Student loans: friend or foe?

TaLeiza Calloway

Financial Aid Counselor Valerie Rose helps answer questions for Amber Lancaster, junior justice studies major. Lancaster was checking to make sure all of her payments were made. The Student Financial Aid office is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p

Credit: Carl Schierhorn

Got loans? They can help a student in a financial fix, but they can also drag him or her down.

Students take out loans because they do not have any other way to finance their education. While loans are here to help, they can come back to haunt the borrower.

“With loans, I am steadily worried about how I am going to pay them back,” sophomore psychology major La’Quita Ramsey said. “I’m at the max. I took out all the ones I could get.”

Many people think it is easy to go to school but are unaware of how expensive it can be to get an education, Ramsey said. Her goal was to go to school without getting any loans, but she was forced to do the opposite to pay for tuition.

“It’s really stressful,” Ramsey said. “I have to drop classes because I can’t afford it.”

In addition to the constant reminder of loans weighing on students’ shoulders, there is also confusion about the loan process as a whole.

Ramsey admits she dreads going to the Financial Aid Office and hates the feeling of always owing money.

“It’s like a script,” she said. “They give you the same information every time.”

She also said she feels people are not always clear in explaining how to pay back loans, as well as what a loan can do to a student’s overall financial aid. For example, Ramsey was not told that by taking summer classes, her financial aid was affected for other semesters, she said.

Ramsey pays $700 a month to live in Allerton apartments. On top of this, she pays tuition at $4,000 a semester and has to buy books for classes in which she may not be able to stay enrolled.

Student loan specialist Sue Underwood works in the Bursar’s Office with students in similar situations – students who have no choice but to take out a student loan.

“We always go one-on-one with students and try to stress that there are different loans,” she said.

Loans can be confusing and students don’t understand how the loans work and how they should be repaid, Underwood explained.

According to Underwood, students need to be organized, review what they’ve signed, keep a folder of this information and know what they have to pay back.

Underwood also mentioned students are unaware of national Web sites designed to help them keep track of what they have borrowed and when repayment starts.

A good example is the National Student Loan Data System’s Web site, www.nslds.ed.gov, she said. Students need their FAFSA pin number to access their information.

Contact features correspondent TaLeiza Calloway at [email protected]