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.

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