New tools available to help students manage debt

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Figuring out student loans can be a confusing and time-consuming process, but The U.S. Department of Education has added two new features to its StudentLoans.gov website to help students better understand their loan debt and stay on track in repayment.

The first feature is a complete counseling web page, and the second is a new repayment estimator with which borrowers compare their likely monthly payment amounts across all seven repayment plan options.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said there are thousands of college students who will be graduating this year and will start to repay their loans.

“These tools give students the information they need to understand how to better manage their student loan obligations,” Duncan said. “Our goal is to make the entire challenge of college costs much less daunting, and these tools are additional steps in that direction.”

Stephen Rogers, manager of outreach services for Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority, said there are similar and complementary tools available for Utah college students at BorrowWisely.org.

Rogers said this is a free website people can use to ask questions about student loans and receive guidance at any stage of the process.

“You need to manage what you’re borrowing and your financial situation semester-to-semester in reality,” Rogers said. “It really should be a constant communication and constant evaluation of where you are throughout your schooling.”

Rogers said just like considering what courses to take, students should have that same type of thinking when it comes to taking loans or choosing other ways to finance their education.

Ronell Crossley, Utah Higher Education Assistance Authority research analyst, said one of the big issues is students borrowing too much based on their major.

“If someone is majoring in library science the chance of them earning $80,000 a year isn’t very high,” Crossley said. “So if they are racking up $30,000 to $40,000 worth of debt, it’s going to be really hard for them to pay off that loan.”

Crossley said students need to understand their student loans on a more realistic level.

“The tools on BorrowWisely.org will allow them to look at how much debt they can really handle,” Crossley said. “Even though the amount of loans students at BYU and at all schools in Utah take out is relatively low compared to the rest of the nation, it’s important for them to manage it wisely.”

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