Over 70 percent of college seniors carry student loan debt. The average amount owed? $29,400 per borrower. For an entering first-year student, who might never have earned more than minimum wage at an after school job, that’s an incomprehensible amount of money.
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Recently, The New York Times published a calculator that allows you to determine just how long it will take to pay what you owe.
The calculator prompts users to enter their total student loan debt, the interest rate, and the term of the loan, and then it figures out how much they have to pay each month, and whether that’s more or less than what they should be paying, based on their projected income.
That last part is important, because it determines exactly how tight your finances are going to be when you graduate — and offers insight into whether or not you’re likely to get in over your head. Experts recommend that students plan to pay no more than 20 percent of discretionary income toward their loans. Currently, 35 percent of loan holders under the age of 30 are “seriously delinquent” in their payments — meaning, they haven’t made in a payment in at least 90 days.
Short of singlehandedly reforming the student loan/education system, what’s a prospective bachelor’s degree holder to do? For one thing, think long and hard about the degree they want, the school they plan to attend, and their prospects for earning a salary of at least $35,923 per year after graduation. (That’s the magic number, according to The Times, for hitting the 20 percent sweet spot, if you owe the average amount.)
That doesn’t mean that everyone should stop studying non-STEM fields or choose only schools that have high post-graduation employment rates. It does mean that students should think carefully about which program and schools offer the most bang for their (borrowed) buck — and plan accordingly.
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