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Graduating Debt-Free

A personal story of a senior college student who is about to graduate with no student debt.

Photo of Andy Ly

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I come from a family of six whose parents has little or no education and has an income of less than $30,000 a year. I have paid for my college education by obtaining some scholarships before entering as a college freshman, applying for federal grants, and working part time while studying as a full-time student taking more than 15 credit hours every semester. I avoided taking out any loans for fear of not being able to pay them back and took courses over the summer using the left over money from the grants and my part-time job to try and graduate as soon as possible.

It hasn’t been an easy journey and there were many times when I was barely living waiting on my paycheck to pay for food and rent. I had cut back on a lot of cost by making smart decision such as living off-campus, which helped reduced my monthly living expenses in half, but what really helped me the most was how the university continues to help me by providing increasing financial aids as I continued my education.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

College can be affordable for many low-income students, they just need to be able to find the necessary information to make smart financial decisions.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Cyndi

Loved this post!

Photo of Azeem

This is awesome Andy! It really takes a lot of hard work and dedication to finish college without debt. Would you be able to tell me more about how exactly you accomplished this goal?

Photo of Ashif Maredia

Great post Andy!

Could you further explain the process and getting the information? Do you believe that if you could do this then other students can do it as well?

Photo of Trevor z Hallstein

Hi Andy, thanks for sharing your approach. Do you think the way you handled attending college cost-effectively is something that other students could follow? In what ways has attending UT-Austin met your expectations for a college education, and in what ways are there aspects that would have been different in your ideal world?

Photo of Mohsin Momin

I think it should be easier for a student to get higher education. The student should not have to worry about taking on a job, they should be able to focus all of their energy on their education. Getting a degree from a school like McCombs is already a full time job. I respect all of the handwork that you do in order to get your education. However I wish it was possible for students to get a college degree without having to break the bank, take out a loan, or have to take on a job and almost impossible schedule.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Thanks for sharing your story Andy! You seem to point that there are resources but navigating the system is not that easy (at least from other posts). Could you provide more information on how you went about to find this information? I think that can provide useful insights as we are moving to the ideation phase. Thanks!

Photo of Andy Ly

Hi Anne,
I found most of my information about the cost of tuition by searching online in places such as college board and various college rankings list. I obtained most of my scholarships through my high school's alumni program as well as learning about other available scholarships from speaking with my high school teachers. In terms of reducing my other expenses once I was a college freshmen, I learned about cheaper off-campus housing through talking with friends and classmates.

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

thanks for the additional information which are really useful.
It highlights the importance of high school, personal network (peers) as well as more public information like college boards.

Photo of Douglas

Thanks for sharing your personal story with us, Andy! Have you faced complications with managing your time between studies and your job? What advice would you recommend to other students who may be in similar situations?

Photo of Andy Ly

Hi Douglas,
I did have some difficulty with managing time between work and study, but it wasn't too much of a concern because my job provided me with flexibility in scheduling working hours. I was part of the federal work-study program so my employers knew that education should be my top priority and were very willing to allows changes to working hours during exam time. My advice to other students who may be in a similar situation would be to just keep up with their studies and get things completed ahead of time as it'll makes it easier to manage their time between work and study.

Photo of Christopher

What state did you study in? Texas?

Photo of Andy Ly

I'm currently studying at the University of Texas at Austin.

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Thanks for sharing your story, Andy!

Photo of Christopher

I think there is a lot we can learn from your experience. We need more people like you to advocate for financial aid. We need to develop this in the later stages.