Interest rates on U.S.-government-backed student loans doubled yesterday, going from 3.4 to 6.8 percent, though it’s possible that Congress could reevaluate the rate change after the July 4th recess. Either way, the struggle with student loan debt is an increasingly significant part of higher education in the United States, and our experts say that the easiest way to deal with it is by planning ahead.
Frank Palmasani, a high school counselor and author of “Right College, Right Price,” advises students to think of college as a fit not only for them personally, but as a compatible choice with their family’s financial needs. He says families need to reconsider how they choose a college.
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“This requires a huge paradigm shift, where we have to disregard the pursuit of colleges based only on the student’s preferences,” he says. “In many ways, this [interest rate increase] reinforces the importance of incorporating prudent financial decision-making into the work of a high school guidance counselor,” he says.
Eric Greenberg has been advising students on their college choices and helping them prepare for tests since he founded Greenberg Educational Group in 1991. His advice to students struggling with increasing student loan debt is simple: “Taking on debt is a serious commitment.”
“Students need to examine the likelihood of their making enough money to be able to comfortably pay back the loans in a reasonable number of years,” he says. His practical advice for students looking at schools is to begin at a less expensive school and transfer to a more prestigious, expensive college later in their degree process. “Since many employers and graduate schools look more closely at what a student has done recently, where the student graduates from tends to have the most impact.”