Futures on Loan: Student Debt

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ENMU students in the spring 2015 graduating class accumulated roughly $23,000 in Stafford loan debt by the end of their undergraduate program, according to information provided by the ENMU Office of Financial Aid.

The debt amounts are only moderately smaller than an average indebtedness of $28,950 reported for students nationwide, according to a report by the Institute for College Access and Success. According to the report, seven out of ten college seniors in 2014 ended school with debt.

Spring 2014 graduates averaged roughly $24,400 in total debt followed by a decrease to approximately $21,000 the following semester, according to data provided by Director of Financial Aid Brent Small.

Average loans borrowed between fall 2014-15 semesters were $7,760 for undergraduates and $11,002 for graduate students, according to information from a public records request submitted to ENMU.

“[Financial] need is determined by the cost of attendance and family contribution calculation,” Small said. “We establish an estimated cost of attendance each year for several categories of students and remove their family contribution from that and that determines how much need they have.”

Cost of attending an institution, size, and number of student borrowers are all factors which impact student debt averages in each school, Small said.

Small said some uncontrollable factors such as “cost of living, rent, utilities, and fuel” increasing in price can “trigger additional borrowing.”

Students can accrue more debt by “not living within their means”, according to Small. He said the financial aid office’s financial literacy program is titled “Peanuts to Prosperity”, and is now in its third year.

Small said the office’s focus financial literacy program is targeted at the freshman classes each year to “teach responsible borrowing habits and understand needs versus wants.”

“We want them to live on peanuts now so they can be prosperous later,” Small said. “Over borrowing is a trend nationwide; students borrow more than is actually required to pay for school.”

In addition financial literacy, financial aid provides budgeting tools and offers to help students with spending plans, Small said.

“Borrow only what you absolutely have to have to offset the cost of school,” Small said. “Looking back I wish I would have borrowed less and lived a little more frugally as a student, so that I didn’t have to pay on it afterwards.”

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