2 local students graduate debt free; one from billionaire loan pledge, another from dual enrollment

2 local students graduate debt free

(WAFF) - Graduation season is a special time of year for all graduates yet the next phase of life can be stressful because of mounting student loan debt. For two local graduates, they are entering that next chapter of life debt free!

Thanks for a special pledge from billionaire technology investor Robert F. Smith, Trent Malone and his peers are getting their student loan wiped clean.

“Everybody was so hot. We were like, ‘Man, can you kind of just hurry up," joked Malone. "Then everybody just stood up and the energy out there was amazing. I couldn’t believe it!”

Malone is a graduate of Sparkman High School in Madison County. Sunday, he followed in his fathers footsteps and became a “Morehouse Man,” and also received a pledge his loans would paid for by his commencement speaker.

Just like millions of students across the country, Malone says he took out loans. “I definitely accumulated quite a bit," said Malone.

An analysis of federal data from the Institute for College Access and Success found that about two-thirds of seniors at four-year colleges hold student debt -- an average of $28,650 per person in 2017.

In an effort to avoid that, Cameron Knight in Jackson County found a way around it taking out loans.

The Skyline High School student graduated Tuesday as both a high school graduate and a college graduate. Last week, he completed his associates degree at Northeast Alabama Community College.

“I had the time and it would save a lot of money if I did it that way," said Knight.

After winning a welding competition, he started classes at the college and received scholarships from his high school. The schools EPCOT program allows students to explore different trade fields.

“If you don’t want a whole lot of college debt or have student loan it’s an easy way to get a lot of it cut down on it," explained Knight.

“You just have to continue to look for scholarships," explained Malone. "Try to find people that will help you, and at the end of the day you have to understand that you’re going to get this done. You can’t be intimidated by it. You’re going to college and you make your degree!”

Malone graduated with a degree in physics. He has two post college interships set up with the goal of starting his Master’s and PhD programs in the fall of 2020.

Cameron is already working for Scottsboro Water/Sewer/Gas Board, and plans to do contracting work across the country.

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