Interviews that inspire, educate and motivate
Dec. 21, 2019

Debt Free Degree - Anthony ONeal

 In this episode,  I talk with Anthony ONeal about how students can change their future by earning a debt free degree.  ONeal is the author of the best-selling book, Debt Free Degree: The Step-by Step Guide to Getting your Kid Through College Without Student Loans.  

The caliber of your future is determined by the choices you make today” – Anthony ONeal 

Key Takeaways:

  • Tips for college visits
  • Identify a profitable major
  • Consider community college or a gap year
  • The importance of financial literacy
  • Internships and negotiation
  • Valuable routines, systems and relationships
  • Everyone should have a plan


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Judy Oskam:   0:02
Welcome to Stories of Change and Creativity. I'm Judy Oskam,  a professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Texas State University. Throughout my career as a television journalist, video producer, PR professional and educator, I've always been drawn to stories...stories about people and how they deal with change and embrace creativity. Hope you enjoy listening. 

Judy Oskam:   0:28
On this episode, I talked with Anthony ONeal about how students can earn a degree debt free. He's a youth pastor and personality with the Dave Ramsey organization. ONeal is the author of the bestselling book Debt Free Degree. The Step by Step Guide to Getting Your Kid Through College Without Student Loans, and he knows firsthand about the subject. At age 19 he was in debt in homeless. ONeal got back on track and now teaches young people and their parents how to make smart decisions about money and life.

Anthony ONeal:   1:03
You know, the average college student graduated about $35,000 of student loan debt. And let's be honest, this is on the low end. You know, we know a lot of young people who are graduating with 100,000 - 200,000  dollars in student loans and I believe, just because of the lack of knowledge.  I really want to help as many young people get into school 100% debt free. I firmly believe that no one has to borrow money.   It may not be the most popular out. It's not gonna be the easiest route, but it will be the best route for the individual.

Judy Oskam:   1:30
What will the book help parents do?

Anthony ONeal:   1:33
Yes, so that this book is going to help parents have a step by step plan on what to do. So throughout the book, I talk about what you need to be doing as early as in the seventh grade, all the way through graduation in the 12th grade. And so, for one, is gonna let them know. Hey, here's the plans. Let's say, for example, a parent has a five year old like, Hey, what can I start doing now? Well, that's easy. We're going to talk about the 529s and the ESAs. How can you start investing? Let's say parents are struggling. They don't have anything saved for college. Well, I'm going to give them a plan or what they need to be teaching their kids on how to prepare for their practice. ACT Practice and Practice SAT and what classes they need to be taking their freshman year, sophomore year. How they need to be setting up their student's college resume. We really walked through the whole process with this thing, and I'm really excited about it. Parents are gonna love this because it's gonna really take the stress off of them. And it's a book that they're literally read every year. Whenever this season comes,

Judy Oskam:   2:26
You talk about the college visit. What should parents and students know about the college visit?

Anthony ONeal:   2:32
The college visit you need take it very serious. I'll tell everyone before you go to a college campus, I want you to write down what are your goals and one of the top five questions that you want to ask and really be specific with those questions. Make sure that this is the right school for you. Make sure it's the best school when it comes to your financial aid. As far as in, you're getting through it 100% debt free. So when you get on the college campus, look at some fun stuff and make sure you have practical stuff that you need answers. So that way, when you come back, you're not visiting just one school. I want you to visit at least 3 to 5. Then you, your parents, or parents and your son or daughter sit down to have a conversation. OK, what did we learn at all five of these schools and what's the best route for us?

Judy Oskam:   3:11
You also focus on picking a major

Anthony ONeal:   3:13
When it comes to picking a major. What I want to do is pick a profitable major. Okay? I don't want you to pick a major that's gonna cost you all this money to only make 28 $30,000. I'm a Christian man of faith. But I disagree. Was paying $200,000 for a seminary degree when you're only gonna make maybe about $35,000 as a youth pastor. So let's identify a profitable major, something that could turn into a good, profitable career. Now, once we identify that major, then we need to step back and see what school is the most affordable school that I could go to debt free with this particular major. But if you do not know what you want to do, this is what I tell everyone don't stress it. It's okay. You're 18-19 years old. You may not know what you want to do. So two options, maybe consider community college. Just go ahead and get your prereqs out the way and you're still identifying what you want to do. Let's just say college is not even on the route. You don't even want to go. I have no problem with a gap year, OK? We'll take one gap year. We're gonna be working, still looking up scholarships and grants. We're gonna identify some key areas of what we like as far as what we have interest in. Once we identify that, if it requires college, then the start, the journey. If it doesn't, then that's fine. As long as we're doing something with our lives and will continue to move forward.

