College Connect: College Loans are Necessary, but Require Planning

Posted By Crystal Beasley

By Azure Aladin

College is expensive. Tuition, rent, textbooks, groceries and other bills add up, forcing many college students to take out loans to defer the expense of attending a university.

Courtney Wheeler, a junior at the University of Georgia, qualified for a scholarship provided to Georgia residents who have performed well academically, but did not get any other assistance even though she applied for “a bunch of scholarships.” Wheeler said loans were required to make up the shortfall because she didn’t have a college fund provided by her parents.

“I’m concerned I’m going to be in debt for the rest of my life. The interest that builds up concerns me too,” said Wheeler.

Joseph Goetz, an associate professor in financial planning, housing and consumer economics at UGA, said loans are likely necessary for many students, but said there are several things they can do to minimize concerns.

He suggested trying to avoid private loans, and to take out subsidized over unsubsidized loans to avoid high interest payments in the future.

He also said students should turn in FAFSA, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, early to see if they are eligible for the Pell Grant, and other grants that don’t have to be paid back. Goetz said it is important to speak with a university financial counselor so that all of a student’s options are explored.

For students who have already taken on student debt, Goetz noted there are many student loan forgiveness programs available after graduation. For example, some government jobs may come with a student loan forgiveness program, he said.

Goetz also said students should consider working part-time to reduce the amount of loans needed.

“Don’t avoid student loan debt to the point where it adversely affects your grades,” Goetz said, adding “Working a few hours may not adversely affect you.”

Goetz said he conducted research at UGA involving a group of about 600 students that found working students had higher GPAs, but only when they worked up to about 15 hours.

“It is shortsighted to work three or four [jobs],” Goetz said. “You need to invest in your own human capital.”

Brian Copeland, a sophomore at UGA, is an example of a student who has embraced working part-time during the school year and full-time during the summer to reduce his reliance on loans. As Copeland noted, worrying about loans in the future is one of the worst parts about taking out loans.

“I feel like if you have the ability to work and not have to worry about loans in the future, you should,” Copeland said. “I have so much free time I feel like not working would be stupid.”

Azure Aladin is Junior Journalism Major at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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