BANGOR- It’s something many of us know all too well… the excitement of graduating college and beginning a career, followed by the dread that comes with paying back loans.
“If we look at the students who borrow at graduation, in federal loans they probably have borrowed on average close to $26,000,” said Gianna Marrs, Director of Student Financial Aid at the University of Maine.
For many students, these thousands of dollars of debt are not something they give much thought to until it comes time to pay them back.
“It’s sort of something I’m figuring out now. When I was in college, it wasn’t much concern to me. But now that everything is over, I actually have to worry about it and bang it off,” said Cody Emerson, a recent graduate of the University of Maine.
But people recently out of school say that planning early on helped them manage their debt, and they advise current students to do the same.
“I think it’s even taking it a step back and going to when I was an undergraduate when I first started college. Just really planning out my finances, what I need versus what I want, and setting priorities,” said Zachary Sheltra, the Director of Enrollment Operations at the University of Maine.
Marrs agrees that planning early is key, and explains the many resources offered to UMaine students. In addition to holding activities, visiting residence halls, and acknowledging financial literacy month, the financial office also encourages students to use SALT. It’s an interactive program that allows students to learn about debt management, project living costs, and gain an overall understanding of financial literacy.
“What we really hope is through SALT, students will start, even in their first year, keeping track of what they borrowed, understanding what that means, so that each year while they’re in school, they’re asking themselves, ‘How much do I need?’ versus ‘Oh, well I’ll somehow pay this off later on.’” said Marrs.
She also stresses the importance of working closely with the loan programs to understand your options and to come up with the option that works best for you.