Look Before You Leap: What You Need to Know About Student Loans

Nonprofit credit counseling agency Take Charge America offers five
eyes-wide-open tips for borrowing money for college

PHOENIX–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Despite near-constant warnings about the student loan crisis, debt
continues to rise. On average, 2016 graduates carried more than $37,000
in debt – up six percent from 2015 – and the upward trend shows no signs
of flattening.

“Many students feel they have no other choice but to borrow money for
college,” said Sarah Hamilton, student loan supervisor for Take Charge
America, a national
nonprofit credit counseling and debt management agency
. “But, there
are plenty of options for getting through college with minimal debt. The
trick is a responsible, eyes-wide-open approach to student loans.”

Hamilton offers five tips for funding college:

1.  

Find “ free” money: College-bound students should start looking
for scholarships during their junior year of high school. Beyond
institutional scholarships offered by universities, students can
scour sites like studentscholarshipsearch.com
and collegescholarship.org.

 

Then, students should complete the Free
Application for Federal Student Aid form
every year they
attend college for additional help finding loans, grants and
work-study funds.

 
2.

Pick the best loan: Students should ensure they understand
contract terms, interest rates and repayment schedules before
signing on the dotted line. In general, federal loans are a better
choice than private loans for several reasons:

  a.   Interest rates on federal loans are fixed, while private loans’ are
variable. A private loan rate may be lower at first, but it may jump
up without warning, offering no protection from high interest rates
over the long-term and no predictability in payment schedules.
b. Rates on federal loans have dropped in recent months, making them an
even better option.
c. Repayment terms on federal loans are usually better. For example,
borrowers may defer payments while in school or unemployed, while
some private loans require students to make payments immediately.
 
3.

Do the math: Students must realistically consider the earning
potential in their chosen field of study along with the amount of
debt they could accrue to pay for their education. They can use an online
calculator
to get a sense of how long it will take to pay off
loans, aiming for 10 years or less. Loan payments exceeding 15
percent of the student’s post-college monthly income may become
financially burdensome.

 
4. Consider community college: Students can supplement their university
coursework with community college classes to fulfill degree
requirements at a lower tuition cost. They should be sure to review
their state’s articulation agreements to ensure their community
college coursework will transfer to their four-year college.
 
5.

Live like a starving college student. Students of generations past
lived lean during college, but that trend has gone by the wayside.
Today’s students can take a page from their grandparents’ playbook
by mitigating expenses with a part-time job, cooking meals at home
and forgoing a car in favor of public transportation. This will
help them keep loans to a minimum.

For more tips and information on student loans and other financial
resources, visit Take
Charge America
.

About Take Charge America, Inc.

Founded in 1987, Take Charge America, Inc. is a nonprofit agency
offering financial education and counseling services including credit
counseling, debt management, student loan counseling, housing counseling
and bankruptcy counseling. It has helped more than 1.6 million consumers
nationwide manage their personal finances and debts. To learn more,
visit www.takechargeamerica.org
or call (888) 822-9193.

Contacts

Aker Ink
Andrea Aker, 602-339-7339
andrea.aker@akerink.com