It’s a typical beautiful, sunny and hot eastern North Carolina summer day. While many students are enjoying their time off from school, Caitlin Palmer has her lab coat on inside the Science and Technology building, teaching chemistry to undergraduates.

Palmer graduated from East Carolina University with degrees in chemistry and biochemistry in May, so the time off would have been nice. However, she has other goals ahead of her like finishing graduate school at ECU and earning her doctorate in chemistry. What’s behind her though is student debt.

“It gives you a lot of anxiety to have this huge burden (student debt) over your head,” Palmer said. “So, to not have that as a 22-year-old college graduate is fantastic.”

Palmer is one of four children. She said her parents paid for her older brother and sister to go to college, but she didn’t want them to have to pay for her. Palmer took it upon herself to find opportunities and scholarships to pay for college. She applied for ECU’s Honors College and was accepted. The Honors College would only cover her tuition. She would be responsible for housing, food, books and other incidentals. Palmer decided to apply for as many “smaller” scholarships as she could, thinking she would have a better chance of earning those.

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Originally published Oct. 4, 2019.