Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

GW students’ loan debt falls slightly above national average

GW undergraduates leave college slightly more in debt than the average college student, said Director of Student Financial Assistance Dan Small.

Undergraduates at GW owe an average of $16,000 in educational loans by the time they graduate, Small said. A survey of 1,098 student loan borrowers released in September by Nellie Mae, a federal and private educational loan provider, found the average debt for a student graduating from a private school in four years was $15,300.

The survey also showed 25 percent of recent graduates’ debts exceed their current salaries.

Small said the financial aid office does not compile data on post-graduation salaries, but he said he thinks most recent graduates earn enough to cover their loans.

“I would like to think that because of our indebtedness level, (graduates) are earning more than they have borrowed,” Small said.

Lawrence O’Toole, president of Nellie Mae, said more than half of college students depend on loans to finance their education. He said he has encouraged schools to offer financial aid packages not solely based on loans and to offer debt management education for borrowers.

Small said the entrance and exit interviews, which all federal loan recipients at GW are required to attend, are geared to help students realize the financial obligations of receiving loans. He said the financial aid office invites local lenders to attend interviews to explain debt management and the consequences of defaulting on student loans.

Small said students are reminded at exit interviews that loan payments should be figured into their budgets immediately despite the six-month grace period.

Senior Tara Kelly said while she realizes her student loans are her responsibility, she said she wishes the financial aid office was more helpful.

“They don’t have nearly enough information about what types of loans there are, what the interest rates are, or anything like that,” Kelly said.

Senior Jaime Ellam said despite her entrance interview, she thinks she may have gotten in above her head with loans.

“I wish I would have thought about it a little bit more,” Ellam said. “I figure if I pay $300 a month, it is going to take me 84 months to pay off my loans. Sometimes I regret it.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, the default rate for GW last year was 2.7 percent, which Small said is good. GW’s rate, which includes both undergraduate and graduate loan defaults, fluctuates between 2.7 percent and 3.2 percent, Small said.

In addition, less than 50 percent of students at GW receive federal loans as part of their aid packages, Small said.

“The No. 1 provider of financial aid at the University is GW,” Small said. “Almost $45 million is given by GW in scholarships every year. Yes, the next greatest portion of aid is from loans, but that is because that is where the next largest amount of money is.”

O’Toole said students should consider the salary potential of their chosen career to ensure they can pay their educational debt. But Small said GW’s financial aid office does not suggest students pursue fields for higher salaries.

“I’m sure there are students who consider that, but we feel that’s their decision,” Small said. “We don’t tell them `don’t pick that major because you have all these loans.’ “

Small said he believes most GW students with educational loans feel the education and experiences at GW make the loans a worthwhile investment.

Ellam said although she occasionally thinks she would have been better off attending a school in her home state, she said she is happy with her decision to come to GW.

“If I didn’t (attend GW), I always would have wanted to come here and wondered what would happen if I had,” Ellam said.

Junior Kimberly Williams said her loans are a way of bridging the gap between the money she received in scholarships and what her parents pay to send her to GW.

“I’m doing my part,” Williams said. “It’s a necessary evil.”

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