Connor Scott is trying to keep his student loan debt to a minimum. He’s been raised to be frugal, one of 10 children in his family and one of five siblings currently enrolled at various University of Maine System campuses.

A junior with a double major in business administration and international security at the University of Maine, Scott worked every spare minute when he started college, including 12-hour days for months during the summer as a restaurant waiter and as a residential adviser in exchange for free room and board.

“Freshman and sophomore years, I made it through without taking out any loans. That was a struggle, I tell you what. But I made it,” said Scott, 21.

Last year, however, he decided to devote more time to school and ease up on the work. He’s the campus undergraduate representative to the system board of trustees and an active member of several campus groups.

“I decided the cost-benefit analysis wasn’t worth it. It’s a very unique time in our lives.”

But he got a surprise when he filled out the federal aid application: Because of those long summer hours at Sea Dog Brewery in his hometown of Topsham, it didn’t look like he needed much financial aid.

He was awarded a $500 grant, and told to get loans to cover the rest. Meanwhile, his siblings who didn’t work were awarded large aid packages, he said.

“So I worked my butt off and I’m being punished for it now,” he said, adding that he took out a $2,500 loan, his first but likely not his last.

To cut costs this year, he’s living at the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity for the low $300-a-month rent and is actively looking for a job.

But the idea of graduating with debt still hangs over him.

“I know it’s incredibly low compared to other students’ (debt),” Scott said of what he imagines will be about a $10,000 debt when he graduates. “I want the freedom that being debt-free affords you.”