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Students Don't Understand Their Own Loans: Study

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: 03/21/2012 5:45 pm Updated: 03/22/2012 1:32 pm

Tyler Dowden
Tyler Dowden speaks out against rising student loans.

Cost-conscious collegiates, take heed! Before signing your financial future to the likes of Wells Fargo or Citigroup, take a look at the fine print on that loan agreement -- or risk ending up like the 65 percent of Americans surprised by their student loans.

Young Invincibles, a not-for-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., recently surveyed 6,500 undergraduate and graduate students who had taken out student loans.

The results were less than encouraging.

According to Healey Whitsett, author of the study and senior analyst at NERA Economic Consulting, two thirds of those who took out private student loans did not understand the difference between private and federal options. Almost two thirds were surprised by either their repayment terms, their monthly payment or their interest rates. And perhaps most surprisingly, 80 percent of the students surveyed reported gathering some information influencing their decision to take out student loans from their college counselors or website.

As Bloomberg reports, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York claimed outstanding student-loan debt of $867 billion in the fourth quarter.

Recognizing the ever-growing issue of debt from student loans, Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) introduced the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 on March 8. Its goal, as written in the bill, is to "increase purchasing power, strengthen economic recovery, and restore fairness in financing higher education in the United States through student loan forgiveness, caps on interest rates on Federal student loans, and refinancing opportunities for private borrowers, and for other purposes." Young Invincibles, a group that aims to represent the interests of 18 to 34 year-olds, has proposed regulation of the private student loan market with the similar goal of reducing debt from student loans.

Still, the Whitsett study reports a high incidence of misunderstanding among students who take out loans to pay for college. Are you one of the two-thirds of Americans majoring in debt?

Students Around The Country Who Are 'Majoring In Debt'
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  • Brittany Baker, Allegheny College/Sarah Lawrence College

    I'm all for paying high prices for good value -- and my education was certainly of quality -- but I'm not in the market to be abused. From interest rates to the ease of borrowing, to confusion of terms and steadily climbing price of college tuition, I guess I have to thank all of the higher education system while I have the floor to speak. To the loan companies, the banks and private colleges: thank you. I and my peers will forever be indebted to you. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Mike Vattuone, UC-Berkeley

    I currently owe around $23,000 not including interest and Parent PLUS loans, which my mother is still generously paying off. She is 60 years old and works 11 to 12 hour days selling flooring, which her employers pay on commission and only if no mistakes are made. She can't retire because she has to help me pay back my loans, and she won't let me pay the PLUS loans myself. It's very frustrating. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Quinn Anderson, Boise State

    As an average, working-class, white American male who is neither left-handed nor a great athlete, the options for scholarships available to me have always been slim. Combine that with my parents' income -- which is above Pell Grant eligibility and too high to be considered for greater loan amounts -- and you get my situation. At the end of the spring 2012 semester I will be $50,000 plus in debt, which means I will have reached my loan cap for borrowing. With a credit rating that sunk to an embarrassing low years ago, there is no way for me to borrow using private loans to finance my education. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Laquinda Settles, New York Institute of Technology

    I graduated from the New York Institute of Technology in May 2010 with a degree in Communication Arts; I am currently working 2 part-time jobs with no benefits and making $12 an hour. I'm also so over my head in debt with college loans. It's to the point that I'm considering filing for bankruptcy. I went to college to educate myself and make more money, but it feels like I dug my own grave. College is one of the biggest scams in the world; some of these institutions charge students between $700-$800 per credit for an undergrad degree. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Aleesha Nash, New York University

    I am a 31-year old woman originally from Ohio working and living in New York City area. I graduated with a Master's degree in Speech and Interpersonal Communications from New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development in 2007. Logging into the Federal Student Aid website I see that today my balance is $104,104.63 for a percentage of the information in my head. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Jaclyn Cabral, Elon University

    I am a recent graduate from Elon University, a private school in North Carolina, and have $90,808 of college debt. Though my debt seems extremely high, Elon is also regarded as one of the most affordable private college educations. My story dates back to high school where my parents worked opposing shifts simply to make ends meet. I knew since middle school that I would go to a great college and venture away from my hometown. My motivation during the past 17 years of my educational career was to do well, go to a great college and then have no problem landing my dream job. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Mike Newman, Ohio State University

    I graduated from the Ohio State University with a fine arts degree in 2004. This is what I settled on after changing my major four times in my first three years at school. Clearly college wasn't for me, but I finished it because I wanted to make my parents proud and thought it would improve my life. Neither of my parents went to college, but they managed a pretty good life for themselves. Like all loving parents they wanted me to have a better life than them and were duped into believing that college was the answer. From the first day in elementary school to my last day in high school, we believed the myth that college was the only real path to success. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Brandon Woods, Hampton University

    I turned down a full ride at Michigan State (a school that ranks in the top 20 in my field, education) to get the HBCU (Historically Black College and University) experience at Hampton University. It was the best thing I could have done as far as experiences go, but the worst for my finances. They say you can't put a price on experience, but I can. Roughly $24,000 my freshman year, and it only got more expensive every year after that. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more...</a>

  • Erin Dunphy, Ithaca College

    I grew up with an insatiable need to explore the world around me. So I knew when I was going to go to college I was going to do two things: One, major in journalism and two, leave my home. It was time for me to blaze my own path. I had worked hard throughout high school and did all those things they tell you to do to get as much money out of the process as possible. I was an honors graduate and was involved in almost every kind of extracurricular activity. I did my best to be the girl any college would want -- and therefore would hopefully give money that she wouldn't have to pay back. <a href="" target="_hplink">Read more....</a>