Yesterday, we learned about a recent Northeastern college graduate who is almost $200,000 in debt thanks to exorbitant student loans. We had a few questions. So we tracked down Kelli Space to explain exactly how things got so bad for her.
Kelli is currently soliciting funds on a website called twohundredthou.com, since her loans have ballooned to a point she does not think she will ever be able to pay.
As far as we can tell, she is actually a 2009 Northeastern graduate. So far, she’s raised about $2k. But mostly, we were curious to see how her debts had spiraled so badly in such a short time. Lots of people take out loans to go to college. And they don’t end up with this much debt (especially just for undergrad.)
It all started when she got accepted to Northeastern. She knew she couldn’t afford the school, but went anyway:
“College had been held on a pedestal for so long that I was literally chomping at the bit to go to the best school that offered me admission – just like all my friends were doing. I’d never taken out a loan before. My first debt was student loan debt – no frivolous spending in any other aspect here. I was also pretty misguided as to what my salary would be upon graduation.”
Kelli says she’s the first person in her family to go to college. And admits that she did not do enough research before taking out large loans:
“I can blame teachers, my parents, anyone else, but honestly I should have done my research. I should have applied to more scholarships. I should have, I should have, I should have. I made poor decisions based on what I knew, or thought I knew. Five years later I absolutely regret what I’ve done and realize all the options I had at the time. If only I’d known then what I know now.”
One question is why admissions (and financial aid) advisors don’t advise kids more about what they can and cannot afford. According to Kelli:
“The only financial aid advisor I met with was at Northeastern during my visit, and she never once told me it was a poor choice. With her not giving me any sort of guidance one way or the other, and my Mom and I being elated about my going to college, I saw no reason to reassess my choice. Again, I regret it all.”
Right now, Kelli works as an office manager for a firm near Wall Street, and says she has a pretty entry level salary:
“I was definitely under the impression I’d have a better paying job after graduation. I don’t know why – but I was.”
The main issue is that she has already deferred her loans for two years. Starting next November, she will be expected to pay $1600 a month. She says she’s “pretty much just in panic mode” until that point. Kelli says she will never be in debt again (if she gets out of debt this time). At the rate she’s making/getting donations, it might be awhile before that happens.
(Photo from ralph and jenny)
UPDATE: Kelli is now making some headway with her loans and working with a lending startup to help other students avoid her mistakes.