UT Austin alumna explains how she graduated from college without any debt

Cynthia Miranda

Recently, UT alumna Shama Hyder made a Twitter thread where she explained to her 45,000 followers how she graduated from UT without any debt. 

Hyder graduated with a master’s degree from UT in 2008. She is the founder and CEO of Zen Media, a global online marketing and public relations company, and she has been honored at the White House for being in the top 100 entrepreneurs in the United States.

Hyder and her parents immigrated to the U.S. from India when she was nine. She said this has made her value her education. 

“I saw how hard my parents worked,” Hyder said. “I knew what I wanted, so for me every day getting to go to school was like a gift.” 

Hyder said she started preparing for college in high school with dual credit and Advanced Placement courses, so when she enrolled at UT she already had 56 college credits. Hyder also took some of her core classes at Austin Community College because they were cheaper.

“If you’re an in-state student and you have scholarships and you’re working, it’s doable,” Hyder said. “It’s just you’ve got to be smart about how you do it.”

Trina Manor, the associate director of UT’s Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, said she believes students can still graduate debt-free, but they need to have a plan.

“It is more difficult to graduate debt free, but it is not impossible,” Manor said. 


Manor also suggested taking dual credit courses in high school to lower the cost of college tuition. She said students can save money by looking for communal housing. 

Hyder said students can also take more than 15 credit hours a semester. She was able to enroll for 18 or sometimes 21 credit hours by filling out a petition form.

“What you’re told is standard,” Hyder said. “It doesn’t mean that’s what you have to do.”

Hyder would also work more than 20 hours, but she doesn’t recommend this for every student.

“I think you have to find a way to make college work for who you are,” Hyder said.

Jordan Auzenne, a radio-television-film and political communication senior, said it can be difficult to work while you’re in school.

“At the end of the day, if you don’t know how you’re going to pay your bills or how you’re going to eat, you can’t think about school,” Auzenne said. “You have to think about survival.”