Kristina Michaud knows she’s going to owe about $150,000 in student loans by the time she graduates from medical school.

She’s not worried about it.

“I’m very confident in the value of my education and the value of my degree and where it’s coming from,” said the second-year student at the University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine in Biddeford. “I think it’s going to allow me to pursue opportunities that will allow me to pay back that debt with no problem.”

Michaud, who plans to be a pediatrician, attended UNE as an undergraduate, too. Including room and board, it costs about $47,000 a year for undergraduates. Medical school, including equipment fees, textbooks, health insurance and test fees – is about $79,000 a year.

That means being smart about money along the way, she said.

Even before the Kennebunk native got to UNE as an undergraduate she sought out scholarships, which cut her undergraduate tuition bill in half. After adding in work-study, help from her parents and about $7,000 of her own money earned from working summers as a nanny, she graduated with about $25,000 in student loan debt.

“I am a firm believer if you are willing to put in a little extra effort to find scholarships, you don’t have to be graduating with all this debt,” said Michaud, who serves as a student representative on the UNE board of trustees.

As a graduate student, she has to take out student loans, but is saving money by living at home and keeping her work-study job at the campus library. She also got a scholarship for $25,000 a year, knocking $100,000 off her bill.

“You just have to live frugally while you are in school and pay close attention to money and know that you’ll be working soon enough and making enough to pay those loans back,” she said. “Just remind yourself there’s a difference between having debt, and being in debt.”

– Noel K. Gallagher