Ways to avoid high levels of stress when it comes to paying college tuition

How to plan and prepare for living with student debt

Paige Anderson, Staff Reporter
Originally published November 21, 2018

Fletcher Anderson

Fletcher Anderson

With many students applying to college and Americans collectively owing over 1.48 trillion dollars in student loan debt at the end of 2017, the question arises: how do students go about paying for their future education? 

Currently, 70 percent of college students graduate with a significant amount of loans, averaging out to 37,172 dollars, in 2018 according to CNBC. The stress of being stuck in a college debt trap has affected far too many, but there are ways to either avoid taking out a loan or stay on top of paying it off.

Senior, Riana Smith who is currently in the college application process, is also having to look into how much money she can get through the Washington State College Bound program, scholarships, grants, and other financial aid programs. 

“I’ve heard so many horror stories from people that have been in the real job world for years, and they still have a lot of student debt,” Smith said. 

She has also had a steady part time job for two years to help avoid taking out a larger student loan. She strongly suggests finding work that’s easy to balance with school but also pays enough so that you can start saving up. 

Despite the stressful process of applying to college and having to keep tution in mind, Smith has learned how to budget wisely and to not be afraid of asking for help financially. 

“People are there to help you and they want to help you,” Smith said. 

Counselor Tom Kramer understands the stress of college and how the cost of it has increased immensely. 

“College is an investment,” Kramer said. “Take on the debt but consider, what is the outcome for?”

           Kramer explained that students need to constantly be doing their research, whether it includes understanding what they’re interested in studying, how much everything is going to cost or what scholarships apply to them.

In Washington, students who are U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizen students can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is used by most educational institutions to assess a student’s eligibility for grants, loans and work study programs.  

Students who are not eligible for federal financial aid due to immigration status may be eligible for the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WAFSA).    

Both applications are available Oct. 1 and should be completed as soon as possible. Many other scholarship opportunities require students to submit the FAFSA and WASFA forms for consideration.

Although scholarships can relieve some stress involving student debt, students may still be left taking out loans. Helen Maynard, the new college career specialist, helps students create a future plan for their further education.

“It’s all doable,” Maynard said, explaining how to deal with the stress. According to a report from Chegg, an education technology company, six in 10 students currently enrolled in school report frequent anxiety about their debt. 

Maynard strongly suggests taking a finance class, whether you need to take out a loan or not. She advises to learn how to develop good credit and habits with money once you graduate from college.  

“The more you know about interest rates and using a credit card, the easier things will be for your future,” Maynard said.

For federal student loans, the standard repayment plan expects students to pay off their debt in less than 10 years. Unfortunately, that’s not the reality. According to the Citizens Financial Group, suggests that 60% of borrowers don’t pay off their debt until their 40s.  

“You will always have that money to pay off,” Maynard said. “But don’t let that be a barrier.” 

One thing Maynard and Kramer both advise is to not let the fear stop students from attending, or even applying to their first choice school. It is possible to manage student debt and there are multiple ways to prepare yourself for the best outcome.