Paying for college profile: Tiana Danforth
As a first-generation college student, Tiana Danforth navigated the financial-aid process mostly on her own — teaching her mom along the way. The second year St. Catherine University student started thinking about getting ahead in college back in the ninth grade. “I started to take Advanced Placement classes. Mainly because I wanted to challenge myself but also because I knew I could earn credits toward college,” Danforth said. She started at St. Kate’s with 15 credits and is set to graduate a semester early in December 2016.
Danforth, a business administration and marketing management major, holds three jobs. She works as mentor through St. Kate’s MIPS (Multicultural and International Programs and Services) mentoring first years students of color as they navigate their college experience. Danforth has a paid internship — paid by St. Kate’s — at an alternative high school working with students on safety and communication and she has a work-study position as a peer money mentor. “This is a really important leadership role for me. I answer questions about financial aid, finding scholarships and help create budgets,” said Danforth. “I do tell students that I can give you tips but I can’t wave a magic wand. You have to do the work! Through this work-study position, I learned that this is actually what I want to do. I want to be a financial planner. I realized that I have a passion and talent for this and I really enjoy doing it.”
Danforth’s financial aid package includes a St. Kate’s need-based grant, two scholarships, a Minnesota State Grant and federally subsidized loans. And she pays out of pocket just under $5,000 per semester which she is earning through her work-study position. Danforth is on track to graduate with $31,000 in loans — just above the average of $27,940 for students borrowing at Minnesota’s private colleges. “Now that I have taken on these loans, I don’t really get overwhelmed because I know it will just be something I have to pay. I created a plan to pay back as soon as possible. However, I will always seek ways to make a great change as to how much college costs in the future,” Danforth said. As a peer money mentor, Danforth takes this advice to heart — encouraging students to borrow the minimal amount and reminds them that preventative measures and planning go a long way.
Financial aid was the main driving force behind Danforth’s college choice. “Since three of my cousins attended St. Kate’s, my mom really wanted me to go there. St. Kate’s gave me the most financial aid. St. Kate’s has turned out to be the best choice for me. I feel empowered to go for anything and I have really grown here,” she said.