The High-School-to-College Transition: Helping Students Navigate Decisions about Borrowing for College

Research Report

The High-School-to-College Transition: Helping Students Navigate Decisions about Borrowing for College

Abstract

Adults returning to school frequently face difficult decisions about how to finance their education. Deciding whether to borrow and if so, how much and what type of loans can be challenging. Avoiding debt altogether or borrowing too little can be as much of a problem as over borrowing because working too much while in school—or struggling to meet basic needs—can interfere with academic success and timely completion.  The first step in avoiding problems with student debt is carefully choosing a college and a program. Students should think about the grant aid they are likely to receive at different institutions and the net prices they will actually pay, not just the published prices. They should consider all the expenses they will have to cover, not just tuition and fees. Most students should rely on federal loans, not loans from banks or other private sources and should borrow only as much as they really need to manage.  Deciding how much to borrow requires thinking about likely future earnings, which differ considerably across occupations, states, and demographic groups.

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