College Graduate Finds Unique Way to Tackle Student Loans

By Catherine Groux
Posted May 31, 2012 11:15 AM

A college graduate found a unique way to pay back some of her loans.
A college graduate found a unique way to pay back some of her loans.
With the cost of earning a bachelor's degree skyrocketing, many students finish college with an overwhelming amount of debt. In 2010, the average college senior graduated with $25,250 in loan debt, according to The Project on Student Debt. While this figure may seem unmanageable for young degree seekers, some are finding unique ways to pay off their loans.

In 2009, Kelli Space graduated from Boston's Northeastern University with a bachelor's degree in sociology. Along with her degree, Space also accrued $200,000 in debt, $189,000 of which was through private loans.

Although Space was able to find a full-time job soon after graduation, the thought of paying back thousands of dollars kept her up at night. With so much stress, Space had many conversations with her best friend about what her options were and how she could stop herself from drowning in debt. Then, in June 2010, her friend came up with an idea - create a website.

That month, Space launched, a website where people around the world could donate money to help her pay back her loans. However, Space was unsure of how to publicize her website, so for about five months, she did not receive any donations.

Then, Space had another idea. She contacted a writer from Gawker and asked him to write a news story about her website. The writer agreed, and once the story was published, other news sources followed suit, writing about Space's unique way to pay back her massive loans.

Today, more than 1,000 people have donated to Space, giving her more than $12,580. While this money has made a dent in her loans, Space said the financial advice her donors give her is far more valuable.

"I didn't even think I would get $10, so this has far exceeded anything I thought I would receive," Space said in a recent interview. "But beyond the money I have received, I've gotten invaluable advice. People tell me about consolidation and certain things that I'd qualify for...The tips and tricks have been far more valuable than the actual money. Because of that I am confident I am going to pay my debt off within the next few years."

With a new perspective on student loans, Space has partnered her website with AllTuition, a company that guides students through the financial aid process. In doing so, she hopes young degree seekers will have a better understanding of what they are getting themselves into before they take out loans.

Overall, Space said the best piece of advice she could give young students is to think about the cost of college early and seriously consider whether they can afford their dream schools.

"As far as school is concerned, if you're in high school and thinking about going to somewhere really expensive that might not be Harvard or Yale, I would question the return you're getting on your investment, absolutely," Space said. "Saying no to, for instance, Northeastern University, may be upsetting for a little while, but it's far less upsetting than years and years of interest payments and not being able to think because you have so much debt."

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