Student debt: a concept all college students are familiar with, but typically don’t pay attention to after filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) each year. As student loan debt has been exponentially growing for decades to a current total of $1.7 trillion, it has certainly become a crisis that we cannot ignore.
According to Forbes, there were 44.7 million student borrowers with student loan debt in 2020, and North Carolina is the 10th highest ranking state for student debt. Therefore, it is fair to say the majority of NC State students should be concerned with this issue. With student loans and debt in general being such a prominent problem in the academic community, students should have a better understanding of these financial concepts before it becomes an even bigger problem in their future.
However, we don’t all major in finance or economics with a focus on debt. This makes the information about student loans highly dependent on the circumstances and knowledge of each student. Some are perhaps a first generation student or are paying for their education without any help from parents. This can make it difficult to find an adult who can guide them through the process of repaying loans.
Even if you do have access to college graduates or parents who have experience with handling student loans after graduation, the process of loan repayment can still be quite daunting and confusing. This often leads to students choosing to defer or forbear their payments, leading to further accumulation of interest over time that they will have to pay later.
Students also end up in more debt by turning to credit cards in order to make loan payments or other purchases without substantial knowledge about how they can lead to a larger pile of bills.
Additionally, there is no official class offered at NC State for students to learn about how exactly to manage their loans. There are many different ways of repaying loans such as various income-driven repayment plans; these adjust your monthly payments based on how much you earn. However, with all of these different options, it can be hard to know which plan is best to choose.
Many nonprofit organizations offer loan forgiveness, cancellation or discharge after a certain amount of years working for them. There are many loan forgiveness options for teachers, public service employees (especially in health care) and military workers as well. Loan forgiveness is definitely something to consider when applying for jobs after college.
For many, student loans are something to worry about in the future, either after graduation or after graduate school. In order to help students navigate how to manage their loans and eliminate the overall lack of knowledge about debt, NC State should require a class about student debt for all first-year students who utilize loans or plan to do so in college. This class could allow students to learn about all of the different repayment and loan forgiveness options early in their college career and alleviate some of the stress about figuring out a plan after they get their degree.
The class could also focus on debt in general, especially as many young students begin using credit cards during their college years in order to establish their credit score. Credit cards are another financial subject that not all students know how to manage. This can lead students to have to handle even more debt on top of their student loan debt.
A required class at NC State that concentrates on the ins and outs of debt would only benefit students as they would be better set up for a life of financial success without worrying about debt each month.