To some she’s just a suburban kid asking for a handout. But Kelli Space, who graduated from Bloomfield High School in 2005 and from Northeastern University in 2009, sees herself more as an evangelist for awareness about the crushing burden of college debt.
Last June, Space set up a Tumblr site called “Two Hundred Thou,” asking people for donations to help her pay down her $200,000 college loans. Nothing much happened until she reached out to Gawker last November. Since the Gawker write-up she’s raised $10,430, which she’s applied straight to her debt, and attracted the attention of EduLender, a website that serves the college loan community, and which asked if they could host her site. That’s where “Two Hundred Thou” now lives.
Space, 24, who has a full-time job working as an office manager for internet company near Wall Street, has an $800/month debt payment that she says will balloon to $1,600 a month next November. She lives with her parents in Bloomfield.
Although she loved her experience as a sociology major at Northeastern, she now believes her decision to go there, utilizing college loans, was a mistake. Her education cost about $150,000 but, with interest, it’s up to $200,000. “It was nowhere near worth $200,000,” she says. “It might have been worth $20,000.” If she had it to do over, she says she’d go to community college for two years then transfer to someplace like Montclair State. But, she adds, “Tuition is high, even for public schools.”
With college debt expected to top $1 trillion this year — topping even credit card debt– Space says, “It’s definitely going to be the next crisis.”
“I think we should monitor how much we’re lending to 18-year-olds,” she adds.
She points out that while high school students get the message that they should go to the best college they can get into, they get nothing in the way of a personal finance education. She says her own high school guidance counselor suggested vaguely that she look into college loans.
“You get people high on these dreams of going to a great college,” she says. “Then in five years, they’re [Sallie Mae] going to hunt you down.”
Space says she was initially unprepared for the hostile comments from some complete strangers about her unconventional approach to paying down her college debt. Now she understands it comes with the territory, and she’s become philosophical about it. “I get what they’re saying,” she says. But she adds that she doesn’t expect anything from anybody. “You owe me nothing.”