By Steven King
In a time when it’s common for students to have loans, the total student loan outstanding debt has recently reached more than $1 trillion.
This number, which was released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, leaves one to wonder how UK graduates are fairing in this economic climate.
Lynda George, the director of Student Financial Aid, said the average amount that UK students borrow for student loans is $19,800, while the national average is $25,000.
She said the average cohort default rate, which is the percentage of borrowers who enter repayment in a fiscal year and default by the end of the next fiscal year, for 2009 UK graduates was 2.9 percent, while the national rate was at 8.9 percent.
George said these figures are reassuring, but multiple factors contribute to a student’s ability to pay back a student loan in a timely manner.
Shea Henning, a political science junior, said she is confident in her ability to repay her student loan debt in a timely fashion.
“I’m lucky, considering I haven’t had to take in much debt,” Henning said. “I’ve been trying to work on paying off the interest while I am still in school so the debt won’t be as crippling after I graduate.”
Henning wants to work for a nonprofit organization for women’s rights after graduation.
According to Salary.com, the average salary for development coordinators for nonprofit organizations is about $34,000.
George said student loans must be repaid within 10 years.
Studentaid.ed.gov said with the average student loan at UK ($19,800), the standard repayment plan translates to monthly payments of $227.86. The total payment including interest for the loan would be $27,343.
But there are ways to avoid going into default, which is the failure to repay a loan according to the terms agreed to when the borrower signed a promissory note.
“In the financial aid office, we inform students about their obligations, when to repay and how to borrow only what they need,” George said. “We are required by law to council them every step of the way if we give out financial aid.”
One program that can help student loan debt is the PeaceCorps.
Volunteers with outstanding debt from federal student loan programs can qualify for certain debt relief according to a variety of factors for each person, according to the PeaceCorps website.
The newest repayment plan for the government is the Income-Based Repayment plan, which is eligible for certain federal student loan programs and reduces payment plans to an affordable monthly rate based on an individuals’ income and family size, according to studentaid.ed.gov.
George said smart decision-making on the part of students can help lower the nation’s total student loan outstanding debt.
“A student loan is an investment in the future,” George said. “In today’s job market, the capacity for earning with someone with a college degree far exceeds a person without a degree.”