Micaela Manganello knows she’s going into debt to get her nursing degree, and that’s a little scary.

But the Connecticut native is resigned to the idea that it’s just what it takes these days.

“I always knew it would be a huge financial burden,” said Manganello, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Southern Maine.

An out-of-state student, Manganello pays about $20,000 a year for tuition, room and board, after getting about $10,000 a year in financial aid. The rest she’s covering with federal loans, and expects to have $80,000 in student loan debt when she gets her degree and becomes a registered nurse. The average mean wage for a registered nurse in Maine is $66,100 a year.

It’s worth it, Manganello said. She loves the USM program, and is using her spare time to launch a new Red Cross Club on campus to provide CPR and other health training and coordinate blood drives. She lives in the dorms and is working with some other students to launch a service-oriented sorority.

She also feels it’s important for her personally to graduate. She’s the first in her family to go to college and saw her parents sacrifice, even as they urged her to pursue her dreams. Her mother is a secretary and her father, who once worked as an emergency medical technician and encouraged her to go into nursing, is now working at a prison.

“They always said, ‘Go to college, go further than we did,’” she said.

“(The student loan debt) honestly scares me,” she admits. “But they’re always going to need nurses.”

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