Student loans could leave you clenching for cash

Jeff Davis Gamble
Chynna McKillion knew that while she was in college she had to have extra money, so she took out student loans.
When you are planning for college, essential decisions have to be made about balancing income and expenditures as a student.
Student debt is a real and daunting problem many graduates face while starting their lives after college.
Today McKillion, who graduated in 2013, works as a graphic designer and marketing assistant at Henig Furs in Montgomery. She explained that even though having the extra money while in school is great, paying it back afterward leaves you clenching for cash.
“Student debt feels like I am paying rent on my job,” McKillion said, “but it was a necessity I could not spare.”
According to, a website that supports students in financing their education by providing statistics and rankings, 78 percent of incoming Troy freshmen take out loans averaging $6,816 to cover their first-year expenses.
“I am on the lower end of the student debt spectrum, so I am OK with it, but I am definitely having to stick to a very strict budget and be careful with my money,” McKillion said.
National debt on student loans has steadily risen with each graduating class during the past decade. New American Education Policy Program reports that the median debt for bachelor’s program graduates who take out student loans has increased to $31,700.
“Take out the least amount of loans as you can,” McKillion said. “It is not free money.”
When accepting student loans, it is a common mistake for students to not realize the difference in loans they accept.
According to Angela Johnson, director of financial aid, the student loan process requires several steps, beginning with completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
“The best suggestion is for the student to understand what the student loan really is and what their responsibilities would be after obtaining the loan,” Johnson said.
Troy University requires students taking out loans to complete a Troy certification that details and educates every student about responsibilities.
When looking at the numbers, where does that leave you?
The National Center for Education Statistics reports that for the 2012 academic year, average public institutions cost $14,300.
Troy University’s undergraduate program estimates cost of $18,228 an academic year, based on 12 in-state credit hours including room and board, according to the undergraduate tuition calculator.
Managing expenses is all too real for former Troy transfer student Ashley Welch.
While at Faulkner University, Welch accumulated $22,000 in student loans, then an additional $8,000 during her spring 2013 semester at Troy.
“It all became too much,” Welch said. “Between fees here and there for Faulkner and moving to Troy, I was out of money, and I didn’t have any source of income besides my
refund I got from taking out loans.”
The realism set in when she was turned down for student loans for the 2013 fall semester.
“I had amounted too much debt too quickly, and I realized I needed some time away, so I had to move home,” Welch said. “I never thought that I would be having to pay so much back so soon.”
Welch explained that her payment was structured at $316 a month and she always tried to pay more on it.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success, students in the state of Alabama have an average of $28,895 in debt.
Welch said her income throughout her time at Troy was the refund she received from her student loans.
Refunds are excess monies from loans and scholarships, which students receive after university expenses are taken out. Refund amounts vary by student.

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