Tuition Assistance Is Here! $65,596.78 Paid, $19,711.29 Till Payoff

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

Just because you have “finished” college doesn’t mean you shouldn’t consider going back. I know… I know… I’m still paying back my undergrad and grad school student loans. Remember, there are many ways to pay for school besides going into debt (Scholarships, Family, Grants, 529 Plans, and crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe®).

However, an often overlooked tuition assistance source is employers.

Work Hard, Learn More

That’s right! Your job may extend scholarships to you and your dependent children. You may also get a salary boost or stipend for earning your degree as an employee. Talk to your HR office about existing educational benefits for yourself and perhaps your dependents. With the rising cost of tuition, a dollar saved is a dollar earned; because tuition won’t cost you pennies. That’s for sure.

Colleges and universities also offer great staff/administrator educational benefits. I am fortunate to work in higher education, so my employer pays the costs of two classes each fall/spring/summer sessions regardless of credit hour and final grade earned. However, I am mindful that my boss reviews my midterm and final grades to justify spending on my educational endeavors.

Employers Need Skilled Workers

Did you know your state may offer tuition exemptions/waivers for certain occupations? For example, the state of Texas will cover the cost of tuition for Police Officers enrolled in Law Enforcement or Criminal Justice classes. Firefighters receive the same benefit as employees or active members of volunteer fire departments to take Fire Science courses.

Right now, I am completing accounting courses in route to a certification to further improve my financial literacy. I am blessed with the opportunity to share my student loan debt story with students daily. The Lord has placed other things on my heart to take this mission further. It’s rough at times but as Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers says, “Trust the Process”.

Life’s a Marathon, Not a Sprint

Here’s an update on my student loan progress below. Until next time everyone! Stay strong, fight on, and have no debt but love.

It’s Spring Break, Not Spring Broke: $63,971.03 Paid, $21,337.04 Till Payoff

Dear Parents, Friends, and Loved Ones,

Please pass this along to the college students in your life. Spring break is upon us, and they are being tempted to jump on planes and make it rain with tuition refunds.

Remind Them They Are Students:
Don’t ignore your college work over Spring Break. Use the week to relax from the regular grind, but stay in the habit of studying for school.

I think a lot of us dream of spending Spring Break on a beach with friends. Whatever your plans, use the time to continue being a student.

Encourage to Think Beyond Spring Break:
When I was a student, I found keeping this balance let me enjoy my break while also helping me stay caught up with the schoolwork to come. I was also less stressed when the break was over.

I’m not suggesting you lock yourself in your room and do nothing but school work. That will lead to burnout. Remember, balance is the key. Use the week to relax, but also keep up the routine of having study time:
• Continue doing classwork each day on your regular schedule.
• Schedule time to have fun and catch up with friends.

Prepare for The Next Academic Year & Career:
Besides the no-brainers of exercising and eating healthy, here are a few other things to do during Spring Break. The suggestions below will take time, so extend yourself some grace. For help, visit your college’s Career Services office when it reopens.
• Start working on a generic cover letter.
• Find a summer internship or job.
• Apply for scholarships.

Assess Your Finances:
If you can’t afford to jet set with classmates, just don’t go. Just imagine yourself in your career after graduation taking paid vacations from work. You will soon be a working professional who can afford multiple international trips a year-if you practice good money habits today.

Remind Them of Possible Financial Ruin:
For the last 7 years and 9 glorious months, I’ve been paying back student loans. Do you really want this in your future? Do yourself a favor, sacrifice what you want now for a future that’s a little more comfortable. Below is my balance update. Until next time everyone! Stay strong, fight on, and let’s help the youth have no debt but love.

Student Loans Are Stressful!/I’m Going Bald: $60,548.56 Paid, $24,759.51 Till Payoff

We have all read the nightmare stories of student loans wreaking havoc on the personal finances of the young and old.  Here’s another thing student loans may cause… HAIR LOSS! DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!!! Haha.  Life isn’t meant to be lived seriously all the time, so I decided to post about my male patterned baldness haha.

Going bald is a pain for me, as I have placed a bit of my identity in the strength of my hairline.  Yeah… kind of silly.   This past November, I stressed tremendously about my son starting daycare with his sister.  I was on paternity leave at the time and the stress wasn’t about missing my son per se… it was the pressure to provide for two kids in daycare lol.

Yet the Lord provided and continues to provide.  My nights became sleepless as I wondered how we would make it with my student loans, regular monthly expenses, and now daycare for 2.  I was prepared to reduce my student loan payment to make things work.  I grew frustrated thinking about all the progress made in reducing the debt to only watch it creep back up.

I was literally going bald at the top of my head due to stress, check out the picture.  

The elders in my family with wrinkly, low-hanging, bubbled lips would say, “Boy, the Lord is never surprised”.  To which I would immediately exhale audibly and roll my eyes.

Soon everything became too much, I broke down and decided to challenge the Lord with Psalm 127:3-5 (NIV), “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them”.

I didn’t feel blessed at the time. After I decided to relinquish control as Proverbs 3:5-6 instructs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight”.

My family follows a strict budget and my wife isn’t too thrilled about it.  However, there is more than enough every month.  The provision doesn’t make any sense, as we should be in the negative.  We may not have always have we want, but we always have what we need.

My hair even grew back, check out the waves HAHA.  Hair is a trivial matter in the grand outlook of life, my razor is ready to “Come On Home” and join the pantheon of bald greats-Dwayne Johnson, Michael Jordan, and Vin Diesel

Below is an update on my student loan balance.  I have no choice but to give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!  His faithful love endures forever. -Psalm 136:1

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! $57,650.35 Paid, $27,657.72 Till Pay Off

My son just made 2 months recently and I am excited to watch him learn how to express himself. My boy is one happy baby as evidenced by the dimpled smiles, the coos, and flailing arms and legs. My 2-year old is very protective of her brother. Each morning she runs into our bedroom shouting, “I want to hold little man!” or “That’s my baby!”; and is ready to plant kisses all over her brother’s face.

With that said, my wife and I are pleased to announce our family is adjusting well to the new baby. There is so much to be thankful for with Christmas around the corner and recently celebrating Thanksgiving.

First off, I am thankful to have a job that offers paternity leave. My job allows 6 weeks of paid time off to tend to births/adoptions. HOORAY! Also, I have 6 weeks of vacation time that can be applied in addition to paternity leave. It would be a challenge to stay home with a baby for that long lol. Cabin fever will ensue.

However, I am using 2 weeks of vacation to be at home with our new little guy for a total of 8 weeks.

Second, I am grateful for my son’s health. My wife was exhausted after the long (4 hour) delivery, but our son has since grown to a 12-pound baby champ. No amount of money can ever buy good health, even with the best doctors and medicine available. Poor health touches the rich and poor alike.

Third, I am grateful for my wife’s recovery. She is back exercising and is already contemplating a third child lol. I humbly ask she pumps the brakes. Thank you for accepting the challenge of being married to me babe. “I am honored to have the opportunity for you and me to exclusively form a little community of chocolate babies with proper raising.” -Tobe Nwigwe, “Wavy” I can’t take credit for those words. HAHA!

Okay, enough of that. Back to the reason for this blog, the tracking of my student loan repayment progress. Which leaves me with the fourth and final thing I am grateful for. As 2018 comes to a close, I have paid off $11,279.58 in principal. Check out the loan balance updates below.

I will give myself a Christmas present in the form of a student loan payment. The payment amount will be $400. It sucks to think about student loans over the holidays, but this will be $400 closer to debt freedom. The goal to live out Romans 13:8 doesn’t take holiday breaks. Until next time folks, have no debt but love!

The Case for Community Colleges: $55,645.14 Paid, $29,662.93 Till Pay Off

Lively lobbies, Silent Offices

I started my career in academia as a community college Admissions Specialist and later, Academic Advisor. I remember the numbers of students and their families huddled like cattle in lobbies, waiting to discuss class registration.

Once inside my office, scowl-wearing parents with arms crossed, stood directly behind students plopped in chairs with faces buried in their hands.

Too often, community colleges are students’ backup plan for the following reasons:

  1. Not getting into college of choice
  2. Unable to afford college of choice.
  3. Failed out of college of choice.
  4. Not knowing what to do in life.

Universities offer their share of many advantages, the purpose of the blog entry is to help cash-strapped students/families to make informed decisions, and avoid big student loan debt as I incurred.

 

The Case for Community Colleges

  1. The community college offers a smaller class setting. I remember my first class in a university lecture hall of 150 students, it was intimidating.
  • The largest class size at my place of employment, a community college, is maxed at 47.
  • Although many universities may boast this same benefit, these institutions will cost students more.

With smaller class sizes, teachers are able to respond to the needs of students faster. Universities rely heavily on TAs (teacher’s assistant), who are highly competent, but are students themselves with their own academic stresses.

  1. In the wise words of Warren Buffett, “Price is what you pay, value is what you get”. Lately, people in high student loan debt don’t view the price paid for education as highly valuable.
  • As of 2018-2019, a local community college in my area of residence costs $59 per credit hour. Therefore, a 3 and 4 credit hour course will cost $177 and $236 respectively.
  • A university in my state will cost you $1,338 per credit hour this academic year; making 3 and 4 credit hour courses cost $4,014 and $5,352 respectively.

