Student loan debt tackled on national, local level


Student loan debt tackled on national, local level

BOZEMAN, Mont. - During a ceremony at the White House on Monday, President Obama signed a memorandum he says could help an additional 5 million student loan borrowers.

The president extended a repayment program that allows borrowers pay no more than 10 percent of their monthly income toward their loans. Initially, the program was only available to those who started borrowing after October of 2007.

The presidential order makes the program fully retroactive. Americans owe more than a trillion dollars in student loans.

In fact, the Wall Street Journal called the class of 2014 the "most indebted ever," citing government data compiled by ed-visors saying the average grad will have to pay back some $33,000. Student loan debt passed credit card debt for the first time ever in 2011. Analysts with the Federal Reserve say students are borrowing twice as much for college than they did 10 years ago.

Borrowing to pay for college is a reality many families face when choosing a university. On Monday, Montana State University welcomed some freshmen and their families for orientation. We spoke to several families to ask how they are covering the cost of higher education.

Jorene Ostermann was at MSU on her daughter's behalf -- she traveled all the way from Wisconsin.

"She is my fourth child to go to to college, the baby, so I am used to the kids having student loans," said Ostermann.

Her daughter will be an out-of-state student in the fall.

"We looked into it and developed a plan that she needed to establish residency here in Montana," said Ostermann.

She explains for the first year her daughter will have to be a part-time student, get a job, and get her Montana driver's license. Becoming a Montana resident will save her daughter almost $14,000 a year in tuition.

"Tuition fees are extremely high; she seemed very determined this is where she wanted to go to school," said Ostermann.

Parents aren't the only ones with concerns about student loan debt, students are also aware of the debt burden they are taking on. We spoke to one of those students, incoming freshman Destiny Brugman.

"I just pressed a button saying 'accept,' and I am going from there," said Brugman.

She tells NBC Montana paying for college is something she has discussed in detail with her parents. As an in-state student Brugman will pay about $6,750 a year. That doesn't include room and board, books and materials, so she has to borrow more.

"When it comes to talking about financial aid, I saw this huge number and my parents were like 'Don't worry, it works itself out,'" said Brugman.

We wanted to know from the university's perspective how they are tackling the issue of college affordability. MSU spokesperson Tracy Ellig says they have a plan called the Freshman 15. He explains at MSU, once you exceed 12 credits a semester, you still pay the same price. The more credits you take, the faster you can complete your college education and the less you have to worry about in the long run.

Bottom line, he asks students and parents to plan ahead financially.

"That is what gets a lot of students into trouble is that they defer looking at their finances until they graduate and we're trying very hard to educate them that they need to pay attention now," said Ellig.

In 2013, the Board of Regents approved a college tuition freeze at their meeting in Great Falls for Montana residents. That freeze covered all state colleges and universities except for Miles City Community College, for a period of two years. However, at that same meeting, the regents did approve a fee increase for nonresident tuition.

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