Graduating seniors face student debt problems

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    When seniors are handed their diplomas on May 11, many will be faced with the reality of having to pay back the money they borrowed to earn that piece of paper.

    Seniors like modern dance major Taylor Semin will leave college without a job and have only plans for the future.

    Semin said she wants to start her professional dance career in May or August when she moves to New York. She has saved money to pay off loans by working at a grocery store over the past few summers, but the combination of owing money and not having a job is scary, she said.

    “It’s going to require planning and really just knowing what’s coming in what’s coming out, which quite honestly I haven’t been the best at that throughout college,” Semin said. “My main motto has been just spend as little money as you can, but I don’t necessarily keep track of it.”

    Without a set job and payments looming, Semin said she will have to budget more and be prepared to work multiple jobs to support herself.

    Some seniors will not enter the workforce right away, delaying loan repayments.

    Jonathan Davis, a political science major, will attend the University of Pennsylvania in the fall while working with Teach for America.

    Davis will take out more loans to attend graduate school, but he said he is not worried about paying them back.

    “Ultimately, I’m much more concerned with what it is I actually want to do as opposed to how I’m going to pay the money back,” Davis said. “Because I feel like if [my job is] something where I’m effective and where I’m being as efficient as possible in what I want to do afterward, which I’m pretty focused on that, [loan repayment] will come.”

    Having some debt from student loans is a good investment, Mike Scott, director of scholarships and student financial aid, said. However, students need to make sure they are taking out the right amount of loans for their situation, he said.

    “It’s keeping that perspective of what your ability to repay the loan is going to be that’s so critically important,” Scott said. “I think most students don’t think about their earning potential once they get out of school, what the average salaries for starting positions in their fields are and think of that in terms or in relation to the amount of their monthly loan payments.”

    The average student loan debt has increased $10,000 over the past seven years to over $27,000, according to a study by FICO Labs. The average starting salary for college graduates rose 3.4 percent in 2012 to $44,455, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers.

    However, not every senior who walks across the stage will graduate with debt. 

    Modern dance major Jana Schneider said her parents have paid for all of her education, so she will not face any kind of debt.

    But seniors like Semin still have to find a way to pay off their college loans by either pursuing a job based on their degree or another field. However, the price of college was worth the lessons and experiences gained in a university setting, Semin said.

    “I just really think I got essentially my money’s worth for what I paid,” Semin said. “Yeah, you go into debt, and that’s a fact of college and life. I think it’s something people are more or less willing to give up to pursue their dreams.”