Students rethinking loans, as college debt gets worse - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Students rethinking loans, as college debt gets worse

College student studying at lunch break College student studying at lunch break

Is it still worth it go to college? Students can pile up so much debt, they practically go bankrupt before their careers even begin. Local experts and students say it is, and that you don't exactly have to break the bank to get to your dream career either.

"I enjoy helping other people," Heather Stehr said.

Helping people, that's 28-year-old Heather Stehr's passion and it's why she became a nurse. And it's this passion that has motivated Stehr to go back to college for a Master's in Nurse Education.

"I just enjoy educating other people and I want other people to have a strong desire, a strong desire about what they're doing," Stehr said.

As an undergrad she took out loans to finance her education, now she's taking out more to continue following her passion.  Stehr's parents helped, but paying back her loans is still a financial concern she's had to think about.

"It's half a new car if you think about it," Stehr said.

And it's this way of thinking that's kept Stehr away from being stuck with a mountain of student debt. Financial aid advisor Karen Gagnon, college is still affordable, if you have a good strategy.

"We promote a lot of scholarships through the colleges, different locations where they can get assistance whether that's through service organizations or banks, or employers or whatever that is, where there is a will, there is a way to take care of those things," Karen Gagnon a financial aid advisor at Morningside College said.

She says some students even try to pay back loans while in school.

"Literally if I have a student coming in here with a 500 dollar car payment as a student that is kind of a big deal and so when we see those things we talk about personal budgeting and personal financing choices," Gagnon said.

Of course, some question whether college is even worth it anymore. Economics Professor Jeff Zink points out, college is still an investment that pays off.

"People with a Bachelor's degree or higher still, in general out earn anybody that has a lesser degree of education," Jeffrey Zink, an Economic Professor at Morningside College said.

Gagnon also says, college grads have a better chance of getting a job, if their career changes.

"In reality most students are finding they get a job and unfortunately their job changes very quickly and so they have to be marketable, and so we feel places like Morningside provide a well rounded education so that you can go out and develop many different job skills in many different areas and still be employable," Gagnon said.

Another strategy, community college.  It's helping a pre-med student cut costs.

"I purposely chose to go to a community college first for the fact of, I knew I would get enough coverage that I could get through the first two three years," Gabe Flogstad a student at Western Iowa Tech Community College said.

Grace McElroy says she works up to four jobs to avoid taking out loans for school.

"Sometimes I get pretty stressed out, actually a lot of times, I wrote a note on the back of the door to my roommate and it said, Grace has taken all too much and she can't handle it all," McElroy said.

Student debt in the country has reached over a trillion dollars. About 1 in 5 Americans now have student debt. However, here's some good news.

"The employment prospects for graduates are looking like the best they've been in 4-5 years," Zink said.

And from someone who did eat her fair share of microwave noodles as a college student, Stehr says chasing your dreams through college is not only achievable, but worth it.

"You know I wasn't starving and I always had money, mom and dad always made sure if we took a trip home, like here's 20 dollars gas money, so I wasn't but you definitely have to budget things, and think about where your money is going to make everything work," Stehr said.

According to a recent national survey, the average salary for the Class of 2011 is up to about $41,700, which is  2-point-3 percent higher than the Class of 2010 average of $40,800.

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