UW-La Crosse staff member shares story of credit card, student loan debt

It Makes Cents artwork. — By UW-L Student Breanna Levine

Andrea Higgins isn’t proud of what she did, but she is willing to share her story in hopes that other students won’t make the same mistake: end up with nearly $15,000 in credit card debt.

The Campus Activities Board adviser has shared her personal story of credit card and student loan debt with the It Makes Cents program.

Higgins, like many other students, took out student loans to afford her undergraduate education. Taking out a $7,500 loan, she was sure that she could pay it off relatively quickly. However, one thing Higgins didn’t consider was how much money she was racking up on her credit card.

It wasn’t until after she graduated from her undergraduate program that she realized why she never seemed to have any money — she had severe credit card debt. When Higgins added up her credit card statements and added interest, she owed about $12,000-$15,000.

“I never realized how much debt I had because I only considered one [credit card] statement at a time,” Higgins explains, “To make things worse, I only made minimum payments each month.” Making monthly minimum payments, it would have taken Higgins about 35 years to pay off her debt.

Luckily, Higgins didn’t have to take out any loans for her graduate degree because her job paid her tuition and room and board. This allowed her to make “a big dent in paying off [her] debt.” However, Higgins ended up getting caught up in overspending again.

“I thought I’d be okay [using credit cards again] because I thought I had learned my lesson and wouldn’t want to dig that much into the hole again,” she says. Instead of working to pay off her current debt, Higgins ended up collecting $5,000-$6,000 more in credit card debt.

Higgins in graduation gown.

Campus Activities Board Adviser Andrea Higgins shared her story of credit card and student loan debt with the It Makes Cents program. See her story on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQoZ92-KmQY&feature=youtu.be.

Today, 32-year-old Higgins is still paying off debt accumulated during college. “I just finished paying off my student loan,” she says. “I have $0 for the future.”

She doesn’t own a car or a house. The only thing she owns is a couch and some Amish furniture. It might seem hard to believe, but Higgins remains optimistic.

“Growing up, my father always worked for smaller trucking companies and was always working. He would lose his job when the companies closed,” she says. “My mother would take on three jobs to make ends meet. I learned from a young age that there’s always a way to make things work. It might not be the most glamorous way, but where there’s a will there’s a way.”

With the help of It Makes Cents, an on-campus financial literacy program, and Jeff Kerkman from Informational Technology Services, http://www2.uwlax.edu/It-Makes-Cents/IMC!-Home/ or stop by 2103 Centennial Hall.