Knowledge Bound: The RSC Blog



Visit the Knowledge Bound Blog regularly for news analysis, editorials and facts about education and financial aid.

Posted on May 04, 2012 - 06:00 AM | Student Debt | Comments (0)

People try to explain $1 trillion dollars in a variety of ways. “It’s like a stack of $1 bills stretching from here to the moon,” or “It’s more than the gross domestic product of Australia.”
 
It’s all very heartfelt but not very helpful when it comes to paying for college. Although President Obama and Congress are attempting to reduce student loan debt, most of their actions are not likely to have an immediate impact on the marketplace.
 
Impact of Student Loan Debt
 
Student loans, once a rarity in paying for college, are now an entrenched part of the financial aid system. 67% of college students have them, and colleges, for the first time, routinely include Parent PLUS loans, subsidized and unsubsidized Stafford Loans in their financial aid packages.
 
It’s all very disconcerting when you consider just how student loan debt is hurting graduates.
 
  • Living at home. 85% of graduates return home to live with their parents, 40% of them because they can’t afford to live on their own.
  • Decades of debt. Students can expect to be paying off loans for 20 years. More if they miss payments along the way.
  • Spending less. Graduates with high debt spend less money on other expenses, hurting the economy.
  • Parents with PLUS loans often delay retirement, creating a bottleneck in the job market. If they don’t retire, younger workers can’t replace them.
 
Student Loan Debt by the Numbers
 
It’s a frightening scenario. The average college graduate today owes $26,000 in student loans, and the average 8th grader, given a steady rise, can expect to owe $43,000. The interest rate on subsidized Stafford Loans will eventually go back up (from 3.4% to 6.8%), if not this summer, then soon. A weak economy means colleges and states have less gift aid to offer, even as tuition skyrockets.
 
So what’s a student to do?
 
  • Take advantage of changes in the system. States are shifting money to merit-based aid. This goes to students with the best GPAs and SAT scores. Boost your accomplishments as much as possible to qualify for this aid (use our SAT or ACT test prep materials for extra help).
  • Take advantage of college financial aid. Going to a school where you’re in the top 25% academically will likely get you more aid. There are more than 4,000 colleges in the country. You’re probably a good fit at several of them. (Find the average GPA, SAT scores, etc., for all 4,000 of them on our website).
  • Take advantage of top financial aid colleges. Some colleges traditionally offer great financial aid. Many are marquee names, but there are plenty of surprising selections beyond the exclusive Ivy League. Find out who in our Top Financial Aid Colleges handbook.
 
The earlier your start navigating around student loan debt, the better off you’ll be. To understand how this fully works, attend one of our financial aid webinars and get your free financial aid file. It presents dozens of ways to cut your college costs so that you’re not one of those graduates swimming in college debt.
 
After all, the government can’t solve its own debt problems; it’s not likely to solve yours. There are ways the system can help you, if you plan ahead. Get expert advice and great tools to improve your future financial aid.
 
 

 
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