Slipping behind

Tara Pringle

Financial Aid office hosts expo to help students curb debt

Ebony John has more than $5,000 in loans from her two years in college. With two more years of loans ahead of her, she dreads the day she’ll have to repay them.

“I might run, and then change my name,” she said, joking.

Like John, a nursing and Spanish translation major, many college students nationwide are graduating with more than a degree — they will have extensive debt as well.

Tomorrow, the Student Financial Aid Office will hold its third annual Financial Aid and Scholarship Expo to offer students a chance to learn how to curb debt.

At the expo students will be able to pick up the latest FAFSA forms, speak with financial aid representatives, attend debt management presentations and enter for a chance to win a $100 book scholarship.

“We want some students to be aware that we have processes in place to help them,” said Joy Klein, assistant director of Student

Financial Aid.

Credit cards and student loans are two main reasons students end up in debt at the end of their college career.

Nellie Mae, a Massachusetts company that works with colleges and universities to create loan programs, estimates that graduating students owe a combined $20,000 when factoring in loans and credit card bills.

According to information from the Student Financial Aid office, students borrowed an average of $6,569 in all types of student loans for the 2003-2004 school year.

“Loans will be a part of almost every student’s package,” Klein said.

Added costs, such as books, other fees, and transportation, also contribute to students’ debt. They might have to use loan money to help them bridge the gap between how much money they have and how much they need, Klein said.

Klein urges students not be terrified at the prospect of taking out a loan.

“The repayment options for a loan are much more flexible,” Klein said. “Taking out a loan isn’t as daunting as it used to be.”

She added that compared to a credit card, the interest rates of a loan are much lower.

However, not all students are concerned.

Tiffany Rohn, junior biochemistry major, has a few credit cards and a student loan. She said she isn’t worried about paying back her loans or her credit card bills.

“There are people who sign up for every card and they’re stuck in debt,” Rohn said. “You have to be smart about it.”

The Student Financial Aid office has other programs to help students throughout the year, including programs specifically designed for freshmen, seniors and adult students.

“We would love for students to let us be a part of the solution,” Klein said. “We want students to enjoy being here and we see ourselves as an integral part of that.”

The Financial Aid and Scholarship Expo will take place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. tomorrow in the Student Center Ballroom.

Contact enterprise reporter Tara Pringle at [email protected].