Student loans are a topic of growing interest in this country — and one student decided to tackle the issue in an unusual way. As the second presidential debate was about to begin, student Albert Wu took advantage of the national spotlight by holding up a sign with the message “Student debt sucks,” along with his Venmo username. Anyone who saw the sign could send money directly to Albert — hopefully for him to use towards his student loan debt.
What Was the Result?
Both Albert and his sign got prime coverage from CNN during the lad up to the debate, which took place at Washington University in St. Louis. The sign appeared above reporter Poppy Harlow’s right shoulder — and it worked! Over two days, he raised a total of 440 dollars, which he said would be put towards his emergency fund (stressing that he is under 21 and wouldn’t be using it for alcohol). Inspired by Albert’s lead, other students decided to jump aboard the media bandwagon on Sunday, with Canadian freshman Ryan Choi holding up a “Kanye 4 Prez” sign with his Venmo account information, and a group of fraternity brothers asking for help with their dues.
While it may have been a bit of publicity stunt, Albert’s sign raised an important topic for many Americans — and an issue that has not be at the forefront of the election now that the primaries are over and Bernie Sanders is no longer a candidate. Student debt has an impact on college students and graduates across the country — and will have serious consequences for our economic future.
The average college graduate now has more than $35,000 in student loans, according to the Wall Street Journal. This is a sharp increase in just a few years — in 2012, students graduated with just under $30,000 in debt. Having significant student loan debt can be a heavy burden for young Americans, as they face a sluggish economy and low-paying entry level jobs. Many grads are living with their parents for years after college, attempting to save up enough money or work their way towards a higher salary until they can afford to live on their own. Fewer young grads are buying houses, and many put off making major purchases. This means that less money is being funneled back into our economy, so recovery is taking longer than expected.
One of the best ways to pay off your student loans is to pay extra each month. Even a small amount will decrease the total amount that you owe, and will shorten the length of your loan repayment period. Students like Albert Wu know that getting a head start on your student loans is one the best ways to get on top of your financial well-being — and to prepare for a future free of debt and full of possibilities. While appearing on national television with a sign asking for money may not be everyone’s cup of tea, you can take steps to reduce your overall student loan debt and pay off your loans more quickly.
First — and perhaps most importantly — choose your college or university with a realistic view towards what you can reasonable afford to repay in loans. If you are majoring in a field that does not have lucrative job prospects, factor that into the equation. You’ll be hard-pressed to pay back $100,000 in student loans from an expensive private school if you are making $30,000 at a non-profit organization. If you’re already in school, minimize the amount of loans you need to take by working during the summer and school year. If you can avoid taking out loans to pay for living expenses, you’ll be ahead of the game after graduation.
Second, once you have graduated, start paying off your loans immediately. Pay on time and whenever possible, pay extra. Even an additional 25 dollars every month can add up over time — leading to a shorter loan repayment period and lower overall debt. Automate your payments whenever possible so that you never miss a payment. Many lenders reduce your interest rate for making on-time payments for a set period of time — and a reduced interest rate will also lower your student loan debt burden.
While appearing on television asking for donations towards your student loan debts isn’t a realistic (or feasible) option for most Americans, you can make a dent in your overall student loan debt in other ways. By making smart choices, sticking to a budget and always paying on time (plus a little bit extra), you’ll find yourself out of debt much sooner than you thought!
Author: Jeff Gitlen
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