With only two months left in the semester, some students are thinking ahead to summertime. But there’s only thing on Yeraldin Reyes’ mind: her college loan. “Being a student with a five-year-old daughter is kinda complicated because between managing working and trying to pay student loans,” says Reyes, a junior majoring in pre law major. “If you don’t manage properly you’ll be stuck under a rock.”
Reyes isn’t the only one stuck between a hard place and a rock.
College students are borrowing tons of money annually. According to www.projectonstudentdebt.org, 62.4 percent of public college graduates who have student loan debt, owe between $15,000- $32,900. To hit home, www.economicdiversity.org reports that more than 50 percent of New York City students take out loans, and on this campus the average graduating student with loan debt owes approximately $15,100.
To make matters worse, the economy remains down just as graduating CCNY seniors are preparing to take their final walk. To put it bluntly, it’s time to pay, but most students aren’t ready to feel the pressure of owing money-especially money they don’t have.
In response, last month, the CCNY New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) offered a program to help students understand the loan process and post- grad dilemmas. “It’s a seminar we’ve always done, because we had to find a way to protect students from consumer corruption,” says Stanley Fritz, the CCNY project coordinator of NYPIRG. “We want them to know what they are getting into. This workshop was a good way to make sense of what’s going on.”
In general, there are three types of loans students take out: Stafford (the largest source of federal aid), Perkins and private education loans. Many students find borrowing money to be the most reasonable way to get cash beyond or instead of financial aid. But what about the consequences?
Mohammed Sabha doesn’t like the downside of loans. “I think student loans are a waste of money,” says Sabha, a chemical engineering major. “When you get a student loan you have to pay money back with interest, and it looks bad. It’s just too much money being owed and stress. I just wouldn’t do it.”
Some students believe in loans, but don’t understand the process and borrow too much. “Students seem to over-borrow loans since they aren’t based on credit,” says Shellye Belton, CCNY’s associate director of financial aid. “They borrow the max when they don’t need it without being able to pay back their debt. They have unrealistic earnings they think they are going to have after they graduate and it doesn’t occur. They do not plan ahead.”
Many students are caught off guard when it’s time to pay-or when the bill collectors come hounding. “Make sure you know what you’re taking the loan out for, and make sure you understand the terms,” says Belton. “Speak to your college financial advisor for the best advice on how to proceed.”
Despite the drawbacks, loans are a good option-as long as you get help and guidance.
“I feel like the loans have helped me build up more credit because I’m able to pay them off,” says Elle Shinn, a CCNY dual major in international studies and Ad/PR. Shinn has about 15 loans in total and has attended the loan seminars given at CCNY. “It’s an investment in my future.”
With the proper financial education and planning, paying off loan debt doesn’t have to cause stress and anxiety. Fritz strongly agrees.” I don’t look at loans as being a negative thing,” he says. “When I graduate I don’t intend on having a debt.”