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Alumni Spotlight-Claire Troyer '11

Claire's Top Five Tips for Success at Heartland

Debt-Free, Every Degree

After graduating from Heartland Community College in 2011 with her associate’s degree, Claire Troyer went on to receive both a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Illinois State University. But here’s the kicker—Troyer managed to acquire all three degrees debt-free!

Troyer challenged herself to graduate debt free her freshman year of college after hearing financial lecturer Dave Ramsey speak about taking control of your finances and not letting them take control of you. “I remember him saying, ‘live like no one else, so later you can live and give like no one else,’” says Troyer. “That’s when I decided to challenge myself to graduate debt-free.”

Over six years later, Troyer can testify that although the path she chose was difficult at times, it was more than worth it. She didn’t receive scholarships or financial assistance, but rather paid for school by working nearly full time while also being a full time student. Troyer said her dedication, great support system, and faith in God helped carry her through the tougher moments.

You'll have to sacrifice, but you can still have fun.

“I sacrificed what a lot of people would say is the ‘typical college experience’ to get everything I wanted,” says Troyer. “But I still had fun! I loved my job and I’m a social butterfly. I had fun with my coworkers and friends, but I knew that sometimes I had to sacrifice those moments to reach my end goal.”

The skills that Troyer has, which allowed her to juggle both full-time positions, include her time management skills, goal setting, and being thankful for her education. “I paid for all my schooling, so I feel like I have a deeper appreciation for it,” says Troyer. “I didn’t skip class, I talked to my professors, and I still stay in contact with them today. Take ownership of your education and appreciate it because we are so blessed to live in a place where we can get a degree.”

Heartland is a great starting point.

Heartland was a good starting line to launch Troyer down her successful debt-free path. It allowed her to figure out what she wanted to do and at a reasonable cost. “I would highly recommend that anyone consider community college first,” says Troyer. “Heartland was great preparation for me to move on to Illinois State. I took so many classes here that really meant something to me and my degree.”

So what are her tips to success? Troyer says students should aim to live below their means, make a budget (and stick to it!), believe in themselves, and stay focused on their end goal. “Those 5 to 10 minutes before class when most students were texting, I was writing in my planner or working on homework,” says Troyer. “It’s just how my personality is.”