Judy Oskam:   4:24
You've been visiting a lot of college campuses as well. What can universities and colleges and junior colleges do to help students better understand this?

Anthony ONeal:   4:33
Number one thing I think we gotta have more financial aid classes when I talk about financial aid, I'm talking about financial literacy. We really need to have make sure that our young people are knowing they're coming to school to learn how to read, write and process information and to get a job. Let's teach them how to maintain that job. Let's teach them how. What are the practical skills? How do we budget? What's the difference between a credit card and debit card? What is a credit score? What is debt? How can I be successful financially? I think that's one of the first things that colleges can do. The second thing is, I would love to challenge all the colleges to consider lowering their prices. You know, we got to make this stuff affordable for our young people because some jobs do require a college education. And so it's hard when the college that these young people want to go to his cost $54,000 just for tuition. But again, I just think colleges could do better at providing more life skills, financial literacy courses and coming down on their prices.

Judy Oskam:   5:29
What can you tell students that are in my area who need to do internships? But a lot of internship providers don't pay.

Anthony ONeal:   5:36
Yeah, the number one thing when it when it comes to internships, is you need the education and you need the interns. Let's talk about that. But there are several different areas that you can do the work. I'm always recommending that these young people work 10 to 19 hours a week on a part time job or even working on campus. But do some research and do some negotiating because there are some internships out there that may not pay you a lot of money, But I can give you something. But you gotta be bold enough to ask. Make sure you're on the job in your own time and that you're worth every dime that you're asking for. So every asking for, you know, maybe just $500 or something. Make sure that you're actually doing the job and they could see value and give you the money.

Judy Oskam:   6:15
Let's shift gears a little bit and talk about your routine. What are some routines that you do to survive and to thrive? And what can students learn from this?

Anthony ONeal:   6:27
One of the main things that I do to continue thriving is I'm always learning, and I'm watching who I'm around. So a lot of my peers from around are either on my level or above my level. Sometimes I'm not the smartest person in the circle. I believe that relationships are key when it comes to the to today's day in time, I'm around the Dave Ramseys,  the Mark Cubans, the John Maxwells. I'm around these individuals, and I'm always learning. So that way, when I get back to my real world, I'm always moving forward. One thing is, I'm always challenging young people, especially millennials college students, is know... Be very careful with who you call a friend and who's speaking into your life. If your goal is to be this doctor, this lawyer, this business owner, make sure that your peers also resemble that as well. They want to be successful. They're thriving for much more life. But that's the one key thing that I'm very, very cautious with myself and I have a plan. I believe that where there is no vision, that's where people perish. And so I have a vision for my life, and I make sure that no matter what, while I'm not perfect, I'm always still striving towards that vision.

Judy Oskam:   7:31
I think sometimes students think, Who am I? I'm just a student. Why should I have a plan?

Anthony ONeal:   7:36
Because I believe, where there is no plan again, that's where people parish. My father taught me something proper prior planning prevents poor performances so when you have a plan, priorly, before you walk into anything whether that's a job, college,  life. If we have a plan, period, you have direction on where you want to go. Now we can talk about this as well. You can have a plan, but if you don't have systems healthy habits that you you're working on every single day, that gets you closer to that plan and that plan is going to die. So I called plans or a vision without systems or habits. Just a dream.  OK.  So I don't want you to have a dream. I want you to put some some work ethic into whatever you're doing. So if your plan is to go to graduate college at the top of the class, what are you doing every single day to go towards that? Are you waking up every single day going to class, applying your very best or you coming back to your dorm room? Where to your apartment? Are you studying? Are you getting around smart professors to help you. What is that system that you're doing every single day that's getting you towards your vision and your plan? So if you're 18-19 years old and you're thinking I'm too young to have a plan? No, it's actually it's the best time. Because if you have a plan at 19 you're bound for success before even turn 30 

Judy Oskam:   8:50
Thank you for listening to Stories  and Creativity.   Check out the show notes for more information about this episode.  And please subscribe  and share this episode with a friend .  If you have a story to tell, or know someone who does, please  let me know. I'm  Judy Oskam, thanks for listening . 

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