Hollie Havens ’98, an English and communication major during her undergrad years at Cabrini, is still facing a remaining $30,000 on her student loans before she’ll be clear of her 15 years of student debt.
Havens serves on Cabrini’s Alumni Advisory Board, where her responsibilities are devoted to multiple communities and coordinating the Camp Kismet volunteer program. Shortly after graduating in 1998, Havens was employed full-time by a nonprofit. She struggled as she was faced with loans with monthly payments and a take-home pay that put her near the poverty line.
“I loved my job, my coworkers, and the organization’s mission,” Havens wrote. “The only problem was that I was making $18,000 a year! I was living on my own and worked two additional jobs at night and on weekends to make ends meet.”
Havens said that it was during this time that she started deferring her student loans. Loan deferral – where borrowers can stop making loan payments – is only allowed for those who are enrolled in school at least part-time or in a full-time rehabilitation training program, or are serving in active duty, or if they making below a certain wage, are unemployed or on public assistance.
“Over the next few years, I worked for two more non-profit organizations which provided great opportunities,” Havens said. “However, they too were low paying jobs. I found myself frequently deferring my loans.”
After studying abroad for a semester in Seville, Spain, however, Havens returned to Philadelphia and made a commitment to herself to set aside more money for paying off her student debt.
“This plan worked for a few years,” Haven said. “But then the economy tanked and I was laid off from two different jobs in 15 months.”
Havens still faces a remaining $30,000 in student debt, which luckily she consolidated in 2004, lowering her interest rate from 8.5 percent to 4.25 percent – but, at the end of the day, it’s still $30,000. If she followed her monthly minimum payments of $260, her student debt wouldn’t be fully paid off for another 116 months – roughly ten years. Havens, however, hopes to cut that in half and have her student debt fully paid off in the next five to seven years.
“I’ve come to accept my student loans as the ugly stepchild in my life,” Havens said. “I loved my Cabrini education and I would not trade it for the world. The experiences, the relationships, and the opportunities provided by my Cabrini education are invaluable. I just hope I can someday win the PowerBall so I can pay off my student loans as well as those of my Cabrini friends!”
She now works as a senior account manager at Stream Companies, one of the top integrated advertising agencies in the Greater Philadelphia Area – coincidentally founded by a Cabrini alum.
“Even though I have transitioned to the corporate world, I still volunteer with several non-profit organizations close to my heart including the American Cancer Society Relay For Life and Camp Kismet,” Havens said.
One thing which stood out most about Havens was her long-term work for nonprofit organizations, spurred by a deeper desire to “feel like [she] was making a difference in the world.” Havens believes that it is crucial to not only love what you do, but also to believe in and support your company’s mission.
“The most important thing is to feel connected to organization’s culture and vision,” Havens said,”because that’s what going to get you out of the bed every morning, not the paycheck.”