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EDITORIAL: Easing Debt Burden Takes Planning


June 01, 2015 (Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA)) Hopes and dreams and debt. That is what a majority of Iowa's recent college graduates are left with as they walk across the stage and enter the real world. Iowa's graduates have the country's ninth-highest average student debt at $29,370 and ninth-highest percentage of graduates with debt at 69 percent, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Iowa also has the ...



Hopes and dreams and debt. That is what a majority of Iowa's recent college graduates are left with as they walk across the stage and enter the real world. Iowa's graduates have the country's ninth-highest average student debt at $29,370 and ninth-highest percentage of graduates with debt at 69 percent, according to the Institute for College Access and Success. Iowa also has the fifth-highest default rate at 17.3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education. With the rising cost of college and an increasing number of students pursuing advanced degrees to better their future, it's almost become an expectation those future goals must be pursued while shouldering the burden of an enormous amount of debt. The problem reverberates throughout our economy, affecting young workers' ability to establish their independence, to buy homes or start families. There's little indication a resolution is on the horizon. Federal and state funding for education has dwindled in Iowa and across the country -- the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association reports that funding was 10 percent lower in 2014 than in 2005. To date, policymakers have been unable to craft a solution.

As they continue to look for answers -- and they must -- parents and students should embrace their responsibility and look for ways to minimize student loan debt. --Parents may opt to start saving early by participating in the College Savings Iowa 529 Plan, a tax-advantaged program that helps families pay for higher education. --Parents and students may turn to the Iowa College Student Aid Commission and Iowa Student Loan to learn more about the cost of a college education and the debt that could be accumulated. --

Students may want to consider taking college credit courses while in high school. --

Parents and students should be careful to borrow only what is needed, and not more than they'll be able to repay. --

Students should reach out to private businesses and non-profit organizations in search of scholarships. --

They also can research federal programs that offer student loan forgiveness programs.

We anticipate the cost of college will continue to rise, and with it the need for student loans. Preparing in advance is essential. Because the burden of debt falls on parents and students, so does the burden of preparing.

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