Oh yeah… this doesn’t include prices for books, food, lodging, and transportation. God bless you if you are able to meet this educational request without debt. This is blog is for those who may find this request challenging. Haha!

  1. Universities don’t grow legs and walk away. They will still be there once you complete your desired school’s “Basics”.
  • Basics are classes required for all students regardless of major (English, History, Political Science, Mathematics, Natural and Social Sciences courses). If your student is unsure about their career, basics are a great place to start versus changing majors frequently.
  • Academic advisors have transfer guides needed to transfer work towards your university degree.

Furthermore, bachelor’s degrees are usually 120 credit hours and take 4 years to complete. Community colleges have articulation agreements which allow students to complete 45-60 credit hours, which is equal to the first 2 years of a bachelor’s degree. Therefore, community colleges allow students to complete half of their university requirements at a fraction of the cost.

  1. Scholarships abound for students transferring from community colleges to universities.
  • Hidden gems on community college campuses are the honor societies such as “The National Society of Collegiate Scholars” and “Phi Theta Kappa”.
  • For more information and eligibility criteria:
    https://nscs.org/member-eligibility/

  https://www.ptk.org/About/Membership/Eligibility.aspx

Feel free to visit the “Scholarship Resources” tab of this blog to view other great college funding opportunities.  The first link features resources for my home state, “The Lone Star State”-Texas. Other resources are links to legitimate scholarship search engines and honor societies.

 

Exciting Updates

Below is my student loans update. I am blessed to see the light getting brighter and closer at the end of tunnel. Thank you Jesus Christ for always providing for me in seasons of employment and unemployment, and I am confident you will continue to do so.

Fatherhood Part. 2: $54,321.24 Paid, $30,986.83 Till Pay Off

Celebrate with Me!

Thank you for supporting this blog! I have an exciting update to share. So my wife and I are expecting our second child. This time a baby boy! We are due October 15th and I couldn’t be happier to welcome him into the world.

You can read how my wife announced the first pregnancy by clicking the following title link, The Sacrifice of a Father.  My debt has gone down considerably since then. Praise the Lord!

The funny thing is she enjoys being pregnant. I’m proud of how hard she works and her passion to stay in shape.

She goes to the gym and even jogs with me. You go Wonder Woman! I gotta brag on her when I can to collect brownie points right?

Bills, Bills, Bills

Thank the Lord, we have saved ahead of our son’s arrival and grateful that medical bills will be covered. It would be a pain to pile on delivery expenses with student loan debt.

I am truly humble to be in the position to pay anything towards my student loans. I just hate seeing money go other places besides my wallet.

With that said, all birthing facilities are not equal. Prices range, and the quality of care can be a hit or miss.

Farewell… So Long

We have moved since the birth of our daughter; in doing so, we had to leave the midwife who delivered our first born. 😦

We loved the care received, but I figured the commute time would be too much. Besides, it would be a messy situation if my wife goes into labor during the hour-long drive. Haha!

Not Distress, It’s Eustress

Researching birthing centers can be stressful.   In our experience, many of the centers fall into one of the three categories: 1) don’t accept insurance, 2) are out-of-network, or 3) beyond our budget.

After phone calls and visits, we have found the right fit for delivery, for the THIRD time now lol.

Pray for my sanity. 

So, here’s an update on my student loans. I am pleased with progress made this summer.

Sincerely, God bless. Stay strong and fight on!

7 Years a Student Loan Debt Slave: $52,785.68 Paid, $32,522.39 Till Pay Off

Image result for debt slaveryI was afraid when my student loans were set for repayment on June 1, 2011.  Throughout the years, I’ve researched and made my share of mistakes in my student loan debt journey.  Here are a few resources and tips that have helped me along the way.

1)Know who you owe and how much.

Visit www.nslds.ed.gov to get the name of your loan servicer and their contact information.  Communicate  with your loan servicers as soon as possible, missing payments can impact your ability to buy a house.

 

2) Split your monthly payment into bi-weekly payments.

This is a little hack I discovered homeowners use to reduce interest amount paid over the life of the loan.

Make sure that your payments are made before the due date.  If you pay under the monthly amount, you risk accrual of interest and other penalties. Consult with your student loan servicer for more details.

The below tool allows you to see the impact of making biweekly payments.  Click on the link below to view how my loan amount is impacted by making bi-weekly payments.  Experiment with this calculator by entering  your own loan amount and interest rate.

https://www.calcxml.com/calculators/should-i-convert-to-a-bi-weekly-payment-schedule?skn=#results

The standard student loan repayment term is 120 months or 10 years, you can edit this calculator to reflect when you expect to complete repayment. (1 year = 12 months)

 

3) Choose your major wisely.

