Students get dose of loan debt reality

9:49 PM, Oct 25, 2011   |    comments
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MINNEAPOLIS -- You may have heard the new statistic that Americans now owe more on student loans than on credit cards. The average college graduate is now leaving school with a record amount of debt.

One trillion dollars.

It's a number most of us can't even fathom, but it's the amount students will have racked up in loans by the end of the year - one trillion in outstanding student loan debt.

Deb Hammernik knows she's part of that daunting figure. As a junior at the University of Minnesota, she's an out-of-state student from Wisconsin and a double major. It all costs more. Her estimated debt at end of four years will be about $40,000.

"Less than what I thought it would be," said Deb.

And Deb has tried to get a handle on it before the debt gets out of control. She took college courses in high school, takes advantage of scholarships, walks instead of drives and makes her own lunch.

"When you sit down and do the loan papers with your parents before freshman year, you realize that you have to take a lot more personal responsibility," Deb said.

And most schools also try to help their students graduate with as little debt as possible. A few examples: The U of M has many scholarship programs. The University of St. Thomas' $500 million capital campaign pays mostly for scholarships.

"We're able to take an individual approach," said Beth Stevens, director of financial aid at St. Catherine University where they work with students before day one to lay out the financial realities of a college education. More than 90 percent of students at St. Kate's receive financial aid

"Break it down into real numbers for our students and our families," Stevens said. "What does it mean to attend St. Catherine University and look at what resources are available for that student in a given year."

St. Catherine also has a financial literacy program for students. It's called "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees."

Financial counseling information is available on the Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota's website or by calling (888) 577-2227.

(Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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