PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Just under 1.8 million students will graduate from college this year and many of them will be saddled with debt.

“Fifty-thousand dollars in debt,” says University of Pittsburgh’s graduating senior Margo Lynch.

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Lynch, an Italian and history major, has no job yet.

“It’s suffocating and it gets us stuck in a system and it’s almost impossible to get out because of it,” Lynch told KDKA Money Editor Jon Delano.

Student debt from college loans now exceeds $1 trillion, but students say loans are essential.

“Very important. I mean, without it, I probably wouldn’t be here,” says Pitt junior Ryan DiSabato.

Mark Kantrowitz is the publisher of FinAid.org, a free online guide to student aid for college.

“About 10 percent of students graduating today will be graduating with excessive debt where the total debt at graduation exceeds their annual starting salary,” notes Kantrowitz.

The first rule, says Kantrowitz, is students should not borrow more in total than they expect to earn their first year out of medical assistant schools.

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Otherwise: “You’ll still be paying back your own student loans when your children are enrolled in college,” he said.

He says find a college that meets your economic needs.

“You can also save on textbooks by buying used textbooks and selling them back to the bookstore, or minimizing trips home from school. Even if you eat out, $10 pizza a week is $2,000 by the time you graduate.”

And with interest on that loan, remember, says Kantrowitz, “Every dollar you spend using student loan money, typically on average it’s going to cost you about two dollars by the time you pay back that debt.”

That’s because borrowed money has an interest rate — which is why President Obama’s plan to extend low interest student loans is popular — even if the two political parties disagree on how to pay for it.

Some more advice — if you have young children, it’s never too late to start a college fund.

Finally, no matter the sacrifice, remember that a college graduate will earn 70 percent more than someone with only a high school degree.

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