Consider salaries for jobs within your major. Not every job will pay well for booksmarts and passion, so know your REALISTIC earning potential. For example, social workers don’t earn millions of dollars a year.

Using Finaid’s calculator, you can discover what minimum salary is needed to afford loan repayment. According to Finaid, I need to earn at least $117,807.27 annually to repay my debt comfortably.  Honestly, not making anywhere near this salary minimum has caused for lots of sacrifice and struggle.

Review your minimum salary needed for repayment below.

http://www.finaid.org/calculators/loanpayments.phtml

 

4) Choose the repayment plan that works best for you.

www.studentloans.gov

My loan servicers have calculated my updated monthly payments to be $45.  The reduced monthly payment allows me some wiggle room if I ever fall on hard times.

However, $45 would not cover monthly accrued interest. Not only must you pay the interest, but you also want to pay down a sizeable amount of principal.  Paying more than the minimum amount will effectively reduce your debt load and decrease the amount of time you are in debt.

Which leads us to the fifth point…

 

5) Make extra payments.

I currently make regular payments of $370 bi-weekly through money earned at my full-time job. Additional payments above the $370 bi-weekly amount are from my part-time job.

I have developed a strong hate for my student loans and try to throw as much money at them as possible. I refuse to have student loans when my kids start college.

 

6) Be Honest. Live below your means.

We all want to live in a certain area or drive a nice car.  But at this time for me, the finer things in life aren’t worth the work required to obtain.

It gets difficult at times to tell friends and family members about my financial struggles, but I enjoy very strong relationships.  Everyone won’t appreciate your honesty, get ready to develop thick skin.

 

7) Build a support system.

I’ve learned that you must simply ride the waves of life, as it is possible to feel alone in a room full of people. The key to life, in my opinion, is working to achieve full dependency on someone besides yourself.  For me it’s my relationship with Jesus Christ and right now, I need some Jesus time.

Below is an update on my student loan accounts.  Until next time folks, be blessed and fight on!

The Valentine’s Day Crashers: $51,133.40 Paid, $34,174.67 Till Pay Off

Come On Man!

I walked through the door tired from work, annoyed from sitting through traffic, and brow glistening with beads of sweat. My phone rang, “Hello?” I puffed. It was my wife on the line she asked, “Can you text me a copy of the car insurance policy?”

Confused I asked “Why, what happened?” The response I got made my heart sink. In the heat of the moment, I didn’t handle my wife telling me she’d been in an accident well. Thankfully, she was close to home, being in route from work/picking up our daughter from school.

As a self-described slowpoke driver, I floored the gas pedal to reach my wife and daughter. Rushing to the scene of an accident was foolish, being already tired from work and hangry. Haha!

Upon arrival, I noticed my wife had rear-ended a car. I was relieved to find our daughter smiling in my wife’s arms and no structural damage to our car. I then inspected the other driver’s car and took pictures, and found it too had no visible damage.

You Are Kidding… Right?

Later, the driver of the other car decided to call the cops. Before we knew it, our eyes were accosted by red and blue lasers from ambulance, firetruck, and police squad cars. The lights seemed to reflect off everything, including my wife’s face. The whole time I thought, “Is all this necessary?”

Prior to first responders showing up, the driver’s passenger was coherent and mobile. However, once the paramedics asked her if she was okay, she expressed pain in her neck and back. Lol. So in the most dramatic fashion, she asked to be placed on a stretcher and admitted to the ER.

Adding Insult To Injury

Come on man, you gotta be kidding me! To make matters worse, it was Valentine’s Day. So our romantic evening was scrapped for filing an insurance claim. Neither my wife or I had ever been in an accident, and full coverage was $86 monthly to insure our cars.

You better believe the insurance company jumped at the opportunity to raise our premium to $131. Being the frugal person I am, I declined and took my business elsewhere. Haha. I am happy the claim was resolved without issue. I am more excited for the continued progress in paying off my student loans. Check out the updates below.

I have a request for you all, pray that I finish this race strong while serving my family, friends, and community in integrity. Do you have any failed Valentine’s Day stories to share?  Until next time, be blessed and fight on.

Hey There Mr. Tax Man: $49,293.51 Paid, $36,014.56 Till Pay Off

Making it Rain!

