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Student loan debt on the rise
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Barton Community College Director of Financial Aid Myrna Perkins said BCC students are receiving record amounts of financial aid — $1 million more than in 2010-11.

In 2006-2007, Barton students received just over $5 million in student aid, in the form of federal grants and loans, as well as scholarships. For 2010-11, the total had grown to $9,833,545.

"We’re on track to go to $10 million next year," Perkins told the BCC Board of Trustees last week. Default rates are also on the rise, mirroring the national average of 8.8 percent.

The average financial aid package last year at Barton was $6,855, and the largest was $17,502.

Nationally, student debt exceeded credit card debt for the first time this year, and the U.S. Department of Education predicts default rates will increase 80-90 percent beginning in 2014, although part of the increase will come because of a change in how defaults are calculated.

"Some students are having trouble paying back their federal loans because they stacked their borrowing with private loans, and probably credit card debt," Perkins said.

Eighty percent of students in the BCC service region receive some form of financial aid, and all are given the article "How to Avoid Unmanageable Student Loan Debt."

"There really is no reason a student should default on their student loan," Perkins aid. Those who opt for the income-based repayment program will receive a monthly bill that is based on their ability to pay. Any amount not repaid after 25 years is forgiven.

Other items for avoiding unmanageable student loan debt:

• Research your career choice. Know what you want to do. Have a plan. Graduate on time.

• Choose an affordable educational option – two years at a community college, and state school instead of private or for-profit institution.

• Increase your financial literacy.

• Seek out non-loan options such as scholarships, grants, work awards, GI benefits and AmeriCorps.

• If you must borrow, your first choice should be federal student loans. Avoid private student loans that may have higher interest rates and terms that aren’t as borrower-friendly.

• Take advantage of loan forgiveness programs such as the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, Peace Corps and military loan forgiveness.