26 Apr 2012

Students Prepare for Student Loan Stress

Author: Collin Sims | Filed under: BGSU, Enterprise Story

By Collin Sims

Video by Collin Sims

 May is fast approaching, and with it comes excitement for the event college students at Bowling Green State University have worked four years or longer for: graduation.

            In a job market where the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports current unemployment rate is 8.2 percent as of March 2012, those feelings of joy and accomplishment may end up short lived.

            Between the difficulties of finding work, costs of attendance at college institutions and the growing student loan debt, college students may find themselves more stressed and anxious than they can handle.

            According to Bowling Green State University’s website, the current cost of attendance range from $17,738 for Ohio students to $25,046 for non-Ohio residents depending on factors like housing, meal plan and tuition.

            Collegeboard.org, a site that does primary research on colleges to help students determine which college is best for them, said of the current tuition rate, 75 percent of students have their cost of attendance covered by financial aid with 86 percent of freshmen receiving financial aid.

            Default rates on student loans rose to 8.8 percent last September according to the Department of Education, up 7 percent from 2008.

            Heather Wilson, a financial educator at BGSU’s Student Money Management Services, said student loan debt is not generally considered a bad debt in terms of credit, though the debt does hurt students if they are late on payments.

            “Budget as if you are already paying it back. That way, it does not sneak up on you,” Wilson said.

            To prepare for repayments on the money they owe, Wilson said saving is the easiest thing to do since there is a six month grace period on most loans. Wilson said students can prepare by making a budget and planning in case of uncertainty.

            “Budget as if you are already paying it back. That way, it does not sneak up on you,” Wilson said.

            Wilson said saving is extremely important as everyone should have a safety net up to 3-6 months’ worth in case of emergencies, and to get a regular savings depending on the frequency of your pay.

            “Don’t cut your budget so tight you hurt yourself,” Wilson said. “Don’t pinch pennies, live comfortably and within your means.”

            For students about to graduate, like early childhood education major Angela Harrison, thinking about money can make them nervous.

            “The job market right now really scares me to think about, but I know it’s something I have to think about,” Harrison said in an email.

            Harrison said she will be staying in Bowling Green for graduate school following graduation, putting her loan repayments off for another year. In spite of this, Harrison said she will have to be careful about her spending for a while.

            ”I will have to work really hard and maybe have a second job until I can get a good chunk of my loans taken care of,” Harrison said.

            Having accumulated $15,000 in student loans, Harrison said she was fortunate enough to have scholarships and a job that helps pay the cost.

            “I have seen people with a lot more in loans be able to repay them without too much stress, so I try to just tell myself that if I work hard, I’ll be able to pay them without stressing myself out,” Harrison said.

            These stressful factors related to student loan debt are of serious concern, Justine Ray, a graduate student in clinical psychiatry at the BGSU Counseling Center, said in an email.

            Financial strain on a person can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as affecting a person’s overall mental health Ray said.

            “I think the best way to deal with stress is to learn what coping skills work in any given situation,” Ray said. “Since every individual is different in how they deal with stress, it’s important for everyone to have a few healthy coping skills to use when he or she feels particularly stressed.”

            This stress can affect people physically like headaches, stomachaches and muscle tension as well as cause strain on their social relationships and other obligations.

            Because people cope and deal with stress in different ways, Ray said it is difficult to make generalizations regarding stress.

            “The key is for each person to try out new things and find ways to deal with stress that work,” Ray said.

            Alex Gundy, an alumnus of Bowling Green State University that graduated in August 2011, said when graduation came he was a little anxious towards finding a job or a method of supporting himself.

            Gundy said he started looking for work two months before graduation, and after eight months consisting of much time and effort found a job with a marketing management training program.

            Currently living in Charleston, Va. with Sherwin-Williams, Wilson said he borrowed money from his parents to the total of $15,000 instead of taking out loans, and is in the midst of repayment.

            Heather Jarvis, student loan expert and creator of askheatherjarvis.com, said it is always important to figure out what kind of loans you have and the status of those loans.

            Her website offers tools, links and blog articles regarding student loans as well as a forum for Jarvis to answer questions regarding the topic such as a five-step method of repaying federal loans.

“The job market is different now than it was before the recession but unemployment rates for college graduates are half what they are for those without a degree,” Jarvis said in an email.

For students preparing to graduate with the repayments on their loans impending, Gundy said students should not lose hope or give up, and that students should set up a budget, and try to follow it.

            “You have to take your future in your own hands, don’t expect help,” Gundy said. “It takes a lot of time, and a lot of times things will fall through.”

            For students with federal student loans, and are uncertain of the amount they currently owe the government, it is possible to determine your federal amount of loan debt by looking on the National Student Loan Data system, and by contacting private lenders regarding your amount currently incurred.

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