Cost of college

With the cost of a college education on the rise, many college students find themselves having to take on debt to finance their education.

Shelisha Durden, a 23-year-old recent FAMU graduate working at The Department of Elder Affairs, was one such student.

“The reason I took out student loans was to fund my education,” Durden said.

“If I had gotten scholarships or found another way to pay, I would never have taken out the loans.”

Wendi Owens, a student loan coordinator for FAMU, said the University has seen a significant increase in the amount of student loan money being disbursed in the last few years.

“In the spring of 2002, $12,878,046 in subsidized and unsubsidized loans was disbursed,” Owens said.

“That amount increased to $15,056,863 in the spring of 2003.”

Owens said the increase in loans may be a result of the increase in the student population at FAMU, but also that tuition increases have had an effect on the number of students taking out loans.

According to Owens, freshmen can receive up to $2, 625 in subsidized loans for the school year if they are a dependent.

For sophomores, the maximum amount is $3,500, and juniors and seniors have a limit of $8,500.

“Most students at FAMU take the maximum amount allowable,” Owens said. “They’re not really thinking about how they will pay back the loans.”

Samara Brown, however, said she is concerned about how she will pay back her student loans when the time comes.

“First, I need to concentrate on graduating. Then, I need to figure out if I’m going to grad school or start interviewing for jobs so I can start paying back my loans,” said the 22-year-old senior art history student who just transferred from FAMU to Florida State University.

“I can’t even think about that (loan repayment) right now. I’m basically trying to take things one day at a time,” Brown said.

For Brown and many of her peers, the state of the current job market is also cause for concern.

But exactly how much influence does the current job market have on a student’s ability to pay back loans?

“Truthfully, the current job market really shouldn’t affect a graduate’s ability to pay back loans,” said Raymond Pandley, assistant director of the Career Center.

“Students can defer those payments for two years or until they get a job that will allow them to be able to pay them back.”

Durden agrees.

“No one should ever default on a loan, especially direct loans,” Durden said.

“All you have to do is call them and let them know you’re going to miss a payment and they’ll pretty much try to work with you.”

Pandley advises students to seek financial counseling and suggests that debt consolidation might be beneficial.

“What students with more than one loan should do is consolidate,” Pandley said. “The current interest rates are so low that it would be in their best interest. They would only have to make one payment to one place, instead of making different payments at different times.”