FREMONT- Andy Helms, a 2011 college graduate, has successfully escaped with not student debt.
To begin with, Helms took advantage of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options program when he was a student at Oak Harbor High School. During his junior and senior years, he was enrolled full time at Terra State Community College. Helms also was working as a student assistant in the Admissions Office.
Helms graduated from Terra State in May 2009 with an associate of arts degree in social and behavioral sciences, and a month later, received his high school diploma from Oak Harbor.
At this time, Helms' college debt was zero.
With his on-campus job and being enrolled in the PSEO program, Helms was able to use that money to help with incidental expenses.
Helms transferred to Heidelberg University in Tiffin in fall 2009. There he received his bachelors of arts in Anthropology.
While attending Heidelberg, he also took a part-time position as a recruiter for Terra State.
Helms also was fortunate to receive a good financial aid package from Heidelberg, but if he had been forced to pay full price for the two years he transferred in from Terra State, his four-year college bill would have been about $60,000 more.
"Terra gives a really quality education similar to that of a four-year school. Some students do not realize what Terra offers," Helms said.
Helms' family also assisted in his higher education.
"My family had saved money since I was young to help me with college, but not at the rate that would have paid for four years," Helms said. "Because I could transfer two full years of credits including almost all of my general education classes, I did not have to take out any student loans."
According to a recent report by The Institute for College Access and Success, students who borrowed for college and earned bachelor's degrees in 2011 graduated with an average of $26,600 in student loan debt.
As a recruiter Helms spends his time talking to high school students across northwest Ohio.
He tells the students to plan early and look at all their options before choosing a college.
"It will save so much in the long run," Helms said.
Helms is looking into continuing his education by participating in a graduate program down the road, but for now he is happy being part of the Terra team.
"(Terra) is an awesome place to work and I am proud to work here," Helms said.
Helms would be the first to admit that his family's contribution toward his education was significant and not necessarily typical, but there are steps everyone can take to reduce potential student debt. PSEO, for one, is a game changer.
"It's definitely possible to earn a great education without collecting a lot of student loan debt in the process," Helms said.
"Terra State helped me do just that," he said.