This Nurse Practitioner Paid Off $70,000 in Student Loans in Just One Year

 May 20, 2020
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Refinance Student Loan rates starting at 1.74% APR

1.74% to 9.51% 1
VARIABLE APR

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1.89% to 5.90% 2
VARIABLE APR

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2.05% to 5.25% 3
VARIABLE APR

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  • Variable APR

The median student loan debt for nurse practitioners and other graduate nursing students was between $40,000 and $54,999 in 2016, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. But for nurse practitioner Schauren Hinson, that number was even higher.

After graduating, Hinson held a whopping $140,000 in nursing student loans. With such a large debt burden, her $80,000 per year salary wasn’t enough to make much of a dent in her debt.

Unwilling to let her undergraduate and nursing school student loans take over her life, Hinson found ways to lower the interest rate on her student loans and pay off $70,000 in one year. Here are five core strategies she used:

1. Taking on major nursing student loans
2. Tackling her student loans
3. Refinancing for better rates
4. Working side hustles to bring in extra cash
5. What’s next after paying off her student loans

Taking on major nursing student loans

When it came time to get an advanced degree, the choice was easy for Hinson. Duke University was her first choice — and while it was an attractive option, the university’s high cost of attendance wiped out her savings. But despite her misgivings about student debt, Hinson had to take out loans to pay for her education.

“It’s a great school,” she said. “It’s worth the cost. But I just didn’t have the money to pay for it.”

With her savings gone, she had a tough decision to face.

“I was working as a nurse at the hospital at the time,” Hinson recalled. “Even with my income, a grant from the nursing school and two scholarships, I still couldn’t pay for my degree. I was talking to a coworker about it, and she told me to just take the loan so I could complete my degree faster.”

Even though Hinson qualified for federal loans, the interest rates were still high. “I had eight different loans in total,” she said. “The interest on three of them was 8.50%. The others were 6.80%.”

While the median student loan debt for nurse practitioners goes up to about $55,000, Hinson’s loan balance was ultimately $140,000 when she graduated.

Tackling her student loans

After her loan grace period ended, the minimum monthly payment on Hinson’s loans was nearly $1,800. Even with her high starting salary of $80,000, the minimum payment was difficult for Hinson to afford.

Although she tried to keep on the 10-year standard repayment plan, the monthly bill was too high. Hinson applied for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan, which made her payments more affordable. But, there was a drawback: While the payments were easier for her, interest kept building.

“Every time I made a payment [under the IDR plan], I saw that my balance grew,” she said.

Her payment wasn’t enough to cover the interest charges, so the balance increased with time. Hinson realized that it would take 20 to 25 years to eliminate her loans under the IDR plan.

Refinancing for better rates

With a sense of urgency to pay off her loans, Hinson researched alternative options for student loan repayment. She learned about student loan refinancing and how it could reduce her rates so that more of her monthly payments went to her principal. With a lower rate, she could pay off her loans faster.

When you refinance a student loan, you take out a new loan to pay for some or all of your current student loans. The new loan can have a different interest rate, repayment term and minimum payment.

Although it can help some people pay off their debt faster, refinancing does have its drawbacks, particularly if you have federal loans.

“It was a little scary,” Hinson said. “By [refinancing student loans], you lose all these federal benefits and protections. But I decided that the risk was worth it to get rid of them faster.”

Hinson shopped around with several different lenders before deciding on Earnest. Not only did they offer her a great interest rate — about 3.00% — but she felt more comfortable with them as a company.

Other lenders had offered Hinson a loan with very little information, which made her nervous about scams. Earnest, however, required more information and documentation, which made her feel the company was legitimate — “Their process was a little more rigorous, which was reassuring.”

Working side hustles to bring in extra cash

With a lower rate, Hinson was motivated to pay off her debt as fast as possible. She also started working several side hustles so she could pay more toward her loan.

“I had three jobs at the time and I just put every extra dollar toward my loans,” she said. On top of her job as a nurse practitioner, she also worked on weekends at a local clinic and did home visits. Between her jobs, she was able to put an extra $4,000 per month toward her loans.

“It was a bit lonely,” Hinson said. “I’d work my job, then head straight to my home visit job for a few hours. And my weekends were spent at the clinic. There wasn’t time for much else.”

But although her schedule was grueling, her hard work paid off — in one year, she paid off nearly $70,000 in student loans.

What’s next after paying off her student loans

Hinson managed to pay off her loans in just six years, including the time she spent on an IDR plan. Even though she no longer has student loans, she hasn’t been able to convince herself to give up all of her side hustles yet.

“Not having $140,000 on my shoulders is amazing,” she said. “I feel much more freedom. But I’m still working weekends at the clinic so I can pay off my car sooner and save up an emergency fund.”

For others facing the burden of student loans, Hinson recommends facing it head on.

“I believe your debt is like a ‘your house is on fire’ emergency,” she said. “Don’t spend a dime on anything other than basics and put everything else toward your debt so it’s out of your life.”

