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Although student loans have proven to be a heavy burden on over half of all college students in the nation, the chances that student loans will be forgiven are slim.
Student debt in the United States has reached $1.2 trillion, according to debt.org.
With this number in mind, it is not surprising that many students and former students reach out to companies that offer to “forgive” their student loans.
Student loan forgiveness services such as Simple Student Loan Solutions connect those who qualify with financial professionals who inform them of their repayment options.
These repayment options do not typically include canceling loans altogether. Rather, they create a more affordable payment plan through the Department of Education.
Since these sites normally just provide assistance in applying for federal repayment plans, some students say they do not trust their reputability.
“I think they’re all clickbait,” said Courtney Wehrspaun, a senior English major from Enterprise. “They cater to students who are worried and looking for an easy way out, and they could get sucked into a big scam.”
Those who would rather apply for loan forgiveness plans directly from the source can visit studentaid.ed.gov, for a list of loan forgiveness plans.
However, the number of those who qualify for these plans may not be as high as many would hope.
According to studentaid.ed.gov, “You must repay your loans even if you don’t complete your education, can’t find a job related to your program of study or are unhappy with the education you paid for with your loan.”
The Federal Student Aid website goes on to list options that cover those whose schools are closed in the midst of their studies. The options can also cover those who experience total and permanent disability, death, bankruptcy, false certification of eligibility, unpaid refunds, teacher loan forgiveness and public service loan forgiveness.
Due to the strict requirements, the website advises students to take out loans only if they are confident they will be able to pay the loans back.
Daniel Sutter, professor of economics with Troy University’s Manuel H. Johnson Center for Political Economy, offered advice to students who are considering taking out loans.
“Students who are considering taking out loans should first realize that they are loans and have to be repaid,” Sutter said. “Consequently, students should be viewing loans as a way to invest in their education.
“Since loans have to be repaid with interest, students should consider whether loans, or a larger loan, are going to contribute to their ability to repay, meaning future earnings potential.”
For those who have already taken out loans, Sutter said he advised that students work to finish their degrees.
“The most troublesome stories of loan burdens are from students who took out loans but never finished a degree, and thus don’t have the college degree earnings to help pay back the loans,” he said. “Students who are struggling in their degree programs and are already in debt need to realistically assess their prospects.”
Former Troy student Jennifer Burgess, who graduated with a degree in human services, offered some insight to those who are considering taking out loans as well.
“Only take out as much as you need,” she said. “I maxed out the loans I could take out each year, and five years later I am $60,000 in student loan debt.
“Also, be responsible with whatever refund you get. Put it in savings, and only buy the necessities.”
Recently, there has been talk of zero-tuition college in politics, and some students view free tuition as a beneficial combatant to the increasing student debt.
Troy Online student Katie Steward, a junior nursing major, said she sees potential in a future with free tuition.
“I believe it would be incredibly helpful to our country and economy,” Steward said. “Of course, it would be difficult for the country at first, but once the opportunity to get a degree is available for everyone, I really believe the economy will boom and we won’t be looked down on by other countries.”
Others, however, do not see free tuition as a viable option.
“Free-tuition college is in no way free,” said Jeremiah Baky, a junior political science major from Dauphin Island. “Someone is paying for that; someone is having their pay cut to subsidize colleges.
“Not to mention, free tuition allows too many people to enter college without putting something on the line to be there. This would not only create a huge influx of people in the job market and increase competition, but it would be a ‘middle finger’ of sorts to people paying for college on their own.”
Sutter agrees that free tuition would not be free, and fears that it would increase the enrollment of those who are not yet ready for college.
“More students attending college isn’t bad per se,” Sutter said. “However, the enrollment effect is likely to be larger for students who aren’t prepared for college or maybe aren’t ready to take studying seriously.”
Sutter said he thinks government involvement in colleges could become a pressing issue if tuition becomes free.
“The biggest drawback I see for zero tuition is that it will increase federal government influence over our public universities,” Sutter said.
Among the varying opinions about free tuition, one fact remains true: college tuition is not cheap.
Students who are considering taking out loans, or have already taken out loans, should evaluate their current financial situations. They should also plan for their future finances by taking out only what they need, saving what they can and finishing their degrees.