NC man pays off entire student loan of $28K — ‘Cannot describe how happy’

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For nearly two decades, Bruce Paulson, a digital marketing expert, toiled to pay off his student loan debt in the amount of nearly $28,000.

“It took me 19 1/2 years to pay it all off,” he told Fox News Digital about his accomplishment.

Though that’s a long stretch of time, he also noted, “If I hadn’t made the extra payments toward the principal those first few years, it would have taken much longer.”

Based in North Carolina, Paulson, 42, recently received confirmation from Navient, the financial services company that managed his loan, that he had paid off his student loan debt in full.

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“I cannot describe how happy I was,” he said. “I never thought the day would come when I actually paid back all the money I owed plus interest.”

In addition to making extra payments early on, Paulson credits the auto-payment plan for his success in completely ridding himself of debt.

Bruce Paulson of Durham, NC, said he “never thought the day would come” when he could actually pay back every penny he owed on his student loans.
(Bruce Paulson)

He said he set that up shortly after graduating in 2002 from Appalachian State University, set amid the storied Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.

Over time, though, whittling down his student loan became more of a challenge for him, he said.

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“Eventually my loan got sold to another bank and their website was not as easy to use. It got harder,” he said, “to pay extra toward the principal.”

“With Navient,” he added, “I just left the auto payments [plan] on” and continued getting rid of his debt bit by bit that way, he said.

Bruce Paulson told Fox News Digital that he wondered at one point

Bruce Paulson told Fox News Digital that he wondered at one point “why I spent four years in school and had a huge amount of money to pay back” afterward.
(Bruce Paulson)

Navient, the Delaware-based company that services and collects student loans, clarified to Fox News Digital that borrowers, using its online portal, “can make additional payments toward the principal when paying extra payments.”

‘Goal in life was to ski big mountains’

In search of independence and financial freedom, Paulson said he pursued a variety of jobs over the years.

One of those included selling wine in Napa Valley — but he struggled to get by, especially early on, when all he yearned to do was to snow ski.

“I had zero dollars when I graduated from college, and I could not wrap my head around owing almost $30K.”

“My goal in life was to ski big mountains,” he said.

Saddled by that student debt loan, he said he put that dream on hold.

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He also “began to wonder why I just spent four years in school and had a huge amount of money to pay back, and I had no idea how,” Paulson explained.

“I did not have any skills that the job market valued,” he said. “I had zero dollars when I graduated from college, and I could not wrap my head around owing almost $30K. It made me nervous to even think about it.”

Bruce Paulson of North Carolina sold wine in Napa Valley for a period of time, he told Fox News Digital — but he struggled to get by.

Bruce Paulson of North Carolina sold wine in Napa Valley for a period of time, he told Fox News Digital — but he struggled to get by.
(Bruce Paulson)

Paulson’s candid view of college runs counter to the prevailing narrative among many today that higher education is vital for success.

After a slog of career setbacks, Paulson eventually founded determined solutions in 2015. The company specializes in search engine optimization — and glowing client testimonials abound on his firm’s website (DeterminedSolutions.com).

“The market, for the most part, does not value college. No client I have ever had cared that I went to college. They never even asked.”

“I am currently in the best place I’ve been with my business, and I just keep getting more and more opportunities. And that is really awesome,” he said.

Paulson’s unorthodox outlook on college offers a cautionary tale for those leery of incurring student loan debt.

“The market, for the most part, does not value college,” said Paulson. “No client I have ever had cared that I went to college. They never even asked. They only cared about how I could help them. And that is the reality of life.”

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Even with a bachelor’s of science degree in business administration, Paulson said that nothing he learned in college was pertinent to the real world or to running a business for him.

“Going to college and getting student loans was the biggest financial mistake I’ve ever made,” he said bluntly.

“Taking responsibility for my error and finally paying it off has been great for me.”

“But since I did it when I was young, I accepted that it was my mistake and my responsibility to fix it,” he said.

“That helped me tremendously throughout my life. Taking responsibility for my error and finally paying it off has been great for me,” he said.

On the second anniversary of the student loan payment pause, the group We The 45M use signs and projections outside of the US Department of Education to celebrate the pause and ask Education Secretary Cardona to cancel student debt on March 14, 2022, in Washington, DC

On the second anniversary of the student loan payment pause, the group We The 45M use signs and projections outside of the US Department of Education to celebrate the pause and ask Education Secretary Cardona to cancel student debt on March 14, 2022, in Washington, DC
(Paul Morigi/Getty Images for We The 45 Million)

Paulson said he never considered defaulting on his student loan.

“I didn’t even know it was possible,” he said.

He said he was “super broke for many years — and I lived in a tiny studio apartment in Lake Tahoe, making $8 an hour. I ate canned food and Ramen noodles,” he said of his time in Nevada.

“The only person who could break and devalue my word was myself — and I was not going to do that.”

He added, “All a person really has in this life is their word. I might have been broke, but I still had my word, which to me has a lot of value.”

“The only person who could break and devalue my word was myself — and I was not going to do that.”

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With his student loan now paid in full, Paulson continues to have mixed feelings. Does he regret going to college?

“Yes and no,” he replied. “College was not the right choice for me.”

“It was a mistake,” he also said. “But I learned from it. I am kind of hardheaded. I must make mistakes to learn.”

“I will be able to navigate adverse economic conditions much better than the average person.”

Paulson added, “By living within my means and having zero debt [now], I have a level of freedom that most people I know do not have. I will be able to navigate adverse economic conditions much better than the average person.”

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Paulson also made these key points: “If the government forgives someone’s student loans, or reallocates a person’s student loan liability to someone else, then the person who took out the loan will not learn from their mistake. What is the consequence of that?”

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“The person will likely make even bigger mistakes in the future. Plus the person will be breaking their word.”

“I do not see,” he also said, “how a situation like that sets someone up for future success.”

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