Success Story: Debt-Free Degrees

April 22, 2015

Nick and Kaitlyn AlpersAt just 21 years old, Traverse City native Nick Alpers has checked off a lot of life’s milestones already. He’s earned his bachelor’s degree, married, and is working full-time in his chosen field of mechanical engineering.

The 2012 NMC graduate is unique in another way, too: Alpers, who graduated summa cum laude from Saginaw Valley State University last year, has zero student loan debt.

Zero as in zip. Zilch. None. As in, a stark contrast to his peers. Statewide, 63 percent of Michigan’s 2013 bachelor’s graduates took on student debt, according to the Project on Student Debt. On average, each owes more than $29,000.

What’s the difference? Simply put, motivation and NMC dual enrollment.

Dual enrolled in 2010

Alpers dual-enrolled in NMC as a senior at Traverse City Central, back in 2010. He took 28 credits that year, more than half of what he needed for his engineering certificate, all paid for by his high school. He attended NMC for another year and worked in the math lab before transferring to SVSU in 2012. There he completed the last two years of his bachelor’s in a year and a half. Now, his paycheck from Nexteer Automotive, a Saginaw manufacturer of steering columns and gears, belongs to just him and his wife Kaitlyn (Green) Alpers, a pre-physician’s assistant student at SVSU.

“I know that some people are in their 30s and still paying off debts. Now I can allocate that money to something else,” said Alpers.

Financial and academic advantages

Besides the financial advantage, Alpers speaks highly of NMC’s academic rigor, noting that his GPA at Saginaw Valley was higher than at NMC.

“It was definitely worth it. It helps you to prepare,” said Alpers, whose two older brothers also attended NMC. “I came down here and I thought (SVSU) was a breeze.”

Not too far down the road, the “something else” might be getting home. Kaitlyn, who also dual-enrolled at NMC for her senior year in 2011-12, has her eye on a master’s PA program that Grand Valley recently started at NMC’s University Center.

Dual enrollment rising

More than 500 area high school students took advantage of dual enrollment at NMC last fall, saving themselves thousands of dollars in tuition bills.

“It’s huge for us right now,” Cathryn Claerhout, director of admissions, said.

High school students are eligible to take college courses as early as their freshman year, and dual enroll in up to 10 courses during their high school career.

Interested in learning more? Spring is the time to apply and register for fall.

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