By Kara Lassen Oliver, freelance writer and editor in Nashville, Tenn.
The Fall United Methodist Loan application opens May 1, for students who are enrolled between August 1 and December 31. Find out more or apply at www.gbhem.org/loans-and-scholarships/loans.
Asked to describe Mikala Mayhugh’s gifts, her mother, Lisa, said without hesitation, “Mercy. She has always stood up for the least and the lowly. I always knew that she would be a champion for a just cause.” And then Lisa told the story of five-year-old Mikala standing on the school playground between a bullied boy and those who taunted him saying, “If you want to mess with someone, mess with me.”
Mikala is quiet as her mom tells the story and explains humbly that she’s always been a mother figure with a big heart. Whether babysitting, teaching dance or working with the children’s choir at the church where her dad is a pastor, Mikala says she wants to nurture every child and to be a protector. Lisa can’t help but add, “She is always patient and never gives up on a child.”
It was no surprise to her parents that Mikala wanted to attend college and major in Elementary Education. But in her senior year of high school, her father, the Rev. Mike Mayhugh, was moved to new church and her mother was recovering from cancer treatment. As a family they experienced a reduction in salary of over $100,000. College seemed impossible. But they never gave up hope.
Mikala applied and was accepted to Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Tex. At the same time a friend and fellow preacher’s wife told the Mayhugh family about the Smart Loan available through the United Methodist General Board of Higher Education and Ministry. Immediately, Mikala created an account online, completed the five-page application and requested the required recommendations. Mikala’s family found the process easy to complete and after signing the appropriate paperwork, the check arrived in their mailbox in time to pay the bills that had already arrived from the university.
The “Smart Loan”—a loan with a 3.75 percent interest rate—saves United Methodist students a tremendous amount of money over the life of the loan. A $5,000 Smart Loan, for example, will save a student roughly $1,040 in interest compared to a $5,000 loan with a 4 percent interest rate—a 5 percent interest rate, and a Smart Loan saves you over $1,600 more. Another advantage of the Smart Loan is that it can be paid off in less than nine years instead of 14 for some of the higher percentage loans. In 2014, GBHEM loaned $2.3 million to almost 500 borrowers.
Mikala is taking full advantage of her education, proud to announce that her 3.5 GPA has earned her a place on the Dean’s List her first semester. True to her calling, she has also joined Phi Lam, the Christian service sorority on campus. Mikala knows what a blessing the Smart Loan is for her and for her family. She wants those who think education is impossible to have faith and know that “when you are at your lowest point, that’s when it’s about to go up.”
The Mayhughs credit this loan for bringing them back from the edge of broken dreams. Through tears Lisa promises other families that “nothing is impossible with God on your side.”