When Cameron Battagler graduated from college, he had over $30,000 in student loans. But after learning about Student Loan Hero on social media, he took control of his debt and paid off his loans more than two years ahead of schedule.
Below, find out how Cameron managed his loans and became debt free.
Going to college
Cameron grew up in a relatively low-income family, but knew he wanted to go to college. He dreamed of a career in technology and knew a degree was necessary.
“I went to Valley City State University,” says Cameron. “It’s a small, four-year school in North Dakota.”
The college has just over 1,400 students but boasts over 80 different academic programs. One of the most respected majors the school offers is a comprehensive computer systems and engineering program, where students like Cameron gain first-hand experience working with providers like Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle.
Cameron’s education served him well. After he graduated in 2009, he was able to find work, and soon landed a job with Microsoft.
Taking charge of his debt
While Cameron was able to find a good job, his $30,000 in student loans were a huge burden. At first, he just made the minimum payments and did not make much progress. But after he got married, his attitude towards his debt changed.
“My wife is a very frugal person,” says Cameron. “She convinced me to pay it off. She showed me how much I’d owe in interest if I took the full ten years to pay it off. It just made sense to pay the loans off as quickly as possible.”
Newly motivated, Cameron began to take steps to manage his debt more effectively.
Finding Student Loan Hero
Last year, Student Loan Hero CEO Andy Josuweit hosted an “Ask Me Anything” chat on Reddit. Throughout the course of the day, Andy took questions from users about their student loans, helping them find repayment solutions, refinancing information, and ideas on how to make more money to pay down their debt.
Cameron stumbled across the Reddit thread and decided to check out the Student Loan Hero site based on the information Andy provided.
Cameron immediately signed up for the app, where he could track all of his loans in one place and manage his payments.
“The Student Loan Hero app was really helpful,” says Cameron. “It kept me focused and motivated. I could adjust the payments when I had a windfall from a bonus or raise, and see how much I’d save over time. It helped me see exactly how long it would take to pay off my debt after each payment.”
With the app and prepayment calculator, Cameron could see the impact of his extra payments. When he got a bonus, he would apply it to his loan balance.
“Thankfully, by using my bonuses as extra payments, I could pay down my debts without sacrificing a lot,” says Cameron.
Looking for grants
Cameron is also an advocate for a little-known way to pay down student loans.
“I was able to find about $6,000 in grants after I graduated that helped pay off my debt,” says Cameron. “The money is there, and it often goes unused.”
Cameron says he was frustrated by how hidden some grants are.
“The one grant I I applied for, I only knew about it because I used to work for the North Dakota University system and I was the one who built the application,” says Cameron. “Otherwise, I never would have heard about it. That one grant gave me $1,500 towards my student loans.”
Cameron does caution that the grant application processes can be long and frustrating. Many of them require extensive paperwork and signatures from your employer. But Cameron says the work is well worth it.
“It’s money that is allocated to help people living and working in certain areas and fields. And since many people don’t know about these opportunities, many of the grants go to waste,” says Cameron.
With Cameron’s hard work, he was able to pay off his debt 2 1/2 years early, saving himself hundreds of dollars in interest.
And his timing could not be better. He and his wife just welcomed their first child, so the extra money he saved from his loans helps a lot with their new expenses.
Cameron believes paying off his loans early was well-worth the time and energy he put into his payments and encourages others to pay off their loans as soon as possible.
“No matter how overwhelming your loans seem, there is an end date,” says Cameron. “And if you put a little extra each month towards your loans, that end date can get closer, and that means you’re closer to freedom.”
Paying down student loans
If you feel overwhelmed with your student loans like Cameron did, there are ways to make it simpler and less stressful. To get started, check out this article on how to manage your loans.
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