Students use multiple jobs, tight budget to reduce loan impact

Student loans suck.

They are not impossible to understand — just time-consuming and boring.

Simply put, most students do not want to talk about the interest-rate driven expenditures, yet many have no choice but to take them on to attend college, said Muskegon senior Anthony Crawford.

The worst part is students will just ask for the money without understanding what it means, said Diane Fleming, associate director of client services in the Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid at Central Michigan University.

“Everyone’s future income will be significantly cut by the amount. They need to borrow what they need, not what they want,” Fleming said. “There isn’t any quick and dirty way to avoid reading up on financial aid and student loans. A student paying rent $500 a month, atop car, mortgage, insurance, utility and phone payments, won’t want to worry about large sums of money for their college loans.”

At CMU, 70 percent of on-campus students receive at least one loan. On average, a CMU student will take out $24,236 between federal and private loans, according to the Office of Institutional Research.

Grand Rapids junior Shanna King said she has no clue how to read a loan or what it would take to pay them back. She said she is loan-free, but will most likely get a loan for her senior year.

“I am able to get by with two jobs right now, paying for rent and books,” she said. “A lot college students don’t save money, that’s the problem. They don’t know how to put money away into savings accounts. It’s nice to work toward a cushion to fall on when you need it.”

‘Live cheap, work’

Crawford accumulated $7,000 in student loans in his first two years on campus. Not wanting to be buried in debt after college, Crawford decided to stop taking out loans his junior year.

Instead, he works 40-plus-hour weeks in the summer and has a full-time job during the school year to pay for his tuition, rent, food and textbooks.

Crawford said he has not bought a book from a bookstore in more than a year. He buys used books off of friends and other students.

“It’s about living cheaper,” Crawford said, reviewing his first two years living in residence halls. “Once I moved out, I realized all of my expenses were actually cheaper. Apartments are less than living in the dorms, food is cheaper when you cook for yourself. I used my loans for all of that and wish I would have known that starting out. I wouldn’t owe so much in loans, and that’s unfortunate.”

Crawford details cars in North Carolina every summer to earn more money. He lives with his parents in the summer, something he said is not necessarily a lifestyle 20-somethings like to do, but a smart choice for people who do not want steep loan payments after graduation.

He said students do not realize how easy it could be to save yourself from loan debt by using easy resources.

“If you need loans to stay in school, do it,” he said, “but only do it for the bare minimum. Just try to cut back on everything you can. Most classes you don’t need textbooks, it’s a waste of money. Buy cheap foods. Just don’t spend money when you don’t have to. That will help.”

Fleming said setting yourself a budget is the best way to keep fund high and loan debt low.

“Once you’ve set that budget, you need to live within that budget, no excuses,” she said. “Ask yourself, ‘Do I really need this? Is it worth making payments on this for 10, 15, 20 years? If so, go for it, but more often than not, it isn’t worth the 12 percent interest.”


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