Rising student debts are one of the thorny issues in the American educational system. The student debt crisis affects many college students but blacks are disproportionately affected. They are more likely to take out student loans and struggle to pay the debt owing to the rising cost of education.
This crisis has even caught the attention of President Joe Biden, who has frequently discussed the crippling student loan debt and how it is impacting the country’s college students. Despite this challenge, a growing number of black students have found ways to graduate debt-free.
One of them is Gabriella Carter, a 22-year-old woman from New York City. She graduated debt-free from Princeton University and now teaches others how to achieve financial success through scholarships and smart money management.
Born in Jamaica, Carter first moved to London before moving to Florida, United States. Education is a strong pillar in her family, including financial literacy. She combined her academics with sports, doing extracurriculars like softball and track.
After high school, she set her eyes on college but the fees were eye-popping, averaging $25,707 per year at a public in-state school to $54,501 a year at a private university, according to Education Data Initiative. According to her, she initially got scared.
Carter said she knew of so many students across the country who were burdened by debt and didn’t want to be a victim. This led her to start researching and applying for scholarships.
“Once I figured out that there’s free money out there that other people could give to me because they believed in me and my dreams so that I could go to school for free, I jumped on it and applied to every opportunity that I saw,” she told CNBC.
The application process was not smooth sailing, nonetheless, she was persistent, applying to over 100 different programs, she said. “The more scholarships I applied to, the better applications I was able to submit and ultimately have more success down the line.”
From getting rejected back to back, Carter eventually landed a $20,000 check from Coca-Cola. However, throughout high school and during college, she won 35 different scholarship awards totaling over $2 million, and that was enough to graduate debt-free, with over $100,000 in savings, according to CNBC Make It.
After graduating, Carter decided to turn her skill for searching for scholarships into a business. This led her to create Growing with Gabby.
Growing with Gabby started offline and eventually leveraged social media to reach wider clients. She eventually quit her day job to focus on her new business.
Through her brand, she aims to be financially responsible, stressing saving and investing for the future. She also wants to maintain a lifestyle she can pay for. Her long-term goals include investing in real estate and retiring early while still following her passion.
“For me, abundance is having financial freedom,” she said. “That doesn’t mean I have to be a billionaire or the richest person, but it means that I don’t have to wake up and work every day or do something I don’t want to do for the sake of having enough money.”