How a Former WWU Student Paid Off Her Student Loans in Under Two Years
By Claira Eastwood
Student loans are something college students have to think about constantly—how do we apply for them, how much we owe after we apply, what’s the difference between subsidized and unsubsidized loans, the list goes on and on. The most important of these questions, perhaps, is simply, “How will we pay them off?” Madison Youngberg, former Walla Walla University graphic design student, asked these same questions when she graduated in 2019.
Despite these questions, Youngberg was able to pay off her loans in a year and a half. This accomplishment was due to many factors, but she especially credits her early conversations with people who knew more than she did at the beginning.
“When I graduated, I didn’t know a ton about loans. I didn’t know how much I owed or the extent of the debt,” she said, adding that finding someone who she could sit down with for a couple hours helped her figure out answers to those questions, and answers to questions she didn’t know she had to be asking. 
Most of the ways she was able to pay off her debt so quickly, Youngberg said, were due to circumstance: “It sounds awful to say, but the pandemic helped me a lot.” In order to provide some relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, student loan interest rates were set at 0% on March 13, 2020, until at least September 30, 2021 . Since she had a couple of jobs after graduation, Youngberg was able to take the money she made and pay off her loans faster because of the 0% interest rate.
Her jobs included teaching some graphic design classes at the University, working at Sonbridge, and some side hustle work as a freelance graphic designer as well. “With the money I made working those side hustles, 100% of it went towards the loans,” Youngberg said.
Although much of her ability to pay off the loans came from circumstance, Youngberg believes there are some things all students can do to help themselves in the future. For those about to graduate college, she recommends finding someone who is financially literate and can talk you through the things you need to know, and answer any questions you may have.
For those about to enter college, her advice may seem controversial to some. Youngberg recommends looking at all your options and weighing the pros and cons of going to a university and paying student loans. “I think a lot of people go into college not understanding how much debt they’re going to be in,” she says, “if I had known, I would have made different decisions.”
She also recommends taking a year to be a student missionary, if you can, because it is one of the things that helped her figure out what she wanted to study.
Mostly, Youngberg believes paying off your student loans quickly is all about the mindset you have going into it: “If you really want to pay off your loans, you can do it.”
1. Personal communication with M. Youngberg, 4/16/2021.
2. Federal Student Aid. Understand how interest is collected and what fees are associated with your federal student loan. Retrieved from https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/loans/interest-rates.