Duffany urges students to familiarize themselves with the
process of paying off debt long before this deadline.
“One of the things to consider doing is carefully examine
your spending habits in school,” he says. “Pay attention to
whether your loan money is going toward the school costs
versus funding a lifestyle. You can live like a college student now
or after you graduate.”
When Daniel Kennedy, PsyD, was a graduate student at Phila-
delphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, he was careful to take
out only enough money to cover tuition to minimize his loan
and the interest accrued over time. He worked as a full-time pro-
fessional counselor during the day and attended classes at night,
which allowed him to pay for housing, books and food without
using student loans. He graduated in 2012 with $100,000 of debt.
“I still teach on the side, and all of the teaching money is
going to loan payments,” says Kennedy, who works as a clinical
neuropsychologist at the Center for Neuroscience at Riddle
Hospital in Pennsylvania.
Students and recent graduates with debt may also receive
mailings or see online advertisements about loan consolidation
programs, but Duffany has a word of caution. For students with
federal loans, it’s generally unwise to consolidate to a private loan,
he says. Federal loans, unlike private ones, have more flexibility
because programs like income-based repayment are available.
Although Hilmes wishes he had known about loan
repayment and forgiveness programs sooner, he has redeemed
the experience by proactively teaching other students what he
“One thing that is extremely unhelpful is the fact that the
topic of money seems to be taboo,” he says. “Students and
graduates are usually hesitant to share with one another about
their income or the amount of debt they have. If I had known
earlier about the numbers I would be dealing with, that would
have been very helpful.”
Hilmes has led didactics for students about school debt and
shared detailed figures about his debt and monthly payments
— which are $190,000 and $1,100, respectively. He discussed
different options available for paying off debt, and the fact that
his monthly payment would be twice as high if he were not
participating in an income-based repayment plan.
He acknowledges that it’s slightly unnerving to be dependent
on government loan programs that could be cut at any time,
but it’s a price he’s willing to pay.
“My training has given me the opportunity to spend my
days working with active duty soldiers and providing PTSD
treatment,” Hilmes says. “I find it extremely rewarding because
it’s an area where you can see positive changes in a relatively
short period of time.” n
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