National Defense Student Loan

What did it cost to attend the State College of Iowa back in the 1960s? As I remember, it was about $1000, including room and board.

I was the first in my family to get to go to college. My first year was paid for, thanks to a small scholarship and my grandmother, who cashed in some bonds and split the money among her four surviving children.

Grandma Leora lost three sons during World War II. I wonder if that treasure was what she had received from their military life insurance policies.

I began working in the SCI library, in Cedar Falls, Iowa, the summer after my freshman year, to guarantee a job that fall. Before the semester began, the new Donald O. Rod Library opened. I had never been in such an awesome library, but my earnings there plus the scholarship weren’t going to keep me in school.

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The student aid office helped me with a National Defense Student Aid Loan and two more part-time jobs, both in that wonderful library–working for Dr. Rod’s secretary, and in acquisitions. I still had to carry full-time hours in order to keep the scholarship.

Working summers at the library, sharing basement room with a friend, I was able to pay for the other three years of college.

How much was that loan? Just $710, but my only full year of teaching was while Guy was in Vietnam–salary $6500. That loan sure seemed like a huge burden back then!

Guy’s father had died the month before, so he was back from Vietnam, helping his mother on the farm at Glidden. I finished paying off my student loan May 9, 1970, four years after college graduation.

By then, State College of Iowa had become the University of Northern Iowa.

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Thankful to have that debt taken care of!



  1. Gosh, in those days you could pay for tuition with a good summer job. A buddy of mine spent his summers pulling seismic cable out along the Montana – North Dakota border and made such good cash that he lived like a king, though a frugal one.

    • I wouldn’t have been very good at the cable-pulling job, but I’d never even been in a sizable library before so enjoyed three wonderful years there, including summers! I had to ask a friend if I had the cost right. Yes, about $1000 for tuition plus room and board!

    • Yes, a real relief, but good timing. Guy was discharged from the Air Force at the end of the month, and I didn’t sign another contract because I didn’t know where we’d end up.

  2. I had to get a loan my senior year, because Dad did not live up to his divorce decree. It was about $1500. I worked all through college, too, for my living expenses. When I read about the sort of loan figures students today have upon graduating, it’s a shock! Really? I think. Can that be right?

    • I just realized that even my grandparents came to my graduation–I was the first on Dad’s side to get a degree, and the first girl cousin on Mom’s (Richard is older).

  3. Boy, you sure bring back some memories! I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 3 years. Because I was an English major, I found that I needed a loan for books for $100. I was turned-down because I was not a minority. Did I protest? No, I just got a second part-time job to make-up the difference. Those were the days!

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