Parents and kids headed to college later this month are asking the scary question: How are they going to pay for that education? Especially since Ohio was recently ranked the worst state in the country for student loan debt problems.
$37,000 is the national average for the amount of debt last year's students graduated with. Depending on what type of loan they took out, they could end up paying way more than that and be paying it for years. We don't want that, so here's a "cheat sheet," if you will, on the best options
"You apply for scholarships, for financial aid, a subsidized loan, a Pell Grant."
Brandon Bounds is a junior at Kent State studying Journalism of all things. And before even graduating.... he's in the hole for $30,000.
His biggest piece of advice to new students: apply for every scholarship out there.
"I applied to maybe like over 60 scholarships my junior and senior years combined. And it's a tough process yes, but those little scholarships help you in the long run," he said.
And you start that long run by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, which lets you apply for federal loans, grants and scholarships you don't have to pay back.
But if you "have" to borrow, start first with subsidized federal loans like Stafford and Perkins. Those are loans where the government pays the interest on what you borrow until you graduate. But since they're need-based, there's a limit to the amount of money they're handing out.
For the Stafford, the interest rate is 4.45% with a 1% loan fee which kicks in 6 months after your graduate or you drop to part-time status.
The Interest rate for a Perkins loan is 5% but there's no loan fee and you have between 9 and 15 months to pay it back depending on your financial situation, or you drop below part-time status. However, this loan is harder to get and you have to apply through the school.
Now, if you don't qualify for those loans, your next best bet is an Unsubsidized Stafford Loan. The 4.45% interest starts accumulating as soon as you get it. And there's a 1% loan fee. But you don't have to start paying until 6 months after graduation or you drop to part time status. Since this is not need-based though, you have a better chance of getting one.
Now if your financial aid package came up a little short, and your parents are willing to help out, there is a Direct PLUS Loan.
Let's say your tuition is $10,000, but you only got $5,000 in aid. Your parents can take out a loan for the remaining $5,000 if they have decent credit. The interest rate is high at 7% and there's a 4.2% loan fee. Plus, parents have to start paying as soon as the loan is paid out unless they get a deferment. But it will help you avoid taking out a private loan, which should be your last option.
"They almost always cost more money than federal loans and they have many fewer consumer protections," said student loan expert Heather Jarvis.
For Brandon, his only regret is not the loans he took out... but not doing all he could to reduce them.
"I wish I could have tried a lot harder in high school. Then maybe I could've had a lot more money going towards college."
The loan expert in our story, Heather Jarvis, is a wealth of information, having gone through her own issues with student debt. In fact she has a whole website dedicated to the topic.
For more information from Heather, click here.
See her full interview with Danielle Serino below: