PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Millions of students graduating from college this year will have a shadow hanging over their heads.

An estimated two-thirds are burdened with student loans with the average debt being around $25,000.

The debt for those in graduate school can be even higher.

There is help out there and Consumer Reports recently offered their recommendations on various loan options.

Galen Royce Nagel will graduate from medical school this year, which will fulfill her long-time dream of becoming a doctor.

However, that dream comes at a very heavy cost.

“I am officially $300,000 in debt,” Nagel said.

Nagel calculated that she’ll have to pay $2,000 a month for the next 30 years.

With interest, she’ll end up paying $600,000 for her education.

“Student loans are different from other types of loans – they can’t be erased if you declare bankruptcy. And lenders can take money from your wages, tax refunds, and even Social Security if you don’t pay up,” Greg Daugherty with Consumer Reports said.

Consumer Reports advises taking out federal loans such as Perkins or Stafford with fixed rates, rather than private loans from banks with variable rates.

With federal loans, you also get more flexible repayment options.

“Generally, with a federal loan, you don’t have to start repaying until six months after you graduate or if you drop below half-time at school. At that time, you may qualify for any number of payment plans,” Daugherty said.

For instance, federal loans may offer a standard repayment of at least $50 a month for 10 years or extended repayment that gives you up to 25 years to repay or graduated payments, which start small and get bigger when you’re likely earning more.

There are also income-based payments, which may forgive some of the loan after 25 years.

“You’ll save money and get out of debt the quickest if you make the largest payments you can each month, and apply any extra to the principal,” Daugherty said.

Nagel hopes her doctor’s salary and a frugal lifestyle will get her out from under her mountain of debt.

Another advantage with federal loans is if you’re having trouble making your payments, the government will usually work with you to negotiate a deferment or a new repayment plan.

No matter what kind of loan you have though, Consumer Reports said talk to the lender if you can’t keep up to try to protect your credit rating.


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