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Duke Grad Student Secretly Lived In a Van to Escape Loan Debt

By Mandi Woodruff | Business Insider


By the time Ken Ilgunas was wrapping up his last year of undergraduate studies at the University of Buffalo in 2005, he had no idea what kind of debt hole he'd dug himself into. 

He had majored in the least marketable fields of study possible — English and History — and had zero job prospects after getting turned down for no fewer than 25 paid internships. 

"That was a wake-up call," he told Business Insider. "I had this huge $32,000 student debt and at the time I was pushing carts at Home Depot, making $8 an hour. I was just getting kind of frantic." 

Back then, student loans had yet to become the front page news they are today. Ilgunas could have simply deferred his loans or declared forbearance. He also could have asked his parents (who were more than willing to help) for a leg up. He could have thrown up his hands and gone to grad school until the job market bounced back. 

Instead, he moved to Alaska and spent two years paying back every dime. And when he enrolled atDuke University for graduate school later, he lived out of his van to be sure he wouldn't have to take out loans again.

"I had no idea what I was getting into at the time. I didn't even know what interest was when I was 17," he said. "I just think that's awfully indicative of the incredibly poor personal finance education young people have at that time in their lives." 

In his book, "Walden on Wheels: On The Open Road from Debt to Freedom," Ken chronicles his journey out of debt. ...more

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Reader Comments  (4)

Donna's Stuff & More
Donna's Stuff & More | June 11th 2013 at 1370968079

Wow. Really admire this young man! I wish him much success.
no photo
carolyn | June 11th 2013 at 1371007602

He is amazing and an inspiration to us all! Thank you, Donna!

carolyn & Bootsie, Neill's sisters
Bootsies | June 12th 2013 at 1371050754

Thank you again, Donna! And as you siad, Best wishes to this creative young man in all his future endeavors!

carolyn & Bootsie
NeillsDeals | June 12th 2013 at 1371050813

Yes, thank you, Donna!

carolyn & Bootsie

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