According to The New York Times, student loan debt is “at a record high of $1.1 trillion, and the average undergraduate who borrows to attend school graduates nearly $30,000 in debt.”
For some students, including myself, that number is a bit troubling when we begin to look at the costs of attending college and wonder at the value of our degrees.
Accepting student loans was just another part of college life in my eyes. I was a transfer student who had never needed to take out a loan before, but I knew that I’d have to spend a little money to pursue a degree and make a little money.
During the last two years, I’ve watched the number grow, and every semester I dread knowing that I will have to pay them back.
Kayla Thomas, a freshman athletic training major from Birmingham, felt similarly.
“Everything goes straight to the college, and anything left over goes towards books and supplies,” Thomas said. “It’s just a hard process in general. “I really don’t know what I’m doing, and all I see are numbers that I have to pay back, and there are a lot of them.”
Student loans weigh heavily on the minds of students, despite the ease of accepting them. Signing a piece of paper is easy, and some students don’t know what they are getting themselves into until after graduation when the first payments are due.
There are different kinds of loans, and students have to be careful when consid- ering the options. There are loans available through the university as well as private loans, which can be more expensive.
Loans offered through the federal government include subsidized loans, where the government pays the interest while a student is in school, and unsubsidized loans, in which the student is responsible for all interest accrued on it.
Melissa Foran, the Troy University scholarship coordinator, had advice for students who are considering loans as an option to pay for university. “I think the main thing to do is to borrow as little as you can to begin with,” Foran said. “I try to make them understand that it’s like having a credit card that you never actually make the monthly payment on.
“It’s going to be a lot more when you graduate than when you first took out the loan.”
She also spoke about how students do not have to take everything offered to them, and said there are ways to accept smaller loan amounts.
“Students don’t realize that they can take less,” Foran said. “They don’t have to take the whole dollar amount. “They need to talk to their financial aid counselor if they think they can take less loan money.”
She mentioned the importance of frugality in being a student, and knowing what you can live on as a factor to consider in how much loan money a student may consider taking out.
“There are some students that have no choice but to take loans to afford college or other living expenses, but if you live more frugally, then you may be able to not take as much from loans,” Foran said.
She offered options such as learning to budget, using the university’s shuttle system to save on gas or moving to a less expensive dorm to lower living expenses.But, with all of the uncertainty in today’s world and the impending expense, for some students, it’s all worth it in the end.
Thomas was hopeful about her options as she continues her journey at Troy, and the debt weighing on her shoulders encourages her rather than worries her.
“They (student loans) motivate me to stay in school and finish what I started,” Thomas said. “Why be in debt and uneducated?”
She went on to offer advice to other students who may also be concerned with the amount of student debt they are accruing.
“Just make sure it is worth it,” Thomas said. “If you’re going to spend all that money being here, do what you want with your life.
“Dance, sing, theater — they’re all real jobs. Do what makes you happy. I mean, you are paying for it.”