3 On Your Side

Digging yourself out of the student loan crisis

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More than half of Arizona college graduates are currently saddled with loans. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) More than half of Arizona college graduates are currently saddled with loans. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
And $37,000 is how much the average 2016 college graduate owes for student loans. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) And $37,000 is how much the average 2016 college graduate owes for student loans. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Kelsa Dickey says one problem students have is that they don't realize what repaying the loan really means for their future. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Kelsa Dickey says one problem students have is that they don't realize what repaying the loan really means for their future. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
One big mistake students make is continuing to take out loans without keeping track of how much money they already owe. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) One big mistake students make is continuing to take out loans without keeping track of how much money they already owe. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Do you have student loans you’re trying to pay off? You’re not alone.

Lenders say, collectively, they are owed $1.3 trillion from borrowers.  

And $37,000 is how much the average 2016 college graduate owes for student loans. That's 6 percent higher than the year before. 3 On Your Side talked with a financial coach to see how to start digging out of student loan debt. 

Student loans are something that most college students realize will be following them for years after graduation. We spoke with one ASU student that’s already planning on how to pay back his student loan debt. 

“I'm not gonna buy a house. I'm gonna first pay off my student loans,” said Jonathan Hernandez.

But paying off student loans is easier said than done.

More than half of Arizona college graduates are currently saddled with loans.

“From what I see, this is sort of the next crises. It's a really big problem and affecting sort of people's outlooks on their future,” said Kelsa Dickey, a financial coach here in the Valley.

Dickey says student loan debt is out of control.

“Student loans are a widespread problem. Americans owe $1.2 trillion in student loan debt. 3.6 million borrowers are over one month behind in payments,” Dickey said.

Some college students we spoke to says it’s a shocking reality. 

“I think that's kind of scary,” one student said.

Dickey says one problem students have is that they don't realize what repaying the loan really means for their future. 

So, she recommends being strategic with the degree you pursue before getting a loan.

“It’s one thing to graduate with a law degree with $150,000 in student loan debt. It's another thing to graduate with a job where you're going to make $30,000 a year with $150,000 in student loan debt,” Dickey said.

Next, if you already have student loans, Dickey says to educate yourself. Know your options and programs that ease the stress of repaying.

“One of the newest ones that came out last year is called the REPAYE program. It is a revised pay as you earn program that very few people actually know about,” Dickey said.

Another option to consider, she says, is to consolidate your loans. 

“What it does is it sometimes will qualify you for one of the programs out there that are only offered for consolidated loans and not individual small loans,” Dickey said.

Dickey says students also might consider refinancing but be she says to be very cautious with this option and do your research.

“If you have the bulk of your student loan balance at like 3 percent and only a little bit of it at 6.8 percent, it probably doesn't make sense to refinance because the bigger portion is going to go up in interest rate and only a small portion is going to go down,” Dickey said.

ASU student Ernesto Maldonado knew the cost of college, so he says he joined the military and is using the GI Bill to pay his college tuition.

“I didn't want to take any debt, so I decided to go the other route,” Maldonado said.

One big mistake students make is continuing to take out loans without keeping track of how much money they already owe.

Earning a degree is great, but paying back hundreds, possibly thousands of dollars a month for 10 years is something many graduates can't afford.

For more information go to www.studentloans.gov.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

Click to learn more about Gary.

Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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