Student loan debt and your graduate education

By Layna Edington | 10/7/12 5:20pm

Recently the Office of Graduate Studies Facebook page has been updating graduate students about student loan debt and the consequences the debt creates.

As a student at any level of higher education, student debt affects almost all of us. While as intelligent individuals we understand that our student loans will become debt, and we must start paying it off six months after graduation, many of us do not fully understand the debt we have taken on to get an education.

I know for me personally adding debt to my future simply occurred when I hit the accept loan button, and for many semesters, I thought I would just worry about it later. It seems I am not alone in the world of climbing amounts of student debt taken on just to finish a degree, but I do plan to do everything in my power to remain educated about the debt I have and avoid default.

The Grand Rapids Press reported that one in ten recent student loan borrowers are in default. While this statistic seems to be a rough indicator that 10% of our fellow student body members are headed to financial struggles, GVSU students were in default at a much lower rate.

Of the fifteen Michigan public institutions compared in the article, GVSU was tied for the second lowest default rate, with only 3.1% of students in default. The students compared began repaying their debt in October of 2008 through the September of 2009 and were in default by 2011. The time frame studied may actually benefit current graduate students. As the economy seems to be picking up, it is possible that current students will have an even lower default rate and a better chance of financial success.

While it is nice to know GVSU students are in better shape in comparison to the rest of the state, it is still important that every student takes responsibility for their student debt, because after all you do not want to be a statistic, even if it is better than the majority.

What can you do to help yourself when it comes to managing your student debt? You can start by getting educated about your debt and the potential payment plans after graduation. Find out what interest rate your loans are accruing at, and if you can, make a payment on some of the interest now.

Next, make a game plan, by deciding how you will pay your loans off after graduation. Having a budget and remembering to work loan payments into your budget will be a big help in the long run. Once you get used to paying your loans off monthly you will be able to adjust your plans accordingly.

Until then, consider attending the PACES Workshop “Planning for the Future: Student Loans, Debt Management and Financial Planning” in February. Be sure to visit the GVSU Financial Aid website at, and complete exit counseling upon graduation.

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