Indebted Students at UNR Fear for their Futures

by David Thompson

Photo by Andrew Bossi, Flickr
Photo by Andrew Bossi, Flickr

The daunting task of paying off student loan debts has become worse and worse for students around the nation. Students in Nevada are no different, expressing their fears of the crippling debt they will face after school.

Rising Costs, Loans and Debts

As the cost of education rises, so too does the debt created from student loans.

According to the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center, the U.S. student loan balance exceeded $1.2 trillion as of 2013. While the Project on Student Debt cites the national average of debt accrued in four years is approximately $28,000, the state of Nevada’s average is about $22,000. Though it is less than the national average, this has not stopped students from worrying about how they will pay off their debt.

Hear from the Students

Eddie Pinon is a senior at the University of Nevada who has his own fears of paying off his loans, even if these are lower than national and state averages.

 “Right now I’m a little under $10,000 in student loans,” says Pinon. “But at the same time, I’m worrying about what if I can’t find a job to pay off these loans? What if the interest rate is too high? What if the payments are too high?”

This is a common fear among students, as they are always asked “what are your plans after graduation?” Frankly, it seems most just do not know, but rely on the hope that it will all work out.

As a Resident Assistant at the university, Pinon is granted free room and board.

Pinon is from Pahrump, Nev., a small town about an hour outside of Las Vegas. Pahrump only has one high school and its graduating classes largely commit to the military, rather than continuing education. He is the first of his family to attend a university, though technically second to go to college as his sister pursued a college education online. He states there has not been a person or thing to prepare him for the amount of debt he will face.

“I haven’t been instructed on how to pay off my loans. A lot of it’s been me trying to figure it out by myself,” he said.

Ashley is also a student at the University of Nevada. Not wanting to use her last name for privacy reasons, she shares the same fears of paying off her debt, though her situation is completely different.

“Right now I’m going through all of the bills that I’m paying,” she says as she shuffles through a mound of envelopes. “There’s rent, electricity, gas, cable, my phone bill, my vet bill, my medical bill, and my credit card bill.” She lives in an apartment off-campus and has decided it was better to use her financial aid to pay for her housing.

Now Ashley dreads the day her first student loan bill, or the Sallie Mae bill as it is known, arrives at her door.

“When it first arrives in the mail I will probably cry. But at the end of the day, it is just another bill to add to my collection,” she said.

Ashley is a first generation college student and comes from a lower middle-class background. She is learning about college finances as she goes, since she doesn’t have any family with experience to help. 

Like Pinon, she is unaware of how to pay off her loans. She proposes a way that students can be taught these important lessons.

“I feel like we need a class in general, just like how to live your life after you get out of school. Where they teach you how to pay back your loans, or what your loan terms mean so that when you get your first bill you’re not astonished with the numbers,” she said.

Help is Available to Students

Though a class that will take care of these worries does not exist, the online program known as SALT handles some of these concerns.

Available to all students, in college or not, the program provides videos, guidelines, and articles on ways to deal with student loans and how to land a dream job, among others.

MyFedLoan is another source that can help students learn about their loans, as well as pay them off. Like SALT, the user simply has to create an account and the loans owned by the U.S. Government appear. There are many helpful links that will help people with student debt understand exactly what they are paying for, give advice when paying off the debt is difficult, and more.

It appears help is available for those who seek it out.

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