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Student debt puts pressure on job search for OU alumna

23-year-old OU alumna Mallorie Sullivan hoped that an impressive resume and a history of respectable internships would land her a job out of school to help pay back what she owed. But they didn't.

A journalism degree from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, a prestigious internship and plenty of on-the-job experience has all the makings of a well-rounded resume.

Yet it took 23-year-old OU alumna Mallorie Sullivan nearly a year to find a job.

During that time, she was working at a Columbus artisan shop part-time. She was not able to pay her Federal Stafford Loans and had to go into forbearance, a temporary postponement of loan payments. During that time, her loans accumulated interest. So instead of being $32,000 in debt — like she had originally planned — she is in about $40,000 of debt. 

Sullivan has had to pay for most of her education on her own or through FAFSA. Her mother was a single mom with two children and a part-time job. This wasn’t enough for her to be able to contribute much, so she took out loans, Sullivan said. 

“FAFSA helped me out a lot with school,” she said. “I had a scholarship through OU and a scholarship from my high school that lasted one quarter.”

But this aid, while helpful, wouldn’t work forever. Sullivan said that while these helped a lot when she first got into college, it wasn’t enough to sustain her.

“As the FAFSA started giving me less and less money, and tuition started going up, I wasn’t getting as much,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan, a native of Saint Marys, Ohio, started her OU journey as a meteorology major before changing paths and eventually being accepted into the Scripps School.

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“I went to OU and kind of immediately found out that meteorology was not for me. I am terrible at math and science, as are all journalism majors,” she laughed.

Sullivan worked for several publications around OU and Athens, including the The Post, Athens NEWS, Fangle Magazine and The New Political, where she was managing editor.

Mallorie has a younger sister, Christine, who is now a freshman at OU. Sullivan said she worries about what her sister will have to deal with when she graduates due to the rising tuition.

“Tuition has risen at OU so much, I’m scared to see how much debt my sister comes out with,” Mallorie said.

Between the 2009-10 and the 2013-14 academic years when Sullivan was at OU, a year’s tuition for in-state students increased by $1,473.

Christine said that although both sisters have to deal with student debt, they provide a support system for one another.

“It worries me because I know the money my mom has saved is going to run out, so I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I get to that point,” Christine, who plans on attending graduate school for physical therapy after she graduates, said. “We’re both going to get through this no matter what.” 

Although she sometimes gets discouraged, if Mallorie wants something, she is going to work for it, Christine said.

“Mallorie has her moments when she gets down, just like I know any student in debt would. She thinks it’s not going to get better,” Christine said. “But she’s not going to settle for something.”

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Sullivan hoped that an impressive resume and a history of respectable internships would land her a job out of school to help pay back what she owed.

The Virginian-Pilot through the Dow Jones News Fund program was Sullivan’s first internship after being accepted into journalism school. 

“I got into the journalism school and immediately got this really prestigious internship,” she said. “That kept me going. After the discouragement I went through, I got that internship.”

That internship led to one at The Columbus Dispatch, and another at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, where she interned last summer and hoped to become employed full-time. Despite Sullivan’s initial hopes that the internship would become a job, the publication chose to hire the other intern who had been working alongside her.

She took it in stride and moved to Columbus, though she wasn’t able to find a job. Sullivan approached her former employer, The Columbus Dispatch, for a part-time position.

Editors there said they didn’t need anybody, but would keep her updated.

Then she interviewed for a position as a part-time food writer with Columbus Underground.

They told her she was overqualified.

Finally, in late March, The Delaware News Journal offered her a job.

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“Producer is my official title,” Sullivan said. “I will be copyediting primarily for both print and online content.”

Sullivan and her boyfriend have organized a GoFundMe page to help them with relocating costs.

“This job was kind of sprung on me when I don’t have any money and I’m working a part-time job,” Sullivan said. “It’s really scary trying to figure out apartment stuff on Craigslist and other places where you really don’t know what you’re going to get.”

The GoFundMe’s goal is $2,000, but Sullivan said that is much less than what the couple will actually need when they add up the costs of moving their belongings, rent deposits, pet deposits and, if necessary, a hotel while they continue to search for an apartment. Sullivan continues to wrestle with her student debt on top of these expenses.

“You really don’t think that moving is going to be that expensive,” she said. “I feel like we’re asking for so much, but it’s really just a fraction of what we’re going to need.”


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