LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Some look back on life and wonder if certain things could have been done differently.
This also applies to the cost of getting a diploma, and the way an education is financed.
Some do it with scholarships, or financial help from family members. But in the case of 31-year-old Chris Bohaty, a diploma was paid for with student loans, and lots of them.
“I started out at approximately $90,000,” Bohaty said, discussing the amount of debt he possessed after graduating in 2013.
Bohaty first started taking out loans in 2005 when he attended the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. After earning his undergraduate degree in 2010, he decided to attend Clarkson College, where he earned his physical therapy assistant degree.
Fast forward four years, everything seems to be going well for Bohaty, in spite of $70,000 worth of remaining student debt, and a roughly $1,000 monthly payment.
“I just got married, looking to have kids, and I don't want to have all this debt for student loans when we do that so we're not financially struggling,” Bohaty said. “I work two jobs to pay it off as fast as I can.”
Bohaty’s aggressive approach to handling his debt has proven beneficial since graduation, as he has strategically began paying down the loans with the highest interest rates.
However, it wasn't always smooth sailing, as Bohaty explained the difficulties involved with being nearly $100,000 in debt at a young age.
“And then when you get out of college and they start sending you bills, and you realize you are making no headway, and you can’t even make the minimum payment, it causes a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, and you get to the point when you are like, “why did I even go to college”,” he said.
He added that his debt actually kept him from being able to purchase a vehicle.
“I mean you have to have a car, but I couldn’t get a loan, nor could I afford it,” Bohaty said.
For recent Lincoln Northstar graduate Max Van Arsdall, stories like Bohaty’s have motivated him to find alternative ways to pay for school.
“Definitely financial aid was the first thing I considered,” Van Arsdall said. “That was something that was always motivating me so I could get to that level so I don’t have to worry about the money or debts so when I can leave college I will have zero debts and be ready to go.”
Van Arsdall accomplished that goal, as he received a Regent Scholarship to attend the University of Nebraska – Lincoln.
The scholarship will cover his entire tuition.
“I spent a lot of time just kind of motivating myself and pushing,” he added. “I always just wanted to be the best version of myself. So that is where a lot of my drive came from. And with that I figured to be the best I had to work the hardest in school and in all areas of life so I could do that.”
Van Arsdall’s parents, Don and Stephanie, have also been working on keeping their son debt free. Stephanie opened a 529 Savings Account for Max when he was child, in hopes of being able to contribute to his education when he got older.
“I started that for Max when he was in kindergarten. He has an older sister so we had one for her as well,” Stephanie said.
Van Arsdall’s father echoed the sentiment.
“As little as it would have been, we wanted to save as much as we could,” Don Van Arsdall Said.
For Bohaty, he reflected on his high school career, concluding that he wishes he would have focused more on financial aid before entering college.
“To be honest with you, I wish I would have paid more attention, probably in high school, with getting assistance, scholarships, but at that time, I just I don't know went in one ear and out the other,” he said. “So then when I officially decided to go to UNL, well I'll just take loans and I'll pay it back someday, but didn't really think about the impact of it at all.”
But even through mountains of debt, high monthly payments, and undeniable stress, Bohaty said he doesn’t regret his decision to receive an education.
“It took me a little longer to figure it out, but now I'm proud of myself,” he said. “I know that it can be done, you can take student loans out, you can bet on yourself, it is an investment, but you have to commit to it and do it, otherwise what else are you going to do?”
In addition, he was still quick to offer up advice to any student that dreams of one day earning a college degree.
“I didn't apply myself enough in high school and I was concerned about other things like sports,” Bohaty said. “And so, apply yourself, number one, get good grades because it does matter, and definitely apply for every scholarship out there.”