Local help available for those living with student loan debt

Local help available for those living with student loan debt
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Many Spokane college students will get their degrees this spring, but they’ll probably be paying them off for years to come.

Washington State University grad student Devan Baker already made plans to settle her debt.

“It’s scary, but it is a good job that I’m going into and there’s lots of demand everywhere,” Baker said.

Baker estimated that by the time she’s done with her program, she’ll have to pay off about $45,000 in loan debt. Scholarships, financial aid, and her teacher’s aid position will cover the rest.

Baker said she came from a family that talked about finances, so she already had an idea about how to budget. But navigating the loan world came with some challenges.

“The repayment schedule, the craziness with the loan financers and that kind of thing, I didn’t know about it going in and if I had more information, that would have been nice,” Baker said.

Baker isn’t the only person who would have liked to have more help before making such a big life decision.

Jay MacPherson, who is a SNAP financial counselor, said he hears comments like that all the time from clients.

“A lot of adults are saying I wish I would have known this when I was a kid,” MacPherson.

Instead, they’ve come to MacPherson for help learning about money management, repaying loans, and other financial tips. He hosts financial literacy workshops weekly in the Spokane area. Some are free and others have scholarships available for people with limited incomes.

Managing student loan debt is something many Spokane residents have to do.

Urban Institute, which is a non-profit research group, estimated that 18 percentof Spokane County residents owe money for student loans.

Of that group, the non-profit revealed that 14 percent are in collections. It’s also more common than some people may expect.

The Brookings Institution estimated in a recent report that about 40 percent of student loan borrowers are expected to default on their loans by 2023.

Having a loan go to collections can have long-term consequences on someone’s finances.

“Debt has always been dangerous. Debt is bondage,” MacPherson said. “If you have a plan, you can sometimes use a loan to help you get a career, get an asset, get the capacity to make money, but it has got to be part of a long-term plan.”

Universities, non-profits, federal websites, and financial institutions are all good resources for learning about student loans and repayment options.

Asking for help when you need it could pay off, just ask Baker.

“I fully intend to pay it off in five years,” Baker said.

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