The Burden of Student Debt

by Jamie Walsh

In the spare time between weekend parties and late-night library sessions, many college students are consumed by the same singular thought: their crippling amount of debt.

The average 2016 college graduate entered the real world with $37,000 in loans, adding to the $1.3 trillion national total. Students are left with the heavy burden of student debt for years after graduation. Repaying this debt displaces retirement savings, buying a house or starting a family.

College is still affordable to those families with proportionately high incomes. For those with middle- to low-incomes, scholarships, grants, and financial aid can dilute the cost of education but are often left with no choice but to take out loans.

To tackle student debt, the first step we must take is to educate ourselves on how to manage debt, preferably in a way that doesn’t deter future plans. This way we can provide a stable and more secure future for everyone. If our colleges help us understand the debt we are taking on, we’ll be more likely to succeed in managing debt later on.

The interview

Sandra Mejia, Associate Director of Student Financial Services at Temple, has nearly 12 years of experience in the field – two years with us at Temple and ten years at the Community College of Philadelphia.

We asked Mejia how we could ensure students, particularly those with debt, understand what this will mean for their future and how best to manage that debt.

“I believe that it should be imbedded into curricula presented at Temple,” said Mejia. “There are instructors who invite us to discuss this with students as part of their syllabus. We need to speak in terms – lingo – that they understand. Many times financial aid and debt terminology feels very foreign and students do not understand what they are hearing or reading.”

Temple offers many resources for students that very few take advantage of. Mejia believes students feel like they don’t have to worry about their debt until they graduate. Many students have their parents handling their financial responsibilities. While Financial Services does send the occasional invitation to events through email, they typically get lost in the inbox of students.

Resources offered include one-on-one counseling and events, such as “Owl About the Money,” a day of activities that offer tips and tidbits on saving what you currently have. Mejia’s team is also looking to start a Financial Literacy page, which would allow for interactive games, videos and other tools to help…

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