Tax season is that time of year when people fantasize about how to spend their tax refunds.  In years past, I’ve used tax returns to fund vacations, cars, tuition payments, and clothes.  My favorite vacation was taking my wife to the Dominican Republic.  It was great practicing our Spanish, walking on beaches, and exploring caves.  It was a much needed vacation, as my wife 7 months earlier, gave birth to our daughter. 

This year, we made the difficult decision to forgo a trip to pay toward my student loans.  Well, it was difficult for my wife lol!  She is such a trooper, thanks for being Bonnie to my Clyde during these difficult times babe.

Big Belly, Small Wallet

Another component to my debt payoff journey is reducing how often we eat out.  After reviewing our credit card statements, I realized we spent over $6,000 last year at restaurants and fast food.  This year has not started off any better, as we’ve spent $600 in the month of February alone.  It seems like the more we make, the more we spend frivolously.  My family and I are blessed having not missed a meal, live in a safe dwelling, and have affordable transportation.  So the following questions boggle my mind: 1) Why must I feel entitled to dine out while having a refrigerator full of food?  2) What if I made a $6,000 payment toward my student loans instead of dining out?

With that being said, my old spending habits will not hold me back from a debt free future.  My last shopping trip included some of my all-time favorites: hamburger patties, General Tsao’s Chicken, and yogurt for smoothies.  There’s nothing like a blueberry/mango smoothie after a long day of work.

Challenge Accepted

The first challenge I foresee with not eating out would be my daughter missing out on pizza, her favorite meal.  Second, my wife and I enjoy trying new restaurants as a weekend hobby.  Cooking on weekends will take lots of time and energy.  Third, managing my schedule to help out more in the kitchen.  Disclaimer: I have cooked twice in the past month.  Thankfully, there were enough leftovers from each meal to last a few days.  Although my wife didn’t eat much of the food I prepared, she was gracious.  Hmmm…  Which leads me to my final challenge, to improve my cooking.

Thanks for stopping by.  Below, is an update of my student loan repayment progress.

What have you given up to help with debt payoff?  Until next time folks, fight on!

Merry Christmas?: $46,370.77 Paid, $38,937.30 Till Pay Off

Image result for christmas hollyWell it’s that time of year again, Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year!  For those of you who are in college or have dependents, remember to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  The FAFSA application was made available October 1st and the submission deadline is June 30th.

In Other News:
There have been current rumblings surrounding issues of: 1) Graduate Student Tuition Waivers, 2) Student loan interest and 3) Student Loan forgiveness.
I will do my best to stay out of politics, since I have a difficult time managing my 1 year old.  In short, law makers as represented by the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate considered taxing graduate tuition waivers as income.  Understandably, students were unhappy and protested. Thankfully, their voices were heard.  College students don’t make much and I speak from experience. Click here for more from NPR.

Hard Times Were Fun Times:
During my college days, I worked 3 jobs and enrolled as a full-time student.  Money earned was spent attempting to cover tuition.  My usual meals were Chef Boyardee, Ramen, Ensure, and 99 cent double cheeseburgers from McDonald’s.
However, I was blessed to have some meals provided for by a loving elderly couple.  Also, 3 meals a week were provided at the cafeteria through a job as a Resident Assistant.  Man, college sure was fun.

Paying the Tax Man:
Next, lawmakers considered removing the $2,500 student loan interest deduction.  By what I understand, the deduction is not guaranteed. In fact, the amount a tax bill is reduced is based on the tax payer’s income.  So the higher your salary, the less interest deduction can be used; the lower your salary, the better your chances to use the full deduction.  This is the best I can do to explain this, for more information click here.  This interest deduction greatly reduced my tax bill for calendar year 2012, as my career was in its fledgling stages.  To hear more from the IRS click here.

Generational Debt:
I work in education and student loan debt is a concern for young and old. To my surprise, “seasoned” coworkers disclose more than the 20 somethings about financial issues. What I hear mostly is the shame of still paying school debt while having a child in college.

The recent graduates I work with are really hoping for student loan forgiveness. Unfortunately, not many of them are taking advantage of the Income-Based Repayment programs. Although I am currently enrolled in an IBR program, I’m prepared to pay off every penny of debt should loan forgiveness is denied.  Here, CNN gives insight on the current plight of the first group of borrowers who are eligible for loan forgiveness.

Help Is On The Way:

I am grateful for my talks with coworkers as they have been very supportive. Below is an update on my loan balance.

Speaking of college, I am excited to announce there is help out there. It is called the Dallas County Promise.  It is a last dollar tuition scholarship for students in attendance of any Dallas County Community College District campus or participating university.  So far, The University of North Texas-Dallas (UNT-D) and Southern Methodist University (SMU) are participants in this scholarship program.  Follow the link for details and spread the news!