Loan debt still haunts alumni and students

A recent survey shows that UTM students and alumni are very concerned about their student loan situation.

Approximately 75 percent of surveyed UTM students and alumni said that they owed or will owe more than $20,000 at graduation, according to a survey created by The Pacer.

The poll, which ran from Friday, March 24 to Thursday, April 6, asked current and former UTM students several questions, including the amount they owed or will owe upon graduation, as well as how long they expected to pay towards their loans. The survey also included questions regarding their experience with loan education while on campus. More than 60 people responded to the survey.

The Institute for College Access & Success reports that graduates from Tennessee universities held an average of about $25,000 in outstanding loans in 2014. In particular, UTM graduates had almost $29,000 in debt a piece, the most of any school in the University of Tennessee system. The Institute also reported that about 60 percent of Tennessee graduates had student loan debt, in comparison to UTM’s portion of 63 percent.

Approximately 81 percent of those who responded to the Pacer poll had already begun paying off their debts. However, among these, only about seven percent had already finished paying off all their loans.

A common theme found in the poll is an apparent lack of information regarding the student loan process. 97 percent of those who responded said that they have never received counseling specifically geared toward student loans. Likewise, just under 88 percent responded that not enough information was provided to incoming freshmen to properly educate them regarding the loan process.

Another trend in the poll’s responses regards respondents’ outlook regarding paying back their loans quickly. Two-thirds of the sample said that they would not be able to pay off their debts within six years. In particular, just over half (54.5 percent) said it would take more than ten years for them to become debt-free.

As more and more students enter college, many incoming freshmen have no choice but to borrow money to fund their higher education. Forbes reported in February that 44 million U.S. citizens currently owe approximately $1.3 trillion in student loans.

Editor’s Note: The UTM survey referenced in this article was created and conducted by the author of this article.

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