The big payback: grads leave with debt


Though graduating college can be considered a great accomplishment, it sometimes comes with a major price -debt.

Many graduates expect to begin working in their respective fields after graduation. But with the burdens of paying back loans hanging over their heads, it sometimes makes it hard to begin excelling in life post-graduation.

College graduate Jasmin Clarke said that she took out her first loan as a junior in college.

“The interest rates are ridiculous and the ‘terms and conditions’ are written in Chinese,” Clarke said.

Venetia Powell, current graduate student at Florida A&M, said did not start paying back her debt until after she graduated from the University of South Florida.

“I didn’t have a job, so I couldn’t pay the $60 dollars a month they were asking for,” Powell said. “But once I got into grad school at Florida A&M University, I used my financial aid to make payments and catch myself up.”

Most students rely solely on scholarships and grants, such as Pell grants, which are based on financial need and can be awards as high as

$5,500 and can be used at 5,400 post- secondary institutions.

Spring 2011 graduate Marquita Washington is now a student at Nova Southeastern University and said she still pays her bill so she will not get behind.

“My payments are not high,” Washington said. “They give you options to extend your grace period up to a year before you have to pay. It also goes by your income. In addition, they have programs that can pay off your loans, depending on where you work after working there for a while. It’s not as frustrating as I thought it would.”

One option is the extended payment plan. This extends payments for a few years, with less money owed each month. Depending how much the student has borrowed, the extended payment plan can extend up to a 30- year period.

Gabrielle Hicks graduated at the top of her class from Florida State University in spring 2012. Because Hicks is now working in her field and is also on a deferred payment plan, she does not get much a hassle from bill collectors.

“I basically pay whenever I can,” Hicks said. “My job has really been a blessing to me. They help pay my student loans and is also pushing for

me to go to grad school.”
According to an analysis from the

Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Americans had a total of about $870 billion dollars in student loan debt in the third quarter of 2011, which estimated to be about $2,800 per person. This exceeds both the total credit card and auto loan balances in the U.S.

Clarke said that the six-month grace period that is given before paying backing the loans doesnot help at all.

“It’s not enough time to establish yourself and get other financial business in order,’ Clarke said.

In 2011, President Barack Obama established the American Tax Credit, which aims at helping 9.4 million students afford higher education. It has also increased funding for Pell grants.

“There’s really no way of getting around student loans,” Washington said. “I know a lot of people who really rely on them to pay for their school expenses. I just hope I’m able to continue staying on top of paying them back.”

Powell’s advice to future graduates is to plan for the future.

“Don’t take out loans for miscellaneous things because eventually you’ll have to pay it all back,” she said.