EUGENE, Ore. — The student debt crisis in America affects about 37 million people but thanks to some expanding federal programs, graduates are feeling more optimistic about paying their loans back.
The national student debt is estimated at about $1 trillion and while it can be daunting, students we talked to say they plan to take advantage of payment programs aimed to ease some of the stress surrounding graduation.
College graduation marks the transition into a new chapter in life for students.
“I feel like I got most of my schooling done for the first part of my life so onto newer, better things,” said Cassandra Willis, a University of Oregon graduate.
“A whole new life awaits after today,” said Maria Albright, also a University of Oregon graduate.
Aver a thousand UO students donned their green gowns and accepted their diplomas as their names were called. In six months, some of those students will be paying back student loans.
“I’m about 40 thousand in debt after four years,” said Willis.
She says even though she knew she’d be in debt if she pursued higher education, she would still do it.
“It terrified me. Being in debt was not something I wanted for my life but I know that in order to make something of myself, it’s a necessity at this point,” said Willis.
According to the Almanac of Higher Education, 20 million Americans attend college every year and about 12 million of those borrow.
“I worked really hard for the first three years of college. I was able to not have to take out a loan and this was the first year I had to take out a loan. That was a little stressful,” said Albright.
Even with staggering statistics, these graduates are optimistic about the future and life after college.
“Nervous, but it gives me inspiration to work a little harder. I know a lot of people don’t put the value on the money. They just take out the loans and are like ‘Not a big deal. four years, I’ll pay it off,'” said Albright.
“I’ll start paying it off in six months and hopefully, I’ll have a job by then. I want to get it paid off in the next ten years if possible. That’d be a dream,” said Willis.
In June, President Obama expanded a program called “Pay As You Earn” to include any students who have borrowed up until October of 2011. The program caps monthly student loan repayments at 10 percent of your income and allows any balance remaining after 20 years to be forgiven.