom. Photo credit: Jana Kasperkevic for Marketplace

Name: Margareta Ianosi-Irimie
Age: 22
Site: New York, New York
The school: New York University School of Medicine
Cost: To free

In August 2018, Margareta Ianosi-Irimie learned that she had changed her life. The tuition fees for his medical school were fully covered.

The announcement was made at the end of the so-called “white coat ceremony,” a rite of passage in some schools when graduates enter the medical profession. The tension was already high, according to Ianosi-Irimie, when Kenneth G. Langone, the founder of Home Depot, took the stage. Langone contributed approximately $ 100 million towards the $ 600 million the university needed to make free tuition a reality.

“Sir. Langone got on the podium and started talking and all of a sudden he said things and then the screen went blue and he said ‘free tuition for all’, he said. she said. “Everyone was applauding. I don’t think I have applauded that long all my life. I lost my voice after that.

Her parents couldn’t attend, but as soon as she could, she texted them the picture of the blue screen.

“My dad sent me four question marks over text,” she said. “He had no idea what was going on. He thought it was a joke or something. I ended up calling my parents afterwards and the moment I said the words out loud I started to cry.

When she was first accepted to NYU School of Medicine, Ianosi-Irimie was elated. How she would pay for school was not in the foreground of her mind, but as medical school approached, so did the tuition. For her undergraduate degree, she attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst on a scholarship that allowed her to graduate without going into debt.

Ianosi-Irimie spent last summer helping his dad at his phone repair store in Maine. She and her father spent hours every day looking for loans, trying to find where to find the money for medical school.

Not having to worry about paying off thousands of dollars in student loans gave Ianosi-Irimie a new sense of freedom.

“I don’t have to get into a very high paying specialty just because I know I’m going to have endless loans that I have to pay back,” she said. “I can do something because I really want to do it, and I think that’s the best way I can contribute to medicine and help patients.”

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