If you’re ready to take charge of nursing student loans or any other kind of student debt like Hinson did, check out our ultimate guide to paying off your student loans faster.

Rebecca Safier contributed to this article.

Interested in refinancing student loans?

Here are the top 9 lenders of 2022!
LenderVariable APREligible Degrees 
1.74% – 9.51%1Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Splash

1.89% – 5.90%2Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Laurel Road

2.05% – 5.25%3Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Lendkey

1.74% – 7.99%4Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit NaviRefi

1.74% – 7.99%5Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit SoFi

1.74% – 7.99%6Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Earnest

1.86% – 6.01%Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Elfi

1.74% – 7.99%7Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Purefy

2.24% – 9.23%8Undergrad
& Graduate

Visit Citizens

Check out the testimonials and our in-depth reviews!
1 Important Disclosures for Splash Financial.

Splash Financial Disclosures

Terms and Conditions apply. Splash reserves the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. Rates and terms are also subject to change at any time without notice. Offers are subject to credit approval. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident in an eligible state and meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers receive the lowest rate. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. If approved, your actual rate will be within a range of rates and will depend on a variety of factors, including term of loan, a responsible financial history, income and other factors. Refinancing or consolidating private and federal student loans may not be the right decision for everyone. Federal loans carry special benefits not available for loans made through Splash Financial, for example, public service loan forgiveness and economic hardship programs, fee waivers and rebates on the principal, which may not be accessible to you after you refinance. The rates displayed may include a 0.25% autopay discount

The information you provide to us is an inquiry to determine whether we or our lenders can make a loan offer that meets your needs. If we or any of our lending partners has an available loan offer for you, you will be invited to submit a loan application to the lender for its review. We do not guarantee that you will receive any loan offers or that your loan application will be approved. Offers are subject to credit approval and are available only to U.S. citizens or permanent residents who meet applicable underwriting requirements. Not all borrowers will receive the lowest rates, which are available to the most qualified borrowers. Participating lenders, rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice.

To check the rates and terms you qualify for, Splash Financial conducts a soft credit pull that will not affect your credit score. However, if you choose a product and continue your application, the lender will request your full credit report from one or more consumer reporting agencies, which is considered a hard credit pull and may affect your credit.

Splash Financial and our lending partners reserve the right to modify or discontinue products and benefits at any time without notice. To qualify, a borrower must be a U.S. citizen and meet our lending partner’s underwriting requirements. Lowest rates are reserved for the highest qualified borrowers. This information is current as of June 1, 2022.


2 Important Disclosures for Laurel Road.

Laurel Road Disclosures

All credit products are subject to credit approval.

Laurel Road began originating student loans in 2013 and has since helped thousands of professionals with undergraduate and postgraduate degrees consolidate and refinance more than $4 billion in federal and private school loans. Laurel Road also offers a suite of online graduate school loan products and personal loans that help simplify lending through customized technology and personalized service. In April 2019, Laurel Road was acquired by KeyBank, one of the nation’s largest bank-based financial services companies. Laurel Road is a brand of KeyBank National Association offering online lending products in all 50 U.S. states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. All loans are provided by KeyBank National Association, a nationally chartered bank. Member FDIC. For more information, visit www.laurelroad.com.

As used throughout these Terms & Conditions, the term “Lender” refers to KeyBank National Association and its affiliates, agents, guaranty insurers, investors, assigns, and successors in interest.

  1. Checking your rate with Laurel Road only requires a soft credit pull, which will not affect your credit score. To proceed with an application, a hard credit pull will be required, which may affect your credit score.
  2. Savings vary based on rate and term of your existing and refinanced loan(s). Refinancing to a longer term may lower your monthly payments, but may also increase the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Refinancing to a shorter term may increase your monthly payments, but may lower the total interest paid over the life of the loan. Review your loan documentation for total cost of your refinanced loan.
  3. After loan disbursement, if a borrower documents a qualifying economic hardship, we may agree in our discretion to allow for full or partial forbearance of payments for one or more 3-month time periods (not to exceed 12 months in the aggregate during the term of your loan), provided that we receive acceptable documentation (including updating documentation) of the nature and expected duration of the borrower’s economic hardship. During any period of forbearance interest will continue to accrue. At the end of the forbearance period, any unpaid accrued interest will be capitalized and be added to the remaining principle amount of the loan.
  4. Automatic Payment (“AutoPay”) Discount: if the borrower chooses to make monthly payments automatically from a bank account, the interest rate will decrease by 0.25% and will increase back if the borrower stops making (or we stop accepting) monthly payments automatically from the borrower’s bank account. The 0.25% AutoPay discount will not reduce the monthly payment; instead, the discount is applied to the principal to help pay the loan down faster.

Assumptions: Repayment examples above assume a loan amount of $10,000 with repayment beginning immediately following disbursement. Repayment examples do not include the 0.25% AutoPay Discount.

Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): This term represents the actual cost of financing to the borrower over the life of the loan expressed as a yearly rate.

Interest Rate: A simple annual rate that is applied to an unpaid balance.

Variable Rates: The current index for variable rate loans is derived from the one-month London Interbank Offered Rate (“LIBOR”) and changes in the LIBOR index may cause your monthly payment to increase. Borrowers who take out a term of 5, 7, or 10 years will have a maximum interest rate of 9%, those who take out a 15 or 20-year variable loan will have a maximum interest rate of 10%.

KEYBANK NATIONAL ASSOCIATION RESERVES THE RIGHT TO MODIFY OR DISCONTINUE PRODUCTS AND BENEFITS AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE.

This information is current as of April 29, 2021. Information and rates are subject to change without notice.
 


3 Important Disclosures for LendKey.

LendKey Disclosures

Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it  endorse,  any educational institution.

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised variable APR is only available for loan terms of  5 years and is reserved for applicants with FICO scores of at least 810.

As of 5/17/2022 student loan refinancing rates range from 2.05% APR – 5.25% Variable APR with AutoPay and 2.49% APR – 7.93% Fixed APR with AutoPay.


4 Important Disclosures for Navient.

Navient Disclosures

You can choose between fixed and variable rates. Fixed interest rates are 2.99% – 8.24% APR (2.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Starting variable interest rates are 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (1.74% – 7.99% APR with Auto Pay discount). Variable rates are based on an index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) plus a margin. Variable rates are reset monthly based on the fluctuation of the index. We do not currently offer variable rate loans in AK, CO, CT, HI, IL, KY, MA, MN, MS, NH, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, and VA.


5 Important Disclosures for SoFi.

SoFi Disclosures

Fixed rates range from 3.49% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Variable rates from 1.74% APR to 7.99% APR with a 0.25% autopay discount. Unless required to be lower to comply with applicable law, Variable Interest rates on 5-, 7-, and 10-year terms are capped at 8.95% APR; 15- and 20-year terms are capped at 9.95% APR. Your actual rate will be within the range of rates listed above and will depend on the term you select, evaluation of your creditworthiness, income, presence of a co-signer and a variety of other factors. Lowest rates reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers. For the SoFi variable-rate product, the variable interest rate for a given month is derived by adding a margin to the 30-day average SOFR index, published two business days preceding such calendar month, rounded up to the nearest one hundredth of one percent (0.01% or 0.0001). APRs for variable-rate loans may increase after origination if the SOFR index increases. The SoFi 0.25% autopay interest rate reduction requires you to agree to make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic monthly deduction from a savings or checking account. This benefit will discontinue and be lost for periods in which you do not pay by automatic deduction from a savings or checking account. The benefit lowers your interest rate but does not change the amount of your monthly payment. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance. Autopay is not required to receive a loan from SoFi.


6 Rate range above includes optional 0.25% Auto Pay discount. Important Disclosures for Earnest.

Earnest Disclosures

Student Loan Refinance Interest Rate Disclosure Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 3.24% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 1.99% APR to 8.24% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan refinance loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. The maximum rate for your loan is 8.95% if your loan term is 10 years or less. For loan terms of more than 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95%. Please note, we are not able to offer variable rate loans in AK, IL, MN, NH, OH, TN, and TX. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. Let us know if you have any questions and feel free to reach out directly to our team.


7 Important Disclosures for Purefy.

Purefy Disclosures

Purefy Student Loan Refinancing Rate and Terms Disclosure: Annual Percentage Rates (APR) ranges and examples are based on information provided to Purefy by lenders participating in Purefy’s rate comparison platform. For student loan refinancing, the participating lenders offer fixed rates ranging from 2.73% – 7.99% APR, and variable rates ranging from 1.74% – 7.99% APR. The maximum variable rate is 25.00%. Your interest rate will be based on the lender’s requirements. In most cases, lenders determine the interest rates based on your credit score, degree type and other credit and financial criteria. Only borrowers with excellent credit and meeting other lender criteria will qualify for the lowest rate available. Rates and terms are subject to change at any time without notice. Terms and conditions apply.  


8 Important Disclosures for Citizens.

CitizensBank Disclosures

Education Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24%-9.23% (2.24%-9.23% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29%-9.73% (4.29%-9.73% APR). 

Undergraduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 5.37%- 8.81% (5.37% – 8.81% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 5.87% – 9.31% (5.87% – 9.31% APR).

Graduate Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24% – 8.75% (2.24% – 8.75% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29% – 9.25% (4.29% – 9.25% APR).

Education Refinance Loan for Parents Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24%- 8.40% (2.24%- 8.40% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29% – 8.90% (4.29% – 8.90% APR). 

Medical Residency Refinance Loan Rate Disclosure: Variable interest rates range from 2.24% – 8.75% (2.24% – 8.75% APR). Fixed interest rates range from 4.29% – 9.25% (4.29% – 9.25% APR).