5 Things You Won’t Believe Students Did To Battle Student Debt

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A student's decorate graduation cap reads "Thanks mom and dad and coffee"

Missed opportunity: This could have said, “College students run on Dunkin’.” (For a price, obviously.)

Last week, I read about this guy at the University of Michigan who’s trying to sell 1-inch-by-1-inch ads on his graduation cap. His goal is to sell 100 of them, at $300 a pop. If he succeeds, he’ll wipe out his $30,000 of student loan debt.

This is not only awesome, but I also wish I had thought of it first. It turns out, there are lots of crazy things college students have tried to do to pay back their student loans. Check out these four other examples.


1. Live In A Van

After paying back $32,000 in undergraduate loans, Ken Ilgunas wanted to get his master’s at Duke University—but he didn’t want to sink back into the swampy waters of student debt.

Naturally, he bought an old van and lived in it secretly on campus for a year. This saved him the cost of room and board and allowed him to pay off his college as he went. He chronicled this along with his prior student loan repayment journey on his blog. Now, he seems to be making a pretty sweet living doing public speaking and writing books.

2. No More Harvard Debt

Joe Mihalic’s story is impressive, though I wish there were more pictures and less graphs and flowcharts and stuff on his blog.

He created that blog to detail his journey to pay back $90,000 in student loans in 10 months. To achieve this goal, he did everything from working an extra job to selling things to budgeting like a complete kook. Seriously—if there is such a thing as over-budgeting, this is it (once again, see those graphs and flowcharts).

But who am I to judge? $90,000 in 10 months. THAT is insane. He succeeded, and now he has a book, a budget clinic, and other things that will teach you to be just like him.

3. Auction Off Name Change

To cover close to $100,000 in education expenses, former law school student Jason Madsen tried to auction off the legal changing of his name on eBay. The bidding started at $75,000.

He offered up his name to be anything the bidder wanted, so long as the name wasn’t offensive to any race, sex, or religion. He didn’t get a bid (as far as Google and eBay searches tell me), but he did get some great press coverage.

4. Move To Kansas

Kansas is seriously lacking in young professionals. The population in some small towns is dwindling. To convince brand new shiny college grads like Megan Horinek to move to the Wheat State, they’re offering to repay up to $15,000 in borrowers’ student loans.

Borrowers must establish residency in one of the state’s predetermined “rural opportunity zones.” You also need an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, as well as an outstanding loan balance. Niagara Falls offered a similar program to 20 new grads, but we all know there’s no place like home.


Some other things students have done that didn’t make this list: couch surfing to avoid paying apartment rent, moving overseas (but not to run away from debt), and raising money online. Some websites that can help students do that last one include ZeroBound, CrowdFundEdu, and Funducation. Sign up, and all the angels of the world (and, more likely, your family and friends) can donate to help your cause.

Seen another interesting way someone has tackled their student loans? Post a link in the comments.

(Photo: Penn State)

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