“I wish I would’ve had some more advice back when I was 17 and signing my life away to such a high interest percentage rate,” said a Seattle University alumna, who will remain anonymous throughout the article. The alumna took out federal loans and two private loans, including a Sallie Mae loan. Each loan is $25,000. The interest rate for the Sallie Mae loan is about nine percent, the other private loan is four percent. In January she began paying off one of her private loans and received forbearance on the other.
ANNIE CHANG • THE SPECTATOR
The Seattle Public Library, in partnership with the Attorney General’s Office of Washington and Consumer Education and Training Services (CENTS) hosted Student Loan Repayment and Options on Saturday, April 22, a discussion about student loans and how to deal with them. The event was free and open to the public.
At a soaring $1.3 trillion, student loan debt is now the second-largest sector of household debt in America, as pointed out during the discussion at the Seattle Public Library. Eighty percent of the student loans are federal loans and the remaining 20 percent are private loans. Clearly, there was a need for such a discussion for borrowers, said the presenters.
The three presenters, Latife Neu, an attorney at Law PLLC, Julia Kellison, an attorney at the Northwest Justice Project and Eric Moss, from the Office of the Washington State Attorney General, covered several issues attached to student loans, including types of loans, default loans, payment plans, loan forgiveness options, scams and frauds and bankruptcy.
One-on-one consultations with attorneys were offered to help personalize ways to pay back student loans and to answer any questions. As attendees entered the room where the event took place, they were asked if they wanted to speak to an attorney after the main presentation; if so, they were given a raffle ticket.
The purpose of this event was to provide Washington residents clarity on the process of student loan borrowing and repayment. To avoid further burden in the national debt, there is hope that an awareness of student loans will allow for better decisions.
“I wouldn’t have been able to attend Seattle University if I hadn’t taken out the loans. In hindsight I really wish I would’ve committed more time to applying to more universities that were able to offer me more aid,” the alumna said.
She only had her mom to rely on for information regarding what loans to take out and which ones to stay away from. However, her single mom also had no idea about these loans and at what interest rate they would come in. She was taught the importance of an education, but never the money signs that came with it.
“It is fundamentally your obligation to take care of your situation. It is your responsibility to advocate for yourself,” said retired United States Bankruptcy Judge Karen A. Overstreet, now a law professor at Seattle University.
The first thing to do post-grad is to determine what kind of student loans you have. There are various resources that help you track these loans including NSLDS.ed.gov for federal loans and your credit report for private loans.
There was a question and answer portion of the event following the presentation. Each person who spoke had a unique situation. One person graduated from college three years ago and ignored her student loans for some time because she was not employed. When she applied for her first credit card she was rejected. The loans that she had ignored had dramatically lowered her credit score.
After much emphasis on private loans, Crystal Magaña, a sophomore at Seattle U, waited to speak to Overstreet for advice on her situation. Not wanting to put her parents in debt for her education, Magaña took out private loans under her own name.
Overstreet advised attendees to stay away from private loans and look for other options to pay for education. Some of these options include Free Application for Federal Student Aid, loan alternatives, scholarships, grants, work study and federal loans. She also emphasized smartly choosing your career and making sure the career will allow you to pay off the loans.
If the alumna student could have done it all over again, she said she would have been smarter about choosing her lenders and would have made a solidified plan for paying off her loans post-grad.
“There is always a black cloud hanging over my head and has definitely contributed to some of my anxiety,” the alumna said. “Life would be so much easier if I didn’t have to worry about paying back loans.”
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