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Student Loans Can Come With High Price Tag

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RALEIGH, N.C. — College students, like lawmakers, are dealing with big debt. According to the U.S. General Accounting office, students graduate $19,000 in the hole. That amount is going up as tuition rises.

Experts said students are out of touch when it comes to debt.

"The students, these days, seem to borrow without much concern for the future, and how much indebtedness they will incur down the road," financial aid director Julia Rice Mallette said.

Students often have trouble managing their cash flow. When they run out of money, they turn to credit cards. When those get maxed out, they look at expenses they have, like cell phones they do not need. When they run out of cash completely, they often head to the financial aid department to ask about a loan.

"There aren't a whole lot of options if grant and scholarship funds aren't readily available for the family," Mallette said.

Most student loans are fairly easy to get and students do not have to start paying them back until six months after graduation. Karla Bean took out $22,000 to get her undergraduate degree at N.C. State and could not repay it right away, so she got a forbearance.

"For a year, they do not require me to pay anything. I can pay interest quarterly if I would like to," she said.

Students often pay just the interest on their loan, but it may cost them more in the long run. However, paying just the interest keeps some students from defaulting on the loan.

Parents can keep their children out of high loan debt by participating in college savings programs.