Proposal for singular loan site could benefit students

By Amanda Yarger

Paying back student loans can be the makings of a nightmare for many higher education seekers, but the newest Obama legislation will attempt to ease some of the pressures.

Earlier this month, President Baarack Obama announced his intentions to better regulate the federal loan system by providing a singular loan site for users to visit their accounts and file complaints about lenders, servicers, collection agencies and institutions of higher education.

Out of Baylor’s 13,019 undergraduate students, nearly 90 percent receive financial aid.

San Antonio alumna Erica Hairston, B.A. ‘14, said she received federal loans and private loans. She said her family’s intention was to pay the accruing interest during her time in undergraduate studies, but accidently did not do so.

“My dad said he would pay the interest during college and I would take the payments after I graduated,” she said. “But I was the oldest child and he forgot to pay them. Now I have the interest and the loan amount.”

The process for setting up accounts for her federal loans was simpler than the setting up her private loans, but she would have appreciated only having one site for the federal repayments, Hairston said.

“It would be super useful,” she said. “If anything, it would be comforting. It’s a little frightening coming out of high school and then taking out thousands of dollars of student loans and having to learn how to pay them back on your own.”

Hairston works at a church and chose to repay her loans by auto-deduction from her paychecks. She currently pays the amount appropriate for a ten year repayment schedule, but she said hopes to actually finish the payments in 3-4 years.

“[The paycheck] is not very much so I can’t pay extra, but it’s enough to be making my loan payments comfortably,” Hairston said.

Unlike many recent graduates, Hairston said she felt surprised by the simplicity of actually paying back the loans.

“It’s actually not that bad once you start working towards paying them back,” she said. “I’m super thankful for that.”

Wichita Falls freshman Imani Rouse said she borrowed the subsidized and unsubsidized loans under her name, in addition to her parent’s borrowing the Direct Parent Plus loan for her.

“I hope that the amount I borrow will go down, but I’m looking for outside scholarships as well,” Rouse said. “Hopefully I can reduce my debt, but a lot of scholarships don’t pertain to me- like program-specific scholarships.”

Smith said she plans to defer her payments until after her undergraduate graduation while she also focuses on medical studies.

“When you’re paying as you go and tuition keeps rising, it almost feels like it doesn’t make a difference,” she said. “The interest rate is a little up there, but my mom always taught me to look at it as an investment in myself. Despite me having so much debt after the fact, I think it’ll be worth it- especially since I’m working towards the career I want to do.”

Of the 90 percent of students on financial aid, university and federally awarded amounts are included. Federal loans for students include subsidized and unsubsidized with a current interest rate of 4.66 percent for those granted after July 2014.

Texas higher education loan borrowers near $82 billion in debt, second in the nation behind California, as reported by a White House study.

Federal loans have been scattered across various loan agencies utilized by the government. Borrowers had to keep track of who their loan had been distributed through and access that company’s portal- multiple years of loan borrowing could mean a user had separate loan agencies for each year.

Abdullah Ghali, a freshman from the country of Jordan, set up his user accounts before even accepting his subsidized loan. During set up, he emailed the provider for further clarification on certain terms and conditions.

“I read through all the terms and conditions just to make sure I was on the same side,” Ghali said. “I didn’t have any communication with them though. I tried to ask them a few questions and they didn’t respond. I tried to search for [the answers] and everything, but I had to resort to the financial aid office to explain everything.”

The centralized loan site’s mission is to alleviate some of the confusion on behalf of the borrowers as they focus on educational goals and their futures.