College students need to get smart on finances

An editorial from The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — In the next few weeks, thousands of high school graduates in our region will begin their journey into higher education.

Students are naturally worried about harder classes, making new friends and a whole new world of independence. But students and their families also need to make sure they give due consideration to all of the financial issues they will be facing.

There are many differences between high school and college, but one of the biggest is that in high school the state and county are basically footing the bill, and in college, the student pays much of his or her way. Some families have put aside savings for college, and scholarships will ease the load for some students.

But about seven in 10 graduates of four-year institutions graduated with some debt, and on average it was about $29,000, according to The Project on Student Debt. Just as importantly, many students will be having their first experiences with credit cards, and the many other optional expenses that often come with college life, from new clothes and computers to fraternity dues and spring break road trips.

So, students and their families need to go into the next few years with their eyes wide open.

That planning begins with understanding all of the real “school” costs — tuition, room and board, books and supplies, fees, equipment and furnishings and even travel, whether that means commuting costs or getting back home for the holidays.

Federal student loan programs provide great assistance to students and families with low-cost loans, but there are a number of different programs and each have different provisions. The one thing they have in common is that after college, the loans must be repaid…

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