Crippling College Debt: How Do You Manage Your Student Loans?

Education is supposed to enrich our lives and make us more worldly and learned. But for many of us, higher ed just brings on thoughts of debilitating debt and crashing credit scores. According to the Project on Student Debt, the average 2009 graduate owes around $24,000 after graduation. But that’s nothing compared to the astronomical amount of school debt Kelli Space has. Kelli, 23, graduated with a degree from Northeastern University. She was the first one in her family to graduate from college. Perhaps, in part, because her family was inexperienced in the ways of college financing, Kelli amassed nearly $200,000 in student loan debt during her four years in school — thanks to taking out loans not just from the federal government, but also from private lenders. Kelli says that her school’s financial aid office actually recommended she pursue (often high-interest) private lenders: “The adviser told me to ‘explore other options’ to help fund my Northeastern education: ‘like private lenders.'”

What does $200,000 in student loan debt look like on a monthly basis? According to Kelli, she’s required to pay around $900 a month for the first year and then her monthly payments get bumped up to $1,800. Even on an astronomical salary that seems like A LOT of money to us–and it’s an unbelievable amount for Kelli, who a year and a half out of college has a job but still lives with her parents.

Kelli’s so desperate to pay back her student loans that she’s started a website soliciting donations from strangers. accepts monetary donations to put toward her debt. So far, she’s collected a little more than $1,800.

Today, a year of education at Northeastern, including room and board and mandatory fees, is $49,452, so we can imagine that students at the prestigious school — and others just like it — are in a similar situation to Kelli. And we have our own (massive) pile of student loan debt, so we sympathize with Kelli, though we’re not sure stranger solicitations are going to work in the long run. How do you manage your student loans?