When scientist Danielle Twum graduated from Vassar College in 2012, she left with a Bachelor of Arts degree in biology—and about $30,000 in student loans. “Quite small compared to the horror stories I’ve heard from other people,” she says.

Twum went on to graduate school at the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of the State University of New York at Buffalo. “Going through grad school meant that I deferred student loan payments,” she says, “but it still accumulated interest.” Although Twum earned a yearly $24,000 stipend, the money was used up quickly on housing, necessities, and keeping her car running well enough to handle Buffalo, NY, winters. By the time she completed graduate school in 2019, her payoff amount for undergrad had increased to nearly $40,000.