Profs offer advice for getting through college with little debt

OCCC Professor Jeremy Fineman, 38, graduated from East Carolina University in 2011 with a master’s degree in ceramics.

Now, he said, he is paying off a large amount of student loan debt.

“I have a bunch of student loans from graduate school which are accumulated to a large sum of money right now,” he said. “I’m in the midst of paying them off.

“I think it’s somewhere in the vicinity of a 30-year plan.”

According to this may be a growing trend.

“Between 2005 and 2011, borrowers under age 50 added more debt on average than they paid off.”

Fineman said it’s important for students to know student loans have to be paid back.

“It’s not free money,” he said. “I think a lot of students … have misconceptions about it — about not having to pay back … student loans.”

Fineman said it’s a perception that should be clarified early on in the process so students will make wise spending decisions.

“ …They should be factoring in textbook costs, not buying frivolous materials with it, not using it on anything but school, because you’re going to have to repay it,” he said.

Business and economics professor Michael Machiorlatti, 37, is working on his doctorate in Biostatistics at the University of Oklahoma but is paying out of pocket for his education.

Machiorlatti said he has only taken out one loan and that was for one semester. Otherwise, he said, he has paid for college by working or through scholarships.

“For undergrad school, I worked when I went to school, [and] I was fortunate enough to have scholarships,” he said.

Machiorlatti said he didn’t qualify for financial aid. He received small scholarships for running track during school and worked.

He said a lot of thought needs to go into how to pay for an education and where it should be obtained.

“I think if students are clever about how they do stuff, and they don’t think about things in such a linear fashion and also move into locations where education is a little bit easier to pursue, [an education] might be more attainable” he said.

“You might be able to [say,] ‘If I stay in Oklahoma City, I have to take [out loans], but if I move into a bigger city, maybe after I finish my two-year degree, I could work for a company and they could pay for me to go to school,’” Machiorlatti said.

Fineman said paying off loans can be a slow process, but fortunately, he qualifies for President Barack Obama’s Income-Based Repayment plan, or IBR, making his payments more affordable.

Fineman said before accepting loans, students should check into the free programs available to help pay tuition.

“There’s Pell grants out there that you don’t have to repay,” he said. “There’s other sources of income. Go to your local religious institute, go to other places like that to get scholarships to help pay and defray some of these costs.”

Fineman said he did not take advantage of these opportunities when he was in college because he was not aware of them.

“(In) hindsight, I would have probably done it a little different,” he said.

For more information about financial aid, contact OCCC’s Financial Aid office at 405-682-7525. For more information about student loans, contact Sallie Mae at 888-272-5543.

For more about IBR, visit

To contact Bryce McElhaney, email

Related Article: $10k loan may cost almost twice that in repayment

Leave comment