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Rising student debt overwhelming for graduates

Education is almost essential for success in the world, but finding the funds for a needed education is not easy for a large majority of students.

“Between my wife and I, we have about $14,000 in loans so far for school. We will have to start paying them off in August when she graduates,” Nick Hammons, 22, former TJC student, said. “We will just make payments on them, but it won’t be easy and it will take a while to pay them all off.”

According to American Student Assistance, federal loans are the primary source for federal financial aid. Between the years of 2000- 2007, an estimated 60 percent of bachelor’s degree recipients borrowed to help fund their education, and the average debt per borrower rose 18 percent during this time period.

“I took a semester off so we had to make payments on my loans for six months. It was really hard to manage all of that,” Hammons said.

Between school and living expenses, many struggling students turn to credit cards to help offset costs of the every day, thus giving them more debt than just the student loans.

In 2007, two out of three students had a credit card, and the average debt of a senior is close to $3,000 at graduation, according to American Student Assistance.

“My parents didn’t want me to get a credit card, but it was my way of rebelling,” Brianna Harmon, TJC student, said. “I figured I would only use it on small stuff and build up my credit score, but I ended up going crazy with it.”

Harmon is now trying to pay off her credit card debt so that she will not have to worry about the loans and the debt from her credit card after graduation.

According to helpmepaymyloans.com, over the past decade, the amount of borrowing for college has increased 108 percent.

With an ailing economy and unemployment rising, many students have no other option but to take out loans when they find themselves unable to pay for school.

“My parents said they would pay for my school, but when my dad lost his job, I was worried they wouldn’t be able to anymore,” TJC student Cody West said. “I don’t want the pressure of trying to find a job and knowing that I have a loan to pay off after graduation.”

After graduation, a student that has taken out a loan is required to start making payments, unless the payments are deferred. There are many different rules and requirements when paying off loans and the lending agency is who would set those rules.

“The main problem with loans would be the consequences resulting from default. Students become ineligible for all aid programs, their IRS refunds could be taken, or their wages garnished at work, plus adverse credit history,” Devon Wiggins, TJC financial aid director, said.

To pay off debt of employees, employers are required to take out a percentage of an employee’s pay each paycheck to make up for the payments that have not been made.

“I have an employee that is unable to get an automatic promotion, because he does not have enough college hours, but I am still having to take out 15 percent of his check each month to pay off the loans that he had during his four years in college,” Nina Smith, manager for Jones Rural Water in Quitman, said.

Wiggins offers a few words of advice for students who either have a loan or who are considering taking out a loan: “Borrow conservatively and stay in touch with your lenders and servicers.”

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