In Green Bay 900 students at UW-Green Bay will graduate and head off to begin new careers.  But as Local 5’s Kris Schuller reports – one of those graduates will leave accomplishing something extraordinary – two degrees in four years with zero debt.

For the entire UW-Green Bay graduating class of 2018 higher education comes with a cost. But for Stephany Gardea – in terms of dollars and cents –  she’s leaving unbelievably debt free.

“The whole four years I never had a break, but it’s worth it. I mean I’m going to graduate tomorrow without debt,” said Gardea. 

According to the Institute of College Access and Success in 2017 the average college graduate in the state left owing $30,000 in student loan debt.  But Gardea has no loans – having never ever needed to apply. 

“I’m fortunate enough that I’ m not going to have to worry about that,” Gardea said.

“There are students who can make it work for themselves and can graduate with little or no debt,” said Sue Steeno from UW-Green Bay’s Financial Aid Department. “Planning is a big thing for these students, planning before they start attending.” 

For four years Gardea has done plenty of planning – searching for grants, working part-time, and applying for multiple scholarships.  All while pursing degrees in Business Administration and Spanish and Latin American Studies.  

“I always had a to do list and with that came the whole spread sheet of numbers of what I was going to get in scholarships,” said Gardea.

Each semester she’d apply for eight scholarships, work 10 hours a week and with some help from her parents – find a way to fund tuition and housing costs of roughly $30,000 each year. Her most recent boss – so impressed by her determination to succeed.

And tomorrow she graduates, her college bills paid – reminding all students they can do it to.

“You can do it, you can graduate in four years and be debt free,” said Stephany.