When trying to understand a confusing topic like student loans, it helps to talk it through with someone—so that’s what we did. In this special Counselor Corner, Josie Corichi chats with SALT™ counselor Myrone about what he’s learned from working with student loan borrowers and being a student loan borrower himself.
Josie Corichi: Before you started working at American Student Assistance® (ASA), what was the biggest misconception you had about student loans?
Myrone Morgan: The biggest misconception I had was that if a student family’s income is low it automatically entitles one to full financial aid grants and loans. I soon learned the importance of things like the expected family contribution (EFC) and financial need, which is used to determine your eligibility for federal student financial aid.
The expected family contribution, or EFC, is used to show a student’s financial need by estimating the amount of money that a family is expected to contribute toward the price of the student’s education from its income and assets. In short, just because you’re a student with little or no income doesn’t mean your college tuition is going to be completely covered by financial aid.
JC: Are you a student loan borrower? Was there anything that surprised you about your student loans? If so, how did you manage it?
MM: Yes, I’m a student loan borrower. I think the thing that surprised me the most is how easy it is for students to get approved for private loans. Students whose total cost of education isn’t covered by federal funds usually look toward private loans as their first option, rather than as a last resort.
I’m always amazed by the amount of students who receive a refund check back at semester’s end and believe that this money is for spring break, a car, or spending money. One thing that really helped me was whenever I received a refund check back from school I would apply the money toward my loans. This helped save money in the longer run, while also teaching me to be responsible.
JC: If there was one piece of advice you could give student loan borrowers, what would it be?
MM: Do your research. This includes scholarships, state and federal grants, and then federal loans. Meet with your school’s financial aid counselor to learn these options.
Consider attending a community college before completing your bachelor’s degree at a 4-year school. It can save you a substantial amount of money. Picking up a part-time job during the summer months or doing work-study while still in school may help you pay back some of the student loan debit accrued as well.
Want to hear more from Myrone? Check out this video.