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College Affordability and Preparedness

College Costs Are Up, But So Are Solutions

Photo: Courtesy of Priscilla DuPreez

Whether entering college or returning for further degrees, the cost of college can be daunting. The average sticker price, with room and board included, for undergraduate students attending an in-state four-year college or university last year was $18,943, while out of state students pay an average of $32,762. And tuition costs continue to rise at double-digit rates.

Finding solutions

There are solutions for the 40 million Americans with college loans. For example, Beth Blake, a 45-year-old who recently returned to college to get a degree in education, learned she can wipe out her loan payments in under 10 years. Americans with public service jobs, such as teachers or firefighters, are eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness option, a plan where if 120 on time, full monthly payments are made, the debt is erased. Many Americans don’t know about the plan, according to the National Education Association (NEA). Twenty-five percent of the workforce may fit the requirements but only 1 million have applied.

That’s not the only avenue available for those wanting to better themselves by getting a degree.

There’s also the Income Driven Repayment plan where the scheduled payments are determined on income and family size. More than 33 million Americans may qualify, according to NEA.

For those who may not be eligible for the assistance, financial experts advise treating loans like a mortgage and paying more than what is due each month or earmarking an automatic savings plan to be allocated to loans.

Reasonable timelines

There’s more good news for the 40 million Americans who have contributed to student debt. Recently, President Barack Obama signed a “student aid bill of rights,” and announced proposals to try to make it easier to reduce college bills.

“We’re going to require that the businesses that service your loans provide clear information about how much you owe, what your options are for repaying it, and if you’re falling behind, help you get back in good standing with reasonable fees on a reasonable timeline,” Obama said. The president broke the news to almost 10,000 enthusiastic Georgia Tech students last week.

Faye Brookman, [email protected]

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