Big Diploma, Bigger Debt??

May 6, 2013 Updated May 6, 2013 at 8:59 PM EDT

By WKBW Admin

May 6, 2013 Updated May 6, 2013 at 8:59 PM EDT

BUFFALO (WKBW You may not see it, but a majority of local college students have something in common; they are in debt from student loans.

"It's a big number, just coming out of college," UB Senior Armando Loli said.

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, two thirds of college students graduate with some debt, with the average amount owed just over 26 thousand dollars.

To put that in perspective, using average loans owed ($26,000) at the average federal interest rate (6.8%) over the standard ten year repayment period, students must pay back $300 per month for ten years, and pay off a total of more than 35 thousand dollars.

For a larger private institution, students who graduate with one hundred thousand dollars in debt will owe more than eleven hundred dollars per month, and pay off more than one hundred thirty eight thousand dollars over the course of the loan.

Jennifer Pollard is the Associate Director of Financial Aid for the University at Buffalo.

"Student loans have almost gotten a bad rap, because 'oh all this student loan debt.' But they're the best loan for a student to pay for college. It's better than credit cards, it's better than personal loans, but they just have to be used responsibly," she said.

Pollard says the cost of higher education has gone up, and so has the need for some form of supplement to pay for college.

"Student loans debt isn't necessarily a bad word or a bad thing, if they understand what it is and understand that they're going to be committed to paying that when they graduate," Pollard added.

But that doesn't make it any easier to pay back. Eyewitness News spoke to several college students on the last day of classes. For seniors, that means graduation and entering the work force. It also means facing the reality of loan debt.

"It's the most horrible feeling to know that I'm just starting off, and I just have my feet on the ground, and they're not even totally there because I have a lot of loans to pay back," graduating Senior Chelsea Ruocco said.

"It feels great to graduate and now it's just worry that it's six months, you have to find a job and pay off your loans," Senior Armando Loli added.

But for students like Jelani Turner, loans are an absolute necessity.

"Honestly if I didn't have that I probably wouldn't go to school," he said.

And with some private Universities charging more than sixty thousand dollars per year, totaling more than a quarter million dollars over four years, it begs the question: is it worth it?

"College is one of the best investments anyone can make in themselves. I've always said to the students I work with, once you have that degree, no one can take that away from you. You've earned it. It's yours," Jennifer Pollard said.

So with all that debt, financial aid experts say it is important for students to know their options paying back these loans. Those includes payment plans, income based repayment, forbearance, and more.

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