It took a whole recession to keep me from student loan debt. I was a middle-class kid from a small town who never really thought much about college. You go, you pay as much as you can, you pay the rest after you graduate. The system sucks but it’s the best we’ve got. It never even occurred to me that I could do college without debt.
In 2008, the markets crashed and my dad lost his job in the auto industry. It forced me to make changes that I’ll never regret. Go to school more cheaply. Live at home. Work through college. I graduated with just as much money in the bank as I had debt and wrote a single check and paid it off.
But I was lucky. Others weren’t. Today we have:
- $1.56 trillion in total U.S. student loan debt
- 44.7 million Americans with student loan debt
- 11.5% of student loans are 90 days or more delinquent or are in default
- Average monthly student loan payment (among those not in deferment): $393
We can’t let another generation do this. And that’s why Anthony Oneal wrote Debt-Free Degree. Listen in to our conversation by clicking the PLAY button above or visit us wherever you get your podcasts.
The Conversation | Debt-Free Degree
Josh Olds: There have been a lot of books written about going to college without using debt. What do you think makes yours stand out?
Anthony Oneal: Those other books, I found, didn’t really lay out a game plan. Here’s a play by play scenario. What you need to be doing to be successful to go into college debt free. We all know there’s $1.6 billion in student loan debt. And the average student can graduate with about $35,000 in student loan debt. A fifth of those kids are going to graduate with $100,000 or more. And every 28 seconds a student loan borrower’s going into default. And so we see that these things aren’t setting our young people up for success; it’s actually setting them up for failure.
And when I was out there just trying to find different resources, different books to help out by students, I couldn’t find something that gave me the game plan. I had to read maybe ten different books to one student, and I said, “You know what, let me step back and write the step by step process.”
Josh Olds: What was it that drove you to this career path? What’s your story?
Anthony Oneal: Before I even turned 19 years old, I put myself into $35,000 worth of debt. $15,000 in credit card bills. $10,000 in furniture bills. Then I took out a $10,000 student loan when, Josh, I didn’t need it. I had my father’s GI bill because he served 35 years in the Army and also had the National Forensics League Scholarship because I was a good debater. So school was paid for. But again, I wanted to impress the people. I wanted to have the rims on my car, the tints on my car, the sound system in the back of my car. And I ended up homeless because of the poor decisions I made while I was in school.
And so when I got out of that situation with my life and got out of debt, I, you know, I really said, “Hey, I want to help as many young people, millennials, and just people in general, avoid the mistakes that I’ve made.” I’m still a flawed young man. God is still saving me by His grace and I’m still improving day by day. But when it comes to my finances, I’m a good steward of that and I want to teach other young people how to be a good steward how to go after your dreams.
The Book | Debt Free-Degree
Every parent wants the best for their child. That’s why they send them to college! But most parents struggle to pay for school and end up turning to student loans. That’s why the majority of graduates walk away with $35,000 in student loan debt and no clue what that debt will really cost them.
Student loan debt doesn’t open doors for young adults—it closes them. They postpone getting married and starting a family. That debt even takes away their freedom to pursue their dreams. But there is a different way. Going to college without student loans is possible!
In Debt-Free Degree, Anthony ONeal teaches parents how to get their child through school without debt, even if they haven’t saved for it.
The Author | Anthony ONeal
At age 19, Anthony ONeal was deep in debt and short on hope with no direction of where his life was headed. But after hitting rock bottom, he turned his life around and committed to helping students find and pursue their passions.
Since 2003, ONeal has helped thousands of students make good decisions with their money, relationships and education to live a well-balanced life. He’s the National Best-Selling Author of Graduate Survival Guide: 5 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make in College, and travels the country spreading his encouraging message to help teens and young adults transition into the real world.