Meet two more College Cash Scholarship winners, John Himes and Atara Pear. At our College Cash seminar on June 5th, students gathered at Howard County General Hospital Wellness Center to hear Deanne Loonin speak to the audience about student loan repayment. Deanne is a national expert on the topic and attendees received copies of her book, Guide to Surviving Debt. Students who attended were eligible to apply for a College Cash scholarship by writing about the seminar. The final two grand College Cash scholarship winners will be announced at Central Scholarship’s Annual Student Awards Ceremony on July 18th.
Atara’s winning essay:
I always find it amazing that a single, simple event can change a person’s entire state of mind. It was an ordinary day when I received my acceptance letter to Loyola University’s speech language pathology graduate program this winter; I was in a pretty neutral state of mind. Then my father showed me the letter. “Open it,” my family urged. I felt a rush of anticipation mixed unnervingly with fear as tore open the envelope, extracted the letter folded inside, and peaked nervously at the top line.
“I’m in! I’m in!” I shouted, drunk with the excitement and relief that accompanied my acceptance into the highly competitive program. We danced around the kitchen together, laughing and celebrating the good news. Then I sat down and read the rest of the letter. It described some of the details about the program and outlined my next steps. That was all fine; the heady feeling was still there. Then I got to the part about tuition, and that was the point that I went from a state of giddy joy to one of stomach-churning worry. Fifty thousand dollars? How on earth was I going to afford that?!
I knew that I would have to take out student loans, and the prospect of accruing that amount of debt by the time I was twenty-two years old was supremely unsettling to me. “Consider it an investment in your future,” my parents consoled me, “we took out loans for our schooling and we did just fine.” Still, a thousand doubts nagged at me. What if I could not pay it off? How would I know which type of loan to apply for; there seemed to be so many options! How much extra would I need to pay in interest alone? Over time, I became more comfortable with the idea of taking out loans, but there were still many questions that I had about loan options and repayment. Therefore, I was extremely relieved and excited when Central Scholarship Bureau sent me the information about a College Cash seminar that would deal with this topic specifically.
The seminar proved to be extremely informative and helpful; the keynote speaker, Ms. Deanne Loonin, was clearly an expert in the field of student loan debt. Her presentation addressed many of my questions as she spoke about the different types of student loans, various options of payment plans, and factors to take into consideration when deciding what type of loan provider to borrow from. One of the points that made the strongest impression on me was the seriousness of taking federal student loans; as Ms. Loonin said, “government student loans are easy to take but really difficult to get out of.” She spoke about the importance of staying on top of student loan repayment, as becoming delinquent or default on a student loan can lead to serious and lasting consequences, and the government can pursue loan borrowers for their entire lives. One example that Ms. Loonin gave was of an elderly client that she worked with that was in default for his student loans that he had taken more than thirty years before, and was not receiving the same amount of social security benefits that he would have been eligible to had the government not deducted his loan amounts from it.
I was amazed at the degree of power the government has in collecting loan repayments, and the message that I took for myself was that in the future, once I finish school, I will make it one of my top priorities to repay my loans in a timely manner. I want to make sure that I do not fall into the 30% of student loan borrowers who are delinquent on their loans! I plan on making responsible financial decisions and working as hard as I need to in order to repay my loans.
The College Cash seminar helped clarify many key points about student loan repayment, and I felt reassured and more confident about taking out a loan as I exited the session. However, some topics that I would like to have heard more about included the actual process of taking out loans and choosing an appropriate payment plan. These topics were touched upon, but it would have been helpful to me if they had been elaborated upon more thoroughly. Still, all of the information that was offered was useful and important.
Thank you, Central Scholarship Bureau, for arranging this excellent seminar. I plan on utilizing the tools that I gained from it by becoming a responsible loan borrower. Thank you for addressing this topic, as it has allowed me to become more confident about my plan of taking loans to go to graduate school so that I can pursue my goal of becoming a speech language pathologist.
From the two speakers at the Central Scholarship event, I was raised to a greater level of awareness about the dangers of debt, especially student loans. While I understand that I will need to borrow money in order to finance my education, and I am willing to accept the responsibility that goes along with it, my goal is to be just that: responsible. One of the most impactful messages from the seminar was the degree to which the federal government can pursue borrowers. Whether it be by damaging my credit score, administrative wage garnishment, or a tax refund offset, I want to be sure in my future that I never go into default on a loan. However, by borrowing responsibly, working and saving money for college, and applying for scholarships, my goal is to graduate with a very manageable amount of debt.
Once I do start repaying my loans six months after graduation, I will be sure to employ another piece of advice I picked up at the Central Scholarship meeting: don’t ignore the envelope! Even if I’m not wealthy in my future, I understand that with the PAYE system, my monthly repayment schedule will be adjusted to my income, and thus there is absolutely no reason to go into default. Furthermore, even if a situation arises in which I’m unable to meet a payment deadlines, I am now aware of the various options available to me, such as deferments. Whether I re-enroll in school, am unemployed, or am simply facing economic hardship, by using the tools available to me I may be able to avoid a circumstance that would be economically crippling. Obviously, I aspire to never need to fall back on deferment, or other options like consolidation and rehabilitation, yet knowing that these options are available, just in case, gives me peace of mind.
Lastly, I am now aware of the vast wealth of online resources that are available to me, such as the SLBA site. It is comforting to know that if I get confused and need to go to the experts, there will be people who are willing to help me. I understand the necessity of financial stability in the my future and that a college education is the means by which I will reach it. With that in mind, I am determined not to let my decision to enroll in college backfire; I know that I have before me all the resources necessary to prevent default. I’m about to enter an entirely unknown and mysterious part of my life, and I don’t know what to expect; I’ve never been in serious debt before in my life. Regardless, now that I have been educated by the Central Scholarship Bureau and the NCLC speaker, I have a greater amount of confidence that I will be able to manage my student loans and remain financially stable.