NEW YORK—A woman sits in a bathtub filled with letters. She hands you a document that reads: “If you fail to make a payment on your student loan, you will become delinquent. If you fail to make further payments, you will be in default. Defaulting on your loan will have serious consequences.” Then she asks: “Did you know this about loan?”
The above-mentioned scene was part of an elaborate setup staged by actors from “Sleep No More,” an off-Broadway theater production. The goal of the performance, hosted by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), was to provide the press with a vivid impression of what it is like to be covered in student debt, without knowing what to do about it.
The Don’t Major in Debt event held in south Manhattan Tuesday, was supported by “Glee” actress Jane Lynch, and drew attention to the nationwide student debt problem.
NYPIRG was helping promote the National College Finance Center’s (NCFC) new website, which provides free information to students about what “taking out a student loan” really means: www.collegefinancecenter.org.
NYPIRG is the largest student-directed research and advocacy organization in New York state, and also concerns itself with consumer rights among other issues.
The NCFC website was established with funding through a settlement of claims brought by the Office of the New York State Attorney General, and is not run by NYPIRG.
“It could not be clearer to me: students, parents, prospective students, [and] graduates all need a trustworthy place to receive free, clear, unbiased information about their options,” said Rebecca J. Weber, executive director of NYPIRG. She has been working with college students for two decades. She is also a former student borrower.
The total amount of national student debt now exceeds $1 trillion, and is greater than all outstanding credit card debt.
Julio Basabe, 20, attends the College of Staten Island and majors in biochemistry. He racked up more than $7,600 in debt by the end of his sophomore year.
“It teaches me certain things about the world. Other than that, I would like to be able to enjoy my 20s without worrying about money,” Basabe said.
Basabe said he feels a significant amount of financial pressure and will likely accept any well-paying job after graduation in order to pay back his debt. He estimated that he would have accumulated more than $100,000 in debt after finishing his master’s programs.
He said, for him, there are few alternatives. “I’m already going to the city school—it can’t get any cheaper than that.”Many young people who want a college degree to get a good job take out student loans without understanding the economic burden and the consequences of the failing to repay.
Through its website, NCFC provides information to prospective students and students struggling to pay for their student loans.
Organizers at Tuesday’s event said it is best to apply for all the “free-money” and grants available, and only take out a loan if it is absolutely necessary. If a student does take out a loan, NCFC provides an interest calculator and recommends that monthly payments should not exceed more than 10 percent of the student’s income. NCFC also provides an overview of different financing options.
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