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2011 December 26 - 12:00 am

STUDENT SPOTLIGHT: College Grad Bucks Trend, Leaves Nest

DANVILLE, Ill. (AP) — When Cortney Auter graduated from college and landed a job in her field of choice, she thought her “adult” life was starting off pretty good.

She never thought she’d have to move back in with her parents because of student loans and other bills. But that’s what happened to the struggling-to-be-independent woman.

Auter, however, is not alone; and she’s now a success story.

According to the U.S. Census, more young adults are living in their parents’ homes. Between 2005 and 2011, the percentage of men age 25 to 34 living in their parents’ home rose from 14 percent in 2005 to 19 percent in 2011 and from 8 percent to 10 percent during the same period for women.

After almost two-and-a-half years living at home with her mother, Laura, and commuting to work in Urbana, Auter moved out in September and is now living with a roommate in an apartment in Urbana.

“The price of gas ended up almost equaling a rent payment, so I moved out,” she said.

Auter, 26, a graduate of Eastern Illinois University, started out at Danville Area Community College.

Neither of Auter’s parents, who are divorced, had gone to college, but they told her it was important for her to do.

Auter said she attended DACC to save money and was fortunate enough to receive a federal Pell grant, which doesn’t have to be repaid.

Once she started attending EIU, however, she had to take out student loans.

Auter admits she could have been more careful with the student loans, but “I really had no guidance on what I was doing. I take full responsibility for this, and I have made my payments every single month since.”

Once she graduated in May 2008 with a degree in family and consumer sciences, Auter, then age 23, had to move home because of her student loan debt. She couldn’t afford to live on her own. She was faced with owing about enough to buy a house with her student loans, in addition to credit card debt with books, groceries and other things.

Auter had the chance to study abroad, and when she returned home she worked in Danville at a counseling job.

Auter helped with some bills at her mom’s home, such as for food, and paid all of her own bills _ student loans, credit cards, cellphone and health insurance.

She slept in her old room. Her mom didn’t enforce any curfew or new rules.

Auter then found another job in Urbana and started commuting.

She was able to move out of her mother’s home only because she worked 40 to 60 hours a week. She worked overtime, cut back spending on “fun stuff,” budgeted and saved money.

“It’s difficult and I really struggled emotionally while living at home. I had various emotions: I was a failure, college was a stupid choice (and) I would never be independent. It was very difficult and my heart goes out to those who are still struggling with this situation,” Auter said.

“I’m not complaining or asking for people to feel bad for me. I’m proud of how hard I’ve (worked),” she said.

She also says her situation is easier, because she’s single and doesn’t have any children.

“Personally, I felt better about myself and my life,” she said about moving out of her parent’s home. “I felt a lot like a failure moving back home.”

Auter just had a need, as most college graduates do, to support herself and have her “own” space.

“I’m an adult now,” she said. “I would get really hard on myself.”

She never thought she’d move back home after graduating college.

“I thought once I graduated I’d be able to fully support myself. It’s what is expected,”’ she said.

Auter is now on a good financial road due to some of the current laws passed for student loans that helped lower her payments.

Student loan repayment law changes were aimed to help students cap their loan payments, consolidate loans and reduce interest rates.

Auter currently works at Cunningham Children’s Home in Urbana as a direct care counselor.

She doesn’t see herself ever having to move back in with her parents.

Her advice for others is to “be very aware of the costs of college. Student loan debt is a different kind of debt. Be careful with credit cards.”

She went into the student loan process blind, she said.

“Do your homework and learn more about (student loans) and the process. Don’t realize too late what you got into,” Auter said.

She said “private loans are not willing to work with people, (but) federal loans work with you.”

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